The Bell Centre erupted in cheers as the Montreal Canadiens selected Kirkland native Louis Leblanc with the 18th overall pick in the NHL draft on Friday night.

The hometown fans were thrilled to see the team select a French-Canadian in the first round, which they hadn't done since they picked Eric Chouinard in 1998.

The 15,000 Bell Centre fans erupted in cheers when the announcement was made, chanting "Louis, Louis, Louis".

Leblanc, a six-foot, 178-pound forward, opted to skip major junior hockey and played last season in the U.S. Hockey League with Omaha, where he had 28 goals and 39 assists to win Rookie of the Year. 

Leblanc was thrilled to be returning home.

"I have butterflies this evening," he said after being selected.

"It's magnificent.  I've realized a dream.  I adore the Canadiens and now I can wear the jersey.  It's really special for me and my family."

High hopes

Leblanc is known as a hard working player with offensive skill.  He has been compared to Flyers captain and former all-star Mike Richards.

Leblanc plans to enroll at Harvard this fall but he says he hopes to be playing for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge in a year or two.