Montreal Canadiens continue to focus on defence on Day 2 of NHL draft

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ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Montreal Canadiens had to wait a while to get into the action on Day 2 of the NHL draft, but once they got going the focus stayed on the blue-line.

After taking Saint John Sea Dogs defenceman Nathan Beaulieu with the 17th pick in the first round on Friday, the Habs waited until early in the fourth round to make their next selection on Saturday.

When the dust settled, five of Montreal's seven picks at the draft were defencemen, a clear indication the Habs feel they need to get younger on the back end.

Apart from P.K. Subban, the Canadiens have an aging defence with the likes of Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill and Andrei Markov, although in recent weeks the club signed defence prospects Rafael Diaz and Alexei Yemelin.

Defenceman Josiah Didier of Cedar Rapids (USHL) went to the Canadiens at No. 97 and Val d'Or Foreurs left-winger Olivier Archambault was taken 11 picks later.

Montreal then added 21-year-old defenceman Magnus Nygren of Sweden's Farjestad at No. 113.

Genera manager Pierre Gauthier, who has a history of drafting older Europeans such as Swiss rearguard Mark Streit in 2005, said Nygren will stay with Farjestad next season and then a decision will be made whether to bring him to North America.

"He's three years older than the others in the draft, but he played for a team that won the Swedish league title and he played on the first defence pair and the power play, so he has a certain level of talent," said Gauthier.

Didier, a six-foot-two, 199-pounder from Littleton, Colo., had eight goals and 13 assists in 58 games for Cedar Rapids last season.

The five-foot-10, 170-pound Archambault scored 20 goals and added 33 assists in 65 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2010-'11.

The fifth round saw the Canadiens select defenceman Darren Dietz of the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades at No. 138 before taking Czech centre Daniel Pribyl in the sixth round at No. 168.

Montreal completed its 2011 draft by nabbing Connecticut high school defenceman Colin Sullivan in the seventh round with the 198th pick.

"The way we look at the process is that you look at how far you can take the players in their development," added Gauthier. "Hopefully you take them to the point where they become not only NHL players but good NHL players. But the key word is development and it starts now."

Many scouts had Beaulieu ranked much higher than 17th, but Gauthier just laughed and said even Sullivan was probably ranked higher.

"This year we believed that at 17th we would get a good player," he said. ''We didn't know which one we were going to get. There were a lot after the first seven or eight who were the same calibre and Mr. Beaulieu was one of them."



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