BUFFALO - The NHL Scouting Combine isn't just about fitness testing, of course. The interview component is equally important.
With that in mind, the Canadiens' scouting staff made use of a brand new tool to prepare themselves for their meetings with 88 prospects heading into the annual event in Buffalo.
On Saturday, assistant general manager Trevor Timmins revealed that for the first time this past season the club developed and implemented an online personality and behavioral assessment tool to amass key pieces of information about potential draftees.
The instrument can essentially be used by the Habs' brass to "find out exactly the personality that lies behind the mask" they've been observing all year long from the stands.
"Players fill out a personality and behavior assessment during the season as well as a player information file. Then, Dr. David Scott [a consultant in sport psychology] takes all that information and he comes with us into the interview process and he's highlighted red flags," shared Timmins on Saturday afternoon at HarborCenter. "Maybe it came up that a player lacks confidence in his assessment and he will devise questions specifically on confidence issues and try to flesh that out and see whether it matches what we're seeing in person… and then whether that matches up with what we see on the ice."
Along with Timmins and amateur scout head Shane Churla, Scott was an active participant in meetings with players that just might end up hearing their names called by the Canadiens later this month in Dallas.
"When the player came in, we tried to ask questions that made the player feel relaxed, get them laughing a little, talk about their family, talk about their own game, talk about their team, other players on their team or players they played against. Then, Dr. Scott could fill in there for the questions he had for that player," explained Timmins, who has been looking for ways to make the interview process at the NHL Combine more productive. "It's something I've been trying to improve upon every year and take it to another level, trying to get as much information and make that 20-minute window as useful as possible."
Video: Trevor Timmins on using new tools to evaluate players
Timmins also shared that the Canadiens will be holding a combine of their own on June 7 on home turf. It will feature 28 prospects. Likewise, Timmins and his staff will also be heading to Sweden a few days later for a combine featuring 16 European prospects.
"It's not only draft prospects [coming to the combine in Montreal], but players, especially in the Q, that we may have interest in moving forward - whether it's on an American League contract, potential NHL contract or a free-agent signing down the road," mentioned Timmins, before detailing his game plan overseas. "We're also taking our caravan over to Stockholm, which is new to us. We're going to test prospects with our staff and some staff from Sweden that we've hired to help us out. We've just found that there were a number of players - and with the number of picks we have - that weren't at this combine, that we need to gather more information, so we're making a road trip to do that… It's a long way until June 22."
It sure is. Nevertheless, Timmins knows exactly what types of players he's hoping to add to the Canadiens' fold three weeks from now with 10 picks at his disposal - including the third-overall selection and four picks in Round 2 alone.
"We're looking for guys that have a high ceiling, a high upside, that can potentially be top-six forwards, top-4 defensemen, starting goalies. That's what we're trying to draft," stated Timmins. "We're looking to add skill, speed, character and work ethic… We want players that can play fast."
He's also on the lookout for players who can grow with the franchise and blossom into leaders down the line.
"What's most important to us, the Montreal Canadiens, is what these players that we select are going to do for our team not just next year, but in the years to come, when they're fully mature and able to lead the Montreal Canadiens," mentioned Timmins. "We're not looking for a quick fix. We're looking for players that will help build this franchise into an annual contender, not just the playoffs, but to contend for the Stanley Cup."
In short, the upcoming draft is especially big.
"I think it's a huge opportunity for us to acquire assets that will really give depth to our team," concluded Timmins. "Get some young prospects that get to Laval and then get to our team and help our team win in the near future."