Hot prospect Angelo Esposito (left) checks in with Canadiens Director of Recruitment and Player Development Trevor Timmins.
MONTREAL - With the NHL Entry Draft now just over one week away, the Canadiens are not about to leave any stones unturned . The gym at the Bell Centre was a hub of activity Wednesday with a handful of prospects stopping in to show how they stack up to the rest.
"This is something we started a couple of years ago," said Canadiens Director of Recruitment and Player Development, and all around draft guru Trevor Timmins. "It's a chance for us to take a look at prospects mainly from the QMJHL and some high schools in Massachusetts.
"We work them through a battery of different fitness evaluations set up by our strength and conditioning coach Scott Livingston. We do an interview, a quick medical assessment, a fitness evaluation and a structural analysis. We make sure there are no problems or red flags and that they have room for growth and development."
Last year's edition paid immediate dividends for Timmins and the Canadiens on draft day.
"We learned a lot about Mathieu Carle when we brought him in last year," explained Timmins of the offensive-minded defenseman. "There were some concerns about his skating but when we tested him here, we discovered how good his foot speed was. And then we just took it from there and we picked him in the second round."
Strength and fitness aren't the only things that are put to the test by Timmins and Co.
"I also like to observe how these kids interact with one another," added Timmins. "That way we can see who the leaders are. Seeing them among their peers can tell you a lot about what they're truly about."
Among the lucky 21 invitees were the second and third top prospects coming out of the QMJHL this year, Angelo Esposito and David Perron, ranked No. 8 and No. 10 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
"It's such an honor to be here," said Perron, who put up 83 points in 70 games with the Lewiston MAINEiacs this past season. "It's always special to be in an NHL arena. We've all worked really hard to get where we are today. Now we're only a few steps from making our dreams of playing in the NHL a reality."
Esposito, who won the Memorial Cup in 2006 with the Quebec Remparts under the watchful eye of Patrick Roy, also had goose bumps from being in the Bell Centre.
"It feels awesome to be here today," said Esposito. "I mean, Montreal is where I grew up. I know this town inside out and in a few days I'll finally know where I'm going to end up."
The answer to that burning question will come next Friday night in Columbus when the draft's first round selections are announced live from Nationwide Arena.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com