After months of looking around for other players who might fit the bill, I decided to cross off #28 of my Habs Numbers Project with this beautiful card of Kyle Chipchura, as chosen by my newest friend:
2008-09 Artifacts set (#AF-CH of the Autofacts sub-set), always the best-looking set out there, year in and year out. It's a sticker autograph, signed in thin blue sharpie.
Despite having only been a point-per-game player once in four years of Juniors with the Prince Albert Raiders (the year following the draft, 32 points in 28 games) and having been slotted as a late-second or early-third round pick, the Montréal Canadiens chose Chipchura 18th overall (first round) in 2004, ahead of Travis Zajac (20th), Wojtek Wolski (21st), Andrej Meszaros (23rd), Cory Schneider (26th), Jeff Schultz (27th), Mike Green (29th), Dave Bolland (32nd), Carl Sodenberg (49th), David Booth (53rd), Brandon Dubinsky (60th), Alex Goligoski (61st), David Krejci (63rd), Brandon Prust (70th), Alexei Emelin (84th), Alexander Edler (91st), Johan Franzen (97th), Kris Versteeg (134th), Pekka Rinne (258th), and Mark Streit (262nd).
But the Habs did so not for Chipchura's limited offensive capabilities, but because he was viewed as a tremendous leader and potential future captain: he had already been slated to captain both the Raiders and Team Canada at the World Juniors the following season - which he did, winning gold.
In his first full AHL season, he helped the Hamilton Bulldogs win the Calder Cup (with such stellar players and Andrei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre, André Benoit, and Ryan O'Byrne). He was a bit slow for Guy Carbonneau's all-offense style of play (and later Jacques Martin's all-checking style) on the parent Habs club, though, so the team traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a fourth-round pick in 2009. He found a role as a bottom-six forward with the Ducks for the remainder of the season, but was forced out of the line-up the next year.
The Phoenix Coyotes liked him enough to sign him as a free agent twice, though, and he only missed a total of 4 games over the past two seasons in the desert. Ironically, he scored 5 goals in both the locked-out season (46 games) and last year (80 games); he has two more seasons left on his contract with the now-Arizona Coyotes, at $850K per.
He is a 6'2'', 210-pound center who is good at covering his man close - he's a bit too slow to cover a fast player who has more than three feet's distance to out-maneuver him; his basic defensive zone positioning makes him a fine penalty killer. With his pedigree, size and leadership skills, you'd want to slot him in the #3 role; however, in today's quicker NHL, he's better suited to the fourth line. If the rules get laxer as they seem to want to become, and the clutch-and-grab style becomes fashionable again, then he'd be ideal as a 15-minute, shut-down man.