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May 18, 2016

Jesse Belanger

Despite being a good goal scorer with Granby of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, spindly center Jesse Belanger was never drafted by a NHL team.

But that setback did not stop Belanger from achieving a long professional hockey career which included 246 games at the NHL level.

The Montreal Canadiens signed Belanger in 1990 after Belanger's final season of junior hockey - a season where he scored 53 goals and 107 points.

The Habs farmed him out to their minor league affiliate in Fredericton. Belanger immediately showed he could play at the American Hockey League level, scoring 40 goals and 98 points in his rookie season.

Belanger followed that up with another two strong AHL seasons before finally getting a real shot with the Canadiens in the 1992-93 season. He would play 19 games with the Habs, scoring four times. He also participated in nine playoff games, helping the Montreal Canadiens win their 24th Stanley Cup championship.

Belanger was an obvious candidate to be taken in the expansion draft in the summer of 1993. He was a proven scorer at the junior and minor league level and now a Stanley Cup champion, even if it was in a support role. And he was still considered to be a NHL rookie.

The Florida Panthers selected Belanger early in the NHL expansion draft. It proved to be a wise choice. Over the next three seasons Belanger provided steady offense for the young Panthers' franchise. He was even named as the NHL player of the month in December, 1993 when he scored 15 points in 12 games.

Belanger all but disappeared after exiting from Florida. He had brief stints in Vancouver, Edmonton, New York and back with Montreal. But from that point on he mostly played in the minor leagues until leaving for Germany and Switzerland in the early 2000s.

Belanger returned to Quebec in 2007 and continued to play semi-pro hockey.

In 246 NHL games, Belanger recorded 59 goals and 76 assists for 135 points, along with 56 penalty minutes.

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