When the Montreal Canadiens prepared for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, many
wondered what kind of impact new GM Bob Gainey would have in the selections, as this was his first draft
after taking over for the now assistant GM Andre Savard. With Andre Savard and Trevor Timmins in charge of scouting the 2004 prospects, and already in possession of an impressive draft history while with the Ottawa Senators, it was unclear if Gainey would place his personal stamp on the selections or let his staff continue their success. This question was answered in short order when the Canadiens selected Kyle Chipchura with the
team’s first pick of the draft, a player whose character and work ethic resemble that of a young Bob Gainey.
With the other eight selections made by the Canadiens, the team went off the
board. Three of the eight picks weren’t even listed by the CSB, they were overagers who had been passed over in the last few entry
drafts. One of those picks was a 26-year-old defenseman from the Swiss league. In typical Gainey fashion, not much hype was made about the picks or explanations as to why they selected some obscure picks. Gainey’s silence has let the players speak for themselves with their play on the
ice. In fact, many of their most recent selections are enjoying a great start to the season and are off to career years in their respective leagues.
At 150th overall the Canadiens selected Mikhail Grabovsky, a former teammate of 2003 first round pick
Andrei Kostitsyn with the Belarus Junior National Team, coming off a solid rookie year in the Russian Super League. With several household names still on board, many were shaking their heads at this selection, but the Canadiens scouting staff must have seen something of interest in Grabovsky when scouting Kostitsyn. When the
2004-05 season began, the 20-year-old Grabovsky stepped up his play and was able to find success in his offensive production. In less then half the games
compared to last season, Grabovsky was able to reach his total goal production,
and is second on the team in goals scored while being the youngest player by a considerable margin. Grabovsky’s offensive success has to be a delight to the Canadiens team of scouts, but this wouldn’t be the only player starting off the season with a bang.
At 246th overall the Canadiens selected Greg Stewart who was playing fourth line right wing duty for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, a teammate of
a 2003 selection, defenseman Mark Flood. Another unknown pick, Stewart had recorded only four goals and
10 points in his rookie year for the Petes. Stewart made a strong impression at the Canadiens development and rookie camp this summer, showing a solid physical game and work ethic
and a rocket of a slap shot. It only took Stewart less than a quarter of games played this year to reach a career high in goals and surpass those totals while continuing to play a sound physical
Another player off to a great start is the Canadiens first pick, 18th overall, Kyle Chipchura, who also was very solid in his first professional rookie camp, and displayed impressive work ethic and character. Chipchura looked to show why he was ranked so high by the CSB before sustaining a bad groin injury that hampered his play for most of the second half of the season. So far this year, Chipchura has shown that his offensive game has been underrated as he is tied for the team leading in scoring and is one of the top
scorers in the WHL as well. This has to be great news for Gainey and the scouting staff, as they know the organization sorely needs a big, strong, hard working center like Chipchura
in the depth charts.
At 212th overall, the Canadiens selected Jon Gleed, a 20-year-old
defenseman and teammate of 2003 pick Ryan O’Byrne. He was another player
who was passed over in the last two entry drafts. After only getting one point in his freshman year and six points all of last season, Gleed opened the
2004-05 season with a three-point night, a career high for him. Canadiens staff must have seen something in Gleed they liked while watching Ryan O’Byrne, and they are well aware of the outstanding hockey program Cornell
has, their defensive approach to the game as well as high academic standards.
Also of note, the Canadiens fifth pick of the draft, Loic Lacasse, who played more of a backup role for Drakkar last season, is currently the starting goalie for Drakkar getting valuable experience and ice time while seeing a lot of rubber thrown his way on a struggling Baie-Comeau team. The Canadiens second pick,
84th overall, Alexi Yemelin has made the jump from being a regular in the Russian High league as a
17-year-old, to slowly getting ice time in the Russian Super league, as the youngest player on the team.
JT Wyman was another unknown pick, as a standout in the USHS system, playing for the Blake school in the hockey
breeding grounds of Minnesota. Wyman has just played his first game in the NCAA, playing for the highly ranked Dartmouth College, and getting a regular shift on a strong team with three drafted forward freshman in the lineup as well. The final pick for the Canadiens,
Alexandre Dulac-Lemelin has not had the kind of success as some of the other Hab picks, but he does lead the
Baie-Comeau Drakkar’s defense in plus/minus and is second in points among defensemen as well. Overager
Mark Streit continues to find success in the LNSw.
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