Despite numerous changes within the hockey operations group of the Montreal Canadiens since 2003, including four general managers, one figure has endured, and that's the Director of Amateur Scouting, Trevor Timmins.
Even though he's held several titles throughout the years with the organization, his chief concern has always been to head up the group of scouts who scour the globe to find the best amateur talent for the annual NHL Entry Draft.
Timmins just completed his 14th draft as part of the Canadiens organization, and reportedly just signed a contract extension for three more years. This sort of stability in a critical role indicates that Timmins is highly valued and respected by his peers, and provides excellent value when it comes to preparing the team for the future.
Drafting is of course not a single man's job, but is usually agreed upon by committee, with the general manager usually having the ultimate say in the end, and of course drafting never has the benefit on hindsight, just best guess based on experience and data.
On average, the Canadiens have made their first selection around the 17th overall position since 2003, as a result of their moderate success over the years. The team has chosen a total of 14 players in the first round in that time.
First rounds are critical in adding a superstar calibre player to the roster, and the Canadiens have had average success in this area. They managed to draft several offensive forwards such as Andrei Kostitsyn (1-2003), Max Pacioretty (1-2007), and Alex Galchenyuk (1-2012), as well as franchise cornerstones such as Ryan McDonagh (1-2007) and Carey Price (1-2005).
However there have been some disappointing picks as well for the Canadiens in the first round such as Louis Leblanc (1-2009), Jarred Tinordi (1-2010), and David Fischer (1-2006).
The results essentially have just not been sufficient in the first round by any means, and the Canadiens need to improve in this area dramatically in order to close the talent gap with the top teams in the league.
There is hope that Michael McCarron (1-2013) can turn into a dominant shutdown centre, Nikita Scherbak (1-2014) can turn into an offensive force, and Mikhail Sergachev (1-2016) and Noah Juulsen (1-2015) can become the team's top-line defenders in the near future.
Second- and third-round selections
Timmins' group really shines through after the first round, however, where the Canadiens are among the top clubs for average games played by picks from the second and third rounds. After all the hype of the first round, this is where some core players are drafted from. There is a definite trend in the sort of player that finds success out of these rounds for the Canadiens: defencemen or gritty players.
P.K. Subban (2-2007) leads the list, with Ryan O'Byrne (3-2003), Alexei Emelin (3-2004), and Yannick Weber (3-2007) forming a list of successful defencemen. In addition, Ryan White (3-2006), Guillaume Latendresse (2-2005), and Maxim Lapierre (3-2003) represent the grit element.
The problem here is that there was no offensive forward drafted in these two rounds, the best one being Latendresse, however Sven Andrighetto (3-2013) can perhaps become the first pick to primarily fit an offensive role on the Habs forward line to come out of these two rounds for the Canadiens.
Fourth- and fifth-round selections
This is where the drafting team struggles. Only Mikhail Grabovski (5-2004) and Brendan Gallagher (5-2010) have found success coming out of these middle rounds. This is a very poor result, given that 13 out of 22 players from the 2003 to 2012 draft classes never played a single NHL game. A major competitive disadvantage for the Canadiens in this area.
However there is hope that Charles Hudon (5-2012) and Martin Reway (4-2013) can be the next breakout stars out of these draft rounds, with question marks still hanging over several picks since 2014.
This is where Timmins really shines: finding those late-round hidden gems. The Canadiens are second best in average games played by late round picks (rounds 6-9 until 2004, rounds 6-7 from 2005). Mark Streit (9-2004) leads the group of late-round successes, having played 716 games in the NHL thus far. Other late-round picks include Matt D'Agostini (6-2005), Sergei Kostitsyn (7-2005), and 2010 playoff hero Jaroslav Halak (9-2003).
One interesting name to look out for from those late rounds will be Daniel Pribyl (6-2011), who was not offered a contract by the Canadiens, but after coming in second in scoring in the Czech Extraliga was signed by the Calgary Flames and should expect to see NHL action this season. Currently in the Canadiens system are promising players like Jake Evans (7-2014), who is turning some heads in the NCAA, and Jeremy Grégoire (6-2013) who looks to improve on last year's rookie season in the AHL.
Overall, if you look at all 99 picks under Trevor Timmins, Montreal boasts the highest average games played by a draft pick in the entire league since 2003. That is a remarkable feat, and is but one reason why Timmins continues to find success within the Canadiens organization. His ability to select players with NHL-level talent, without the benefit of high draft picks, is undeniable.
But looking at the metric of games played per pick is only one way to analyze the work of Trevor Timmins and his team. Here are a few others.
"No impact players, just role players"
Although it may appear that they didn't really draft any superstars when you look at the isolated data, other teams face the same struggles when drafting. Nobody knows what they are getting beyond the first half of the first round. Teams hope to pick well based on quantitative and qualitative information at their disposal.
So another way of looking at draft success is to look at average points per pick. The Canadiens don't finish first by this metric, but are once again near the top of the table.
Looking at that data, if you were to pull out players like Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, and Bergeron, bona fide superstars, the Canadiens get near the top of the pack without the benefit of a lot of high-round picks.
"Nobody graduates to the big leagues"
Superficially, it does appear as though there are no prospects graduating from the AHL to the NHL. It's hard to argue that, when you realize that since 2008 there have only been three players who made their place on the Canadiens: Galchenyuk, Gallagher, and Nathan Beaulieu. But things are about to pick up.
Let's first look back at earlier years and give some credit to Timmins. The draft classes of 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007 all produced four full-time NHL players. That should be considered excellent.
On the other hand 2006, 2010, and 2011 produced only one, and 2008 and 2009 produced none. There were terrible draft years that have impacted the current roster significantly. During the Gauthier and Gainey era, Timmins essentially single-handedly did the role that three people currently do, and that's being in charge of amateur scouting and player development. So not only was he responsible for the scouting aspect, but also the post-draft development of prospects. That's a heck of a lot to ask from a single person. When Marc Bergevin became general manager, the role of player development was thankfully handed off to Martin Lapointe and Rob Ramage (and to Patrice Brisebois, initially), allowing Timmins to focus on scouting going forward, with some interesting results.
Things have started to turn around since 2012. A season's worth of scouting was already completed when Bergevin came into power, and the scouting department was left to make its decision. The team selected Galchenyuk, who has now definitely established himself, and Hudon is on the verge of breaking into the NHL as well.
It's the draft class of 2013 that everyone should be keeping their eyes on as early indicators appear to show that this will be a remarkable crop of prospects, with Sven Andrighetto already beginning to establish himself in the NHL, Michael McCarron and Jacob de la Rose on the verge, and Zachary Fucale and Jeremy Grégoire are coming off their rookie professional seasons looking to make their mark. It's the big unknown of two European prospects — Artturi Lehkonen and Martin Reway — which can really tip the scales of this draft class into one of the best ever.
It's probably too early to start judging the draft classes of 2014 onwards, but there are already a few prospects turning heads in each group.
Finally, Timmins work doesn't just end at the draft. Thanks to his scouting staff the Canadiens also signed undrafted free agents Daniel Carr, Mike Condon, and even this guy by the name of David Desharnais.
"Zero Stanley Cups"
Of course the most blatant metric that will try to be used is zero Stanley Cup victories since 2003. But that is a poor metric as it has less to do with drafting amateur players, and more to do with development and coaching. Nonetheless, that is a stinging reality for the organization that drafting could address by either picking higher (i.e. tanking) or getting lucky in later rounds (e.g. Joe Pavelski 7-2003, Dustin Byfuglien 8-2003, Jamie Benn 5-2007, etc.). Both are factors not necessarily directly influenced by Timmins, but it sure would be great to hit a blind luck knock out now and then.
"Yeah? But he doesn't draft players from the QMJHL."
This is one of the more frequent arguments of fans who are against Timmins, but nothing can be farther from the truth. Believe it or not, under the guidance of Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens are the team who have drafted the most players out of the QMJHL than other team in the league.
The fact that the majority of these players do not actually make it to the NHL is unfortunate, however. Lapierre remains by far the most successful player that the Canadiens drafted from the QMJHL since 2003. Whether the Canadiens take a bigger risk to draft players specifically from the Quebec league, or whether the player simply did not develop as anticipated, Timmins cannot be unjustly accused of ignoring the junior players of the Habs' home junior league.
Drafting by the Montreal Canadiens is not only above average under Trevor Timmins, it is among the best in the NHL in the period from 2003 to 2016. Timmins getting a contract extension is very good news for the organization and its fans as amateur scouting is in good hands for the foreseeable future