He’s made a list.
He’s checked it twice.
He’s going to find out who’s nifty on ice.
Trevor Timmins is coming to town. In fact, he’s there already.
The Canadiens’ director of player recruitment and development is in Ottawa putting the final touches on the team’s preparation for the draft, which begins Friday evening. Timmins will be holding meetings this week with his 12-man scouting staff to create the list of prospects they’ll take to the draft table.
This will be the sixth Canadiens draft for Timmins, who’s 40. His
record is outstanding, particularly for a club whose drafts from 1985
through 1999 could be charitably described as uneven.
turnaraound began when André Savard became the team’s general manager
and has contuinued under Bob Gainey. With Timmins running the draft,
Canadiens have selected a succession of players who have made it or are good bets to make it to the NHL team:
2003: Andrei Kostitsyn, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan O’Byrne, Jaroslav Halak
2004: Kyle Chipchura, Mikhail Grabovski, Gregory Stewart, Mark Streit
2005: Carey Price, Guillaume Latendresse, Matt D’Agostini, Sergei Kostitsyn
And in the pipeline from the 2006 and 2007 drafts: David Fischer, Ben Maxwell, Mathieu Carle, Ryan White, Pavel Valentenko, Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Olivier Fortier and Yannick Weber.
Having dealt their fifth and sixth-round picks to San Jose and Dallas, respectively, the Canadiens have only five draft choices on Friday. That’s the fewest since 1968, when they had four … but three were in the first round!
Reached by phone yesterday, Timmins talked about what the Canadiens are doing to make the most of their picks this week. Here’s a slightly-edited transcript of the interview:
HIO: How will this week unfold?
Trevor Timmins: We started our final meetings two weeks ago and we’ll meet this week. We’ve done out homework and put our list together. We’ll gather Wednesday evening and have another go at it on Thursday. Everyone’s had a chance to look at our group list and digest it and recommend some changes. We’ll put the list together Thursday afternoon, do some other homework Friday morning and go to the draft on Friday afternoon.
HIO: Will all the scouts, including European scouts, be involved in this process?
TT: Yes. We’re a team off the ice the same as the players are a team on the ice. Everyone’s opinion is valued. At the end of the day, someone has to make the final decision, which is me. But we try to get a group consensus.
HIO: Will each scout try to sell the draft-eligible players from his territory?
TT: Four of us have seen all the players (Timmins, Vaughn Karpan, Dave Mayville and former Senators’ chief scout Frank Jay) and our head European scout (Antonin Routa) has seen all the players in Europe. We can make comparisons. The area guys just see players in their areas and they’ll voice opinions on how much they want them and whether they’re in a good spot on the list.
HIO: Can two scouts have totally opposite opinions on a player?
TT: Not opposite, but one scout may feel a little stronger on one player than another. But we’ve got guys who’ve seen everybody, so we’ll usually get a strong consensus to make the decision.
HIO: How many games did you see this season?
TT: About 200.
HIO: Evenly distributed?
TT: A little more in the Quebec league, right in our own backyard. It’s more and more difficult. There are so many teams now. High schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts. Tier II leagues. USHL. It’s hard to see all the players as much as you want.
HIO: Is the scouting department pretty much paper-free?
TT: Everything is on our computer database. Almost all the teams use RinkNet, a program developed in Guelph that’s the Cadillac of scouting systems. The information at your fingertips is amazing. A guy in Russia can go to a game today, do his report, upload it to the Canadiens and I can read his report tomorrow morning.
HIO: Do scouts have their own ways of watching games?
TT: They’ll watch differently even from coaches. Scouts aren’t watching the game, they’re watching a player during a shift and trying to pick apart his skating, his puckhandling ability. Scouts aren’t looking at game systems.
HIO: Do scouts have strength? Is Bill X good on goaltenders while Joe Y knows defencemen?
TT: You work with a staff for a while and you know their tendencies, what they like more, what they like less. Some scouts like size over skill or skill over skating. You have a well-rounded influx of opinions within a staff. You bring it all together and get a pretty complete outlook.
HIO: Do scouts fill out a standard form for each game?
TT: Exactly. They’ll give a letter grade for the quality of the player, what they expect that player to be at the National Hockey League level. They rate different areas, such as skating, hockey sense, competitiveness.
HIO: Do they evaluate off-ice factors as well?
TT: Yeah, they do the research. They’ll go to the player’s home, talk to parents, get to know the support system of the player. Players we’re interested in we’ll try to dig out as much information and get as comfortable with them as we can. It’s an asset and an investment for the organization that has to be thoroughly checked over.
HIO: Will your scouting be influenced by where you sit in the draft? Is there any point in the Montreal Canadiens seeing Steven Stamkos 10 times?
TT: Once we get into February-March-April, we try to pinpoint the players we might be looking at. But anything can happen, trades and what not. I was in Ottawa when we traded up to get the second overall pick and got Jason Spezza. So you want to know the players, but I’m not going out of my way to see Steven Stamkos. We wouldn’t waste our time interviewing a player we can’t get.
HIO: Is the Canadiens’ drafting philosophy based on team need or best player available?
TT: Since I’ve been here, we always pick the player with the most upside available at our pick. A few years ago our goaltending was pretty solid yet we took Carey Price. People said we didn’t need a goaltender, and look where we are today. You have to take the best player available. If you have five centre icemen and they’re all number one centres, it’s pretty easy to trade a number one centre and get another asset. Three number one goalies, you can always trade one.
HIO: Is this, as has been suggested, a deep draft, especially for defencemen?
TT: The defencemen at the top of the draft are strong. There’s also some pretty good goaltenders in this draft. But you gotta be careful. You can’t really say a draft is deep until four or five years down the road. Who’s made it, who hasn’t, who still has a chance to make it? At this point last year, this draft was touted as being high-end and deep. But I don’t think it’s shook out to be that way, in my opinion anyway.
HIO: How do you think you’ll do with the 25th pick?
TT: I know the quality of player we got at 22 last year in Max Pacioretty. I can’t say we’ll get that quality at 25. We just have to hope some teams in front of us don’t see players in the same light we do and hope someone we have higher on our list is still available at 25.
HIO: The Andrei Kostitsyn draft was your first. Was he a big risk?
TT: He was easily a Top 5 talent, even from the year before the draft. But he had some sort of illness, epilepsy it turned out to be. But we brought Dr. Mulder to the NHL combine and he looked at the medical history and checked him out. He said draft the player based on his ability and I can take care of his health issues. So that’s what we did. He stayed an extra year in Russia, but when we finally got him over here and under the correct dosage of medicine, which takes some playing around with, he feels pretty good health wise and just had a breakout season.
The thing that struck me the most at the NHL combine was the anaerobic test. He got on the bike and it was pretty high intensity. He started and began to have tremors, an epileptic seizure. So he got off the bike and calmed down. Once he felt good enough, he got right back on the bike and did the test. That showed some intestinal fortitude.
HIO: With your own background (Timmins has a degree in physical education), do you bring special expertise to evaluating tests at the combine?
TT: I can digest the information that’s provided on paper and visually assess the tests. We also bring Scotty Livingston, our strength and conditioning coach, to help out. It’s just another tool, another piece of the puzzle. What we see on the ice and what we project is the most important. There are also 20-minute interviews at the combine.
HIO: Some kids must be nervous and others well-spoken.
TT: You can tell the ones who have been coached by their agents. We also had our own combine after the NHL combine. We brought 33 players, 19 from Quebec major junior and three Montreal high-school players, to the Bell Centre on June 2. We put them on the ice and got an extra look at their skating to see if there were any fatal flaws or whether what we’d seen in their games was correct.
HIO: Who would you rate as your best late-round sleeper: Sergei Kostitsyn, Mark Streit or Jaroslav Halak?
TT: Jeez, Sergei I guess. He’s played on the top two lines. Though Streit is pretty good and a PP guy.
HIO: How did you get Sergei in the seventh round, 200th overall in 2005?
TT: I don’t think many of the European scouts liked him, but we had the benefit of watching the World Juniors and specifically Belarus a few times because we’d already drafted Andrei. We liked what we saw and then over here Sergei played a more North American style and still showed some skill. He also showed the feistiness we saw this year in a couple skirmishes he had. But you know, if we were that smart why didn’t we take him higher? It was a good pick. And having the experience of Andrei staying over and playing a year in Russia after he was drafted, getting Sergei over to an organization like the London Knights really helped his development.
HIO: Can we get your evaluations of a few recently drafted players? David Fischer?
TT: He had a slow start to the (University of Minnesota) season after having his tonsils removed in late August. He lost about 15 pounds. But he really improved in the second half of the season and was a go-to guy for the Gophers. He’ll return to the NCAA this season. He still has to bring up his strength level. He’s tall and gangly, but he’s getting there. He’s 6-4. It takes a little longer for those guys to fill out.
HIO: Ryan McDonagh and Max Pacioretty?
TT: We’re ecstatic with the college seasons they had. They were go-to guys as freshmen and really showed good development. They’re on the right path.
HIO: Any chance of getting Alexei Yemelin out of Russia?
TT: Well, hopefully some day.He’s got another year on his contract with AK Kazan Bars. The possibility of this season isn’t very good, but after this season getting him over is a strong possibility.
HIO: Konstantin Korneev?
TT: He played really well at the world championships. So it’s still being discussed. It’s difficult with those types of players because you almost have to promise them a place in the National Hockey League. With where our team finished, it’s pretty difficult to make any promises.
HIO: Pavel Valentenko?
TT: He suffered a few injuries, which slowed his development a little bit. But he was a nice fit in Hamilton, a great personality and a hard player to play against. He must have been one of the least-liked players in the AHL. He likes to make big open-ice hits in the neutral zone. So he was a marked man on a lot of nights.
HIO: Which could be a good thing?
TT: Yep (laughs). Not too many players liked to play against Darius Kasparaitis.
Scouting report on Trevor Timmins: Born in Almonte, Ont. on Jan. 5, 1968. Played hockey up to the Junior B level before realizing "my talent and size had taken me as far as I could go and it was time to concentrate on academics." Timmins has a bachelor’s degree in phys ed and an MBA from Queen’s University and a master’s in sports administration from the University of Ottawa. Was hired as an Ottawa Senators intern in 1992 and did "a little bit of everything," including booking travel arrangements for the team. He was also the Senators’ strength and conditioning coach and an assistant to the general manager. He became scouting coordinator under Pierre Gauthier and was hired by the Canadiens in 1992. Timmins is married and has a four-year-old son.