Top 10 Best Montreal Canadiens Players of All Time

Top 10 Best Montreal Canadiens Players of All Time

The Montreal Canadiens were created in 1917, and are one of the original six franchises of the National Hockey League (NHL). They have a long and storied history of championship success, especially in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Listed below are the very best players to have worn a Canadiens jersey.

Who Are the Best Montreal Canadiens Hockey Players of All Time?

  1. Maurice Richard
  2. Jean Béliveau
  3. Guy Lafleur
  4. Jacques Plante
  5. Larry Robinson
  6. Doug Harvey
  7. Howie Morenz
  8. Patrick Roy
  9. Ken Dryden
  10. Henri Richard

1. Maurice Richard

  • All-time franchise goals leader (544)
  • Eight-time Stanley Cup winner
  • First NHL player to score 50 goals in a season

Maurice Richard was the best Canadiens player of all time, playing as a right wing for his entire 18-year NHL career. He entered the NHL in the 1942-43 season, when an injury limited him to only 16 games. When he returned in 1943-44, he scored 32 regular season goals, and he only improved his game from there, becoming the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a single season in 1944-45. He remains the all-time Canadiens leader in both regular season goals (544), and postseason goals (82). 

The award currently given to the player who scores the most goals in the NHL season is called the Maurice Richard Trophy because of Richard’s historic scoring record. The right winger himself led the league in goals five times during his career, scoring at least 37 goals in each of those seasons. He won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s best player in 1947 and finished top three in voting five other times during his career.

2. Jean Béliveau

  • 10-time Stanley Cup winner
  • Two-time Hart Trophy winner
  • Longest-tenured captain of the Canadiens

Jean Béliveau was a legendary Montreal Canadien center who also spent his entire 18-year career with the team. After breaking into the league as a highly touted rookie in 1953, he won five Stanley Cups with the Canadiens from 1956 to 1960 before being elected their captain in 1961. Béliveau went on to win five more Stanley Cups with the team. His 10-year captaincy, which lasted until his retirement in 1971, remains the longest in Canadiens history.

In 1956, Béliveau won the Hart Trophy for being the league’s best player as well as the Art Ross trophy for being the league player with the most points (goals and assists). He also won the Hart Trophy in 1964 and was a finalist for the award six other times in his career. In 1965, Béliveau won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs after the Canadiens won another Stanley Cup.

3. Guy Lafleur

  • Three-time Art Ross trophy winner
  • Five-time Stanley Cup winner
  • Scored 50+ goals for six seasons in a row

For the first 14 years of his NHL career, Guy Lafleur was the second-best right winger that the Canadiens ever saw. He entered the league at 20 years old and was immediately a high-powered scoring threat, tallying 29 goals and 35 assists for 64 points in his rookie season. He finished his tenure with the Canadiens in 1988, having scored 518 goals.

Lafleur was a key player on the Canadiens squad that won the Stanley Cup in 1973 and then for four straight years from 1976 to 1979. During that run, Lafleur won three Art Ross trophies as the league’s leading regular season scorer, three Ted Lindsay awards as the league’s most outstanding player, two Hart trophies as the league MVP, and one Conn Smythe trophy as the best player in the playoffs.

4. Jacques Plante

  • Six-time Vezina Trophy winner
  • Six-time Stanley Cup winner
  • Had 82 career shutouts

Jacques Plante was the best goaltender to ever wear a Canadiens jersey and spent 11 seasons with the team. He played in very few games in his first two seasons, but was called in to play several games in the 1953-54 playoffs during his second year and became the team’s regular starting goaltender in his third season. He backstopped the Canadiens to five consecutive Stanley Cup victories from 1956-1960, winning the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender in each of those years.

On November 1, 1959, in a game between the Canadiens and the New York Rangers, Plante was hit with a puck in the face and had to temporarily leave the game, bleeding. He refused to continue playing unless he was allowed to use the mask that he had been testing in practice. His coach agreed, and goaltenders soon began wearing masks on a regular basis. This forever changed safety protocol for goalies in the NHL.

5. Larry Robinson

  • Six-time Stanley Cup winner
  • Holds record for most career goals by a defenseman
  • Two-time Norris Trophy winner

Larry Robinson was the best defenseman to ever play for the Canadiens, playing 17 seasons with the team. He was a strong player both defensively and offensively. Among all defensemen in the franchise’s history, he ranks first in games played (1,202), goals scored (197), assists (686), points (883), plus/minus (700), powerplay goals (65), and game-winning goals (28). He also won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman twice, in 1976 and 1980.

Robinson helped the Canadiens win six Stanley Cups during his career. In the fourth of those six championship years, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy. Robinson also managed to stay out of the penalty box during his career, averaging just over half a minute of penalty time per game with the Canadiens. As a result, he finished in the top 20 in voting for the Lady Byng Trophy (the award for the league’s most gentlemanly player) five times.

6. Doug Harvey

  • Six-time Norris Trophy winner
  • Six-time Stanley Cup winner
  • 12-time NHL All-Star

Doug Harvey was the second-best defenseman to play for the Canadiens and he spent 14 seasons with the team. He entered the league in the 1947-48 season, and soon found his role on the team as both a heavy hitter and a point scorer. He quarterbacked the lethal Canadiens power play that scored so often that the NHL had to create Rule 26c, stating that if a team is scored on while short-handed, the penalty ends rather than continuing for the full two minutes.

Harvey won six Norris Trophies as the best defenseman in the league while playing with the Canadiens. He also finished top-five in voting for the Hart Trophy as the league’s best player four times. Together with Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings, Harvey helped form the NHL Player’s Union to hold the league owners responsible for the way they handled money and players.

7. Howie Morenz

  • Three-time Hart Trophy winner
  • Four-time Stanley Cups winner
  • Top-ten scorer in the NHL for nine seasons

Howie Morenz was a high-scoring center who played for the Canadiens for 12 years. He was a small player at only 5’9” but a prolific goal scorer nonetheless. Playing in an era where seasons were shorter (he never played in more than 48 games in a single year), Morenz was consistently among the top ten in NHL scoring, and led the league with 33 goals in the 1927-28 season. He also helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup four times.

Tragically, one of the most memorable moments of Morenz’s career is its end. On January 28th, 1937, he took an awkward check from a Chicago Blackhawks player and fractured his leg in four places. He died in the hospital less than two months later of a coronary embolism, and was publicly mourned by hundreds of thousands of fans at the Montreal Forum, the rink where the Canadiens played at the time.

8. Patrick Roy

  • Three-time Vezina Trophy winner
  • Two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner
  • Popularized the butterfly technique

Patrick Roy was an innovative goaltender who played the first 12 years of his NHL career with the Canadiens. During those years, he won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender three times, and finished top-ten in voting for the award 10 years in a row. He also won the Jennings Trophy (individually and with fellow Canadiens goalie Brian Hayward) in four of those seasons as part of the goalie tandem in the NHL with the fewest goals scored against them.

One of Roy’s legacies in the NHL is the popularity of the butterfly in goaltending. When goaltenders go into the butterfly position, they drop to their knees so that their pads are flat on the ice and pucks cannot enter the net by sliding along the ice. Roy embraced this style in a time where the most common way to stop pucks on the ice was to kick them away with one’s feet.

9. Ken Dryden

  • Five-time Vezina Trophy winner
  • Six-time Stanley Cup winner
  • Holds franchise record for most playoff wins by a goaltender (80)

Ken Dryden was a great goaltender who spent all eight years of his NHL career with the Canadiens. He played only six games in the 1970-71 regular season as a rookie for the Canadiens but was trusted with the job of starting goaltender in the playoffs and helped the underdog Canadiens win the 1971 Stanley Cup. 

His 1971 NHL Playoffs performance won Dryden the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player in the playoffs. The next year, in his full rookie season, he won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and he would go on to win the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the league during five of his eight active seasons.

Dryden led the NHL in wins, goals against average, and shutouts four times each during his career, and led the NHL in save percentage three times. His career save percentage of .922 is the third-best all time of qualified goaltenders.

10. Henri Richard

  • Played the most career games of any player for the Canadiens, with 1,256
  • Won 11 Stanley Cups with the Canadiens
  • Won the Bill Masterton Trophy for his perseverance and sportsmanship in 1974

Henri Richard was a great center who played his entire 20-year career with the Canadiens. He was the younger brother of Canadiens legend Maurice Richard, and was a strong scoring talent in his own right. At only 5’7” he was considered by many to be too small to play successfully in the NHL, but earned his place on the team at 19 years old out of training camp.

Richard won 11 Stanley Cups while playing with the Canadiens. He is one of a small group of players ever to score two Stanley-Cup-winning goals, which he did in 1966 and 1971. He is top-ten in the Canadiens career record book in goals, assists, and points, but the only individual award he won during his NHL career was the Bill Masterton Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance and sportsmanship, which he won at 37 years old. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Toe Blake
  • Yves Cournoyer
  • Bernard Geoffrion
  • Aurèle Joliat
  • Newsy Lalonde
  • Jacques Lemaire
  • Guy Lapointe
  • Dickie Moore
  • Carey Price
  • Serge Savard


Who is the best Montreal Canadiens goalie of all time?

Jacques Plante is the best Montreal Canadiens goalie of all time. He won six Stanley Cups, six Vezina Trophies, and one Hart Trophy. His 82 career shutouts are the fifth-most by any goalie in NHL history. He also popularized the use of the goalie mask rather than goalies playing with unprotected faces.

Who is the best Montreal Canadiens forward of all time?

Maurice Richard is the best Montreal Canadiens forward of all time. His 544 career goals with the Canadiens are the most in franchise history, and he was the first player ever in the NHL to score 50 goals in a single season. He helped the Canadiens win eight Stanley Cups, and was awarded the Hart Trophy for the 1946-47 season. He was captain of the team for the last five years of his career.

Who is the best Montreal Canadiens defensemen of all time?

Larry Robinson is the best Montreal Canadiens defenseman of all time. He has the best plus/minus in franchise history, with a +700. He helped the Canadiens win six Stanley Cups, won the Conn Smythe Trophy once, and won the Norris Trophy twice. He played 1,202 games for the Canadiens, second only to Henri Richard in franchise history.