Monday, 3 July 2017

The Canadiens prioritize their 'List' at the draft, not French-Canadian players.

It was interesting how the Québec quotient on the Canadiens was discussed during the Sunday press conference, and how it's being spun on English social media forums.  Because to hear it, Marc Bergevin admitted under hard questioning that his feet are being held to the fire by the Evil French Media and his priority is to draft French-Canadian players onto the team, or obtain them somehow, by hook or by crook.

What actually happened was that Marc Bergevin was asked, en français, after a preamble where the journalist noted that for two years now the team hadn't picked a LHJMQ prospect, whether it was still the case that the Canadiens would, everything being equal ("à talent égal"), pick the local-born player at the draft, to which he readily agreed.

"Toujours.  La raison qu'on a pris tel joueur avant est qu'on évalue qu'il va être meilleur que le joueur (du Québec).  Mais à talent égal, on y va avec le p'tit Québécois, ça ça ne changera pas, tant et aussi longtemps que je suis ici."

Translated: "Always.  If we pick another player, it's because we project that he'll be better than the player from Québec.  But everything being equal, we go with the kid from Québec, that will not change as long as I am the General Manager."

He explained that they often have a Québec player in their sights but get scooped at the draft table, and he brought up the example of Anthony Mantha and Frédérik Gauthier in 2013, how they got taken just before it was our turn, and it was surprising to me that he'd discuss players on other teams so freely, how this verged on tampering, when Trevor Timmins is leery of using names in his post-draft pressers.  Trevor broadly hinted at Rouyn-Noranda prospect Zachary Lauzon as being a target with our late seconds last week, but wouldn't say the name.  With the way Marc got mad at Jim Benning for his tampering in the P.K. Subban case, you'd think he'd stay clear of expressing prior interest in a player on another team.

Marc Bergevin also said they sometimes try to move up unsuccessfully, or think a player will drop to a lower round, but he certainly expressed an organizational awareness of the importance the fans place on having local players on the team.  Specifically about this year though, he pointed to the poor crop of LHJMQ players, how only 9 were drafted in total.

To me, this reinforces the fact that the Canadiens stick to their list, and how theirs may be wildly different than other teams' list, or what fans expect based on the scouting services and websites they consult, or what transpired after the fact.  And this isn't the first time this happened.

In 2012, Trevor Timmins had a draft which had us dancing a jig afterwards.  Alex Galchenyuk, sure, great pick, but later on he also 'stole' Sebastian Collberg, then Dalton Thrower in the second round, sniper Tim Bozon in the third, Brady Vail in the fourth and Charles Hudon in the fifth.  Each and everyone of these players had been 'ranked' higher by the various services, by Central Scouting.  Sebastian Collberg was seen by some as a Top 10 pick, and Dalton Thrower as a possible late first-rounder.  Only his diminutive stature would drop talented Charles Hudon to the second or top of the third, it was thought.

So after the draft, Trevor Timmins was asked by some giddy reporters how he felt, getting so many value picks, getting so many highly touted prospects much lower than previously thought possible.  "Really?" Trevor asked, suddenly intrigued, evidently unaware of what the accepted wisdom was, what the groupthink was.  He knew his List, but not the Bob McKenzie or Central Scouting rankings.

Last week, Trevor said all the players they picked were on the first page of their List, they never had to go to the second page.  They even acquired a seventh round pick when they saw that goalie Cayden Primeau, another 'first-pager', still remained available late in the draft, and they scooped him up too.

So for the Hockey DB scouting expert like me, the guy who retroactively looks at drafts and decides he would have picked Jarome Iginla rather than Terry Ryan, would have chosen Simon Gagné over Éric Chouinard, (I mean, how obvious was that one?), when I see Antoine Morand being picked right after we pick twice in the second round, when I see Nicolas Roy picked in the early fourth when we used a late-third on long shot Lukas Vejdemo, I squawk that when two players are so evenly ranked, why not pick the local kid?

And the obvious answer is that our List evidently diverges widely from the final draft results, when Scott Walford is a first-pager who they draft high in the third, but who is ranked 90th overall among North American skaters by Central Scouting.  Just because two players are drafted near each other in a draft, doesn't necessarily mean that all teams thought they were essentially equivalent.

Connor Crisp was drafted early in the third round in 2013, but it doesn't mean that all teams thought he was a high third rounder.  Same dynamic with Keegan Kanzig to Calgary, also picked high in the third round, he 'landed' near Connor, and both landed above yet near Anthony Duclair, but all three were perhaps completely off some teams' lists, for various reasons.

Also, and this wasn't brought up on Sunday, but was clearly illustrated last week again, as Marc Bergevin once said when asked this same question, "Everything being equal, sure, but things are never equal."

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