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No Lecavalier deal but Canadiens still make fans happy at NHL draft

MONTREAL - The NHL draft passed without the eye-popping deal for a star like Vincent Lecavalier that some expected, but the Montreal Canadiens made their fans happy just the same.

They started by taking a French-Canadian in the first round for the first time since 1998 when they selected centre Louis Leblanc with the 18th overall pick on Friday night.

And as the draft was winding down on Saturday, they reached out for gritty centre Gabriel Dumont of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Drummondville Voltigeurs, to a roar from fans in the Bell Centre seats, in the fifth round.

"He's a heart and soul player," Canadiens scouting director Trevor Timmins said of Dumont. "He went through the playoffs and the Memorial Cup on one shoulder."

The five-foot-nine 170-pound Dumont had 28 goals and 21 assists in 51 games while skating on the Voltigeurs' third line this season. He is more of a battler than a skill player, and is sometimes compared to Max Talbot, the small but feisty forward for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

And Timmins said his skating is better than he gets credit for.

"He'll find a way to play in the NHL," Timmins said.

The Canadiens had traded away their second round pick, but used two third-rounders to grab big centre Joonas Nattinen from Espoo Blues in Finland and rushing defenceman Mac Bennett, a high school player from Connecticut.

Timmins is high on the six-foot-two Nattinen, even though he was projected to go in the second round but was passed over by the other 29 teams.

"He played on the top power play at the world juniors," Timmins said. "He's a big centre and that's what we're looking for. He'll be a big man when he finishes growing."

Bennett is a quick, rushing defenceman who styles himself after Washington Capitals rearguard Mike Green. He expects to play at Michigan in the fall, although the junior Gatineau Olympiques are also angling for his services.

The Canadiens hope they found another sleeper in the fourth round in six-foot-two right winger Alexander Avtsin, who led the Russian second division last season with 56 goals and 54 assists. Timmins said he may have slipped through the scouting net because he did not play for Russia at the world under-18 championships.

Another six-foot-two centre, Dustin Walsh, who played in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, came in the sixth round.

In the seventh and last round, the Canadiens took centre Michael Cichy of the USHL, who is to play with Habs prospect Danny Kristo at North Dakota next season.

Then they made a deal with Pittsburgh to get the 210th and final pick in the draft and used it to get six-foot-six goalie Petteri Simila of Finland, who Timmins said comes from the same program that produced Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.

"I can't pinpoint one guy, but there's a couple of potential home runs we've hit with these Europeans," he said. "They probably slipped a little because of their nationality."


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