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Canadiens add offensive punch

by John McGourty

– The fans of most National Hockey League teams are usually happy if their team makes a good run at the division title, has a winning record against their chief rival, qualifies for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and challenges for the championship.

In Montreal, though, that's not enough. The team has only two years remaining in which to keep alive their record of winning a Stanley Cup in every decade. General Manager Bob Gainey has a lot of goodwill accumulated from his illustrious playing career, but he puts more pressure on himself than any fan would to succeed in the front office. The Canadiens were 47-25-10 for 104 points last season. They beat the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, then fell in five games to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Gainey traded his first-round selection to the Calgary Flames to get talented left winger Alex Tanguay and secured the negotiating rights to Mats Sundin in the hours before the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Then, he set about strengthening his team for years to come through the draft.

Here is a look at Montreal’s 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 56 Danny Kristo, RW, U.S.N.T.D.P – Kristo is 5-foot-11 and 172 pounds. He's not very big, but he's very strong for his size. One scout said that presents a problem because Kristo sometimes gets carried away with his physical ability at the expense of his skill game. He is quick with his feet and clever with the puck. He can both score and set up teammates.

Kristo was the fourth-leading scorer on the United States National Development Program Team, scoring 18 goals and adding 13 assists in his second season. His overtime goal against Sweden in the 2008 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament in Finland helped the United States win the gold medal.

The Eden Prairie, Minn. native had a productive sophomore year there, leading to his invitation to the national team.

Kristo becomes the third-straight Minnesotan to be the first draft pick of the Canadiens, following David Fischer and Ryan McDonagh in 2007.

No. 86 Steve Quailer, RW, Sioux City (USHL) – Quailer is big and skilled. He is 6-foot-3 and weighs 183 pounds and will clearly be adding heft in the next few years. Scouts say he has good hands, good playmaking ability and shoots the puck very well. He made great strides last season after playing Midget AAA in Colorado the year before.

Quailer had 19 goals and 30 assists for Sioux City in 60 games with only 55 penalty minutes. He is considered to be an intelligent player and plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall.

No. 116 Jason Missiaen, G, Peterborough (OHL) – The biggest player in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at 6-foot-8, Missiaen said his basic strategy is to fill the net. He was 8-8 with Peterborough last season, but improved over the course of the season. He is expected to return to the OHL this fall and should see more action.

No. 138 Maxim Trunev, F, Cherepovets (Russia Jrs.) – Trunev is reputed to be a very highly-skilled player who uses his speed and moves to overwhelm defenders. The knock on him, if it is a knock, is that he is more confident that a goal will result if he takes the shot than if he passes to a teammate. Trunev is 5-foot-11 and 174 pounds. He is expected to continue playing in Russia until he has the size and strength for the NHL.

No. 206 Patrick Johnson, C, Univ. Wisconsin (CCHA) – Johnson is the son of Mark Johnson, a hero of the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic hockey team and now the women's coach at the University of Wisconsin. Patrick Johnson, like his dad, is not very tall at 5-foot-9 but he's strong and determined.

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