In 25 days, Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin will step to the podium and, with the help of Head of Player Procurement Trevor Timmins, will make a number of decisions that will directly impact the future of the club. It is the NHL Draft, and this year it is on June 30th at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. All seven rounds will be held on the same Sunday, which for a team like the Habs, with a bevy of picks, will mean a long day of work. Many websites have already looked at individual players, and how they might fit into their teams' plans, and we will do the same in the coming weeks, but for now, here is a more general look at what to expect come Draft Day, which is quickly usurping the Trade Deadline and Free Agent Frenzy as the most exciting off-ice day on the hockey calendar.
First of all, let's take a look at the picks the team possesses, and where they came from:
1. 1st round (25th overall): Montreal's own pick
2. 2nd round (34th overall): Acquired from Nashville in exchange for Andrei Kostitsyn
4. 2nd round (55th overall): Montreal's own pick
6. 3rd round (86th overall): Montreal's own pick
7. 6th round (176th overall): Montreal's own pick
8. 7th round (206th overall): Montreal's own pick
*The Canadiens' 4th round pick was lost to the Islanders in the very complicated James Wisniewski trade, when the Canadiens opted to retain their 5th round pick in 2012 (with which they drafted Charles Hudon).
So there you have it. The Habs hold eight picks in the draft, six of which are fairly valuable and should help re-stock the team's prospect depth considerably. The final two are crapshoots. The scouting staff will have identified a small list of players, many of which likely haven't even been scouted by other teams, and they will hope that in three or four years they will develop into the next Henrik Zetterberg or Jaroslav Halak. They probably won't.
As Timmins has described before in interviews, the scouting staff compiles a list of 75 or so prospects that it will consider drafting. Why so few? Well there are some guys, no matter where other teams may have them ranked, that for whatever reason raise red flags with the organization. This is especially evident under Bergevin, who has stated on numerous occasions that the team is looking for character players. If the Canadiens see something about a player's personality they don't like, they probably won't draft that player. What is character? Well it's hard to define, but in Bergevin's mind it's clearly embodied in a player like Brendan Gallagher. The Habs' GM spoke glowingly about his undersized rookie at his year-end press conference, and it's reasonable to expect that he will be looking to find similar diamonds in the rough in 2013 and beyond.
Bergevin will also, however, look to rectify what is seen to many as the team's greatest weakness: size. The Canadiens were the 28th heaviest and 30th tallest team in the NHL this season, and while the Blackhawks (20th, 29th respectively) have proven that size isn't a pre-requisite for playoff success, it certainly can help in certain aspects of the game, and like with everything else, balance is a positive. Unfortunately, 29 other general managers will be looking for players with both size and skill, which is why the guys that fall out of the first round are usually those that have only one or the other, at least for the time being. Examples of this are tiny players like Nic Petan, Taylor Cammarata, and Jordan Subban, and beasts like Samuel Morin, Jonathan Ismael-Diaby, and Michael McCarron. Find the right combination of size and skill, and you can develop yourself a Milan Lucic or a Zdeno Chara. Choose wrong, and you will wind up with an Olivier Archambault or a Douglas Murray.
That is the challenge for Timmins and his peers, and it's one at which he has generally done well. Along with stud early picks like Ryan McDonagh, PK Subban, and Max Pacioretty - all from 2007 - Timmins has unearthed gems like Halak, Gallagher, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Mikhail Grabovski. Of course, like all scouting heads, he has had his share of flops - David Fischer in 2006, for example - but the stats have shown that Timmins has been one of, if not the best at his job since taking over in 2003. So let's take a look at some trends, and see if we can find any patterns in his drafting and in his successes.
The following table sorts Timmins' selections since he came to the Canadiens in 2003 by league/country. The numbers in brackets represents a positional split. For example, (6/1/1) represents 6 forwards, 1 defenseman, 1 goalie. A success is defined as a player who has played in at least 50 NHL games, and a potential success is simply someone who I feel has a decent to good chance of still reaching that mark in their career.
|Total Picks||Successes||Potential Successes||Failures||Success Percentage|
|OHL||9 (6/1/1)||4 (3/1/0)||1 (1/0/0)||4 (2/1/1)||50 (60/50/0)|
|WHL||9 (5/3/1)||4 (3/0/1)||3 (1/1/0)||2 (1/1/0)||66.6 (75/0/100)|
|QMJHL||15 (10/4/1)||2 (2/0/0)||3 (1/2/0)||10 (7/2/1)||16.6 (22/0/0)|
|US HS/NCAA||10 (2/8/0)||1 (0/1/0)||0 (0/0/0)||9 (2/7/0)||10 (0/12.5/-)|
|USHL/NTDP||8 (6/2/0)||1 (1/0/0)||3 (2/1/0)||4 (3/1/0)||20 (25/0/-)|
|Sweden||6 (3/2/1)||0 (0/0/0)||2 (1/1/0)||4 (2/1/1)||0 (0/0/0)|
|Finland||3 (1/1/1)||0 (0/0/0)||0 (0/0/0)||3 (1/1/1)||0 (0/0/0)|
|Russia||6 (4/2/0)||3 (2/1/0)||0 (0/0/0)||3 (2/1/0)||50 (50/50/-)|
|Slovakia||2 (1/0/1)||0 (0/0/0)||1 (0/0/1)||1 (1/0/0)||50 (0/-/100)|
|Other||6 (4/2/0)||2 (1/1)||0 (0/0/0)||4 (3/1/0)||66.6 (25/50/-)|
It is obviously important to note that these are very very small sample sizes, and anything we see has to be taken with a grain of salt, but that doesn't make these numbers useless. For one, it's clear that Timmins - or I presume, the Canadiens as an organization - has targeted local players most of all. This isn't surprising, but what is a little disconcerting is how often he has struck out on guys from our own back yard. Of course, the numbers (a mere 16.6% success rate on players from the Q) have to be put in some context. Although Timmins has spent 15 picks on Quebec-based players since '03, only one (Beaulieu) has been a first-round pick, and Beaulieu looked good in limited time this year. So how can we read between these lines?
1. Timmins tends to use later picks on local players. This may be because of a more extensive scouting presence, or it may be to satisfy the fan base. Either way, expect at least a couple of players chosen out of the Q in 2013.
2. Obviously, Timmins has done well in the OHL (his home region) and the WHL. That includes studs like Carey Price, PK Subban, Brendan Gallagher, and Alex Galchenyuk. Without a notable bust from those regions, maybe he looks west of Quebec in the early rounds.
3. This next one is very much a suspicion, and can in no way be proven, but I think it's possible that after seeing successes like Gallagher and Dumont on late picks from the CHL and busts like Fischer and Quailer from the US (I know those names don't tell the whole story, but bear with me) combined with the organization's displeasure with the handling of Louis Leblanc at Harvard and Danny Kristo's experience at UND, Timmins has moved away from taking Americans, something that he had done almost as a pattern in the early rounds. Of course, picks like McDonagh and Pacioretty have panned out after attending US colleges, but maybe Timmins and Bergevin feel that the CHL is the preferred development path which provides less risk. In 2011, the Canadiens selected two players from American leagues, Josiah Didier and Colin Sullivan. Neither seems particularly promising at this point, and in 2012 they selected nobody from south of the border. Read into that as you will. Random variance or the beginning of a pattern?
So what else to expect? Well Timmins has hinted that goaltending depth is something he will address at this draft. Rumors are that the Canadiens were poised to select Swedish net-minder Oscar Dansk with the 33rd overall pick last year before he was snatched up by Columbus. While Price remains entrenched as the guy in Montreal, having another promising goalie in the system would certainly be a welcome sight. Closer to the draft, I will examine this goaltending class - an unspectacular one - more closely. It's likely, though, that the top-end goalie prospects will be taken early in the second round. We'll see if Timmins determines any of them worthy of the 34th or 36th overall selections.
Or will those be moved? Our own Andrew Berkshire had a great article exploring the option to trade up. Trading down, considering the 50 contract limit and the number of picks, is unlikely. We already know that the first overall, second overall, and seventh overall picks are very much in play. Those picks would yield anything from a first-line talent to a potential superstar. But it would take a lot to get them. And I mean a lot. Like start with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher or Carey Price, throw in a prospect and a few first round picks. Ultimately, it's probably not worth what you're gonna get. Trading into the teens, or even packaging the second rounders for another first rounder are enticing though. I will profile some players that the Habs will have to trade up to acquire, as well as some guys that should be available and some sleepers, because at this point who knows how it will unfold. Check back for that. The draft approaches.