The Class of 1998
That was the case for Rejean Houle in the summer of 1998. The Habs GM from 1995 though 2000, Houle hit the jackpot at the NHL Entry Draft on June 27, 1998 in Buffalo. His biggest find was Andrei Markov who has since become on the game's elite blue-liners.
Markov was snagged 162nd overall that day. Despite his tardy selection, Markov continues to pile up minutes on the Montreal blue line, while having surpassed the 40-point mark in each of his last three campaigns. The best may yet to come for Markov, who has been voted as an All-Star Game starter in each of the last two years.
Ryder had to be even more patient than his Russian teammate on draft day, not hearing his name called until pick No. 216. Undaunted, Ryder came within a hair of winning NHL rookie of the year honors in 2003-04 and twice led the Canadiens in scoring. He was also the first Habs player since Claude Lemieux to notch 20-plus goals in each of his first three NHL seasons.
Houle also hit the bull's eye that day by selecting QMJHL leading scorer Mike Ribeiro, who would go on to be the Habs' leading point-getter in 2003-04. Other NHL-bound players chosen that include: Eric Chouinard, Gordie Dwyer, Andrei Bashkirov and Francis Beauchemin.
To date, the Canadiens Class of 1998 has played 1,948 games, put up 1,082 points and won one Stanley Cup.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com