The Habs have had quite a few Russian-born players of note suit up for them over the years. Which ones were the best? Your votes have been tabulated to determine Montreal’s best All-Time Russian line.
Alexei Kovalev (95.5% of votes): While he wasn’t quite in his offensive prime by the time he got to Montreal, Kovalev still became one of the Habs top scoring threats (if not the top threat). He picked up at least 65 points in three of his four seasons with the team and had 84 points in the 2007-08 season. It’s also at least worth noting that they convinced him to stick around after he was initially acquired as a rental player from the Rangers for the stretch run in 2003-04. Of course, there were games where he seemed completely disinterested but when he was on, he was certainly quite the player to watch. He struggled considerably after leaving Montreal so then-GM Bob Gainey’s decision to not match the top-dollar offer at the time proved to be a wise one. After leaving the NHL in 2012-13, he spent a year in Switzerland before not playing for two years. He then returned to Switzerland’s second league in 2016-17 before hanging up his skates.
Canadiens Stats: 314 GP, 103 goals, 161 assists, 264 points, -11 rating, 310 PIMS, 871 shots
Alexander Radulov (71.1% of votes): Radulov’s stint with the Habs was a short one but his one season was pretty good. Many weren’t sure what to expect after he spent four years in Russia but he made an immediate impact on the ice where he finished second to Max Pacioretty in scoring and quickly became a fan favourite. However, he went to Dallas a year later and put up back-to-back 72-point seasons to set new career highs. That wasn’t the case this season though as he was limited to just 34 points in 60 games and was a step slow for most of the season. He has two years left on his contract with the Stars.
Canadiens Stats: 76 GP, 18 goals, 36 assists, 54 points, +10 rating, 62 PIMS, 147 shots
Oleg Petrov (47.9% of votes): He spent his first five seasons with Montreal going back and forth with their AHL affiliates before finally earning a full-time spot in 2000-01 where he tied for the team lead in scoring. A small speedster in an era where those players didn’t have a lot of success, I can’t help but wonder what type of impact he would have had in the current game where there are more smaller players and speed plays a much bigger role in the game. Overall, he spent part of eight seasons with the Habs before being moved to Nashville in 2003. He wrapped up that season with the Preds before beginning a 10-year stint overseas split between Switzerland and Russia.
Canadiens Stats: 365 GP, 70 goals, 113 assists, 183 points, -14 rating, 99 PIMS, 690 shots
Just Missed The Cut: Ilya Kovalchuk
Andrei Markov (98.7% of votes): This one was a no-brainer. Markov spent the entirety of his 16-year NHL career with the Canadiens and was a top pairing player for more than a decade. He was never the most physical of blueliners but he was very steady in his own zone and certainly made his mark at the offensive end. Had it not been for a long list of injuries between 2009-10 and 2011-12, Markov would have had a pretty good chance of cracking the top-10 in scoring in franchise history. Following the 2016-17 campaign, Markov decided to represent himself in free agency but he and GM Marc Bergevin weren’t able to reach an agreement on a deal. Instead, the veteran went to the KHL for three seasons before calling it a career last month.
Canadiens Stats: 990 GP, 119 goals, 453 assists, 572 points, +64 rating, 505 PIMS, 1,627 shots
Vladimir Malakhov (43.6% of votes): Malakhov was a rare defender who was at his best at the beginning of his career and the Habs were fortunate enough to get him fairly quickly. He was acquired partway through his third season from the Islanders and quickly became a top-four player. It wasn’t long before he moved onto the top pairing…when he was healthy. Staying in the lineup was a big issue for Malakhov not only with Montreal but for his entire career. After parts of six seasons with the team, he was dealt to New Jersey as a rental player (with Sheldon Souray being the key part of the return). The following summer, he joined the Rangers as a free agent and spent four years with them before going to the Flyers as a rental. He wound up back in New Jersey again to wrap up his NHL career in rather bizarre fashion. He signed a two-year deal with them only to walk away midseason in year one. As it was a 35-plus contract, the Devils had to part with a first-round pick just to clear the cap hit the following summer. It’s safe to say that the Habs had him at the right time.
Canadiens Stats: 283 GP, 42 goals, 99 assists, 141 points, +17 rating, 287 PIMS, 645 shots
Just Missed The Cut: Alexei Emelin
Vladislav Tretiak: In this day and age, you’d never see a team draft a 31-year-old but that’s what the Habs did with the Russian legend. Interestingly enough, he retired only one year after being drafted and never sniffed the NHL until becoming Chicago’s goalie coach in 1990, a role he held through 2004. While he never did suit up for the Habs (no Russian goalie ever has), he did coach Jose Theodore in summer camps so that’s at least one small contribution he made to the Canadiens.
Be sure to check back on Tuesday for our next poll which will focus on Montreal’s Finnish players.