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Remembering the big day

Some of the Habs picked inside the Top 5 reflect on their NHL Draft experience

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - The NHL Draft: for aspiring young players, it's the biggest day of their careers to date, if not their lives.

They've been through a lot to get to that point - tryouts, letdowns, training, bus rides, losses, wins, goals and misses. It's no wonder that as they take their seat and wait for their name to be called, jitters set in as they contemplate the way their life will change from that day forward.

Those jitters are likely present in all but the most indomitable of the bunch, but are surely amplified for those projected to go early in the first round.

Among current Habs, Jonathan Drouin, Carey Price, Alex Galchenyuk, and Karl Alzner were all taken early in their respective drafts. 

As Drouin remembers it, he probably should've slapped on a little extra Speed Stick that morning in anticipation of his big day.

"It was kind of just a big blur; I don't remember that much. I just remember sitting there sweating with my parents," recalled Drouin, who was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the third-overall pick at the 2013 Draft in New Jersey. "It went pretty fast when you get there. You sit there, I just remember sweating pretty much all [through] my dress shirt."

Perspiration aside, the Sainte-Agathe native knew he likely wasn't in for any big surprises, and as the third-ranked North American skater that year, Drouin was ultimately picked around where he was expected to go.

The same couldn't necessarily be said for the third overall pick from the year before in Pittsburgh, as Alex Galchenyuk was considered a bit of a wild card after spending most of the 2011-12 season on the shelf with a knee injury.

"It was different and weird. You go there and you don't know what to expect. I missed the whole year; I only played two regular season games at the end and then six playoff games. I was rated high, but you didn't know - I could've been anywhere from top 5 to top 15," relayed Galchenyuk, who is tied with Filip Forsberg atop his draft class with 255 career points (108G, 147A). "It was definitely a relief when you hear - I didn't even hear my name, I heard, 'From the Sarnia Sting…' - and just emotions took over from there."

Video: 2012 NHL Draft: Alex Galchenyuk's first day as a Hab

Contrary to Galchenyuk, Carey Price thought he had a pretty good idea of where he'd end up. But rather than getting selected by one of two teams who had yet to celebrate a double-digit birthday - the recently-formed Atlanta Thrashers and Minnesota Wild - he was plucked by the NHL's longest-running franchise with the fifth-overall pick in 2005.

"Those were the meetings I had. I know Atlanta expressed quite a bit of interest in me at the time, and Minnesota, too - they were the pick right before me," described the Habs netminder, both the highest-picked goalie since Marc-Andre Fleury went first overall in 2003 and also the highest-picked goalie since. "Those were the main ones, I thought, based on the meetings I had."

Video: Canadiens draft Carey Price in the 2005 NHL Draft

As the Canadiens get set to make the third-overall selection at the 2018 Draft in Dallas next week, what kind of advice would these Habs give to the players awaiting their turn in the stands at American Airlines Arena?

"Obviously, they're doing some great [things] in their early hockey careers. Getting drafted high is one thing, but try to get in the League as soon as you can and make a difference," suggested Galchenyuk, who also leads his draft class in games played with 418. "That was my goal, and it should be everyone's."

Price's recommendations are similar, although he sprinkled them with a dose of his trademark level-headedness. 

"Don't stress about it. It's just one stage in your career, it's just the starting point," concluded Price, now the most-used goaltender in Canadiens history with 558 career games under his belt. "It's not getting drafted that's the hardest part; it's making it and staying. That's the hard part."

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