COLUMBUS - With the first of their two first-round picks, the Canadiens returned to familiar territory, selecting U.S. high school defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
An offensive-minded blue-liner out of Cretin-Derham High School in St. Paul Minnesota, McDonagh put up 33 points in 23 games in 2006-07.
"I'm really happy to be selected by the Canadiens," said McDonagh, who brought quite the fan club with him on draft day, including his parents, brother Colin and seven friends who all made the 1,200 km road trip from St. Paul. "It's a huge honor to join such a great organization with so much history and tradition."
Ranked 11th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, McDonagh was smiling from ear-to-ear after Canadiens Director of Player Recruitment and Development Trevor Timmins announced his name as the 12th overall pick.
"I knew my interview with the Canadiens went really well," said the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder. "Everyone I spoke to seemed really happy to meet me. I had a feeling that I could end up in Montreal as soon as I left the interview room. And that's exactly what happened and I couldn't be happier."
McDonagh was named "Mr. Hockey" in the state of Minnesota this year, an award which recognizes the state's top high school player. In addition to succeeding Habs 2006 top pick David Fischer for that honor, McDonagh also happens to be good buddies with the fellow puck-moving defenseman.
"David and I played together a few times before he left for the University of Minnesota last fall," explained McDonagh, who is headed for the University of Wisconsin in the fall. "So I guess David and I will be going head-to-head this year, but I'm definitely looking forward to playing alongside him on the Canadiens' blue line one day."
This marks the fourth time in six years the Canadiens have looked south of the border with their No. 1 pick, with McDonagh following in the footsteps of Fischer (2006), Christopher Higgins (2002) and Mike Komisarek (2001).
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com