Habs’ draft picks…Where are they now?

By Chris Boucher
The NHL Draft produces both hits and misses as far as prospects are concerned. Until recently the Montréal Canadiens had not enjoyed much success over the last 7 draft years. Some players who were drafted did not develop as hoped, while others were lost for purely financial reasons. Here’s a quick look at how and where eleven of the Habs’ former draft picks are continuing their professional hockey careers.

Matt Higgins was chosen in the first round (18th overall) of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. A Moose Jaw Warrior for his entire junior hockey, Higgins entered the draft having just enjoyed a season of 63 points (30-33-63) through 67 games. The left winger played his first NHL game during the 97-98 season, and eventually played 57 games with the Habs over a span of 4 seasons.

Higgins signed a contract with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers on February 8th, 2002. He had joined the team by way of a PTO, but played well enough to earn an official contract. Through 21 AHL games this season, the 6’2″, 175-lbs forward has 20 points (9-11-20), and is plus-1 with 16 minutes in penalties.

The Canadiens drafted Jonathan Desroches in the sixth round (145th overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’0″, 200-lbs defenseman played an unusual defensive game while in the QMJHL. He managed 22 points (7-15-22) through 58 games during the 96-97 season (his draft year), but was never able to earn an NHL contract.

Desroches is currently playing his second year of CIAU hockey with the University of Moncton. Through 25 games this season the 22-year-old has 11 points (2-9-11) to go along with 8 minutes in penalties.

Sean Dixon was chosen in the sixth round (167th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. The 20-year-old managed 14 points (2-12-14) through 55 games during his draft year, but has not shown the steady improvement necessary in a developing defenseman. Dixon was not signed to a contract within two years of being drafted. He re-entered the 2001 NHL Draft, but was not chosen by any NHL team.

The 6’2″, 185-lbs defenseman played his first four years of junior hockey with the OHL’s Erie Otters, before moving to the OHL’s London Knights at the beginning of the current campaign. Through 46 games this season he has 9 points (2-7-9), and is a disappointing minus-14 with 28 minutes in penalties.

Tyler Hanchuck was drafted during the third round (79th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’0″, 215-lbs defenseman managed only 3 assists during his draft year, but the Canadiens were more impressed by his physical attributes than his skill level. The Habs did not offer Hanchuck a contract within one year of drafting him. He re-entered the 2001 Draft, but was not chosen by any NHL team.

Hanchuck has played 49 games this season with the OHL’s Barrie Colts. He has 11 points (2-9-11), and is plus-14 with 88 minutes in penalties.

Jonathan Gauthier was drafted during the ninth round (275th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The offensive defenseman produced 81 points (32-49-81) through 70 games heading into the 2000 draft. Although a strong offensive player with good leadership skills, Gauthier is a below average skater. He often gets beat to the outside by speedy forwards, and lacks solid instincts in the defensive zone. He wasn’t offered a contract within one year of being drafted, and is currently an NHL free agent.

Gauthier has played a total of 44 games with both Reading and Dayton of the ECHL this season. He has 22 points (13-9-22), and is plus-1 with 26 minutes in penalties. He has the second-best goal total among ECHL defenseman, and is currently on the 30 day injured list.

Ben Guite was chosen in the seventh round (172nd overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’1″, 197-lbs forward played four years with the University of Maine, where he improved his offensive output in each successive season. He participated in the Habs’ prospect development camp at the beginning of the 2000-01 season, and eventually played 68 game with the Canadiens’ ECHL affiliate in Tallahassee.

Guite joined the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the beginning of the year, and has played 53 games to date. He has 24 points (9-15-24), and is an impressive plus-12 with 33 minutes in penalties.

Terry Ryan was drafted in the first round (8th overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’1″, 207-lbs forward managed an impressive 110 points (50-60-110) through 70 games during his draft year. He also racked up 207 penalty minutes to go along with his gaudy offensive numbers. He played his first game with Montreal during the 96-97 season, and eventually played 8 games with the Canadiens, registering no points and 36 minutes in penalties.

Ryan is currently playing for the Idaho Steelheads of the WCHL. He’s played 21 games, and has 15 points (8-7-15) to go along with 68 minutes in penalties. He also has a plus-4 rating.

Daniel Tetrault was chosen in the fourth round (91st overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’0″, 205-lbs defenseman played his entire junior career with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He managed 29 points (5-24-29) through 64 games during his draft year. Injury problems hindered his development while in junior, which is likely the reason the Habs never signed the Manitoba native to a contract.

Tetrault played most of this season with the CHL’s Austin Ice Bats. Through 44 games with the Ice Bats he managed 33 points (9-24-33) to go along with 81 minutes in penalties. His strong play in the CHL recently earned the 22-year-old a PTO with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He’s yet to earn a point through 2 AHL games, but is a respectable plus-2.

Gregor Baugartner was drafted in the second round (37th overall) of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’1″, 192-lbs forward began his career in North America with Clarkson University in 95-96 before joining the QMJHL’s Laval Titan at the beginning of the 96-97 season. He produced 63 points (19-44-63) through 68 games during his draft year. The Habs were unable to sign Baumgartner within two years of drafting him. He re-entered the 1999 NHL Draft, where the Dallas Stars chose him in the fifth round (156th overall).

The 22-year-old Austrian bounced around four different leagues during his first two pro seasons, but has now earned a roster spot with the AHL’s Utah Grizzlies. Baumgartner has played 32 AHL games. He has 20 points (10-10-20), and is plus-3 with 4 minutes in penalties.

Matt Carkner was drafted during the second round (58th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’5″, 220-lbs defenseman played his entire OHL career with Peterborough, and was the team’s captain last season. The Canadiens did not sign Carkner within two years of drafting him. He became a free-agent last summer, and was eventually signed by the San Jose Sharks.

The 21-year-old stay-at-home defenseman has played the entire season with the AHL’s Cleveland Barons. Through 53 games he has 3 assists to go along with a plus-4 rating, and an incredible 244 minutes in penalties.

Petr Chvojka was chosen in the eighth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft (182nd overall). The 6’0″, 195-lbs defenseman was held pointless through 4 games in the Czech Extraliga during his draft year. The WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers drafted him in the 2000 CHL Import Draft, and he’s played there for the last two seasons. The Canadiens decided to renounce Chvojka’s rights last season, allowing the 19-year-old Czech to re-enter the 2001 NHL Draft. He was not chosen by any NHL teams, and will again be available during the upcoming draft.

Chvojka has played 46 games with Medicine Hat this season. He has 22 points (5-17-22), and is minus-9 with 78 minutes in penalties. He also played for the Czech Republic during the recent World Junior Championship. He played 7 games during the tournament, scoring 1 goal to go along with 6 penalty minutes, and a plus-1 rating.