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Focusing on D

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BUFFALO – The Canadiens didn’t hide the fact that they were out to stock up on young defensemen at the NHL Draft.

After selecting Russian rearguard Mikhail Sergachev ninth overall during Friday night’s opening round, Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins paid further attention to the blue line by picking three more defensemen among the five players he added to the Canadiens’ fold on Saturday in Western New York.

Trevor Timmins

“There was a focus on that. We wanted to add more defense. Obviously, there were prospects in the second round that we had targeted to help our back end. In the first round, we were happy to get a defenseman. As the draft went along, we tried to make sure that we added D to our cupboards,” admitted Timmins, the Canadiens’ VP of player personnel and director of amateur scouting. “The asset value of D-men is high. We need to keep adding that because it takes a little longer for them to develop as opposed to forwards.”

With no picks in the second round following the Andrew Shaw deal, Timmins didn’t have the opportunity to make a pick before Round 3. He began by selecting centerman William Bitten from the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. Having seen Bitten play first-hand time and again in the youngster’s hometown of Ottawa – which also just happens to be where Timmins resides – the 17-year-old forward couldn’t hide his excitement following his selection because the Canadiens have always held a special place in his heart.

“It’s a very good feeling. My family lives in Montreal. The Canadiens have been my favorite team since I was a kid. It’s a feeling that I’ll never forget,” admitted Bitten, who finished the season atop the Firebirds’ scoring list with 30 goals and 65 points in 67 games. “I see the ice really well. I have a good shot. I’m really fast. I never give up. Like this year, I played in Flint where we had a lot of distractions. It’s been a long year, too. I turned 17 and I had an “A” on my jersey this past year. I had a big role, and I think I had a good season.”

William Bitten

With his next two picks, Timmins once again turned his attention to the back end by selecting Victor Mete and Casey Staum in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. While Staum finished last season at Hill-Murray School in Minnesota, Mete completed his just a few weeks ago when he hoisted the Memorial Cup with the rest of his London Kinghts teammates. Even though much of the attention was squarely on fellow Knights standout Olli Juolevi in 2015-16, Mete picked up 38 points, just four points less than Juolevi.

"I think I can bring hard work every game, dedication, loyalty and always trying my best,” said Mete, who played for the Junior Canadiens at the minor midget level and always admired the CH. “I’m an offensive defenseman, so I try to jump in the rush and be the fourth guy in to create more offense. I also play well in the defensive zone.”

In Round 6, the Canadiens elected to focus once again on the forward position by selecting centerman Michael Pezzetta of the Sudbury Wolves. While Pezzetta isn’t necessarily known for his offensive prowess – as indicated by his haul of 28 points in 64 games last season – the Toronto native stands out in more ways than one on the ice, and he isn’t shy about making his presence felt.

“I’m a power forward. I really like throwing my weight around and getting the puck to the net,” mentioned the 6-foot-1 forward, who tips the scales at 199 pounds. “I’m a playoff type of player, somebody you could win with. I like being a leader on the ice.”

Victor Mete

With no selections initially in the seventh and final round, the Canadiens made a trade with the Winnipeg Jets to return to the microphone and select Swedish defenseman Arvid Henrikson. Ranked 86th among European skaters by Central Scouting, Henrikson garnered plenty of attention from the Canadiens’ Swedish scout, Christer Rockstrom.

“He’s a late-round guy we believe has flown under the radar. He’s a similar type and style like a Jonathan Ericsson,” mentioned Timmins, referencing the imposing Red Wings defenseman. “We feel he has tremendous upside down the road. He’s one of these picks that hopefully four or five years down the road, we’ll see. Time will tell. We felt strongly that we had to make a move to try and get him in this draft.”

In total, six prospects joined the Canadiens organization over the weekend in Buffalo. And, as Timmins said himself, only time will tell what impact they have down the road.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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