PITTSBURGH -- It's been 32 years since the Montreal Canadiens have had such a lofty selection in the NHL Draft, and in light of the disastrous season the franchise just completed, the importance of having such a high pick cannot be understated.
That importance was reflected Thursday when new general manager Marc Bergevin and amateur scouting director Trevor Timmins met with reporters.
"Santa Claus doesn't tell you who's been naughty and who's been nice," Timmins said when asked how many players were on his draft list. "So I'm not telling you either."
It was difficult to get a sense which direction the Canadiens were leaning with the No. 3 selection. Bergevin said the possibility of moving the pick is open, but neither he nor Timmins dropped any hints as to who the Habs may be favoring in that spot.
2012 NHL DRAFT
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However, Timmins acknowledged the unpredictability of this year's draft compared with past years, and said it should at the very least make for compelling television.
"All our fans and all the fans of hockey should be tuned in [Friday] night to watch the draft, because it's going to be better than most reality TV shows because there's no set order to the top-10," Timmins said. "It's going to be interesting for us as a scouting staff to see where all the individual prospects fall into place."
Bergevin did give one assurance as to which way the Canadiens will go, regardless of whether or not they select third or move the pick – the team will select the most skilled player available, regardless of position.
"You win championships with skill," Bergevin said. "You need size, you need everything, don't get me wrong. But if you don't have skill you can't win the big prize. Skill wins."
The Canadiens will hold a final meeting Friday morning to finalize their draft list, but Bergevin did not rule out any eventuality when it comes to their pick, including moving it. But a trade would be quite a blow to Timmins, who has spent the past several months intensely following his top-10 prospects once he realized around the All-Star break that the Canadiens looked to be picking in the top five.
But Timmins said as long as any potential trade helps the club, he's fine with it.
"If it's going to make our team better and help us win the Stanley Cup, you're the boss," Timmins said when asked what his response would be if Bergevin told him he was going to trade the No. 3 pick. "I'm onside with it."
However, Timmins has more than that No. 3 pick to work with. The Canadiens have three picks in the top 51 choices and four in the top 64. For a team that hasn't had a second-round pick since 2008, this is exciting to Timmins.
"Early second round there's always some prospects left that you thought would be first round picks," said Timmins of having the 33rd pick, the third one in Round 2. "So we're excited, that's a good pick. That's a strong asset. We're hoping there are prospects left that we had high up on our list as first rounders that are still available."
In other Canadiens news, Bergevin confirmed that the Canadiens had elected to take star goaltender Carey Price to salary arbitration. But he described the move as a normal order of business and not a sign that negotiations had gone sour.
"It's just a technicality, it's something the CBA allows us to do," he said. "Carey knew we were going to do that. All parties are fine with it."