MONTREAL -- The Canadiens went local with their first pick, selecting centerman Louis Leblanc
18th overall at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Chants of Louis, Louis, Louis rained down on the Pointe Claire, QC native as he hugged his friends and family and made his way to the podium where he was greeted by a smiling Bob Gainey, draft guru Trevor Timmins and the rest of the Habs’ brass.
“When Trevor said my name, it was as if 100,000 pounds was lifted from my shoulders!” admitted Leblanc, while being swarmed by upwards of 50 media members. “I still have goosebumps. It still all feels surreal that the crowd was actually chanting my name. I couldn’t tell you where my cell phone is, but I’m sure I’ve got a ton of voice messages waiting for me.”
Leblanc becomes the first Quebec-born player drafted by the Canadiens in the first round since the Quebec Remparts Eric Chouinard, who was selected 16th overall by Montreal at the 1998 draft.
In 60 games with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers this past season, Leblanc put up a team-high 28 goals and 59 points on a club that includes Danny Kristo
, the Habs top pick a year ago.
“I’m sure Danny will give me a call,” said Leblanc, the Quebec Midget AAA scoring champ in 2007-08. “We’re good friends and we hit off it as soon as I got to Omaha. Having the chance to now play together for the Canadiens will be a dream come true.”
His talents didn’t go unnoticed, with Leblanc earning rookie of the year honors in the USHL. With his dominant days in Nebraska now behind him, he will now move on to the Ivy League, with Leblanc slated to attend Harvard University this coming fall.
Having attended the Canadiens draft combine in Montreal a few weeks back, Leblanc was given a close look by Timmins and his staff, which certainly helped the hometown boy’s chances of being chosen by the Habs.
“This is the best day of my life,” continued the 5-foot-10 centerman. “It’s like I just had a baby or something. It’s not everyday that you get live an experience like this. I met with 28 other teams and the Canadiens didn’t make anything obvious.
“I grew up idolizing the Canadiens,” admitted Leblanc. “I may have been too young to watch Guy Lafleur and his hair flopping in the wind, but I still had the chance to look up to Canadiens stars I watched throughout my childhood.”
This marks the eighth time the Canadiens have picked 18th overall at the draft. The last time they did, Kyle Chipchura walked up to the stage to accept his Habs jersey and cap in Nashville. Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com
Everybody loves Louis2009 NHL Entry Draft - Round by roundcanadiens.com draft centralBring it on Ready to rumble