Bob Gainey, Carey Price, Trevor Timmins (Photo by Jana Chytilova / The Ottawa Citizen, CanWest News Service)

by Mathieu Chagnon, Guest Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

For a long time, I had doubts about Trevor Timmins’ work with the Habs. The head of recruitment has been with Montreal since 2003, and having a quick look at the players  drafted since then, some may be disappointed.

To counter you will hear experts say, “the draft is not an accurate science.” As fans, it is hard to buy into that perspective. We want results, and we want the team to win. 

Looking back, there are few players drafted by the Canadiens that have delighted fans.  There is Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, Artturi Lehkonen and players who are no longer with the Habs like Ryan McDonagh and P.K. Subban.

I followed the lead of the mainstream media extracting all players drafted by the Canadiens since 2008. Why is 2008 an important cutoff? The Habs had an outstanding draft in 2007 so it is one way to paint the team in a negative light.

With those parameters, Montreal is ranked 29th in the league in games played, and 27th in points accumulated by draftees. On hearing those stats, some fans may be discouraged and lose faith in Canadiens’ ability to draft good prospects.

I tweeted that about the ‘disastrous’ results of the drafts for the past ten years and was answered by Grant McCagg who replied, “Okay. Well trust this “expert” when I tell you that the last ten years haven’t been a disaster.”

McCagg was an amateur scout part-time for Montreal from 2009 to 2011, and recently launched the website dedicated to prospects.

The Canadiens draft results speak for themselves, don’t they? But if someone like Grant McCagg tells me that I am wrong, I should take a second look. A more accurate approach to evaluating these drafts was obviously required.

First, the strength of each draft (very weak, weak, good, strong) must be taken into consideration. Plus, the probability of selecting quality — super star (SS), elite (E), good (G), depth (D), minor-league (M) — in relation to the rank of the pick must be assessed. Then, add in the total games played, the points per games and top it off with a bit of judgement.

Once that is all put in a blender, here are the probabilities for every round of the draft for the years 2000 to 2011.​

It’s not to hard to follow that a a team has a better than 60 per cent chance of selecting a player who can contribute when picking in the first round.

Things get a little more complicated beyond that. Depending the strength of a draft, a point system is established on the rank of the team pick. The following table will provide detail of the system.

As you see, the higher a team picks in the draft order, the fewer points allotted to successfully acquiring a quality player. Essentially, the system penalizes teams for not choosing correctly. On the other hand, a team who finds a superstar in the third round of the draft will be handsomely rewarded. 

With the system in place, we can now re-evaluate Trevor Timmins’ performance in drafts from 2003 to 2011. Admittedly, it may be a bit early to evaluate draft years 2010 and 2011, because most of those players have been in the league for only two to three years.

Based on this scoring system, it appears that the Canadiens have fared very well in the draft. The results tell us that, based on their draft order, Montreal did not make many mistakes and in fact, they have been able to select a some talented players in the later rounds of the draft.

Montreal gets a good rating in first round, because their picks were between 16th and 30th. The probability of getting better players at this placement is almost the same as picking in second round.

Here is the list of the Canadiens first round picks during that time period.

2003 – 10th pick: Andrei Kostitsyn (Depth)
2004 – 18th pick: Kyle Chipchura (Depth)
2005 – 5th pick: Carey Price (Super Star)
2006 – 20th pick: David Fischer (Minor)
2007 – 12th pick: Ryan McDonagh (Elite) & 22th pick: Max Pacioretty (Elite)
2008 – No 1st round pick (traded for Alex Tanguay)
2009 – 18th pick: Louis Leblanc (Minor)
2010 – 22nd pick: Jarred Tinordi (Minor)
2011 – 19th pick: Nathan Beaulieu (Depth)

So why have the Canadiens not been able to draft a lot of skillful players? It is not (as first appeared) that scouting is deficient in Montreal. Quite the opposite actually.

It is easy to lose perspective by focusing on the few mistakes that have been made. But it’s evident that the Canadiens have made fewer mistakes in drafting than average.

Perhaps it could be argued that the Canadiens would have been in a better drafting position if they had more frequently missed the playoffs. But it is clear that Trevor Timmins can’t be blamed, having done very well with the draft position dictated to him.

As fans, you now should be feeling better about the Canadiens draft record. And then think about what happened on June 23rd and 24th. It’s possible that the Habs 2017 draft might turn out as well as 2007. Thanks Trevor Timmins!