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Canadiens Watch: Three former players break out big

Three players drafted by the Montreal Canadiens are really hitting their stride this year, but unfortunately they’re not doing it in Montreal.

Mikhail Grabovski, Sergei Kostitsyn and Ryan O’Byrne have all taken their game to a new level this year. In the case of Grabovski, a 26-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs center, the Canadiens cut ties with him back in the summer of 2008, acquiring defense prospect Greg Pateryn and a second round draft pick that was later shipped to Chicago.

Grabovski was a decent point-producer over his first two years in Toronto, but he’s broken loose this year, scoring at a 35-goal, 66-point pace. Grabovski’s 17 goals through 39 games is just one less than Montreal’s top two centers – Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec – have combined.

Kostitsyn was dealt to the Nashville Predators late last June for spare part Dustin Boyd and the rights to goalie Dan Ellis, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent just days later. For two months, it looked as though the moody winger would fare no better in Music City than he did in Montreal. But Kostitsyn came alive to start December, recording nine goals and 20 points in his past 18 games. The 23-year-old is currently riding a five-game goal-scoring streak, providing much-needed offense on a team always in search of it.

O’Byrne’s time with the Canadiens ended two months ago when, after once again failing to convince the coaching staff he was responsible enough to take a regular turn on the blueline, the 6-foot-5, 26-year-old defenseman was moved to the Colorado Avalanche for Michael Bournival, an 18-year-old left winger who plays in the Quebec League. Since landing with the Avs, O’Byrne has averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time per game and been a defensive rock on the No.1 pairing with John-Michael Liles.

The Habs gave up on these players for different reasons. Both Grabovski and Kostitsyn displayed poor attitudes during their stay in Montreal and perhaps a trade was the only thing that could have set them straight. O’Byrne was a liability at times and just never fully earned the trust of the organization.

Still, for a Habs team that struggles to score and has an injury-depleted blueline, a trio of players given up on over the years sure look like they could help out now.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.

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