In what has become an annual Recrutes’ tradition, I spoke to Montreal’s assistant general manager Trevor Timmins on draft weekend to discuss Montreal’s newest draft selections.
TT: How are you?
GM: Oh…I’m fine. The better question is how are YOU?
TT: Tired. It’s been a long weekend.
GM: You and the team have been taking a lot of heat about picking Logan Mailloux. A lot of people didn’t hear what they wanted to hear from you in that press conference on Saturday
TT: Trust me, I am very empathetic to what she is going through. I get it. In no way do I condone what he did. It was a very stupid mistake, and we really feel that he is remorseful about it. Just know that the Habs have an action plan which involves everybody. That plan is an organizational thing.
GM: The woman doesn’t feel that she’s received a proper apology.
TT: Yes, that will be part of the action plan. That will be addressed.
GM: Okay. He’s going to have to reach out to her again.
TT: Yeah, as well as us.
GM: Have you ever vetted a prospect more than him? You must have done a pile of background checking on him.
TT: Oh God, yeah. Our Swedish guys talked to his teammates in Sweden, coach and GM. I talked to Mark Hunter. Mark called me two months ago raving about the kid.
GM: The hardest thing about deciding to draft him from a hockey standpoint was his lack of playing time. Like…did your Swedish scouts see him play in Europe and they were really impressed, and you went from there, or what?
TT: Well we knew about him from before because of (Hamilton Bulldogs director of player development) Matt Turek, our OHL scout. He’s known him since he was a Minor Midget.
GM: Did you see him in Sweden?
TT: I’ve never been to Europe for 18 months. But our Swedish scouts saw him.
GM: Even before the Erie tournament, did you have a feeling that he might be the guy, or did that kind of seal it for you?
TT: I knew even before that he fit the bill. I knew he was good because I watched him on video. He’s right up there. He’s 6-5 218, right shot. Can play offence, defends well, physical, mean, fights, has a bomb of a shot, stick-to-stick passes, he plays the way our Big 4 defenders played in the playoffs, fits right into that style.
GM: Do you think he has first-pairing upside, or second pairing…or what?
TT: It doesn’t matter; top four, top-four minutes.
GM: Well it matters…
TT: Well I can’t tell you that now, it’s the coaching and how he develops. Every team is different. When scouts talk about a top-two defenceman we talk about it being on a top-eight team; that’s how we talk. Not on all 32 teams…top eight teams.
GM: Okay…well put it this way. Do you think he has the upside to play 20+ minutes a night?
TT: He can play over 20 minutes a night easily..25 minutes a night.
GM: You think he can play on the power play and PK, in other words.
TT: For sure…definitely. He can play against the other teams’ top lines.
GM: Do you think the Hunters (London Knights) expect him to come in and play a top-three role in London as a rookie?
TT: Definitely. Mark really values him.
GM: Why did he play Junior B two years ago instead of in London?
TT: I don’t know. Numbers I guess. He was young, they had a good team.
TT: They had him on the ice all winter. The Knights always skated as a team. Even though they didn’t play games they were training together on the ice, off the ice.
GM: Obviously he’s really developed and blossomed.
TT: Did you see his numbers in Junior B?
TT: Pretty good.
GM: Better numbers than you even had in Junior B.
TT: Way better, But he didn’t score the big goal in triple overtime to win the semi-finals game like I did. (chuckles) He’s a little bigger though. I’m more than 5-6. I had to draft a guy shorter than me…they were all giving it to me.
GM: (Xavier) Simoneau. He got invited to (Canada’s) world junior camp.
TT: Yeah; he tested positive for COVID, that’s what kept him out.
GM: Well hey…please the locals with that pick, right?
TT: Trying the same thing with him as we did Harvey-Pinard. Play in the Q as an overage. If he’s healthy, he should run big numbers on that Charlottetown team, then go to Laval and we can see if he deserves an NHL deal or not. Sign him to an AHL deal. We own his rights for two years.
GM: Okay. Maybe he even starts in the ECHL…
TT: Yeah, we have that (option). Now that Montreal has a three-tiered system under its control, this is a good example. I talked about that on Thursday regarding David Desharnais….try to create more of that.
GM: Yeah, exactly. I thought he may play in the ECHL this year with the new franchise in Trois Rivieres and all, but okay.
TT: No, no. I’d rather he go back.
GM: Well, he didn’t get to play a full junior year, right? I saw that the AHL is going to allow guys like Ridley Grieg to play next year, right..instead of going back to junior?
TT: Yeah… (Jan) Mysak would qualify for that.
GM: I was going to say…so do you figure he’s going back to Hamilton or what?
TT: I’m pretty sure he’ll be in Hamilton. So don’t expect him in Laval.
GM: Well, he could use another year of junior.
GM: Were you a little surprised that Joe Vrbetic was there in the seventh?
TT: Yeah; especially when I went back and had a look at the reports on him. Jeez; they were really good, so..yep.
GM: He didn’t have great stats but that North Bay team was a bad team, right?
TT: Oh…terrible team. Yeah.
GM: Is he 6-6?
TT: 6-6, yeah. I can’t wait to see him in the nets.
GM: What’s he been doing for the last 16 months?
TT: He’s been working out, working with a goalie coach.
GM: Any concerns with him not playing for a year? I guess there are lots of players in that boat.
TT: Yeah, exactly.
GM: Would that be one of the reasons he was there in the seventh round?
TT: Probably because of that and him being a late birthday.
GM: Are they going to change the CHL rules on overagers because of what happened this year and allow teams to have more for the next couple of years?
TT: I don’t know. It’s a good question.
GM: You’d like him to play two more years of junior would you not?
TT: Yeah. If not…we have Trois Rivieres, so…that’s another good thing.
GM: Sure. But he will have only played two years of junior and missed a complete year so…anyway…now what’s the deal with him? What did the reports say?
TT: Really tracks the puck well. He’s good on first and second chances.
GM: So he competes pretty well then?
TT: Oh yeah, he competes.
GM: How is he as far as cutting off the angles?
TT: Solid. Takes up a lot of the net.
GM: Oliver Kapanen. He’s played the most of any Finnish forward through the first three games of the summer showcase, and he’s just 17 years old. That’s pretty cool.
GM: Yeah…he’s got more ice time so far, more than Aatu Raty, more than Sami Helenius, who is a returning forward.
TT: That’s good.
GM: You’ve gotta be happy about that. They must really like him on the national team.
TT: They must. It was pretty good for us that he didn’t have a very good U-18 tournament. He got hit in that first game head-first into the boards, so…he didn’t skate for a week.
GM: I think everybody kinda dropped him a wee bit, you know…
TT: Yeah. I know we did. And then…we brought him back up a little bit because they had a camp over there and our Finnish scout saw him over there before he came to the U18 and had that injury. We bumped him up a bit…probably a good thing.
GM: He looks 6-1 out there.
TT: Yeah. He’s 6-1. His hockey sense is what separates him from other prospects.
GM: He plays a 200-foot game.
TT: Yeah, he does.
GM: A little bit like (Fedor) Svechkov…all around.
TT: Yeah, exactly.
GM: And good on draws too. He may end up being in the mix for third-line center down the road.
TT: Well that’s what I’m hoping. We’ve got him and Kidney there to grow and develop and fight it out.
GM: And Poehling too.
TT: Yeah..and Poehling.
GM: And Mysak as well.
TT: Yeah. Mysak probably ends up going to the wing.
GM: What about Poehling…do you think he ends up on the wing?
TT: I don’t know. Just have to play him and give him a chance. See where he fits in.
GM: What’s up with (Jacob) Olofsson)? Do you have another year to decide on whether you sign him, and will you take it?
TT: Yep. Another year to watch.
GM: What do you figure the timeline will be on Kapanen to come over, a couple of years? Do you know what his contract status is?
TT: It doesn’t matter because we have an IIHF agreement so it doesn’t matter. But I think he’ll be in Finland at least two years.
GM: Now Kidney. Tell me about him.
TT: He was really good in the playoffs. His stats in the playoffs were outstanding.
GM: Has he put on any muscle in the offseason?
TT: A little bit. That’s going to be the challenge. He’s 6-0 now, 180.
GM: So he’s got two years of junior left?
TT: Yeah; he’s an ‘03.
GM: Hope that next summer at this time he’s in the world junior camp. Hope he has a really productive season. I imagine Acadie-Bathurst is going to look at him as the go-to guy this year.
TT: Yeah. Team Canada is going to be watching him. He’ll be on that Quebec team versus the Russians in the CHL Series in November.
GM: So what is the background you’ve been getting on him. Good kid and all that stuff?
TT: Yes, we interviewed him a couple of times. Good kid. Just has to learn to be a pro and getting production in the off-ice training; that’s going to be the key for him. He knows how to play the game. He’s got good hockey sense, that’s why we took him. Good hockey sense and competes, makes others better. His skating has to come a little but a lot of that has to do with strength.
GM: His hockey sense may be his best asset wouldn’t you say?
TT: His combination of hockey sense and competitiveness. That’s the key. That’s what makes him a good prospect.
GM: Yeah. He’s not Nick Suzuki but…that kind of a…know what I mean?
TT: Yeah…along that line.
GM: If the strength comes along and all that stuff he could definitely compete for a third center spot down the road, right? But he may end up on the wing as well?
TT: No. I see him as a center. Puck distributor and makes others better. He has good analytics – takeaways, zone entries, passes through the slot, All of that stuff.
GM: Kostenko. Have you seen him live?
GM: So you were like me…video scouting him.
TT: Yeah…you got it.
GM: So now you know what I go through when I’m doing my rankings.
TT: Yeah; it’s not easy. Our European scout loves him.
GM: What I like about him is he’s a good puck carrier, and makes good outlet passes. He’s a puck-moving defenceman, fair to say?
TT: Yeah. A power-play guy too.
GM: Yes. I’ve noticed that he’s a good puck distributor and he’s got a decent shot, right?
TT: Yeah…big shot.
GM: So you hope that if he makes it he’ll be able to provide some offence.
TT: That’s why we drafted him.
GM: And the skating. I’ve heard a lot of varied things on him…looks like he’s got to get a little stronger in the lower body but what’s the final verdict on his feet?
TT: I didn’t see anything wrong with this skating; I didn’t see that. I don’t know why people are coming up with that.
GM: I don’t see a mechanics issue.
TT: No…I don’t see that.
GM: He’s played internationally here and there. Are they having any junior camps this summer and is he playing or invited?
TT: There’s a U20 tournament at the end of August, and he told us he’s going to be on the team. He’s playing for Spartak Moscow this year. Last year he was with Lada Togliatti.
GM: In the KHL?
TT: I hope so. You know how they are…you never know. One day he might be playing in the KHL, the next day, VHL, next game maybe the MHL. Who knows? They move their young guys around all the time. Spartak bought his rights.
GM: So you interviewed him and all that stuff.
TT: Oh yeah. Every guy we drafted we interviewed…half an hour.
GM: How is his English?
TT: Not very good. He understands a little but he doesn’t speak any. Sobolev has much better English. I have a translator.
GM: I guess Trudeau is a guy you thought might go at the end of the second, so to get him in the fourth was a nice grab for you?
TT: Yeah. Good value. Very poised and patient with the puck. Our Q guys really liked him. He’s at the junior camp.
GM: So Donald (Audette) actually liked a Q guy?
TT: Yeah! He liked him from Day 1.
GM: Just plays the game right. A good, smart defenceman, right?
TT: He’s efficient. He’s a smart, puck-moving defenceman. Manages the puck well, even on the PP. We’ll have to decide next year what to do with him as he’s a 2002.
GM: His skating…just needs to keep working on it.
TT: Yeah, his first three strides just have to get quicker. To win foot races for loose pucks.
GM: What was it like the past two years not having testing? How did you determine conditioning and stuff? It must have been tough.
TT: You don’t have that info. You’re guessing.
GM: You’re not pulling an Arizona and having a secret camp or anything.
TT: No…no. No data.
GM: But especially the European guys that you never see in person.
TT: Yeah, exactly. See them on Zoom.
GM: The Trudeau kid. William Trudeau…is he half English with is first name being William?
TT: No, he’s francophone. But fully bilingual.
GM: You said Sobolev looks like a linebacker. Did he give you a flex over Zoom, or what?
TT: No…if you go on Twitter you can see his workouts. I think it’s on Twitter…I don’t know which one…but the pictures were sent to me.
GM: Not having played last year…Russian…blah, blah. Blah. How come you took him in the fourth round?
TT: Because we liked him.
GM: You liked him two years ago…
TT: Yeah, we had good reports on him, the video we saw, liked that he’s playing in Windsor. He didn’t go back to Russia, he spent this past season in Michigan training. He came over here to play in Windsor and then he just stayed, and just stayed instead of going to play in Russia.
GM: The Roy kid. He’s listed at 6-0, 190. He’s not 165 pounds now is he? You said he lost 25 pounds. But he must have been up over 200 pounds, was he?
TT: That’s when he was over 200. When he got traded from Saint John he was over 200, and then Sherbrooke got him in shape, and this summer he’s been training to bring his weight down. He’s learning to become a pro.
GM: Did you notice that he had a little more pep in his step at the end of the year.
TT: Yep. In Sherbrooke. He changed during the course of the year.
GM: Now…if he’s in shape he’s not a bad skater…right?
TT: He’s not a bad skater; it’s just the conditioning, yeah. He’s got natural offensive talent that you can’t teach. You know. You know him as well as me. At pick 150, you know…a French kid…why not try him, and see if we can develop him?
GM: Did he grow up a Habs fan and all of that?
TT: Oh yeah. He’s from the Beauce area…kind of out in the middle of nowhere, so I can see why he’s kind of naive, and…it’s not like he played in the GTA…you know what I mean? They don’t really understand what it takes when they first get to junior.
GM: The dietary part of it too…learning how to eat right.
TT: Yeah…exactly. Learn to become a pro. How to train, what to do.
GM: Considering you had six guys in Recrutes’ top 76, you must be pretty happy about that?
TT: Yeah, I hold Recrutes to the highest standards. I just follow the list. We didn’t need to make our own list…why do the work? We just follow Recrutes.
GM: Okay, my friend. I appreciate it. Thanks for the chat.
TT: Okay no problem. Have a good night.