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No more kidding around

Thursday, 03.08.2006 / 12:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens
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No more kidding around
Habs' rookie class of 2005-06 sets the stage for next crop of young guns

Chris Higgins, who went on a post-Olympic tear in 2005-06, will have plenty more reasons to celebrate next season.

MONTREAL - The head-to-head battle between Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for rookie-of-the-year honors may have been among the highlights of the 2005-06 season, but the Capitals and Penguins were not the only teams with a flying freshman, as Chris Higgins made a splash of his own with the Canadiens.

While Higgins' stellar rookie season saw him score 23 goals, his campaign really took off following the Olympic break. By exploding for 16 goals over his last 26 games, Higgins trailed only NHL top scorer Jonathan Cheechoo (26), and Mats Sundin (20), while piling up more goals than even Ilya Kovalchuk (15) and Jaromir Jagr (14) over that final stretch.

The Canadiens' top pick at the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Higgins also managed to join some distinguished company in the Habs' record book with his 23 goals placing him at No. 8 on Montreal's all-time rookie list. The Canadiens rookie record belongs to potential trivia question answer Kjell Dahlin, who erupted for 32 goals in 1985-86, despite the Swedish sniper only ending up mustering a three-year NHL career.

Higgins wasn't the only Canadiens rookie to make noise in 2005-06, as Alexander Perezhogin and Jonathan Ferland also made an impression by scoring in their first NHL game. Perezhogin did it by beating Kevin Weekes of the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct.6, while Ferland solved Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury on Jan. 3 at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens' youth movement, which began back in 2003-04 with Michael Ryder being narrowly edged out for the Calder Trophy, will continue this season with hungry young players like Kyle Chipchura and Guillaume Latendresse now knocking at the door.

Breaking the Ice
Here's a look at the most recent Canadiens to have scored their first NHL goal in their first NHL game.
Jonathan Ferland Jan. 3, 2006 vs. PIT Marc-Andr Fleury
Alexander Perezhogin Oct. 6, 2005 @ NYR Kevin Weekes
Marcel Hossa Jan. 10, 2002 vs. NYI Chris Osgood
Jason Ward Dec. 12, 1999 @ NYR Mike Richter
John LeClair Mar. 1, 1991 vs. VAN Troy Gamble
Andrew Cassels Nov. 20, 1989 vs. CGY Mike Vernon
Jyrki Lumme Nov. 26, 1988 vs. EDM Grant Fuhr
Kjell Dahlin Oct. 10, 1985 @ PIT Gilles Meloche
John Chabot Oct. 6, 1983 vs. NYI Billy Smith
Mark Hunter Oct. 8, 1981 vs. HFD Greg Millen

Awaiting that bright future with open arms is Guy Carbonneau, who has made it clear that his young players will be afforded every opportunity to shine when his first training camp as head coach gets underway in September.

"There is always room for a good player, regardless of their age," said Carbonneau. "When I was just starting out, I stole someone's job. Now it's up to these kids to do the same and take someone's spot. Once training camp starts, I want all of our young players to come in here believing that they are going to make the team."

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com