The Class of 1971
MONTREAL - With nine Stanley Cups over a 14-year span, Sam Pollock's eye for talent remains one of the best the game has ever seen. The legendary GM was at his best at the 1971 NHL Entry Draft, but don't take our word for it.
Fresh off winning the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1971, Pollock also boasted the top pick at the Draft that summer. As he so often did, Pollock made good use of that pick by selecting the player who would electrify Canadiens fans for the next decade-Guy Lafleur. "The Flower" would go on to repay the Canadiens by putting up no less than six 50-plus goal and 100-point seasons for the Habs.
Pollock's work that day wasn't done once he had gotten his hands on Lafleur. With the draft's 20th overall pick, Pollock then nabbed the player who would become the backbone of the Montreal blue line-Larry Robinson. "Big Bird's" brilliant career with the Canadiens saw him win a pair of Norris Trophies and play in 10 NHL All-Star Games.
No strangers to making history, Lafleur and Robinson became the first players chosen in the same draft year to be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame when they were enshrined in 1988 and 1995, respectively. Other such one-two punches would follow with the Islanders doing the same in 1974 with Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies and the Oilers striking it rich with Paul Coffey and Jari Kurri in 1980.
When both Lafleur and Robinson hung them up for good in 1990-91, they were also the final remaining active players of the draft class of 1971. Clearly, Pollock got great mileage with Lafleur and Robinson.
Not to be outdone, Pollock also drafted five other players at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal on June 10, 1971 who would go on the reach the NHL, including Murray Wilson and Chuck Arnason. Wilson, the Habs' third pick that day, spent six seasons with the Canadiens, winning three Stanley Cups. Arnason played only 36 games with Montreal, but would have a nine-year NHL career with stops in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Colorado, Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington.
The Canadiens' class of 1971 played a combined 3,643 NHL games, totaled 2,822 points and won 14 Stanley Cups. Not a bad day's work for Sam Pollock.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com