Canadiens Class of 2009
After picking local product Louis Leblanc in the opening round on Friday night, the Canadiens kicked off their Saturday by selecting Finnish centerman Joonas Nattinen at No. 65 overall.
The 6-foot-2, 183-pounder played in the Finnish Junior league last season where he had 38 points in 30 games, including 29 assists. The playmaking center from Jamsa, Finland is a well-rounded two-way player who suited up for his homeland at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa, where he had three points in six games and was the third best faceoff man in the tournament at 63 percent.
Nattinen becomes the fourth player to ever be selected 65th by the Canadiens and the first Finn nabbed by Montreal on Draft day since 2003, when Oskari Korpikari got the call at No. 217 overall.
Next up for the Canadiens at No. 79 was Mac Bennett, a blue line selection from Warwick, RI. The 6-foot rearguard posted 11 points in 15 games at Hotchkiss, a prep school in Connecticut, in an injury-shortened season. Ranked 40th among North American skaters, Bennett vaulted 23 spots since the midterm rankings. He will be attending the University of Michigan in the fall of 2010.
Now fully recovered from a sprain of his right MCL, Bennett is eager to continue his development.
“This summer I’ll just be working out a lot, trying to get bigger and stronger,” said Bennett. “ I’ll probably stay of the ice for a while and work as hard as I can off the ice.
“I don’t shy away from the physical part of the game, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a checker," added Bennett. "I’m more of an offensive defenseman, quarterback on the power play type of guy. If I have to hit or I have to fight, I can do that too.”
Bennett isn’t short on NHL bloodlines. His grandfather is former Bruins goaltender Harvey Bennett (1944-45) and his uncles, Curt and Harvey Bennett Jr. both played in the NHL. Curt was drafted by the Atlanta Flames and went on to suit up for 580 NHL games. Harvey Jr. played 268 NHL games with five different teams (Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Minnesota and St. Louis).
In the fourth round, Timmins and the Canadiens ventured back overseas, reaching out to explosive scoring Alexander Avtsyn of Moscow Dynamo at No. 109. The 6-foot-2 right winger had a dominant season in Russia, piling up 56 goals and 110 points in 76 games.
“Montreal is a very good city and a very good team; the team with the most tradition in the NHL,” said Avtsyn with some translation help from Nikolai Vakourov, the Habs’ Russian scout. “I hope to come to North America after next year.
“I play a physical style with lots of speed and a hard shot but I need to work on my game away from the puck. I will work hard to do it," added Avtsyn. "I try to play the same way that Ovechkin plays. Having the Russians around the Canadiens dressing room will definitely make it easier to be comfortable in Montreal, too.”
At No. 139, the Canadiens returned to their own backyard, selecting Gabriel Dumont of the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The speedy centerman amassed 49 points in 51 games, including 28 goals.
A native of Degelis, QC, the 5-foot-9 pivot helped lead the Voltigeurs to the President's Cup and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
“I’m a hardworking player and I try to pattern my game after guys like Maxime Talbot and Ryan Smith,” said Dumont. “I still have some work to do on my skating. I’ve been working at it for the past two years and I’ll keep at it this summer to continue improving.”
A well-rounded player, Dumont also scored a team-high four shorthanded goals to go with his three game-winners.
“I know that my ticket to the NHL might be as a defensive forward on a third or fourth line and I’m going to keep fine-tuning my defensive play,” said Dumont.
In the sixth round, with the 169th overall pick, Gainey and Co. staked their claim to Shannonville, ON native Dustin Walsh. The 6-foot-2 centerman spent the past season tearing up the OJHL, posting a team-high 63 points in 44 games for the Kingston Voyageurs, including 32 goals.
Gainey made Michael Cichy the 199th overall selection, nabbing the 5-foot-11 pivot out of the USHL. In 56 games for the Indiana Ice, the New Britain, CT native paced his squad with 76 points, including 17 power play markers.
The Habs weren't done yet, as they made a trade with the Stanley Cup champion Penguins to get the 211th and final pick of the day. Renown for his obscure hidden gems, Timmins picked Petteri Simila, a goalie from Finland who guarded the crease for Karpat Jr. last season.
Manny Almela and Shauna Denis are writers for canadiens.com
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