In Trevor we trust
Quick to coin the league’s annual talent harvest "a scout’s answer to the Super Bowl", the Canadiens draft guru came away from Draft ’09 thrilled with his eight picks.
“We’re always excited on this day. I’ll tell you in five years if I’m still excited,” said Timmins with a smile on his most recent prospect haul. “I can’t really pinpoint one guy, but we’ve got a couple of home runs here. A couple of these Europeans slipped a little because of their nationality, but we’re anxious to see where they’ll be a few years down the road.”
One of the Canadiens’ European products was forward Joonas Nattinen at 65th overall.
“We think he has lots of potential. He played on the No. 1 power play at the World Juniors and that says something for a 17 year old,” said Timmins on the talented Finn. “We think he’s got plenty of development ahead of him. He’s a big, rangy center which we’re looking for in this organization and to see him slip to the third round, we were quite surprised and ecstatic that we could pick him when we did.”
If there was a theme to the Habs’ draft strategy this time around, it was up the middle.
“Like I told you guys on Thursday, we place a high value on centers and quarterback defensemen. If you look at our draft picks, that answers the question,” admitted Timmins. “They were players that we wanted; we were trying to fill holes in our depth chart and they fill those gaps.
No less than five centermen became Habs this weekend, from top pick Louis Leblanc all the way down seventh rounder Michael Cichy.
“Cichy was the MVP of the USHL, MVP of the Playoffs and MVP of the tournament in Camrose and he’s going to the University of North Dakota next year where he’ll be roommates with Danny Kristo,” described Timmins of Cichy and the Habs' top pick in 2008. “This is a smart young hockey player and the UND is a great development program.”
“I had my scouts on top of me for the last pick that we had. They both had potential NHL players in their mind and on our list,” revealed Timmins of Petteri Simila, the obscure Finnish goalie he picked at No. 211 . “One was a big goaltender who was in the same development path as the [Mikko] Koskinen who went in the second round. Simili is a big goalie and he’s also in the same development path as the Predators’ Pekka Rinne.”
Also on the hidden gem front, Timmins plucked defenseman Mac Bennett in the third round.
“Bennett could be another sleeper pick for us. He’s going to the University of Michigan the year after next – he’ll be in the USHL next season and this kid can fly,” beamed Timmins. “He’s an outstanding skater, he’s got great skill. He missed quite a bit of hockey and exposure due to an injury this season.”
With most NHL teams increasingly gun shy when it comes to Russian players with many of them being hesitant to make the jump to North America, the Canadiens feel they took a calculated risk with flashy forward Alexander Avtsyn.
“Whenever he wants to come here, he can play in Hamilton. I wouldn’t be afraid to put him in Hamilton right now, today,” gloated Timmins. “This young man, I’ve seen him play in this league. He was the leading scorer in the second league in Russia, which is the one right under the KHL. This guy plays a North American style of game, north-south.
“Alexander does it all; he plays hard, he’s in the corners, he can shoot the puck, he can make plays and he’s passionate about the game.” continued Timmins. “For us, he has first round ability but his nationality and lack of exposure is probably why he didn’t get taken earlier. He’s made a commitment. He’s here today in Montreal, he was here at the combine and he wants to play here.”
While Timmins can finally kick back and relax for a few days, he will be right back at it soon enough with the Canadiens Development Camp slated to begin on July 5. Many of the picks made this weekend will be on hand to strut their stuff for the man who just helped take them one step closer to making their NHL dream a reality.
Manny Almela and Shauna Denis are writers for canadiens.com
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