Louis Leblanc was ranked #13 among North American skaters, Chris Kreider #14. Here are the Top 30 ranked North American skaters for the 2009 draft.
RANK NAME TEAM (LEAGUE) 1 TAVARES, JOHN LONDON (OHL) 2 DUCHENE, MATT BRAMPTON (OHL) 3 KANE, EVANDER VANCOUVER (WHL) 4 SCHENN, BRAYDEN BRANDON (WHL) 5 SCHROEDER, JORDAN U OF MINNESOTA (WCHA) 6 MOORE, JOHN CHICAGO (USHL) 7 GLENNIE, SCOTT BRANDON (WHL) 8 DESPRES, SIMON SAINT JOHN (QMJHL) 9 COWEN, JARED SPOKANE (WHL) 10 KASSIAN, ZACK PETERBOROUGH (OHL) 11 KULIKOV, DMITRY DRUMMONDVILLE (QMJHL) 12 ASHTON, CARTER LETHBRIDGE (WHL) 13 LEBLANC, LOUIS OMAHA (USHL) 14 KREIDER, CHRIS ANDOVER (HIGH-MA) 15 KADRI, NAZEM LONDON (OHL) 16 ELLIS, RYAN WINDSOR (OHL) 17 ELLIOTT, STEFAN SASKATOON (WHL) 18 FERRARO, LANDON RED DEER (WHL) 19 HOLLAND, PETER GUELPH (OHL) 20 PALMIERI, KYLE USA U-18 (USDP) 21 CARON, JORDAN RIMOUSKI (QMJHL) 22 BUDISH, ZACH TEAM SOUTH WEST (MHSEL) 23 BUTTON, RYAN PRINCE ALBERT (WHL) 24 LEDDY, NICK EDEN PRAIRIE (HIGH-MN) 25 DE HAAN, CALVIN OSHAWA (OHL) 26 PARADIS, PHILIPPE SHAWINIGAN (QMJHL) 27 OLSEN, DYLAN CAMROSE (AJHL) 28 SHORE, DREW USA U-18 (USDP) 29 EAKIN, CODY SWIFT CURRENT (WHL) 30 BROWN, CHRIS USA U-18 (USDP)
Why this is even being debated is mysterious to some, as both prospects are experiencing growing pains, and still apprenticing in the AHL.
One reason is that Chris Kreider's flash was more intense than Louis', since he produced in the playoffs. Louis Leblanc had some good moments in what was a disastrous 2011-12 season for the Canadiens, so his NHL accomplishments are devalued somewhat.
Chris Kreider also looks better on paper, meaning he's 6'3" and 230 lbs, a notable advantage in Colin Campbell's NHL. Louis Leblanc is still listed at a slender 6'0", 178 lbs, although he's had encouraging results growing his frame in this off-season. But Mr. Kreider will always have that size advantage, that's in large part why we have some armchair scouting directors re-writing history.
I didn't do any pre-reading before the 2009 draft, so I didn't have any opinions one way or another. Now I understand that some fans may legitimately have had a preference for one player or another at the time, but after the draft, all the writeups I read presented it as a draft that worked out perfectly for us. The local boy who was highly rated happened to be there when we were picking, and we didn't have to skip over any more highly rated prospects to take him, as some would have wanted to do with Angelo Esposito a couple years previous.
Louis Leblanc wasn't touted as a scoring superstar, just a skilled, smart player. I imagined a Guy Carbonneau or Patrice Bergeron, a player like that, who'll be defensively responsible but has offensive skill, who won't hurt your team with dumb mistakes, a good skater who can play on a third line. He still has a good chance to fulfill that promise.
Overall, we can appreciate what a player with Chris Kreider's profile would do for the mix in our prospect group, and we can argue the merits of both players, but we can't re-write the past. Louis Leblanc was at least as good a prospect at the 2009 draft, the Canadiens didn't ignore a better prospect to take a lesser player just because he was French-Canadian, as is often stated or implied. They picked the best available player, and for once it worked out that the kid was a local boy.