CHICAGO - After general manager Marc Bergevin met with members of the media in the Windy City on Thursday, it was vice president of player personnel Trevor Timmins' turn to shed some light on the Canadiens' approach to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
"We're trying to accumulate assets. Assets in our mind are centermen and offensive defensemen," said Timmins, on the Canadiens' six total picks to date, including the 25th overall selection which will be made on Friday night at the United Center. "If you select a winger, you're trying to get a scoring winger. But, offensive defensemen and centers, they're the key assets. If you look around the league, those are what everyone is trying to get."
They're tough to find, of course, and fewer in number in this year's draft class, too, according to Timmins. Nevertheless, the veteran Canadiens staffer, who is entering his 15th year with Montreal, insists that come Round 1 the Habs will secure the services of another good asset for the future.
Video: Timmins speaks ahead of the 2017 NHL Draft
"In this draft, the elite talent is at the very top. There's not as much quantity as in other years. I think everyone would agree with that, all 31 teams. But, there's a lot of quality prospects available," said Timmins. "We're confident that we'll get a player that fits our requirements, needs and wants, and has upside."
In retrospect, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev fit that "asset" definition to perfection. When the Canadiens went in search of a goal scorer in recent weeks, Bergevin was able to send the talented young rearguard to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Jonathan Drouin, boosting things up front.
"If we didn't have Sergachev, we wouldn't have gotten Jonathan Drouin," said Timmins, who watched a lot of Drouin in the months leading up to his being selected third-overall by Tampa four years ago. "He just wowed you. You just shake your head with some of the plays that he made back in junior. He's done that again and he's going to continue to do that and develop. He's not even close to the ceiling of what he can do."
Opening-round aside, come Saturday the Canadiens will step up to the microphone to do something they haven't done since 2013 - make picks in Round 2. They currently boast a pair of second-round selections, with picks No. 56 and 58 in their possession. That, in particular, has Timmins brimming with excitement and anticipation.
"If we go back in history, we got P.K. Subban in the second. When I was with Ottawa, we got Mike Fisher in the second. We got [Artturi] Lehkonen in the second. Those types of players are available there," said Timmins, who said being deprived of second-round picks essentially "handcuffed" the Canadiens in recent years. "Not every draft is equal in the amount of quality prospects available, but we feel confident in this one that there are quality prospects, and we're excited that we have those two second-round picks… Now, we have ammunition in our loaded gun and we're ready to go to the draft and see what happens."
Having a pair of third-round picks at Nos. 68 and 87 isn't too shabby, either. Interestingly enough, the Canadiens haven't had multiple selections in Round 3 since 2013. They're also slated to pick in the fifth round at No. 149.
History and experience have certainly taught Timmins that potential gems are available beyond the first 60-plus selections. He singled out two, in particular, on Thursday, in 2016 draftees William Bitten and Victor Mete, both of whom were recently named to Team Canada's Development Camp roster ahead of the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship.
"Sometimes people say - 'Where are all of your prospects?' Last year's draft, we thought we had a heck of a draft, even though we didn't have a second round. If anybody knows the Team Canada World Junior invite list, two of our young prospects that we didn't pick in the first two rounds are invited to that camp and will have a good chance to make that team," mentioned Timmins, on Bitten and Mete, who went 70th (Round 3) and 100th (Round 4) overall, respectively, last June in Buffalo.
Nevertheless, it will obviously take time to see whether any player selected ultimately pans out down the road in the NHL ranks. Timmins stressed that time and again as well.
"We're never drafting for today. It's always for tomorrow," mentioned Timmins. "Tomorrow, for most of these players, could be four, five or six years down the road, unless you're picking at the top and you get an [Auston] Matthews or a [Connor] McDavid."
That might not be the situation Timmins finds himself in this year, but he's as amped up as ever to get down to business over the weekend.
"We've done all the work all year and we've really worked hard the past month to get our draft board in order and get ready for this," said Timmins. "This is my 15th year with Montreal. Every day of the 15 years, I feel pressure. I came here to win a Stanley Cup. I left Ottawa on my own accord. That's why I'm here. I want to win a Stanley Cup and do everything I can to help the team win a Stanley Cup."