After sitting patiently through Round 1 on Friday night, Sebastian Collberg didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called on Saturday morning. With the third pick of the day, Habs GM Marc Bergevin pounced on the opportunity to make the Swedish sniper the 33rd overall pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“It feels so great right now to be a part of the Montreal organization. When they say your name it’s really special so it’s a great feeling,” shared Collberg, who won gold with Team Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships and finished second in team scoring. “I’m a goal scorer with a lot of speed and skills with the puck so I think goal scoring is the biggest thing I’ll bring to the Montreal Canadiens.”
Coming into the draft ranked third among all European skaters, Collberg wasn’t expecting to have to make a return trip to the Consol Energy Center on Saturday.
“Yesterday was a little tough for me,” admitted the 5-foot-11 winger. “I had a feeling maybe I’d go in the first round but I’m really happy to be drafted by Montreal. Maybe my season back home wasn’t the best. I was playing in the big league back in Sweden with men so it was a tougher year for me. Playing with the national team this year helped, though.”
Playing against bigger, stronger, older men in the Swedish Elite League in 2011-12, the natural goal-scorer was held pointless in 41 games – a situation he’s planning to rectify next season.
“It was really hard for me. After games I used to wonder if I could go back and play with the Juniors because it’s a little easier and you can have the puck a little more. It was a little tough for me to not be able to score in the big league in Sweden,” he confessed. “I’m not the biggest guy so I need to be stronger to battle along the boards and around the net. I want to be a little heavier and stronger next year.”
With the team’s second second-round pick of the day, Bergevin added some size and grit in bruising Saskatoon Blades blue-liner Dalton Thrower.
“Really I had no idea [what to expect]. I was coming into this draft with an open mind and I’m very pleased with the team I ended up with,” explained Thrower, who has already received some advance scouting reports on what to expect in Montreal from teammate and fellow Habs prospect, Darren Dietz. “I’ve only heard great things about the organization. It’s an awesome feeling and a great honor.”
Better known for his ability to make life difficult for opposing teams’ top forwards, Thrower rounded out his play at the other end of the ice this year.
“I can bring a lot of offense and toughness. I consider myself a two-way defenseman. I’m not going to shy away from the rough stuff but I can also handle the puck and make good passes,” shared the North Vancouver native, who more than doubled his point totals from 20 in 2010-11 to 54 this season. “I’d say [the difference is] confidence. Playing in the league at such a young age, you don’t have the confidence and it really comes down to whether you’re willing to take it to the next level. I thought that if I wanted to get drafted I was going to have to take it to the next level.”
Looking to add some key offense to the organization’s depth chart, the Habs landed Tim Bozon with the third round at No. 64 overall. With his slick dekes and quick release, Bozon is already looking forward to lighting up goalies at the NHL level. And the fact that the 18-year-old winger has an experienced NHLer on his speed dial will only help with his progression.
“I listen to him and he helps me a lot,” described Bozon of his father, Philippe, who spent four seasons with the Blues before starring for the French national team. “He has a lot of experience and he played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and he knows Montreal well. He played for St. Louis in the NHL so it’s good when your dad knows about hockey and can give you advice.
“When I played back home in Junior leagues he was my coach until I was 14 or 15 years old. But he was definitely harder on me than the other guys – he never said the positives to me,” joked Bozon, who holds French, Swiss and U.S. passports. “He helped me a lot. He’s always behind me. He always watches my games and gives me feedback and things I need to get better at.”
The Canadiens continued filling their cupboard with hard-working forwards in Round 4, nabbing Palm City, FL native Brady Vail with the 94th overall pick.
“I was kind of waiting around to see where I’d be taken. I was a little bit nervous but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter,” explained the 18-year-old, two-way center. “It’s about what you do after you get drafted. It’s an honor to be taken by Montreal so I’m excited about it. This is the first step of hopefully a long career for me.”
Palm City may not be known for breeding future NHLers, but growing up with the Panthers in his back yard helped Vail get acquainted with the sport early on.
“I grew up watching [Roberto] Luongo and [Pavel] Bure in Florida,” mentioned Vail, who moved to Detroit at Age 12 to play AAA hockey. “My uncle got me a hockey stick for my fourth Christmas present and I couldn’t put it down. I got into roller hockey and then I started on the ice when I was nine and fell in love with it.
“My game is mostly known for being defensive, shutting down other teams’ top lines but I do have a pretty good offensive upside, too,” added the versatile forward, who racked up 52 points in 68 games in 2011-12. “Hopefully there’s even more to come in that area.”
Chicoutimi Sagueneens winger Charles Hudon received the best gift he could have asked for on his 18th birthday, celebrating by being drafted 122nd overall by his hometown team. Bergevin dug into the team’s backyard in the fifth round, nabbing the QMJHL’s 2010-11 Rookie of the Year late in the draft. Last season, the Alma, QC native racked up an impressive 25 goals and 66 points in 59 games.
“I think this is the best present I’ve ever gotten in my life,” he beamed. “I go to Canadiens games all the time; my dad was a season ticket holder so I would go to a lot of games. I always used to say, ‘One day, I’m going to play here.’ I said the same thing about Chicoutimi and that’s where I ended up playing. Hopefully the same thing happens in Montreal.”
With their seventh and final pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Canadiens looked across the pond to Swedish winger Erik Nystrom, who wasn’t in Pittsburgh to hear his name called live. The 18-year-old split the 2011-12 season between the Swedish Elite League and the Junior league with Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik, picking up two assists in 19 games in the SEL and 28 points in 32 games with the junior squad.
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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