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- With a $5 M cap hit, Sergei Gonchar is one of the most expensive d-men in franchise history. The only ones higher are P.K. Subban ($9 M), Andrei Markov ($5.75 M), Mathieu Schneider ($5.75 M), and Roman Hamrlik ($5.5 M).
And with the 27th overall pick, the Montreal Canadiens select...
At this point, your guess as to who Pierre Gauthier picks on June 25th is as good as mine. Barring any trades to get a higher pick, I think it is only safe to say that neither Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin will be drafted by the Habs; everyone else could be fair game. By virtue of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Canadiens saw their 1st-round draft selection drop from 15th to 27th overall; but in a draft as shallow as this year's, that might not necessarily be catastrophic. As history has shown, there are still hidden gems to be found after the first 26 picks have been made; however, one must assume that the odds of drafting a bust pick are higher as the 1st-round draws to a close. Since 1980, the team drafting 27th has picked a defenceman 14 times, a forward 14 times, and a goaltender twice.
The last time Montreal picked at the 27th position was 1986, and that pick was actually a 2nd-round selection. With that pick, the Canadiens selected left-winger Benoit Brunet. Brunet played 539 games in the NHL (492 games with Montreal) and recorded 101 goals, 161 assists and 229 PIM over 15 seasons. While Brunet had a long career as a decent depth player, I don't think that many would consider him 1st-round caliber in retrospect, and he is more likely known for his RDS commentator job that he recently vacated. Since 1980, the Canadiens have only picked two other times at the 27th position, and those draftees were Sergio Momesso in 1983 (710GP-152G-193A-1557PIM) and Ric Nattress in 1980 (536 GP-29G-135A-377PIM). Again, these are rather unimpressive numbers for what would be considered 1st-rounders in 2010.
Although Montreal seemingly hasn't fared well drafting at 27th overall, there are teams who have done quite well, and correspondingly , some teams that have done worse. Omitting the past 3 years, as those draftees could still be developing, I will list some of the best and worst selections at the 27th overall position since 1980.
The Busts:5 - Ivan Vishnevskiy (D - 2006 - Drafted by the Dallas Stars)
It is perhaps too early to label Vishnevskiy a bust, but when a player has only played 5 games in the NHL, and has already recorded an own-goal, you've got to figure that Dallas management is shaking their heads over their former 1st-round pick. Considering that Dallas included Vishnevskiy in the Kari Lehtonen trade, one must assume that they were done waiting for him to develop, and therefore he earns the Bust tag, although that label might be rescinded in years to come. There certainly exists some potential for Vishnevskiy, as he posted decent numbers in the AHL (146GP-16G-39A-56PIM) and recorded 2 assists along with his own-goal in 5 games in the NHL.
4 - Martin Samuelsson (RW - 2000- Drafted by the Boston Bruins)
The Bruins drafted the big Swede with hopes that one day he would be able to contribute at the NHL level. Samuelsson showed some early potential with the farm club, but in faltered at the NHL level; he played only 14 games over 2 seasons, while only recording a solitary assist and 2 minutes in penalties. After a sub-par year in the AHL, Samuelsson bolted to the Swedish Elite League in 2005, where he would play for 3 years, never to return to North America.
3 - Mike Morris (RW - 2002 - Drafted by the San Jose Sharks)
Morris represents the sad side of the Bust category; his promising career was cut short by multiple concussions. Morris spent the full 4 years in the NCAA, contributing regularly, before making the jump to the AHL. However, his Post-Concussive Disorder limited him to a mere 26 games in the minors, recording 6 goals, 7 assists and 8 PIM. The Sharks released him after an injury-plagued 2008 season.
2 - Ari Ahonen (G - 1999 - Drafted by the New Jersey Devils)
It's no surprise that a goalie would stagnate waiting for a chance to usurp Martin Brodeur, and that was certainly the case with this Bust. Ahonen invested 4 seasons in the Devils' farm system, but was never given a shot at the NHL level. Over 178 games in the AHL, Ahonen had a dismal 51-105-20 record, with a 3.23 GAA and .902 SV%. As his numbers and wins slipped over the years, the Devils cut ties with Ahonen in 2006 and he found work overseas, where he is still playing.
1 - Mike Speer (D - 1989 - Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks)
Not much is known about Speer, except that he never played a regulation game at the NHL level. The Blackhawks were certainly patient with his development, permitting him to play 3 more seasons in the OHL, followed by 5 seasons in the IHL after being drafted. However, he only played 27 games in the AHL in 1994, recording 5 goals, 12 assists and 30 penalty minutes. Soon after, he jumped to the Colonial Hockey League before finishing his career playing for the University of Toronto. As it stands, Speer's only NHL game was a 2-0 exhibition loss versus the 1994 US Olympic team.
The Hidden Gems:5 - Steve Staios (D - 1991 - Drafted by the St. Louis Blues)
Although he was originally drafted as a forward, Staios has enjoyed a successful career mostly as a shutdown defenceman. After playing for 4 seasons for Boston and Vancouver, Staios was left unprotected and was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers for the 1999 Expansion Draft. After 2 seasons in Atlanta, Staios signed with the Edmonton Oilers, where he played until he was traded to the Calgary Flames at the 2009 Trade Deadline. In 897 NHL games, Staios has scored 53 goals, tallied 149 assists and recorded 1245 penalty minutes with a plus/minus of -73. Staios also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2008 World Championship.
4 - Tie Domi (RW - 1988 - Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs)
Despite his recent foray into reality television, Domi will forever be known for his role as enforcer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He started with the Leafs before being traded to the New York Rangers, and from there, the Winnipeg Jets. Five years after being traded from the Leafs, Domi found himself back in Toronto, where he would play the final 11 seasons of his career. A fan favourite, Domi holds the Leafs' record for most penalty minutes with 3515 (3rd league-wide) as well as the Leafs' single season record with 365 PIM. Over 1020 regular season games, Domi marked 104 goals and 141 assists. In 98 playoff games, he recorded 7 goals, 12 assists and 238 penalty minutes.
3 - Scott Gomez (C - 1998 - Drafted by the New Jersey Devils)
One year prior to wasting their 1st round pick on Ari Ahonen, the Devils made a great decision to pick the first native Alaskan to play in the NHL. Gomez made an instant impact at the NHL level, winning the Calder Trophy for best rookie and the Stanley Cup in 2000. He would win another Cup (2003) during his 7 seasons in New Jersey before signing a lucrative contact with the New York Rangers. After 2 mediocre years in New York, Gomez was traded to Montreal. Among his other accomplishments, Gomez also boasts a bronze medal from the 2004 World Championship. In 784 regular season games, Gomez has tallied 160 goals, 477 assists and 637 points. Gomez has also recorded 95 points (29G, 66A) in 133 playoff games.
2 - Scott Mellanby (RW - 1984 - Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers)
Mellanby certainly wasn't the most illustrious choice for this list, but the numbers don't lie. Mellanby played an amazing 21 seasons for 5 teams (Philadelphia, Edmonton, Florida, St. Louis and Atlanta) and suited up for an incredible 1431 games (along with 136 playoff matches). Mellanby would serve as captain for the Panthers and the Thrashers, and he left the game with the unfortunate distinction of placing 3rd on the list for most games without winning a Stanley Cup. Mellanby retired in 2007 after scoring 364 goals, recording 476 assists and earning 2479 penalty minutes. He added 24 goals, 29 assists and 220 penalty minutes in the playoffs. Mellanby will will begin the 2010-11 season as assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues.
1 - Joe Nieuwendyk (C - 1985 - Drafted by the Calgary Flames)
Nieuwendyk was the obvious choice for the best player to be selected at the 27th draft position. A 20-season veteran, Nieuwendyk scored at nearly a point-per-game pace until chronic back problems forced him to retire in 2006. Throughout 1257 games, Nieuwendyk played for Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey, Toronto and Florida, winning Stanley Cups with the Flames (1989), the Stars (1999) and the Devils (2003). His personal hardware includes the Calder Trophy (1988), the King Clancy Trophy (1995) and the Conn Smythe Trophy (1999). Furthermore, Nieuwendyk won an Olympic Gold with Team Canada in 2002. Nieuwendyk also twice hit the 50-goal mark, with back-to-back 51-goal campaigns with the Flames from 1987-1989. In addition to the 546 goals and 562 assists tallied in the regular season, Nieuwendyk tallied 116 points (66G, 50A) in 158 playoff games. Even today, Nieuwendyk has his mark on the game, as he serves as GM for the Dallas Stars. Suffice it to say, I don't think anyone with those accomplishments in mind would blink twice before selecting "Nieuy" 1st-overall... let alone 27th overall.
As you can see, there's plenty of good to go with the bad once the 27th pick rolls around. Will Pierre Gauthier and Trevor Timmins find a hidden gem... or will they be left holding a bust hand?
Only time will tell.