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Canadiens trying to follow Blackhawks' blueprint

by Arpon Basu

It's been nearly 14 months since Marc Bergevin left the Chicago Blackhawks to become the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, and Sunday he began to shape his new team a lot like his old one.

Bergevin and the Canadiens entered the 2013 NHL Draft with a clear mission: add size, toughness and grit to an organization where those qualities are lacking at the NHL level and among its prospects.

From their first-round pick of 6-foot-5, 228-pound right wing Michael McCarron of the U.S. National Team Development Program at No. 25, the Canadiens' intentions were laid bare for everyone to see.

"We had a message," Bergevin said. "Time will tell, but we felt there was a need to be addressed and we did that [Sunday]."


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The Blackhawks are a team loaded with skill but that also used a good dose of sandpaper to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. The Canadiens may not have the same kind of top-end talent, but their identity has largely been that of a team built on skill and speed.

A balance with grit hasn't been present on the Canadiens for some time now.

"I believe you have players that get you in the playoffs, and there's players that get you through the playoffs," Bergevin said. "We have good skill players, but that was a need I felt we needed to address. We did that [Sunday]."

In addition to McCarron, the Canadiens drafted Swedish left wing Jacob De La Rose (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) with their first of three picks in the second round. They added Connor Crisp from the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters in the third round, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound overage junior who was assigned to protect phenom Connor McDavid.

"That's why I think they drafted me," McCarron said of the Canadiens. "They need size, they need grit, and I feel like I can bring that to them."

Asked to compare himself to an NHL player, McCarron didn't hesitate before picking Boston Bruins power forward Milan Lucic.

"I feel I can play on the fourth line or play on the first line and be successful," McCarron said. "I can crash and bang on the fourth line or I can try to create opportunities to score on the first line every shift. That's who I try to play like."

Canadiens director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins did not disagree.

"We shouldn't compare players," he said, "but he's in that mold."

Another organizational need the Canadiens addressed was depth in goal by drafting local product Zachary Fucale of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Halifax Mooseheads, the top-ranked goaltender in the draft.

The Canadiens got Fucale at No 36, and Bergevin could not have been more pleased, evidenced by the huge smile that came across his face when asked about nabbing the goaltender at that slot.

"I was happy and surprised that he was still there," Bergevin said. "He was the first goalie to go, and you always say, 'The first one goes then they all go.' We had him in our [sights], we saw the right time to do it and we did it."

The Canadiens appear to be set in goal with Carey Price signed for five more seasons at $6.5 million per year. But when Price was taken with the No 5 pick of the 2005 NHL Draft, the Canadiens had Jose Theodore seemingly anchored to their net.

When it comes to goaltenders, things can change over the course of their longer development curves. And Bergevin said in no way was the pick a message to Price.

"Not at all," he said. "We don't have goalies coming through, and it's been a while since we drafted a goalie. We tried last year and it didn't work out."

Fucale had about 50 family members in attendance at Prudential Center, and his father's elated reaction when his son was picked made for a great television moment.

"When you grow up in Montreal you dream of putting this jersey on your back," Zachary Fucale said. "To put it on today is something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

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