There probably weren't a lot of people in the Montreal Canadiens organization happy with Brendan Shanahan's decision to suspend Max Pacioretty for three games, but if you were looking for one, I'd suggest 2009 1st round draft pick Louis Leblanc.
Down a forward, the Canadiens fired up the old claw crane and plucked Leblanc from their minor-league affiliate in Hamilton on Monday. Two days later, he dressed in his first ever NHL game, a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Leblanc registered 1 shot and 2 hits during 7:52 of icetime Wednesday night, so it wasn't a impactful debut for the Point-Claire, Quebec native. Still, it was a massive career milestone, one that his parents were in attendance to witness.
And that's where this story gets sort of cool. Were it not for Erik Cole, they wouldn't have been.
During last night's broadcast, Canadiens' announcer Pierre Houde explained that Cole had taken it upon himself to ensure the Leblanc family was able to witness their son's big day firsthand, paying for their cross-continent trip himself. Pretty cool.
According to the Montreal Gazette, Leblanc got the call-up while he was on his way to a Guns n' Roses concert in Hamilton, so clearly his budget for expensive tickets was tapped right out. Lucky for Leblanc, Cole has quite a bit of disposable income these days.
Leblanc's special day was also a special day for the Canadiens' scouts, who have not looked particularly good since the 2007 draft. Leblanc is the first Canadiens' draft pick in three years to play for the big club. From the Globe & Mail:
Since the 2007 draft, which yielded Max Pacioretty (whose suspension has enabled Leblanc's call-up), P.K. Subban, Yannick Weber and Ryan McDonough (now of the Rangers), the Habs have had precisely zero of their own draft picks play even a single NHL game.
True, the Habs have a veteran group and are usually a playoff team, but they've drafted 25 players since picking Minnesota high-school player Scott Kishel 192nd in 2007 (Kishel is in his fourth year at Minnesota-Duluth). Only four of those guys (Leblanc, Gabriel Dumont, Joonas Nattinen and Alex Avtsin) have even played a game in the AHL.
Yow. One assumes Erik Cole won't get many more opportunities to be so generous.