Montreal Canadiens: 4 of the more infamous 1st round busts

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 15: David Fischer of Klagenfurt during the Vienna Capitals v EC KAC - Erste Bank Eishockey Liga at Erste Bank Arena on September 15, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Stephan Woldron/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)
VIENNA, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 15: David Fischer of Klagenfurt during the Vienna Capitals v EC KAC - Erste Bank Eishockey Liga at Erste Bank Arena on September 15, 2019 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Stephan Woldron/SEPA.Media /Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens have a long and storied history with the NHL draft, yet have still made mistakes. Here are 4 1st round picks that didn’t work out.

I think it is safe to say that being a scout for the Montreal Canadiens isn’t an easy job. With the constant travel needed to scout many different players across different leagues, and the amount of pressure placed on the scouting department to draft talented players, there is bound to be times where things don’t work out for one reason or another.

The NHL draft isn’t as sure fire as most people think it is, and the later into the draft teams get, the less certainty there is. Even most late 1st round picks can be very hit or miss in terms of how they’ll work out in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens are no exception to this, with their fair share of draft blunders over the years, some being more infamous than others. Today, I’ll be going over 4 that I find went particularly south.

Alain Heroux

The early 1980s was an interesting time for the Habs, with the team still managing to maintain a consistent string of success even without many of the stars of their 70s dynasty. However, what should’ve been seen as a chance for the team to stock up on future stars to help take the load off their aging veterans, instead resulted in only 1 1st round pick from 1980-1990 (Petr Svoboda) making a significant impact with the team. I’ll be looking at a few of these players later on, but I find Heroux stands out amongst the others as he never played an NHL game, something every other pick at least managed.

A solid producer with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL, Heroux was a bright spot on a team that was lacking in true NHL prospects. Despite his team’s lack of success, the Canadiens took Heroux with the 19th overall pick in 1982. After spending the next year in junior, Heroux started the 1984-85 season with the Sherbrooke Canadiens, playing in 48 games recording 18 points. After that season however, Heroux retired, marking an end to a very short-lived career. The player taken 2 picks after Heroux? None other than New York Islanders legend Patrick Flatley, who would go on to play 730 NHL games.

Linsday Vallis

Coming off an impressive 115-point campaign in 1988-89, the Canadiens used their 13th overall pick in that years draft to select 6’03 right winger Lindsay Vallis. In a 4-year career with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, Vallis racked up 285 points over 268 games, while playing alongside future 2nd overall pick Petr Nedved.

With the Canadiens in the midst of their Stanley Cup success in 1993, Vallis looked to be developing nicely with 34 points in 65 games in his sophomore season, earning himself a 1 game audition with the Canadiens the following season. However, after recording  just 9 goals over 75 games with Frederiction that same year, he was not resigned, spending 2 years with the Worcester IceCats as a checking forward before ending up in lower leagues like the WCHL and UHL, where he would play just 4 more AHL games. Vallis retired after the 1999-00 season, playing for the Asheville Smoke of the UHL. For comparison, Olaf Kolzig went 19th overall that same year, which could’ve been helpful following Patrick Roy’s departure.

Matt Higgins

The 1995-96 season was an infamous one, with Patrick Roy famously leaving the team that year after coach Mario Tremblay left him in net for all 9 goals in a loss to the Detroit Red Wings, whereupon Roy went over to president Ronald Corey and said he had played his last game as a Hab. That summer, the team used the 18th overall pick in the draft to select Calgary native Matt Higgins.

Demonstrating decent offensive numbers with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, a 90-point senior season with the team left Habs fans feeling excited about the 6’00 tall center. However, in a 4-year span with the team, Higgins played just 57 games, struggling to stay healthy in both the NHL and AHL. After being let go following the 2000-01 season, Higgins played 2 years with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before moving on to the German leagues and eventually Austria, where he finished his career in 2010-11. He simply never found his game offensively, much like many of the players mentioned here, a shame considering the player who went 6 picks later was future 95-point player Daniel Briere.

David Fischer

During the mid-2000s, the Canadiens often found themselves struggling to gain ground in the eastern conference, usually barely sneaking into the playoffs with the occasional deep run here and there. Following a middling at best 2005-06 season which saw GM Bob Gainey take over the head coaching job, the Canadiens used the 20th overall pick in the draft to select defenseman David Fischer. There wasn’t really much that stood out about Fischer’s numbers, recording just 5 assists over 42 games in his rookie season, but he was built well at 6’03 and 202 pounds and had the potential to develop into a solid 7th defenseman.

However, the Canadiens never actually signed Fischer, and after finishing his college career, attended the Vancouver Canucks training camp before signing with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, getting into 2 AHL games with the Houston Aeros, before moving on to Germany and eventually Austria, where he continues to play to this day for Klagenfurt AC.