COLUMBUS (Ohio) - With less than 24 hours remaining until the first name is called at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Canadiens' brass is anxious to step up to the podium at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday night.
"Our player rankings are set and ready to go," said Canadiens Director of Player Recruitment and Development Trevor Timmins. "We've got about 115 names on our list. Our scouting staff worked long and hard putting it all together. Our main focus will be on defensemen and centermen with some size, not to mention some of the great talent we have right here in Quebec."
Once the draft is underway, look for the Canadiens to come out swinging, warns Timmins.
"We're not here to hit a single, we're looking to hit a homerun," vowed Timmins, who joined the Canadiens in 2003. "This is no time to be cautious or careful. You must be aggressive and willing to take risks."
Thanks to the draft pick the Habs scooped up from the Sharks in the Craig Rivet trade in February, the Canadiens will have a pair of first round selections, 12th and 22nd overall.
"With a first-round pick, what you're looking for is a player who can play on one of your first two lines, a defenseman who can be in your top pairing or a No. 1 goalie, like we did with Carey Price in 2005."
GM Bob Gainey couldn't agree more with his resident draft mastermind.
"These two first-rounders are very important," explained Gainey, who will be sitting at the Canadiens' draft table for the fifth time. "They will eventually become the nucleus of our team, just as Mike Komisarek [top pick in 2001] and Christopher Higgins [top pick in 2002] are today. The player we're eyeing with our first pick, if he is still on the board when we select at No. 12, will help us in a few years and beyond."
Overall, the Canadiens boast eight picks, including five of the first 73 selections. While this 2007 crop is not widely considered to be at the level of recent years, the Habs are hoping to make the best possible use of their picks.
"Even in the opening round, there are little differences between these players," admitted Gainey. "There lies the opportunity for our group to demonstrate their know-how and find the best available player. There is always a better player than the rest sitting there when it's your turn, and it's our job to find him."
That being said, should Gainey's cell phone ring, he will most certainly answer it.
"The door is always open for discussion," said Gainey. "If the offer is a good one, we will examine it carefully, that I can assure you."
With rumors swirling at a pace matched only by Britney Spears' personal life, look for NHL draft weekend to be, as always, must-see TV.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com