Canadiens: An In-Depth Look At The Franchise’s Top Five Draft Busts

Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Draft busts are a dime a dozen in the NHL, whether you like to believe it or not, and the same applies to teams like the Montreal Canadiens. It goes without saying, the Canadiens haven’t drafted particularly well over the past 20-ish years (something I’ve discussed previously over the past month). Ever since the days of the 70s dynasty (which admittedly will likely never occur again), Montreal has endured brief periods of success followed by lengthier periods of mediocrity, and most of this, unfortunately, comes down to scouting, drafting and player development. Three things which the Habs well, haven’t been that fantastic at.

However, I’m not going to just look up the Canadiens draft history and pluck a few names from the list, rather I’d like to define what truly qualifies as a draft bust, whether it be in terms of where they were drafted, career length, where they played, or even if they ended up in the NHL to begin with. As surprising as it is, many didn’t, and whilst most, if not all weren’t NHL stars, some did find occasional bottom six roles, such as Jason Ward, Turner Stevenson, and, as much as I hate to say it, Doug Wickenheiser. While Wickenheiser was the first overall pick in 1980, he still played 556 NHL games and was simply never given any sort of chance by the Montreal media, fans, or even coaching and management (regardless of who went after him).

What this means, in essence, is that I’m looking for players who didn’t find a regular NHL role or possibly make the NHL at all (which again, happened more than you’d think). To be frank, draft busts have been discussed to no length and doing another random top five list (something I’ve admittedly been no stranger to) wouldn’t do justice to the quite frankly bizarre career paths these players went on to have after being taken with that all-illustrious Canadiens first round pick, So, with that being said, here’s a more in-depth look at the top five Montreal Canadiens draft busts in franchise history.

17 Montreal Canadiens Matt Higgins Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images
17 Montreal Canadiens Matt Higgins Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images /

5. Matt Higgins

Position: Center

Selected: 18th overall, Montreal Canadiens, 1996 NHL Entry Draft

NHL games: 57 (1-2-3 totals)

To start things off, we have yet another (albeit early) product of the all-too dubious Rejean Houle era as GM of the Canadiens. Higgins was a talented and promising offensive center out of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, posting 33-57-90 totals over 71 games in his final season. However, in a draft that saw the likes of Marco Sturm and Daniel Briere get selected after, Higgins immediately struggled to adapt to the NHL and ultimately never did. Higgins takes fifth place on this list because while his NHL career was an unbelievable flop (just look at his totals), Montreal did at the very least give him opportunities when the team had little in the way of offense, goaltending, coaching, managing, or even owning. Playing in 25 games in both the 1998-99 and 1999-00 season, Higgins put up his only careers points, playing in just 6 more games split between 1997-98 and 2000-01.

Even in the AHL, Higgins struggled to adapt to professional ice, posting 19-59-78 totals over 156 games in the Habs organization, an average of around 0.5 points per game. After being let go by the Habs in the 2001 offseason, Higgins returned to the AHL, signing with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In Bridgeport, Higgins play improved, settling in as a two-way checking center with slight offensive upside, playing a hard-nosed role in the teams 2001-02 run to the Calder Cup Finals.

After that, Higgins headed overseas to Germany, signing with the DEL’s Iserlohn Roosters where he rediscovered his offensive touch, posting back-to-back 40-point seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07. After the 2008-09 season, Higgins finished his career in Austria, posting career highs of 21-25-46 totals over 48 games in his final season in 2010-11. Higgins is ultimately a bizarre case as his poor play could either boil down to his own faults or the faults of the Canadiens system. Regardless, it seemed as though he only find his scoring touch once overseas, and as such, he takes number five on this list.