Canadiens: conversations with the newest draft picks

By Dan Linn

In Montreal, fans are still buzzing about the selections
made at this year’s draft, one of the deepest in several years. 
With the development camp already underway, most of the recent picks are
in Montreal getting their first taste of an NHL camp. 
Here’s an in-depth look at a few of the newest prospects, Cory
Urquhart, Corey Locke and Jimmy Bonneau
including their draft-day reactions.

Cory Urquhart

The native of Halifax was taken early in the second round,
40th overall, but with the ever present media pressure in Montreal,
he will have to show fans why Savard and company picked the tall center earlier
then armchair experts expected.  Playing
in the Habs back yard for the Montreal Rocket of the QMJHL, Urquhart should
be no stranger to the high expectations placed on hockey players in the great
city.  He’s even learned French
from his teammates, over the year and half he’s been in Montreal. 

When asked about being drafted by the Canadiens, he
responded, “Yeah, it’s like a dream come true. 
For every kid growing up in Canada, it’s always the Canadiens. 
Not just every kid in Canada, but throughout the hockey world.cerun:
yes”>  It’s the most successful team in the history of hockey,
with all the Stanley Cups they’ve won.  It’s
a great history with the team. I’m so
excited right now, I can’t even explain it. 
It’s a dream come true.” 

What the Habs are in need of is high-scoring centers with
size, and what they got when they drafted Urquhart was just that. 
When asked about what skills he can bring to the organization, he said,
“I think my biggest skill is my offensive ability. 
I had 35 goals this year, and I had chances at a lot more. 
I’m a big center that makes his linemates better. 
I’m a smart player that can do the job defensively just as well as
anybody–I was always playing against the top line. 
I know how to deceive the other team, and I know how to get into position
to score goals, and, when I have the chance, I usually do.” 

To reach the NHL level he will need to be solid in both
ends of the rink, not just on offense.  When
asked about his two-way play, he added, “I’m more offensive than defensive.  My defense could still use work, so I’m definitely more of
an offensive center.  First line
guy, top two-line guy, someone who is going to put points on the board.” 

It’s common for young goal scorers to have holes in their
defensive game, so he’ll have a few years to work on this playing for ex-Habs
coach Alain Vigneault.  When asked
what he needs to work on, he replied, “I think I just need to get stronger,
physically, and improve my skating a little. 
That will come with the right teaching, and a little more maturity. 
So, pretty much that, just get a little stronger — I’ve got the height
and the size – just put on a little more weight, and get stronger without
losing any of my other qualities as a hockey player.” 
Getting stronger will indeed benefit him, as players in the NHL are
getting bigger and faster all the time, so to contain his man down low (which
will be his job as a center in Montreal’s defensive system) and break free
along the boards, added strength and bulk will come in handy.


Corey Locke

In the fourth round, the Habs took a chance on Corey Locke,
at 113th overall, a pick they traded Oleg Petrov to the Nashville
Predators for.  The CHL player of
the year, Locke had a very impressive season playing for the Ottawa 67’s of
the OHL.  Locke was eligible to be
drafted in the ’02 draft, but due to injuries and so-so numbers, he decided to
wait a year. 

Even though he racked up the points this season, his size,
skating, and one of the deepest drafts in over a decade, Locke was left out of
the first three rounds even though he was named the top junior player in all of
Canada.  When asked about this he replied,  “Just happy right now. 
Just happy to be drafted by Montreal. 
It’s a great feeling going early today, just to get it over with. 
There weren’t as many nerves today as there were yesterday. 
So, it’s a real good experience, and I’m thrilled to be drafted right

By drafting Locke, the Habs added another high scoring
center, but one that must overcome his small stature and lack of quick feet. 
Still he knows how to produce on offense, and when asked about what
skills he brings to the Habs, he responded, “Offensive skills, I believe;
I’m more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer. 
Just some energy up front, I think, to get in there with a little hunger
around the net.  Hopefully I bring a
little scoring touch there.” 

Montreal can certainly use more fire power on offense, so
adding Locke was a gamble but with a solid prospect group already in place, it
was a gamble management can afford to take.   
He was asked about his future plans, where he said, “Going back for the
summer.  I’ll be back in Ottawa
next year, and working out in the summer.  I’ll
also be going to the Montreal camp, as well as the Team Canada camp, so it
should be pretty interesting.”

Jimmy Bonneau

When the Habs took Bonneau in the eighth round, 241st
overall, they knew what they were getting, a tough fighter who will drop the
gloves with anyone.  Playing for the
Montreal Rocket, under ex-Habs coach Vigneault, Bonneau brings a tough physical
game, but he’s learning to do more then just fight. 

When asked to describe his game, he replied, “I think
I’m a tough guy.  I can drop the
gloves against anyone in the Q league. If I have to do that in the NHL I think I
can do that too.   I’m also a
hockey player.  I have a limited
talent and skill, but if I want I can play a tough game. Go in front of the net,
take some shots.  Play in a system. 
Do what I have to do.  But
first of all I am a tough guy who protects the smaller guys like Lapierre and
Urquhart drafted by Montreal in the second round, they are my teammates in the
season.  If someone slashes them or
something like that I go drop the gloves or just talk.” 
One thing the Habs are sorely lacking is tough wingers that will stick up
for their teammates and drop the gloves, adding Bonneau will fill that need. 

Bonneau didn’t produce much on the score sheet, but he
brings a lot of other intangibles that can’t be found on a stat sheet. 
When asked about what he needs to work on to make the NHL someday, he
said, “For sure.  My toughness I
can go up with, but I have to improve my skating, continue to improve my skills.
My skating is the first thing I need to improve. 
Play more, play on a regular shift, be in good shape, try to score some

Playing on the fourth line mostly, around five to six
minutes a night, Bonneau picked up 1 goal and 6 points, but got into 23 fights
with his limited ice time.  What
goals does he have for next season? “My goal for next year is to have 5 or 10
goals, play on a regular shift, 12 or 15 minutes per game.” 

Hopefully he can reach his goals next season, but you can
count on one thing, their will be scouts and fans from the Habs organization
watching closely, since the Habs now have four prospects on the same team, (Lambert,
Urquhart, Lapierre, Bonneau).  Management
must have seen something they liked in the rookie, although they didn’t talk to
him prior to drafting him. “No, I know they are often in the stands watching
the Rocket.  Every time I thought oh
maybe they will draft me because they see me all the time. But they didn’t
talk to me.  I’m really happy.”

With Urquhart, Locke and Bonneau, the Habs made some young
kids happy to be a part of the storied franchise, while adding size, skill and
toughness from just three picks.