The Montreal Canadiens entered the 2004 entry draft with ten picks, the first one being the 18th overall, which positioned them to have a shot at a number of quality prospects. Having a solid core of prospects already in place, the team was looking to fill in the gaps or bolster other areas that were lacking in depth, as they ended up picking players that suited their needs best.
Although they ended up trading the 95th overall pick, they were still left with nine choices, of which three were in the top 100. After picking a number of centers during the 2003 draft, the Habs took only one center this time around, while picking three wingers, four defensemen and one goalie to round out the weekend. They also used their picks to select players from all over the globe, grabbing players from Russia, Switzerland, Belarus, NCAA, USHS, and the CHL, making for an interesting draft. The leagues most selected from where the Russian Super league and Quebec Major Juniors, with two players from each league.
Kyle Chipchura, C (1st round, 18th overall) Taken from the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, Chipchura brings needed size and strong defensive play down the middle, something currently lacking in the organization. He is coming off a solid performance at the U-18 where he was second in team scoring and has been invited to the Team Canada Selection camp this summer. A No. 1 pick of the WHL draft, Chipchura hasn’t put up impressive offensive numbers, but did have a groin injury which hampered his development.
Alexi Yemelin, D (3rd round, 84th overall) Taken from the Lada program where he was on loan to Samara to play in the High league, and had an impressive 198 penalty minutes in 53 games, as he plays an aggressive physical game. Yemelin is also coming off a strong showing at the recent U-18 tournament, where he played on the third pairing, which may have gotten managements interest as he brings depth on defense.
James Wyman, RW (4th round, 100th overall) Taken from the Blake School of the USHS system, Wyman finished his senior year on a high note, being named team MVP and helping his team come in second overall in the Minnesota State Championships. Wyman will be headed off to the ECAC to play for Dartmouth, where he will have to not only adjust to the higher level of play, but will also face the tough academic standards of the Ivy League school. Wyman put up an impressive 95 points during his final two years at the Blake school in just 55 games.
Mikhail Grabovski, W (5th round, 150th overall) The native Belarusian was selected from the Russian Super League where he was playing for Neftekhimik. Grabovski was available to be drafted in the 2002 and 2003 drafts, but went undrafted, until the Canadiens took him in the mid rounds. Grabovski was fifth on his team in scoring, and had a good showing on one of the top lines during the World Championships for Team Belarus this year. Having played on the Belarus national U18, U-20 and World Championship team over the last two years, the Canadiens were able to catch him in action while scouting last years first round pick, Andrei Kastsitsyn.
Loic Lacasse, G (6th round, 181st overall) Lacasse was taken from Baie Comeau of the QMJHL, and was the first goalie the Canadiens have taken from the QMJHL since 1996 when they took Mathieu Garon 44th overall. With Lacasse, he wasn’t a regular starter, but if he was they might not have had a shot at him at 181st overall. He was able to show some impressive play on a team that struggled defensively. Lacasse has the size and skill level to go onto the next level, just needs to get more game experience in nets over the next two years.
Jon Gleed, D (7th round, 212th overall) Gleed played for Cornell of the ECAC, and was coming off a solid season this year where he was able to get a regular spot in the defensive rotation. He was available for the 2003 draft, but was not selected, perhaps due to his limited playing time, as he only dressed in 12 games all season due to the quality of the defense at Cornell. Gleed should play a bigger role with the team next season, as he enters his junior year with a team that is looking for another solid season at the top of the ECAC conference. He’s a safe steady defensemen with good size and a smart positional game. Also an important aspect is that Gleed is a right handed defensemen, which is also a concern for the lack of depth on the right side.
Gregory Stewart, RW (8th round, 246th overall) Stewart was selected from the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, where he played his rookie season after a solid season in the tier-2 league for the Waterloo Midgets. Stewart is a physical winger that will skate hard and play a crash and bang kind of game, which is something the Canadiens are currently lacking in the system. Once Stewart fills out his frame a little more, he should create a lot of space for himself, as he has a decent base of skills to work with.
Mark Streit, D (9th round, 262nd overall) Streit plays for ZSC Lions in Switzerland. The 26-year-old defensemen does have experience playing North American hockey, as he spent some time over here during the 1999-2000 season, but returned home to play for the Lions the following season where he as stayed since then. Streit is coming off a strong showing at the World Championships according to Habs management, although his future with the Canadiens is anyone’s guess at this time.
Alexandre Dulac-Lemelin, D (9th round, 278th overall) Dulac-Lemelin is a teammate of Loic Lacasse with the Drakkar of the QMJHL, where he played in his rookie season and seems to have done well, as he got quality minutes in all game situations. Standing at 6’4 193, Lemelin has impressive size and strength, which had to get management’s attention to take a shot on him with their final pick.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.