Vacation time not an option for Timmins and Co.
Habs draft guru and scouts already doing homework for 2006 draft
|While he got to greet Carey Price (top) at this year's scaled-down draft, his first meeting with Matt D'Agostini (center) and Mathieu Aubin (bottom) will have to wait.|
"Yeah, back on the job," said Timmins, the Canadiens Director of Player Personnel, who at the start of the week was already on his way to Kitchener, ON, to attend Team Canada's development camp for the upcoming Under-18 championships. "The scouts and team management all got together and had a nice dinner on Saturday night, but I knew we had to get right back to it this week. It's the nature of the business."
Though much of the NHL had been in a holding pattern during the league's 310-day lockout, the rest of the hockey world just kept rolling along. So it was for Timmins and his scouts.
"With the draft usually taking place in late June, we would all have normally had a laid-back month of July," said Timmins. "But this year, with the lockout pushing everything back, we're right back to work. We're actually fortunate that the draft took place when it did, or else we could have found ourselves working on next year's prospects before even picking our 2005 guys."
Thankfully for Timmins and his staff, the latter scenario failed to materialize. With the 2005 draft now in the books, the Queen's University alum was more than happy to reflect on what the Canadiens managed to accomplish this past weekend in Ottawa.
"I think we caught everyone by surprise by going with [goaltender] Carey Price at No. 5, but that's what it's all about," he admitted. "The last thing you want is for the other teams or the media to know exactly what you're going to do. We've had an eye on Carey for what feels like forever. We're thrilled to have him."
With Price still a couple of years away from even thinking about making his Montreal debut, Timmins preached patience and was quick to point out that decisions made at a draft table are long-term and by no means a reflection of the current roster.
"This kid has a great head on his shoulders and is one heck of a competitor," said Timmins. "Obviously, for now everyone has got to take our word for it, but people will see him soon enough. He's got a really good shot at being the guy in goal for Canada at the World Juniors this winter, so his talent will be out there for everyone to see in no time."
Overall, Timmins was thrilled with the team's 2005 draft crop, as all of the club's picks had been rated highly on the organization's wish list.
"We really couldn't believe how everything turned out," said Timmins. "Every one of our picks was among our Top 75. That just doesn't normally happen, but we're sure glad it did."
One of the players categorized as a draft day "steal" by Timmins was their second pick, Guillaume Latendresse, who went mid-way through the second round at No. 45 overall.
"We had him pegged to go much sooner and when we saw him drop, we just couldn't pass him up," recalled Timmins, who gave up Montreal's second- and third-round picks at Nos. 56 and 65 overall to acquire the Rangers' second-round choice. "The Rangers made it clear to us even before the draft that they were looking to increase their number of picks. When Guillaume's name was still sitting there Bob Gainey pulled the trigger on the deal to move up."
Timmins suggested that Latendresse had been rated as high as No. 14 overall by The Hockey News for a reason.
"Latendresse is a power forward in the making," he said of the Ste-Catherine, QC, native, who likely will play another year with the QMJHL's Drummondville Voltigeurs in 2005-06. "He does it all. He's got good size at 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, tremendous hockey sense and a great set of hands. He's got to work on his skating a bit to increase his speed, but that can be improved. You can't teach hockey sense and how to score goals, and he's definitely got that."
The Canadiens were so set on landing Latendresse that they even had a jersey with his name printed on it waiting for him once his name was called.
Montreal's fourth-round selection was Slovakia's Juraj Mikus, who went at No. 121 overall after leading his country with seven points in six games at the Under-18 World Championships.
"He's got great vision, and can he ever pass," said Timmins of the smooth-skating Slovak. "Fans should get their first good look at him at this winter's World Juniors in Vancouver. He'll be one of the key players for Team Slovakia."
At 130th overall, the Canadiens turned to their own backyard to pick up QMJHL product Mathieu Aubin of the Lewiston MAINEiacs.
"There isn't much not to like about Aubin," admitted Timmins. "This kid eats, drinks and sleeps hockey. I remember going to see him play this year and he was out there practicing like an hour and a half before everyone else even showed up. He is really committed and should be a lot of fun to work with and watch develop."
Matt D'Agostini's rags-to-riches story isn't one that comes along too often. Montreal's fifth pick and sixth-round selection - the 190th overall player drafted - was a walk-on tryout with the OHL's Guelph Storm in 2004-05. He proceeded to not only make the team, but almost lead it in scoring with 24 goals and 46 points as a rookie.
"He came out of absolutely nowhere but he could be the real deal," said Timmins. "He had a growth spurt a couple of years ago that I think has really helped him. He's gone from a player who would have been way too small, to just about 6-feet. I guess we'll wait and see what other surprises he has up his sleeve next year with Guelph."
With their sixth pick of the afternoon, the Canadiens set up a family reunion of sorts by selecting Sergei Kostitsyn at 200th overall. The younger brother of Canadiens prospect Andrei, Sergei turned a number of heads with Team Belarus at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championships in North Dakota. The shifty 5-foot-11, 180-pound winger has been compared to his big brother, who was drafted 10th overall by Montreal in 2003.
"I definitely see similarities between them," said Timmins of the younger Kostitsyn. "They're both talented, with Andrei being more skilled, but Sergei likes to mix it up a little more and plays a more physical game. I haven't had a chance to speak to Andrei yet but I'm sure he's looking forward to seeing a lot more of his little brother in the years to come. I know they really enjoyed playing together at the World Juniors in December; who knows, maybe one day they'll be side-by-side at the Bell Centre."
With a draft pick acquired as compensation for the loss of 2003-04 Canadiens enforcer Darren Langdon, the team made defenseman Philippe Paquet the next-to-last pick of the day at No. 229.
"Paquet was another guy we were stunned to see slip through the cracks as much as he did," admitted Timmins of the 6-foot-3, Quebec City native. "He can really move for a big boy. He moves the puck well and we like his awareness out there in every situation."
A side-effect of Saturday's scaled-down draft not overlooked by Timmins and the Canadiens was the fact that over 200 players were deprived of the opportunity to ascend the podium, greet team officials, and accept the jersey of their new club before slipping it over their heads.
"Not getting a chance to meet all the kids was a real shame this year, but there really wasn't time from the league's perspective to do it any other way," explained Timmins, who was the one in charge of calling the final five Canadiens picks who were not in attendance on Saturday. "I'm sure getting that phone call from us was quite a thrill for the players nonetheless, but seeing their eyes light up when they first are handed the jersey is something I guess we'll have to wait until 2006 to see."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.