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Montreal Canadien Max Pacioretty.
Ideally, this spot would go to Max Pacioretty and current New York Ranger Ryan McDonagh. However, there was nothing ideal about the circumstances surrounding the latter’s departure from the organization, which left the Habs with just the one 2007 first-round pick remaining (and Scott Gomez for a couple seasons).
It could be (way) worse, though.
Considering the hype surrounding Montrealer Angelo Esposito entering the draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins may very well have done Habs fans a solid by taking him 20th overall, just two picks before the Habs got to choose again (McDonagh was chosen 12th overall).
Also considering just three players chosen after Pacioretty (David Perron, Wayne Simmonds and Jamie Benn) and four before (Patrick Kane, Sam Gagner, Jakub Voracek and Logan Couture) have scored more points, the pick has turned out to be an incredible one.
In fact, it isn’t just the pick, but the player as well, one who has become arguably Montreal’s most reliable scoring forward.
For years prior to Pacioretty’s coming-out party in 2010-11, when he scored 24 points in 37 games, the Habs yearned for a top-line power forward. After filling out some and putting together two consecutive team-leading 65-point seasons—his 39 points this past season are equivalent to 67 over 82 games—Pacioretty (now 6’2”, 219 lbs) is clearly it.
As for Esposito, things didn’t exactly turn out as well for him. He has yet to play an NHL game at 24 years of age and is currently playing in Finland, making it increasingly likely he never will.
Don’t cry too much for Pittsburgh, though. Aside from the obvious, usual reasons (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin), they did end up shipping Esposito off to the Atlanta Thrashers with a first-round pick, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis.
Dupuis alone has made that deal worthwhile, while Atlanta’s loss (and generally bad management) has become Winnipeg’s gain. Everyone’s a winner—except the handful of hockey fans in Atlanta, of course—especially Montreal.