One of the biggest mysteries of recent Montréal Canadiens history, Andrei Kostitsyn is an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by questions... about his desire.
Drafted 10th overall in 2003, many considered him the most talented forward available, ahead of Stanley Cup champions Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron and Mike Richards, 30-goal scorers Thomas Vanek, Zach Parise and Milan Michalek, but a number of teams were worried about AK-46's history of epilepsy, which made him available when the Habs were up.
With a 6'1'' frame carrying 215lbs of pure power, a slap shot clocked around 100mph, dazzling speed, soft hands, a killer wrist shot that is both swift and accurate and a bit of a mean streak, you'd think he would have produced more than three 20-goal seasons playing alongside the likes of Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec.
Perhaps the problems were of the off-ice variety: during the Habs' centennial, he was tied to local drug lord Pasquale Mangiola, the police having phone recordings of him ordering ''radios'', ''large screen TVs'', code for quantities of cocaine. Since being a customer isn't a crime, though, Brother Andrei was never charged, but his connection will be behind bars for a long time.
When the Habs sent him to the Nashville Predators, it took him about a month to influence young star Alexander Radulov into a late night out, resulting in the both of them being suspended by the team for two playoff games, then leaving for the KHL.
In any event, he was a world-class talent, and he signed this for me in 2010:
Toronto Maple Leafs. I got him to sign it in blue sharpie at a team function. I had sent him 2 cards and a fan letter on September 13th, 2010 but never heard back, so this 8 X 10 kind of makes up for it.
If you're counting, that's one more down for my Habs Numbers Project; there are 30 to 40 left.