Habs concentrate on defence at draft

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Nathan Beaulieu from Strathroy, Ont. skates during practice at the national junior hockey team development camp in St. John's last August. The Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs defenceman was the Montreal Canadiens's first pick in Friday's NHL Entry Draft and the first of five rearguards the team selected total. Canadian Press file photo

Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier again loaded up on defencemen at the NHLentry draft on Saturday. After picking Saint John Sea Dogs defenceman Nathan Beaulieu in the first round Friday, the Canadiens selected four other defencemen on Day 2 Saturday.

"The second day is all about looking at players you can develop," Gauthier said. "The one common thread among the players we selected is that all have good hockey sense."

The Canadiens didn't have a pick in the second round and Gauthier raised some eyebrows when he traded his third-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets for two fourth-round picks.

"We felt there were a lot of good players available and, while they wouldn't be the same player who was available in the third round, there were players we liked."

The Canadiens started their day by selecting defenceman Josiah Didier from Cedar Rapids in the United States Hockey League at No. 97 overall. The six-foot-two, 199-pounder is headed to Denver University in the fall.

"We feel he a tremendous upside and he's going to a strong college program," Gauthier said.

Next up at No. 108 was Olivier Archambault, a left-winger who scored 20 goals and had 33 assists with Val d'Or last season. The Repentigny, Que., native is a former No. 1 overall pick in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft. He's on the small side at five-foot-10 but, Gauthier noted: "He has skills you can't take away from him."

Archambault said he'll spend the next two years in junior working on his strength and playing better defence. "I know that I have to be good defensively if I want to play in the NHL."

The Canadiens picked Swedish defenceman Magnus Nygren at No. 113. The six-foot-one, 191-pounder had four goals and 11 assists in 22 games with Farjestad.

"He's 21 and he played on the first power play with one of the best teams in Europe at a young age," Gauthier said. "Our scout in Europe feels he can make the transition to the North American game very quickly sometime in the next few years."

The Canadiens selected six-foot-one, 193-pound defenceman Darren Dietz from the Saskatoon Blades in the fifth round. He had eight goals and 19 assists in 68 games last season.

"Dietz is an interesting story because he's a first-year junior and he was a top-four defenceman for one of the top junior teams in Canada and he worked his way up to the first power play."

The Canadiens selected six-foot-three, 198-pound centre Daniel Pribyl in the sixth round. He had 27 goals and 31 assists in 41 games with the Sparta junior team in the Czech Republic.

"It's always good to have a big centre in your organization," said Gauthier, who said that Pribyl might play in Shawinigan next fall.

The Canadiens' final pick in the seventh round was six-foot-one, 196-pound defenceman Colin Sullivan from Avon Old Farms prep school in Connecticut. That's the same school that produced ex-Hab Christopher Higgins, and he'll continue to follow Higgins when he enrols at Yale University in 2012.

"It's hard to judge high school players because they don't play a lot of game, but we feel he has an upside," said Gauthier.


Organizations: Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets, United States Hockey League Denver University Quebec Major Junior Hockey League NHL North American Avon Old Farms prep school Yale University

Geographic location: ST. PAUL, Minnesota, Cedar Rapids, Europe Repentigny Canada Czech Republic Shawinigan Connecticut

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