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Best player available

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

PITTSBURGH – Marc Bergevin got exactly what he was looking for on the first day of the NHL Entry Draft.

During his first press conference as general manager on May 2, Bergevin made it clear that the best way for his players to impress their new boss would be to work hard. He continued building that identity by selecting Sarnia Sting forward Alex Galchenyuk third-overall on Friday night.

“That’s the guy we wanted,” confirmed Bergevin before listing every criterion Galchenyuk checked off on his pre-draft wish list. “I like his size, I like his character, I like his hockey sense, I like his vision and I like his desire to be a hockey player.”

He may be a rookie GM overseeing his first draft in the driver’s seat, but Bergevin can still pinpoint the exact moment he knew he’d be making Galchenyuk his first-ever pick in Montreal.

“I knew I wanted him at the combine in Toronto,” he admitted. “When he came to Montreal a few weeks ago, it just reinforced what I already thought about him. After we spoke in Toronto and he left, I looked at Trevor and just said, ‘Yep’.

Timmins praises Galchenyuk

“He’s a big, talented centerman with great vision and his character is off the charts,” added Bergevin, who was particularly impressed with the Wisconsin native’s confidence and desire. “I saw it in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life and nothing is going to stop him from being the best hockey player he can be.”

While Bergevin was the one with his finger on the trigger on draft day, Trevor Timmins was the man responsible for making sure his GM had every angle covered at the draft table. There’s no question in his mind the Habs got a steal by landing the dynamic center at No. 3.

“He was a player we coveted,” shared Timmins, who also admitted Galchenyuk was the highest-ranked player on the team’s list. “We love his talent and to go along with that talent, he’s passionate, committed and determined to be not just an NHL player, but one of the best NHL players.”

Had it not been for a torn ACL that kept him out of all but two regular season games last season, there’s a good chance 6-foot-2 centerman wouldn’t have been sitting patiently in the stands when Timmins stepped to the podium.

“We did our homework. He was at the NHL combine and he did those medicals which Dr. Mulder attended, we brought him to Montreal and he met with our medical staff,” explained Timmins on the due diligence he and his team executed prior to making their final decision. “Dr. Mulder reviewed all the medical history from the surgery and talked to the doctor who performed the surgery and he assured me the surgery was successful and the knee was tight and to select the player based on his upside and his talent.”

After finishing the 2010-11 season second only to linemate and 2012 first-overall pick Nail Yakupov in rookie scoring with 83 points in 68 games, there’s no question the kind of firepower Galchenyuk could bring to the Canadiens' Top 6 sooner than later. Just don’t mention that when Timmins is in earshot.

“We shouldn’t put any pressure on him to make the Montreal Canadiens next year,” he warned. “He’s a young player first and foremost and he missed this season. We’ll see what happens. He’ll train hard and come into camp with the rest of our players and we’ll see where he’s at in training camp and preseason games. The players sort themselves out once we start with the preseason and the first 10 games of the regular season.”

There may be no pressure to get the 18-year-old into a Habs jersey this fall, but Bergevin can already envision the impact Galchenyuk will make when that day finally comes.

“Alex is a young player who we really believe is the type of guy we can build the future of the franchise around,” he underlined. “We were happy he was still available at No. 3. We knew he was our man.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for

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