2008 Draft produced slim pickings for Montreal Canadiens

By David Thicke

Danny Kristo - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Selected in the second round of the 2008 draft, forward Danny Kristo appears to have a promising NHL career ahead of him. (courtesy of Brace Hemmelgarn/Icon SMI)

In the 2007-08 regular season, the Montreal Canadiens finished first overall in the Eastern Conference before beating their archrivals, the Boston Bruins in the first round of the NHL playoffs in game seven. The team would eventually bow out in five games to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

At the 2008 NHL entry draft, the Canadiens' management decided to make a move to better their top-six forward group by trading their 2008 first round and 2009 second round selections to the Calgary Flames for Alex Tanguay and a fifth round pick in 2008. The organization felt their prospect group had been well stocked over the last few drafts and they could afford the loss of a first round pick for an established NHL player. Montreal would make only five selections in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, choosing three skilled wingers, a large goalie and a small offensive defenseman. The team was clearly hoping to hit a few home runs with their 2008 draft picks.

The Canadiens have not seen any help from the 2008 draft at the NHL level yet but it is possible both Danny Kristo and Steve Quailer could play for the team in the near future. Maxim Trunev is not likely to play any time soon in North America and the other two selections were both released by Montreal prior to their entry-level contract deadline.

Danny Kristo, RW, USA-U18 (USNTDP) – 2nd Round, 56th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Kristo was selected by the Canadiens' management for his offensive skill and excellent ability to get on the puck quickly with his skating speed. The team felt his game would be well suited to the new style of the NHL. He fell to mid-second round due to his questionable hockey sense and inconsistency to play at a high tempo. The young forward played the year after his draft in the USHL for the Omaha Lancers where he put up very good offensive numbers.

The winger started his college career with high expectations and has been one of the UND better offensive players over his four years at the NCAA level. In his freshman season, the American-born winger won a gold medal at the 2010 WJC tournament, a NCAA championship, and WCHA rookie of the year award. He has however had several off-ice incidents which have shown a lack of maturity and left people questioning his commitment level to his hockey career. His overall game has improved to the point where it now appears possible that an NHL career could be waiting for Kristo in the very near future and justifying the Canadiens decision to draft him in the second round in 2008.

Steve Quailer, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) – 3rd Round, 86th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Montreal drafted Quailer for his big size, powerful skating and raw potential after a successful season in the USHL with Sioux City. He showed well at the team's combine prior to the 2008 NHL entry draft and management felt he was worth the risk of their third round selection. The big forward was committed to playing at the NCAA level with Northeastern University and would have four years to develop his overall game.

Quailer followed his successful freshman season by missing his entire sophomore year with a knee injury. He would slowly regain his game over the next two seasons with the Huskies, but his knee injury continued to nag him. He decided to leave University over the 2012 off-season to turn pro and started his career in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs. The big forward is a work in progress that still possesses that raw talent the Canadiens saw when they chose him at the 2008 NHL draft.
 
Jason Missiaen, G, Peterborough Petes (OHL) – 4rd Round, 116th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Missiaen was another draft choice that impressed the Canadiens management at the team's combine prior to the 2008 NHL entry draft. The 6'8 netminder was an imposing figure that showed quick feet and legs with his hybrid butterfly style. The team felt his raw talent could improve over the next few years if he became the starter for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL.

After two more seasons in the OHL, Missiaen was unable to improve his overall game or on his draft year numbers and Montreal chose not to sign their fourth round selection to an entry-level contract. He played the next season in the QJMHL with some success. The New York Rangers decided to sign him to an NHL entry-level contract and the big goalie is playing in their minor-league system. He still might become a good backup goalie in the NHL just not for the Canadiens.

Maxim Trunev, RW, Cherepovets-2 (RUS-3) – 5th Round, 138th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Trunev was the selection picked up in the Alex Tanguay trade. Montreal liked his offensive upside and believed that one of the youngest players at the 2008 NHL entry draft could turn out to be a combination of the two Kostitsyn brothers. The director of scouting, Trevor Timmins indicated that the Russian player was very interested in coming to North America and had lots of interest by CHL teams to play at the junior level in Canada.

Since being draft by the Canadiens, Trunev has played five mediocre seasons in the KHL and has not live up to his offensive potential at this time. He has never come to North America and after signing a new three year contract with the rebuilt Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL; he is not likely to be playing for the Montreal Canadiens any time in the near future.

Patrick Johnson, D, University of Wisconsin (WCHA) – 7th Round, 206th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Montreal hoped that Johnson's bloodlines (father, Mark played for the 1980 USA gold medal team) and his familiarity with Ryan Mcdonagh (NYR) would help his development of the next three years at the NCAA level with the University of Wisconsin. At the time of the draft, Timmins felt the small forward possessed the hockey sense, competitiveness and offensive game to become one of the more dominant players in college.

Johnson was never able to improve on his good freshman season and after finishing his senior year at Wisconsin was released in the summer of 2011 by the Canadiens. As a free agent, he signed a contract to play the 2011-12 season for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL.