Montreal Canadiens Drafting Philosophy: Best Fit vs. Best Player Available

It's that time of year again: draft season, and the Montreal Canadiens have another high draft pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. And, of course, that means we finally have a concrete number to aim for and debate about until late June. Should the Habs shoot for the stars and nab the best player available, or look at holes in the prospect cupboard and find the player that fits in best?
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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So the case for picking the best player available:

Pierre McGuire is back in the news again stating that the Habs will go "big game hunting". He's one of the most enigmatic figures in hockey with plenty of clips showing his weird side, like telling the late great Darren Dutchyshen that he is a reporter with a big stick while standing uncomfortably close to him.

But my favourite might be what Pierre McGuire said right after the Canadiens drafted Carey Price 5th overall in 2005. Forgetting the casual racism at the start, Montreal did have established goalies in Cristobal Huet and Jose Theodore, who had just won the Hart and Vezina in the 2001-02 season.

This was also the height of the Montreal Canadiens lack of offense. Outside of Alex Kovalev, a career year from Tomas Plekanec and Saku Koivu, no Canadien had even flirted with a point-per-game. The last time a Hab scored 40 goals in a season was Vincent Damphousse in 40 goals.

Obviously the biggest name in that draft was Sidney Crosby, but he was taken before Price, so there was no way Montreal was going to get him, but the other big names in the draft taken after Price were Anze Kopitar, Paul Stastny, Kris Letang and T.J. Oshie. All respectable to great players, but would you really take them over Price.

Carey Price
Florida Panthers v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Carey Price was the face of the franchise for years, and the only name I can really think compares on that list and from that draft is Kopitar, or even Jonathan Quick, who L.A. took in the same draft. Wow, that is an insane draft for the Kings.

So if the Canadiens drafted for need, then they would have missed out on the face of the franchise.