Jose Charbonneau was selected in the first round, 12th overall, in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens from the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs. In his rookie season, Charbonneau scored 31 goals and 90 points. He followed that up with a 74-point season, playing in 19 fewer games. At 19, Charbonneau played in 57 games, scoring 44 goals and 89 points.
Charbonneau was assigned to Montreal's minor-league affiliate in Sherbrooke for the 1986-87 season. In 72 games, he scored 14 times while assisting on 27 others. He got his first crack at the NHL the following year, playing 16 games and picking up a pair of assists. Charbonneau grew increasingly frustrated at not being called up to the NHL and managed to get into the lineup just nine times inn 1988-89. However, in seeing limited on-ice duty, he was able to score only four points.
Both the Canadiens' organization and Charbonneau felt a change in scenery was necessary, so he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. As it turned out, things not improve on the West Coast. Following a 13-game stint with the Canucks, where he had a single point, Charbonneau spent the 1989-90 season in the minors with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL. Charbonneau then decided to devote his attention to the Canadian National Team, where he played 57 international games over the course of two seasons.
IN 1993-94, Charbonneau attempted a comeback with the Canucks, playing 30 games. He scored seven goals and 14 points. In 1994-95, he played his final three NHL games with the Canucks.
Charbonneau still had the desire to play professional hockey, but there were no offers from any NHL franchises, so he packed his bags and moved to Germany to play in the Deutsch Elite League in 1995-96 where he continued to play for the Frankfurt Lions through 2000-01.