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Making the grade

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
MONTREAL - The NHL draft might still be just over three weeks away, but the Canadiens are already in full-on draft mode. Several dozen sweat-drenched prospects at the Bell Sports Complex on Monday were proof of that.

The mini Habs combine marked the last chance for draft mastermind Trevor Timmins to get a better feel for the Class of 2009.

“This is always a busy day for us as a scouting staff and we’re very lucky to be able to do something like this,” said Timmins, the Canadiens director of player recruitment and development.

The battery of tests allows Timmins and Co. to gather some invaluable intelligence on the roughly 40 young players on hand. The days’ events are very similar to the NHL’s own combine held last week in Toronto. The itinerary is divided into two sections, an on-ice portion and an off-ice component comprised of fitness tests.

 The best prospects
North American Skaters  
European Skaters  
North American Goalies  
European Goalies  
“Through these tests, we look to determine players flexibility and strength of their joints to see that everything is in order,” explained Timmins, a former strength and conditioning coach in his own right with the Senators. “This provides a good indicator of their range of movement down the road they will get stronger and add more muscle mass as they become professionals.”

All prospects not in attendance in Toronto last week also undergo an interview process to uncover a little more about what each player is about what makes them tick.

The afternoon is dedicated to on-ice evaluation where the prospects’ skating is put to the test as their stride and speed are scrutinized to determine whether any noted flaws can be corrected.

“Getting the chance to be at ice level and to film each prospect allows us to make the most informed decision possible,” said Timmins, now in his eighth season with the Habs. “Often times in game situations, some faults can be covered up and tougher to pinpoint.”

While many players will hear their names called at the NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26 and 27, few will ultimately reach the NHL. Timmins knows all about that.

“We only have seven picks so we can’t make any of these kids any promises,” shrugged Timmins. “Nothing says that these players will all be drafted this year, but now that we know them, they can always be invited to one of our development camps down the road.”

When the dust settled on a hectic day of evaluation, Timmins looked pleased with what he saw. The question remains: was Timmins watching his ear-marked first pick skate before his eyes?

“I’d love to have a crystal ball to know if the kid we will be selecting with our first round pick was here today,” said Timmins with a smile. “All I can say is that sometimes players slip through the cracks.”

The Canadiens combine has helped Timmins pull a few rabbits out of his hat in the past, like only a year ago when he discovered would-be third rounder Steve Quailer.

“We were able to see his skating style and identify a few issues with it which we knew could be corrected over time,” recalled Timmins. “Today, he’s a tremendous skater. It’s always possible to find a diamond that just needs a little polishing and that’s what we’re looking for here today.”

Did Timmins manage to mine another jewel? The first part of that answer will be unveiled in late June.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for Translated by Manny Almela

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