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'It's five times the work as it was for pick No. 3'

When you're selecting in the middle of the pack in Round 1, there's some extra planning involved

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

VANCOUVER - The Canadiens' amateur scouting staff was hard at work again on Wednesday finalizing their Draft board at the team hotel.

With 10 selections at their disposal heading into the 2019 NHL Draft, including the 15th overall pick, there were plenty of discussions to be had and decisions to be made.

While it remains to be seen which prospect will be joining the Habs' fold come Friday night's opening round at Rogers Arena, assistant general manager Trevor Timmins isn't expecting the newest member of the franchise to join the big club right from the start.

"When you select at the top of the Draft, usually you get to select from players that may contribute to your team immediately, like last year [Jesperi] Kotkaniemi contributed to our team the season right after we drafted him. Picking 15th overall, we don't expect this player to play this year or maybe not even the year after, so we're not addressing an immediate need," confirmed Timmins. "If we have an immediate need, then Marc will go outside the organization looking to make a trade or sign a free agent."

Video: Final NHL Draft preparations begin in Vancouver

Stepping up to the microphone in the middle of Round 1 comes with its own special requirements preparation-wise, according to the longtime member of the Canadiens' brass.

Even though the process of vetting prospects doesn't change based on draft position, it mandates a more expansive look at their options.

"What differs now is the prospect pool for the first pick. Last year, we picked third overall so our prospect pool was very small for that first pick and we could spend a lot of time on a fewer number of prospects," explained Timmins. "This year picking 15th, there's a much wider, broader pool of prospects that we have to spend a lot of time on and research. You can say it's five times the work as it was for pick No. 3."

Timmins and his staff are also planning ahead for any transactions that may alter their Draft status ahead of Round 1. Contingency planning this time of year is essential.

"We want to be prepared in case we move up or we move back. If we move back, then obviously the player pool opens up even larger. There's a lot more work that goes into drafting a little later than really early in the Draft," explained Timmins. "We have to be prepared for anything and everything. A lot of things happen on the Draft floor the day of the Draft right up until before your pick. A lot of those things are unpredictable. We are prepared for it and Marc [Bergevin] prepares himself and the team. He casts lines in the water with all the different GMs to prepare for different scenarios that may become available, options for us and options that other teams may come to us with, whether it's before we get to sitting down at the Draft table on Friday or once the Draft starts."

The Canadiens also own a pair of second-round selections in this year's Draft and will be hoping to hit the mark at Nos. 46 and 50, just as they did last June in Dallas when they secured three impressive youngsters.

"You can get a really good player in the second round. Especially the first part of the second round, there are usually prospects that slip that you had on your Draft board that were first-round prospects that are still available early on Saturday. Last year, we had some early second-round picks who are looking like they might have paid off for us," indicated Timmins, referencing Finnish forward Jesse Ylonen (35th overall), Russian defenseman Alexander Romanov (38th), and Swedish forward Jacob Olofsson (56th). "Only time will tell, but it's just as important that those early picks on Saturday can help deepen your prospect pool and hopefully become real solid contributors."

Video: The Canadiens are at the 2019 NHL Combine

As it stands, the Habs also own one pick in Round 3 (77), one in Round 4 (108), three in Round 5 (131, 136, 138), one in Round 6 (170) and one in Round 7 (206).

What matters most?

This marked the second-straight season that the Canadiens implemented an online personality and behavioral assessment tool to amass key pieces of information about potential draftees.

Timmins is adamant that it serves an important purpose in the final decision-making process, in conjunction with the information gathered at the NHL Combine and the Canadiens' own combines in Montreal and Stockholm.

"One of the most important pieces of information we gather is regarding personality. We put a lot of stock into that, specifically special areas such as character, competitiveness, confidence, areas that young players need to have. There's also the will and the drive to put the effort in to get better and to do the work to get better as hockey players," shared Timmins. "There are a lot of different attributes we look for in prospects, but we're looking for a defining attribute. It's an attribute that will help the player get to the NHL level and stay there, whether it be a hard and heavy shot, hockey sense, speed, effort, things along those lines. We're looking for what we call a dimensional attribute."

The heart of the matter, though, is rather simple.

"We want good players," concluded Timmins. "We want good NHL players."

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