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The Habs have had many prospects over the years. As always, some have had high expectations and succeeded while others picked later had lower expectations and varying degrees of success in the pros. Over the years though, there have been some prospects that the club and the fans expected to be good NHL'ers that simply didn't progress enough. Here is a look back at some now-former Montreal prospects who fell well short of their expectations and where they are today.
(This list consists of players selected in the top-50 of their respective draft class.)
David Fischer (20th overall, 2006): After being named 'Mr. Hockey' for Minnesota's best hockey player in 2005-06, the Habs felt it was worth taking a flyer on the inexperienced rookie. Suffice it to say, it didn't work out (even though they managed to trade down and get him, netting former prospect Mathieu Carle along the way). Fischer was expected to have a long development curve but showed very little progression in four full years before being let go by Montreal. Because they didn't sign him, the Habs picked up a compensatory 2nd round draft pick which was later dealt in exchange for James Wisniewski. Fischer attended Vancouver's training camp in 2010 before signing on for a pair of seasons with the ECHL's Florida Everblades and earned a brief tryout with Houston of the AHL last season. This season, he is playing in the second level of the Bundesliga in Germany where he has more goals than the rest of his teams' defence combined (2 goals).
Interestingly enough, there is still some hope coming from this pick. Just before free agency in 2011, the rights to Wisniewski were dealt to Columbus for a conditional 7th round pick that became a 5th if he signed with the Blue Jackets. He did, which gave the Habs the 121st pick in June's draft which they used to select Charles Hudon.
Tomas Linhart (45th overall, 2002): Out of the picks out of the last decade, this may very well rival Fischer's selection for the most puzzling. Linhart was ranked 11th overall in Central Scouting in 2002...in Czech-born skaters alone. Factoring in rankings from other leagues and countries and Linhart would have been pegged around the mid to late stages of the draft at best. After being drafted, he came over to the OHL where he was released before the end of his first full season after picking up just four assists in 55 games on two different teams. Ideally, it shouldn't be too unrealistic to expect that a 2nd rounder, one who is supposed to have NHL potential when you're picked in that round, can last a single season in junior hockey. Not surprisingly, he went back home in 2003 and has played in the Czech Extraliga for the past ten seasons. The one main difference with Linhart compared to the rest of this list is that we knew pretty quickly that his NHL future was going to be non-existent.
Gregor Baumgartner (37th overall, 1997): The Austrian-born winger parlayed a strong rookie QMJHL season (one that had him ranked 33rd by Central Scouting) into being selected by the Habs. He was a strong point producer with Laval and Acadie-Bathurst but a lack of physical play inevitably scared the Habs off as they elected not to sign him by the deadline in 1999. Dallas wound up taking a chance on him with a 5th round selection and brought him into their farm system the following season. After joining the Stars, he bounced around the minors playing for six teams in five different leagues over four years before heading back home. Since 2003-04, he has played in the Austrian league and interestingly enough, he had his best season in terms of points per game just last year.
Alexander Buturlin (39th overall, 1999): Widely considered to be a top Russian talent in his draft class, it's a bit saddening to put him in this group. The Habs selected him after a strong performance at the Under-18's and he came over to North America to play in the OHL the following year. He spent two seasons with Sarnia and put up terrific numbers (47 GP, 28-37-65) in 2000-01 - a season spent alongside fellow prospects Eric Himelfarb and Dusty Jamieson - but that is the last we've seen of him on the North American side of the ocean. Since 2001-02, he has played back at home in Russia primarily in the RSL/KHL. Unlike several other Russian prospects whose rights remain with the Habs due to a lack of a player transfer agreement (such as Andrei Sidyakin and Konstantin Korneev among others), Montreal no longer holds Buturlin's rights.
Duncan Milroy (37th overall, 2001): Milroy was one of the rising stars in the WHL (ranked 7th by CSB) when the Habs selected him and his production in junior was more or less the same after being drafted. Things didn't go as well when he turned pro and joined the Bulldogs. Over the course of his entry-level deal, the highest point total he put up in a single season was 35. The Habs gave him another shot and he rewarded them with his best season with Hamilton while playing in five games with the Habs. It went downhill from there though. Montreal let him go in 2008 which started him on a mini journey. In three years, he went to Germany, back to the AHL, to the Czech Republic, before returning to the German league where he played until he was released late last year.
Cory Urquhart (40th overall, 2003): Most fans lament the selection of Andrei Kostitsyn in this draft because of who was picked after but at least Kostitsyn had an NHL career. That can't be said for Urquhart, one of just four players picked in the first 52 spots in that draft to never play in an NHL game. After his junior days, the former Montreal Rocket centre spent his time in the Habs' organization bouncing between the AHL and ECHL and that was about the highlight of his professional career. After being let go by the Habs, he bounced around the North American minor leagues for a couple of years before heading to Germany. As was the case with Milroy, he too was let go by his German team last season and is not playing anywhere at the moment.