COLUMBUS - Armed with a pair of picks in the opening round, the Canadiens stayed south of the border, selecting winger Max Pacioretty with the 22nd pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pound power forward-in-waiting put up 63 points in 60 games with Sioux City of the USHL in 2006-07.
"I'm thrilled to be chosen by the Canadiens, but I really didn't expect it," admitted Pacioretty, who was invited to Montreal last Wednesday for testing with other prospects for this year's draft. "Even though I thought I tested well, I didn't think they would end up picking me. I couldn't believe it when I heard my name."
If comparisons are any indication, the Canadiens may have a special player on the horizon.
"I've been sometimes compared to Keith Tkachuk," revealed Pacioretty. "I like to play physical and I give it all I've got whenever I'm sent out on the ice. My goal is be a fan favorite so I can fire up the crowd and bring that energy to my teammates."
The native of New Canaan, CT turned it on in the second half of the season, bolstering his draft day stock.
"Early in the year I had some great games on some nights and I was invisible on others," admitted Pacioretty, who saw his NHL Central Scouting ranking among North American skaters rise from No. 23 to No. 16 this season. "I knew I had to be more consistent and that's what I did. I'm just proud to have been chosen in the first round."
Like fellow Habs first-rounder Ryan McDonagh, Pacioretty will be packing his bags for college in the fall, with the talented forward slated to suit up for Michigan, Mike Komisarek's alma mater. His future school aside, Pacioretty grew up an admirer of another current Hab, Christopher Higgins.
"He was my favorite player when he was at Yale," said Pacioretty. "It's nice to see the Canadiens have such a strong belief in the U.S. development system. I can't wait to wear a jersey with such history behind it.
"I saw a few games at the Bell Centre when it first opened and I was just a kid," recalled Pacioretty, whose grandmother Theresa Savoie comes from Quebec. "Montreal is an amazing hockey town. I couldn't have asked for a better NHL environment to play in."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com