Mario Tremblay on L’Antichambre explained that when he was drafted in 1974, he didn’t even know any teams were interested, he didn’t expect to be drafted. He ended up going 12th overall, between Lee Fogolin and Jack Valiquette, and he only learned this the next day when the Canadiens phoned him to inform him.
The Canadiens had 5 first-round picks that year, and spent a 5th overall pick on Cam Connor, 7th on Doug Risebrough, 10th on Rick Chartraw, and a 15th on Gord McTavish, along with Mario.
In later rounds, the Canadiens picked Gilles Lupien in the second round, 33rd overall, Marty Howe in the third, Jamie Hislop in the 8th and Dave Lumley in the 12th round.
So Sam Pollock was a genius in that he saw the importance of the the draft far before other GM’s and accumulated a lot of draft picks as he converted all the depth of the Canadiens’ farm teams in the Sixties into future picks. But he only hit on two of those five first-round picks, if we agree that Rick Chartraw was kind of borderline, a useful role player who played right wing and provided size on Doug Jarvis’ line, with Bob Gainey. Rick could also play defence in a pinch.
But even then, as good a line as the Lambert-Risebrough-Tremblay line was for the Canadiens, if today we spent a 7th overall pick on a scrappy third-line centre or a pugnacious right winger with a bit of a scoring touch, we’d be merciless towards the GM. And if he spent a 3rd on a Cam Connor, we’d garrote him.
“Pierre Larouche was sitting there, having scored 94 goals and 247 points for les Éperviers de Sorel, and we passed him over for a useless ‘gros boeuf de l’Ouest’.” (And nobody would cop to having had real concerns for how slender Lucky Pete was as a junior, how ‘soft’ he was.)
“We should have picked Ron Chipperfield, the guy scored 90 for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and now he’s tearing up the WHA!” (We’d gloss over the fact that we’d never heard of the Chipper before he was drafted.)
“We had five shots at the abhorent Bryan Trottier and his cheesy mustache and salad bowl helmet, or at Guy Chouinard, that guy will score 500 and have his number retired by the Atlanta Flames, mark my words…”
But again, Sam Pollock was smart. He saw Mario, with his 49 goals and 100 points final junior season as a great complement to the team he was building, a feisty guy who feared no one and played with passion. And Doug Risebrough had similarly modest stats, 52 points in 46 games which was no great bonanza at that time, the way players were scoring in junior, but he probably saw the heart, the character, the 114 PIM’s as another tool in his kit.
Because he had all these picks to play with, Sam Pollock could take chances, take fliers on certain players, he didn’t need to ‘hit’ on his solo first-round pick, especially since he doesn’t have a second or third-rounder, etc., as often happens nowadays. With the scatter-gun approach, even if he and le Prof Caron and Claude Ruel missed on Pierre Larouche and Bryan Trottier, they found enough useful players in that draft to build his ’76-’79 dynasty. Mario Tremblay, Doug Risebrough, Rick Chartraw and Gilles Lupien was a great haul.