TORONTO -- After a season when five rookies played a part in helping the Montreal Canadiens go from last place to second in the Eastern Conference, director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins is excited for the opportunity to further bolster his team's prospect cupboard at the 2013 NHL Draft.
"With the salary cap era, it makes it more difficult to add to your player pool through free agency, so it's vital for the lifeline of the organization to continue to add prospects that keep coming up through your system and being able to play," Timmins told NHL.com at the Scouting Combine. "So the draft and amateur free agency is very important for the lifeline of the franchise."
At no time was that more prevalent than during the 2012-13 season, when the Canadiens won the Northeast Division. Playing key roles were 2012 first-round pick Alex Galchenyuk and 2010 fifth-round choice Brendan Gallagher, a Calder Trophy finalist; 2009 fifth-round pick Gabriel Dumont, 2010 first-round choice Jarred Tinordi and 2011 first-round pick Nathan Beaulieu also earned some time with the big club.
Timmins admitted it was refreshing to see young players have a role in the team's success. Of the 31 players who suited up for the Canadiens this season, 11 were 25 or younger.
"They added some spark, life, enthusiasm and energy to the team," Timmins said. "With Galchenyuk and Gallagher coming in, they took some pressure off some other players and filled some gaps that we might have had."
Galchenyuk finished fifth in NHL rookie scoring with 27 points in 48 games. Gallagher had 15 goals, 28 points, 44 hits and 33 blocked shots in 44 games.
"I didn't really expect Galchenyuk to come in and produce right away the way he did because he missed the whole season last year (with a knee injury) but the work stoppage certainly played to his benefit," Timmins said. "He was able to get some games under his belt at the amateur level and the World Junior level, and when we did start to play again [he] was able to step right in and continue forward."
Armed with four picks in the top 60 and six in the top 90 at the 2013 draft June 30 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Timmins knows the odds of adding high-caliber blue-chip performers is pretty good.
"It's exciting not only for our scouting staff and organization, but our fan base," Timmins said. "There's depth right across the board of this draft. You have high-end defense, forwards, centers, power wingers and scoring wingers. There are also good quality goalies available. I don't see any holes in this draft … maybe the later rounds might not be as great as previous years."
Many scouts believe this is one of the deeper drafts in recent years. The Canadiens have one pick in the first round (No. 25), three in the second (Nos. 34, 36, 57) and two in the third (Nos. 71, 88). Timmins said he believes there is plenty of parity among the first 35 prospects he has on his draft board.
According to NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, the Canadiens could have an opportunity to draft a solid wing, center or defenseman who might be available by the time their first-round pick rolls around.
The list includes left wing Morgan Klimchuk of the Regina Pats, left wing Adam Erne of the Quebec Remparts, defenseman Joshua Morrissey of the Prince Albert Raiders, and centers Laurent Dauphin of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, John Hayden of the United States National Team Development Program, and Jason Dickinson of the Guelph Storm. Those players were ranked Nos. 25 through 30 on Central Scouting's list.
"You have the elite players at the top, and there's a lot of parity there [between defenseman Seth Jones and forward Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin]," Timmins said. "A lot of times, it's apples, oranges, bananas and grapes, so I guess you could say it's a year you could draft for a need. You always want to draft the player with the most projection, but since they're so close, I think you'll see a lot more teams drafting for need this year."
Unless Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin decides to move up via trade, the Canadiens most certainly won't have a shot at drafting any of the "Big Three" on the board: defenseman Jones of the Portland Winterhawks or Halifax Mooseheads forwards MacKinnon and Drouin. Jones is No. 1 on Central Scouting's final list; MacKinnon and Drouin are Nos. 2-3.
"It'll be difficult for those team picking in the top three … it's like a judgmental call," Timmins said. "But, again, maybe it goes back to a need, and those players have huge ceilings and tremendous upside."
Timmins was asked if the size of a player is ever a prerequisite for choosing him on draft day. Obviously, the success 5-foot-9, 163-pound Gallagher had this season answered that inquiry loud and clear.
The one undersized player who might be available at No. 25 for the Canadiens is 5-foot-8.5, 165-pound center Nicolas Petan of the Portland Winterhawks. Petan, No. 33 on Central Scouting's North American list, played a huge role in Portland's run to the Western Hockey League championship this season, finishing with 46 goals, 120 points and a plus-68 rating in 71 regular-season games. He had nine goals and 28 points in 21 playoff matches.
"What defines undersized by today's standards?" Timmins asked. "Is it under 5-foot-10? I wouldn't call Drouin (5-10.5, 186) an undersized player. When you look around the League and look at the all the players who have done really well, it's apparent that size doesn't really have a bearing on anything."