Canadiens draft night reveals little about big moves yet to come

The Montreal Canadiens use their first round pick at number 25 to take St. Cloud State Centremen Ryan Poehling.

It might have been the most revealing answer of Marc Bergevin’s 46-minute, season-ending press conference back in April.

The Montreal Canadiens’ GM had fielded several questions about Alex Galchenyuk’s future and had concluded firmly that the kid his team had chosen third overall in 2012 to be a top-line centre was best-suited to continue his development as a winger. NHL.com’s Arpon Basu put his hand up and in his patently deliberate fashion asked Bergevin a series of questions before firing off one last one.

“Is there any help coming from the system at the centre position?” he asked.

“Centremen in the minors, as we speak today, ready to move up next year? No.” said Bergevin.

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With the 25th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, the Canadiens took a chance on a 6-foot-3, 190-pound centre by the name of Ryan Poehling. He won’t be ready to fill a position with the big club as early as next season, but in light of what Bergevin said about what he currently has in the system Poehling will assume a place high up the organizational depth chart without having played a single game of professional hockey.

“He’s an impressive kid,” Bergevin told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman moments after Canadiens director of recruitment and development Trevor Timmins made the selection. “He plays the right way, plays the whole sheet of ice. We were very pleased to select him.”

Poehling, a native of Lakeville, MN, had skipped his final year of high school to become the NCAA’s youngest player this past season. Playing for St. Cloud State, he scored seven goals and six assists in 35 games and turned a lot of heads with the way he took care of his responsibilities at both ends of the ice.

Futureconsiderations.ca labelled Poehling a “do-it-all power centre,” who is, “reliable, mature and has the right attitude to succeed.”

David Gregory of central scouting, who was part of the committee that had Poehling at 13th among North American skaters in their final draft rankings, told NHL.com in January that he has “a nice long, strong [skating] stride,” and that “he can be effective in traffic, out of traffic.”

It’s not the fast-track option Bergevin currently needs, but as he’s repeated several times throughout his five-year tenure in Montreal, you have to draft centres because they’re rarely—if ever—available through trade or free agency. Rumours had been swirling in the hours leading up to the draft that Bergevin had been involved in several discussions that would’ve potentially had him trading up or even out of the first round.

Friedman reported he had tried to sway former Ottawa Senators defenceman turned Vegas Golden Knight Marc Methot to waive his no-trade clause, which has Montreal on it. He was unsuccessful in his bid.

We had reported Bergevin had his sights set on Minnesota Wild defenceman Marco Scandella, whom Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune had reported was available for a first-round pick. Bergevin was seen conversing with Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher on the draft floor moments before the action got underway.

Bergevin had also been seen conversing with Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, and reports surfaced that members of his staff and Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray’s were seen chatting in a more secluded area.

In the end, two hours and 27 minutes after the draft began, the Canadiens selected Poehling. They have five remaining picks to make in Chicago, with two of them coming in the second round. New contracts for impending unrestricted free agents Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov remain priorities for Bergevin to attend to.

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On Thursday, a report surfaced that Radulov was asking the Canadiens for a six-year contract, with an annual average salary of $7 million. We reported on Friday that Bergevin’s latest offer was for three years.

The Canadiens’ GM was asked by TVA Sports at the draft if any progress had been made on that front.

His response:

Things have been considerably quieter on the Markov front while Galchenyuk’s name continued to be the subject of trade rumours Friday, with reports linking the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks to the Canadiens. Galchenyuk’s agent Pat Brisson told TVA’s Louis Jean prior to the draft conversations have been held with Bergevin regarding a new contract for his restricted free agent client.

Many balls are still up in the air, and the potential for the Canadiens to address needs up front and on the back end—where they lost 2016 first-round pick Mikhail Sergchev, 2011 first-round pick Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin in the last week—still extends beyond whatever they haul in with their remaining picks in the draft.’

“Expect the unexpected,” Bergevin said for the second time in the past eight days, while concluding his conversation with Friedman on the draft floor.