Montreal Canadiens' Saturday picks 'surreal' for young draftees

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MONTREAL -- Eight players had stars in their eyes Saturday as Montreal locked in their NHL draft picks:

  •  Forward Riley Kidney (63rd overall)
  •  Forward Oliver Kapanen (64th overall)
  •  Defenseman Dmitri Kostenko (87th overall)
  •  Defenseman William Trudeau (113th overall)
  •  Defenseman Daniil Sobolev (142nd overall)
  •  Forward Joshua Roy (150th overall)
  •  Forward Xavier Simoneau (191st overall)
  •  Goalie Joe Vrbetic (214th overall)

Riley Kidney of the Quebec Junior Hockey League's Acadie-Bathurst Titan joined the Canadiens prospect pool at the end of the second round, picked 63rd overall.

The five-foot-11, 168-pound centre said being drafted was "a dream come true."He’s been to the playoffs twice in his home country, offering two goals and four assists over 48 games in the 2019-2020 season.

He’ll stay on with the Windsor Spitfires, with whom he has yet to play a game, until he’s called to Montreal.

“I know Montreal is a beautiful city,” he said, according to his interpreter.

"It kind of feels surreal right now. My phone's blowing up," he said, silencing a call. "Words can't describe how I feel right now."

“When I was younger, I was always watching them,” he said.

It's a Canadian team. It's a historic franchise.”

For those unacquainted with the young player, he described his playstyle as “aggressive,” adding that he takes tips from Mitch Marner and Montreal’s own Nick Suzuki.

“They both have great vision. When I watch them, I try to model my game off of them.”

Oliver Kapenen, who followed Kidney’s pick, didn’t hide his excitement to join Montreal.

“I can't believe it happened,” he said, speaking to reporters via video conference.

“I'm feeling good right now,” he said, adding fans can expect him to make plays with or without the puck.

Kapanen is the cousin of Kasperi Kapanen, who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played for the Kalevan Pallo junior team in Finland, recording 41 points in 37 games. He also represented Finland at the World Under-18 Championship.

William Trudeau, a Quebecer himself, “jumped with joy” when he heard his name.

Trudeau joined the Charlottetown Islanders as a defenseman in 2019 and has played 98 games with the franchise. So far, he’s scored 12 regular season goals and eight more in the playoffs.

He promised the team “won’t regret their pick.”

Russian-born Sobolov, who responded to reporter questions with the aid of a Russian-language interpreter, has never been to Montreal.

Another Quebecer was next in line – Joshua Roy said he was playing softball with his family when he heard the news. 

“Everybody came running to tell me that I was picked by Montreal in the sixth round. It was fun to experience that moment with them. I left the game because I was too excited.”

The 17-year-old made the QMJHL playoffs most-recently with the Sherbrooke Phoenix, scoring once and assisting three times, with 13 goals in his back pocket from the regular season.

“I've been following the Canadiens since I was a kid,” he told reporters. “It's also an honor for my parents and my grandparents because they're big fans of the Canadiens, too.”

The third Quebecer to be called to the Bleu Blanc Rouge was Xavier Simoneau.

Simoneau, who stands at 5’7”, brought the Drummondville Voltigeurs to the QMJHL playoffs three times since 2017.

Most recently, he pushed 10 goals and 27 assists in 27 regular season games.

“It's a dream to be drafted,” he said. “I feel like a kid. I was really moved and happy.”

Dmitri Kostenko and Joe Vrbetic did not give interviews after their picks. 

Kostenko, another Russian-born player, represented his country twice in the international junior team before joining the grown-up league. He's had two playoff runs in Russia's U18 and MHL providing 2 goals and 22 assists after 18 playoff games. 

Ontarian goalie Joe Vrbetic logged a .881 save percentage with the OHL North Bay Battalion across 42 games last year.  

-- With files from Canadian Press Reporter Gemma Karstens-Smith