The Habs have some notable contributions over the years from international players that aren’t a typical hockey power. Those players were grouped into Team Europe for our poll series and here is who our readers voted for as Montreal’s top line.
Tomas Tatar (Slovakia – 91.5% of votes): Tatar’s tenure with the Habs hasn’t quite gone as expected and that’s a good thing. He was basically a salary-matching piece of the Max Pacioretty-Nick Suzuki deal after a tough showing with Vegas (with the Golden Knights paying down part of his salary). Expectations were relatively low as a result but he has vastly surpassed them. Instead of being a mid-tier winger, he quickly became a key cog on Montreal’s top line over the past two seasons and set a new career high in points this year despite the cancellation of the final 11 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tatar has one year left on his contract and it will be interesting to see if they can agree on an extension to keep him around a little longer.
Canadiens Stats: 148 GP, 47 goals, 72 assists, 119 points, +26 rating, 70 PIMS, 162 shots
Richard Zednik (Slovakia – 68.0% of votes): While Zednik is most often remembered for getting taken out by a close-line hit from Kyle McLaren in the 2002 playoffs that saw him put up eight points in four games in that series, he was a consistent top-six winger for the Habs for parts of five seasons. In particular, he was one of Montreal’s better scoring threats most nights and spent a lot of time on the top line alongside Saku Koivu. While the Habs didn’t make a good trade when they traded for Trevor Linden in 1999, they made up for it two years later getting Zednik from Washington as the centrepiece of the four-player, two-pick deal that saw Linden go to the Capitals. As it turned out, Zednik wound up back in Washington in 2006 before being dealt to the Islanders a year later. He then wrapped his NHL career with two years in Florida followed by two years overseas between Russia, Slovakia, and Sweden.
Canadiens Stats: 322 GP, 98 goals, 85 assists, 183 points, +2 rating, 259 PIMS, 901 shots
Andrei Kostitsyn (Belarus – 52.4% of votes): Was Kostitsyn the right pick at 10th overall back in 2003? Clearly, the answer is no. However, that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a useful player for the Canadiens for a while. In his four full seasons with the Habs, he averaged at least 0.55 points per game in each of them. Although that’s not the top production he was supposed to bring based on his draft hype, he was still a decent top-six forward during that stretch though his inconsistency from game to game wasn’t the greatest. Somewhat surprisingly, after leaving Montreal, he didn’t show much of a desire to stay in the NHL. The Habs moved him to Nashville before the 2012 trade deadline for a pair of draft picks (the one they kept became Jacob de la Rose) but after playing out the season with the Predators, he went to the KHL where he has spent the past eight years with five different teams.
Canadiens Stats: 379 GP, 99 goals, 111 assists, 210 points, +8 rating, 67 PIMS, 797 shots
Just Missed The Cut: Lars Eller (Denmark)
Mark Streit (Switzerland – 93.7% of votes): Technically, he was a winger at times with Montreal but the majority of his time was spent on the back end. The Habs somewhat surprisingly drafted him at the age of 26 (that’s not even allowed anymore) with the hopes of getting him to come over to North America. They had to wait a year but it was worth it. While his first season with the Canadiens was quiet offensively, he showed improvement in his sophomore year and then broke out with a career year in his third and final season with the team with 62 points in 81 games for the bargain price of $600,000. He was somewhat of a power play specialist that year but that was still quite the impressive output. That production helped him land a five-year deal with the Islanders before spending some time with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Habs brought him back in 2017 but released him after just two games. Although his tenure with them ended on a down note, that 2007-08 campaign will be remembered for quite a while.
Canadiens Stats: 207 GP, 25 goals, 84 assists, 109 points, -19 rating, 70 PIMS, 472 shots
Yannick Weber (Switzerland – 59.6% of votes): A quality offensive player in junior and with Hamilton, the hope was that Weber’s point shot would allow him to at least carve out a role on a third pairing. He had a few chances with the Habs and even had a regular role for most of 2011-12 but his defensive weaknesses made it difficult to even use him in a limited capacity. Montreal opted to non-tender him in 2013 but to his credit, Weber has stuck around and spent three years with Vancouver before the last four in Nashville. A mid-third-round pick in 2007, Weber getting to the NHL in itself is somewhat of a success story even if in the end, other teams wound up benefitting more from him in the end.
Canadiens Stats: 115 GP, 5 goals, 27 assists, 32 points, -14 rating, 52 PIMS, 403 shots
Just Missed The Cut: Raphael Diaz (Switzerland)
Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia – 76.4% of votes): Although Halak was largely in Carey Price’s shadow during his time with the Habs, he had two solid seasons for them including one that saw him get the larger share of the platoon in 2009-10 before his memorable playoff run where he largely stole the series against Washington and Pittsburgh before the team ran out of gas in the Conference Final versus Philadelphia. That was enough to get St. Louis interested in him as they moved Lars Eller to the Habs as part of a package for Halak. He had a good run with the Blues but since moving on (to the Capitals, Islanders, and now Bruins), he has never quite been able to lock down the undisputed number one role. Since joining Boston, he has settled back into a platoon role (in the second spot) and it has suited him quite well while he passed the 500 career game mark this season. Not too shabby for a 9th rounder.
Canadiens Stats: 101 GP, 56-34-7 record, 2.62 GAA, .919 SV%, 9 SO
Just Missed The Cut: Cristobal Huet (France)
Be sure to check back on Monday for the Team USA edition of our poll series.