If Russian forward Arsen Khisamutdinov ever plays for the Canadiens, the team’s equipment staff will face a big challenge trying to fit his name on the back of a sweater.
With 13 letters, including five vowels, the name is also quite a mouthful.
“The big Russian that we drafted, who wants to pronounce his name?” assistant general manager Trevor Timmins joked with reporters after the Canadiens selected the 6-foot-3, 205-pound centre 170th overall at the NHL Draft Saturday in Vancouver. “Eh? Somebody’s got to say it.”
As a sixth-round pick, Khisamutdinov is a long shot, but Timmins is hoping Canadiens fans will get to know the 21-year-old Russian’s name well in the future. He is a late bloomer who posted 26-29-55 totals in 41 games this season with Reaktor Nizhnekamsk in Russia’s MHL junior league. Khisamutdinov also played nine games with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in the KHL, posting 2-3-5 totals.
“He’s a guy that we had at our European combine in Stockholm,” Timmins said. “Our Russian scout was very high on him. We watched him on video a lot play at the KHL level and some games below. He’s a big, offensive forward that has one year left on his contract and we’re hoping to get him over here the year after this coming season.
“I don’t think a lot of people know much about him,” Timmins added. “He’s a guy that hasn’t played on the (Russian) national teams. He’s one of these late developers that if he wasn’t drafted here probably would be one of the UFAs that would be chased down by a lot of teams and then you get in line with all the other 30 teams to try and convince him to sign with your team. So we tried to take a step forward a year earlier, draft him and then sign him.”
Timmins and the Canadiens scouting staff attended the NHL Combine in Buffalo but also held two of their own combines — one in Stockholm and one in Montreal — for players who weren’t invited to Buffalo. Danish goalie Frederik Nissen, selected by the Canadiens in the fifth round (138th overall), was at the Stockholm combine, along with Khisamutdinov. The Canadiens also drafted two defencemen who attended their Montreal combine: Gianni Fairbrother (third round, 77th overall) and Jacob Leguerrier (fifth round, 126th overall).
“So that extra work gave us more info,” Timmins said.
Khisamutdinov was one of two older prospects the Canadiens selected after they were passed over at previous NHL Drafts. In the seventh round, they took 20-year-old left-winger Rafael Harvey-Pinard with the 201st overall pick after he posted 40-45-85 totals in 66 regular-season games with the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and then added 13-14-27 totals in 20 playoff games to help his team win the President’s Cup.
“If we brought him to (training) camp, we’d have to sign him,” Timmins said about the 5-foot-8, 166-pound forward. “We don’t think he’s ready to play pro next year, so instead of us getting on the back of the bus as a free agent — the same as the Russian — we wanted to use a pick and we traded for an extra pick to select him. So now he’s ours and we have next year that he can go back and play as an over-age (junior) if he doesn’t make the team. I’m not going to take that away from a player.
“I love his intensity,” Timmins added about Harvey-Pinard, the only Quebec player the Canadiens picked. “He’s got hockey sense and he has a never-die, never-quit attitude, much like our first pick last night.”
In the first round Friday night, the Canadiens selected 5-foot-7, 163-pound right-winger Cole Caufield 15th overall after he posted 72-28-100 totals in 64 games with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s U-18 team. Timmins said the Canadiens didn’t expect Caufield to still be around by the time they picked and the assistant GM was both surprised and happy he was.
The Canadiens were really hoping defenceman Jayden Struble would still be around when they picked in the second round (46th overall) and he was. The Canadiens already had a sweater prepared with Struble’s name on the back.
“Yeah, he was one of our targets, so we were happy to get him in the second round,” Timmins said about the 6-foot, 205-pound Struble, who had 10-30-40 totals in 28 games this season with St. Sebastian’s School in Needham, Mass.
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