NEWARK, NJ – Entering the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with nine picks at their disposal, the Canadiens headed to New Jersey looking to build for the future.
With the 25th overall selection, Marc Bergevin made United States National Team Development Program forward Michael McCarron his second-ever first-round pick as Habs GM. The 23rd-ranked skater heading into the draft, the 6-foot-5 winger had five goals and 10 points in 19 games with the USNTDP in 2012-13.
“Putting on an Original 6 jersey gives me the chills and I can’t even describe it really. I was thinking [I’d go in the] second round but I was hoping first,” shared the 18-year-old Macomb, MI native, who won’t have any trouble adjusting to his new life in the spotlight. “I love pressure. That’s when I play my best. I’ll take it. I’m just so happy. Looking up in their building and seeing all their championships, it’s so special putting on this jersey.”
The first stop on McCarron’s road to the NHL will come with a decision he’ll be forced to make in the next few weeks: whether to continue his career in the OHL or NCAA. While he’s committed to Western Michigan University and has spent the past few weeks training with the team’s strength and conditioning staff, he could also go the Major Junior route and head to London to play with the Knights in 2013-14.
“I’m going to talk to the [Canadiens] organization and see what they think is best for me and finally make the decision with my family after weighing the pros and cons,” explained the gritty forward, who likens his game to that of Milan Lucic. “I feel like I can play on the fourth line or on the first line and be successful. I can crash and bang on the fourth line or create opportunities on the first line every shift.”
After nabbing a big, bruising American forward, Bergevin opted to go fishing overseas with his first of three second round picks, calling on Swedish forward Jacob de la Rose at No. 34 overall. In 36 games with Leksands of Sweden’s Allsvenskan, which is one level below the Swedish Elite League, the 6-foot-2 winger had six goals and six assists while maintaining a plus-8 differential.
“I think I’m a good two-way forward who works hard every shift, every game. I try to be the hardest-working guy out there and I think I’m a leader who leads by example,” described the versatile forward. “When I was younger, I played center but now I play wing to make the most of my abilities. My coach put me on the wing to use my skating and my size to throw hits.”
A few minutes later, the Canadiens drafted the team's third goaltender since Carey Price was picked fifth-overall in 2005, Halifax Mooseheads netminder Zachary Fucale. The top-ranked goalie heading into the draft, the 2013 Memorial Cup champion posted a stellar 45-5-2 record in 55 games while maintaining a 2.35 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 2012-13.
“It’s just one day; I’ll celebrate tonight but the next step is the development camp next week and then it’s about working hard on development to get closer to my goal,” stressed the Rosemere, QC native “I grew up in Montreal and every young hockey player in Montreal dreams of playing for the Canadiens. Today is the day I put [the jersey] on for the first time and I’m going to work hard to make sure I earn the right to put it on again.”
Despite being forced to watch from the stands a little longer than he might have expected after coming in as the No.1 goalie in the draft, Fucale admits the end result was worth the wait.
“It’s amazing just to be drafted, but to go to a team like the Montreal Canadiens, I definitely feel lucky,” admitted Fucale, who was the first goalie taken at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. “First round or seventh round, the goal stays the same for everyone and that’s playing in the NHL. Whatever number you’re picked at, it doesn’t make much of a difference.”
The Canadiens closed out their trio of second round picks by calling on Finnish forward Artturi Lehkonen. The 18-year-old winger picked up 14 goals and 30 points in 45 games with Kuopio of the Finnish Elite League in 2012-13, earning Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts.
“I had a chance to play with great players. I got to play on the first line with our team and it went well,” explained the Piikkio, Finland native, who has trained alongside Saku Koivu at times during the past few offseasons. “I think I’m good with the puck and I have a good shot. I like to shoot a lot and I think goal scoring is kind of my thing.”
In Round 3, the Canadiens used the 71st-overall pick to nab 6-foot-4 Erie Otters center Connor Crisp, who wasn’t in attendance at the draft. In 63 games in 2012-13, the Alliston, ON native racked up 22 goals, 36 points and 139 penalty minutes.
Sven Andrighetto closed out the third round for the Canadiens at 86th overall. After making the difficult adjustment from his hometown in Zurich to life in Rouyn-Noranda last year, the 20-year-old was passed over in his first year of draft eligibility in 2012, but the Swiss winger bounced back in his second year of Junior, finishing the season with a team-high 31 goals and 98 points in 53 games in 2012-13.
“It was always my dream to play in Canada and I had to take the step to go to Rouyn-Noranda,” he described. “I think it worked out and now I want to make the next step and join the Canadiens. I think I improved a lot.
“The first year I was in North America, I saw what it was to play here. In my second year I did much better and I think that helped me. I also had a really good relationship with [Andre Tourigny],” mentioned Andrighetto of the former Huskies head coach, who has since joined the Avalanche coaching staff under Patrick Roy. “He helped me a lot over the last two years. He’s a great coach and I think he brought me to the next level.”
With just one pick at their disposal in the fourth round, the Canadiens turned to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, making Gatineau Olympiques left winger Martin Reway their 116th overall selection. In his first season playing North American hockey, the Czech native finished with 22 goals and 50 points in 47 games in the QMJHL.
The team once again looked to the Quebec league in the sixth round, plucking Baie-Comeau center Jeremy Gregoire from the crowd late in the evening. Despite being a few hours deep into the draft, the 176th overall pick still managed to draw a huge ovation from his fan club in attendance.
“All my family and friends are here with me. It’s already special and to be drafted by the Canadiens is that much more. They maybe cheered a little louder [because it was the Canadiens],” admitted Gregoire with a grin. “To be drafted by the Canadiens as a French Canadian is something incredible.”
In 62 games in 2012-13, the Sherbrooke, QC native recorded 19 goals and 32 points, picking up steam mid-way through the season when he was traded from Chicoutimi to Baie-Comeau.
“The playoffs went really well for me, not just from a production standpoint, but also with the character I could bring, the leadership, the physical play and other things like that I was able to bring,” he described. “Coming in late, I wanted to earn my spot in the lineup and prove myself.”
Drafting Gregoire proved to be the final item on the team’s To-Do list on Sunday night, with Bergevin electing to trade his seventh-round pick, the 206th overall selection, to the Panthers for a seventh-round pick in 2014.
The Canadiens’ eight newest prospects will enjoy celebrating their introduction to the organization in Newark before most of them head to Montreal on Wednesday to take part in the team’s development camp in Brossard, from July 3-7.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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