Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Alex Galchenyuk (CHL Images)
Alex Galchenyuk (CHL Images)

Canadiens put draft prospects through workouts Add to ...

It's like an elaborate job interview, just with more weight-lifting, skating and prodding of knees.

The period after the hockey season ends for draft-eligible players is a hectic one, much of which is spent working out and getting healthy for the NHL combine and preparing for a raft of interviews with interested teams ahead of the big day.

That, and racking up frequent flyer and hotel rewards miles.

More and more NHL clubs are taking a page from the NFL and NBA and holding private workouts with top prospects, so it was that 40 or so players found themselves in the Montreal Canadiens' training complex in suburban Brossard on a warm, windy Tuesday.

There they were put through their paces on the ice - the media consensus was that Sarnia Sting forward Alex Galchenyuk owns the mother of all wrist shots - and in the gym, most also had meetings with the Habs' scouting staff, supervised by head scout Trevor Timmins, and a quick hand-shake with GM Marc Bergevin.

"Very brief, he's a busy guy," said Red Deer Rebels defenceman Matthew Dumba, who may be one of the players the Habs consider with their third overall pick in Pittsburgh a week from this coming Friday. "It's all pretty casual, they're mostly interested in getting to know me and the other players, the questions have been pretty much the same from all the teams."

Coach Michel Therrien was also on hand, although presumably he was there to meet with Habs captain Brian Gionta, who was also in the building and chatted with several of the prospects.

The man widely considered to be the best player in the draft, Sarnia forward Nail Yakupov, didn't end up making the trip, nor did elite prospects like Swedish forward Filip Forsberg, Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray (who may well be the top pick next week), or goalie Malcolm Subban, the highest-rated North American goaltender and little brother of current Hab P.K.

Not that anything should be inferred from their absence - Timmins has scouted Yakupov and Forsberg extensively and Murray was in town on his own last week to meet with the team - the Habs, like all teams, interviewed most if not all the top-50 prospects at the league combine.

Despite the notable absences, several intriguing prospects that could tickle the Habs' fancy, including Galchenyuk and Dumba, were in the building.

"It's a pretty cool experience to be around this rink and to see where they practice and train, it's world-class," said Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly, perhaps the best offensive blueliner in the draft, but who could fall down a few rungs because of questions over a knee injury that kept him out of all but 23 WHL games this past season.

Indeed, injuries form the big x-factor in this year's draft - Galchenyuk sat out nearly the whole season with a knee reconstruction, Yakupov had a concussion in the OHL playoffs, the CHL rookie of the year, Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts, is recovering from a bout of mononucleosis (Grigorenko said he's feeling much better and should be cleared for on-ice drills soon).

But more than the physical testing, teams like the Canadiens are trying to get a sense of each player's character and personality.

"It's pretty standard stuff, they all pretty much ask the same questions," said Dumba.

Watching the youngsters stroll out of the practice complex - there were two sessions, including an afternoon group made up exclusively of QMJHL products - it also becomes quickly apparent that several of them have gotten accustomed to spending time with each other as they bounce from camp to camp.

Their visit to Montreal was typical enough: they were flown in at the team's expense, put up at a hotel near the rink, and treated to a meal together.

"I played with a lot of these guys at the under-18s, and we know each other from junior," said Rielly, whose preternatural poise was severely tested as he spoke to reporters - fellow prospects Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings) and Jarrod Maidens (Owen Sound Attack) made faces and snapped photos with their phones.

Then Reinhart wandered closer, holding his phone up and asking "could you tell us what the strangest question was they asked you?"

It's easy to forget these are teenagers.

Most of the players in attendance have been to several team-sponsored showcases (Toronto and Buffalo both met with Dumba and Rielly, the Islanders called in Dumba and Grigorenko, who also went to Edmonton).

"I've talked to 26 teams in all . . . I was in Boston last week, and after the combine I stayed in Toronto a couple of days to speak to New Jersey," said Stefan Matteau, burly forward, son of former New York Rangers winger Stephane, and a man who could well be the first Quebecker drafted on June 22nd.

Dumba allowed that he left Montreal without a firm sense of how the team feels about him, but said that's not going to distract from the excitement of the lead-up to the draft "It can be tough, all the excitement and everything, you lie down at night and your mind starts racing," he said. "It's just really exciting to think that in eight days I'm going to be getting on a plane to go to the draft."

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories