Canadiens Sign Chris Higgins

By Dan Linn

The Montreal Canadiens have signed 2002 draft pick Chris
to a rookie contract.  Taken 14th overall,
the former Yale Bulldog centerman is coming off another impressive season in the
ECAC.  He was among the top ten players
in voting for the Hobey Baker award for the NCAA’s top player.  The sophomore center was named co MVP of the
ECAC, MVP of his team in 2002-03, and a finalist for the Herb Gallagher Award as the Top Player in New
England. Higgins
was again the leading
scorer for his team, and 6th overall in ECAC scoring.  He was signed to a 3-year deal by the
Canadiens.  The terms
were not disclosed.  He will likely play
for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL next season.

Higgins was a member of the US National Junior Team for the
last two years, were he was the leading scorer for Team USA with 7 points as an
18 year old (4-2-7) and 3rd in team scoring with 6 points in his
final year.  In his NCAA career, Higgins
has played 55 games getting 72 points over the two year span, with 34 goals and
38 assists.  This season he had a career
year with 41 points in 28 games, notching 20 goals and 21 assists. 

Blessed with excellent skating, stick handling, and hockey
sense, he will be an asset to Hamilton.  Higgins
can play in any situation, and is equally good at both ends of the rink, but he
may have some difficultly adapting to the much longer and tougher schedule of
the AHL.  

Other prospects who could be signed 

Montreal will have several roster spots open
next season with its AHL affiliate Hamilton since it is the first season that it
is no longer sharing the affiliation with Edmonton.  Edmonton will remove
its prospects from the team, so Montreal will have to fill those slots (eight)
plus any created by graduation to the big club.  Three Habs loaned to Utah
should be back, plus whoever else the team signs.  Because of the sudden
need for players, prospects or free agents who in other years might not have
been signed could be inked this summer.  

Below are some other draft picks who
could also be signed, listed in order of likelihood.

Alex Perezhogin, RW.  The
last of the 1st rounders from the last three drafts still unsigned, Alex
is coming off a solid season playing in the Russian Super League for Omsk.  He was also a member of the Russian Senior
National Team, which is good experience for the young 19 year old.  Taken 25th overall in ’01,
Perezhogin could be brought to North America to bolster a depleted Hamilton
team.  The speedy wing can use his
top notch skating, stick handling and wrist shot on one of the top two lines in
Hamilton if he’s interested.

Duncan Milroy, RW.  Taken
37th overall in ’01, the Right Wing must be signed by June 1st
or he will reenter the draft.  The
playoff and Memorial Cup MVP from last season did not have the best season, but
after scoring over 240 points over the last three years in the WHL, management
should get the 20 year old inked for Hamilton, but with less then 10 days time
is short and the depth at RW makes things tough.

Andrew Archer, D.  A
late pick in ’01, taken 203rd overall this 6’4″ stay at home
defensemen also needs to be signed by June 1st or he will reenter
the draft.  The captain of the Guelph
Storm of the OHL has been solid in his CHL career, and would be a good addition
to Hamilton.  There’s a shortage
of depth at right defense, so signing him makes sense, but again time is
running short. 

Jonathan Ferland, RW. Another late pick, taken 212th
overall in ’02.  Ferland plays a
very physical game along the boards, while being solid in his own end.  The Habs need more players with his size and
physical play, and after getting an invite to Team Canada’s National Junior
Selection Camp, he has turned things up a notch getting over 80 points while
being a +48 for the Titians of the QMJHL. 
The 20 year olds career in the Quebec junior league is now completed, so
he will need to be signed.

Matt Shasby, D.  Another
American defensemen out of the NCAA (Anchorage), this 22 year old was taken 150th
overall in ’99, and now that his college career is now over, he would make a
good addition to the Hamilton Bulldogs. 
Good size at 6’3″ 199 lbs, and solid skating should help him get a contract
this summer or he will become an unrestricted free agent.  After a very good junior year as our most
improved prospect, Matt took a step back in his final season, as the team was
littered with underclassmen. 

Eric Himelfarb, C. 
Taken 171st overall in ’01, Eric is another player that must
be signed before June 1st or he will reenter the draft.  He was the leading scorer for the OHL Barrie
Colts this year, but after an unimpressive playoff run, he may have a hard time
landing a deal with so many other young players ready to be brought in.

Comments and questions are welcomed on
the Hockey’s Future Canadiens