Forty-two years later, we are still talking in Montreal about the first overall choice missed by the Canadian, Doug Wickenheiser to the detriment of Denis Savard.
Wickenheiser was a nearly unanimous choice, however, having amassed 170 points, including 89 goals, in just 71 games with the Regina Pats.
So you guess that while Shane Wright remains the consensus No. 1 favorite in the 2022 draft, Kent Hughes, Jeff Gorton and their scouts are going to be flipping every rock to make sure Wright is the best possible pick for the organization because otherwise , we risk talking about it again in 2062…
*Due to the lottery result, analysis of the top draft prospects by position will be pushed back one day. Thursday, the wingers, Friday, the defenders.
“The Canadian has no choice but to draft Shane Wright” or “the Canadian will not be able to afford to trade his first choice because the draft is taking place in Montreal”, we hear since yesterday.
The Canadian has every right to prefer another player, as he has every right to draft Shane Wright in first place.
Is it really a lack of respect towards the young man to explore all possible avenues before deciding? Isn’t that disrespecting other candidates?
It is important to remember that we are in 2022, not 2023, where Connor Bédard is a unanimous choice.
Doubt remains healthy and an important weapon for an organization. No one would have dared to exclude Nolan Patrick from the top five in 2017 after his 102 points in 72 games season at 17, a year before his eligibility year. Scouts who chose Cale Makar, a Junior A defenseman in Alberta, would have been called nuts for the No. 1 pick. Patrick wouldn’t be chosen until the end of the first round today and Makar is considered the best player on the planet.
Alexis Lafrenière was unanimously ranked first in 2020: “Sixty guaranteed points in his first season, an analyst on TV dared to say”. Almost no one would have dared to question this judgment. Daring to choose Tim Stützle, Lucas Raymond, Anton Lundell, Jamie Drysdale or even Jake Sanderson before him would have provoked ridicule.
The young man still has time to become the best player in his vintage. But a questioning would seem less ridiculous today if it had to be done again. Jeff Gorton knows it even better today since he was in charge of the Rangers that year.
No one doubted in 2009 when Louis Leblanc was still available at No. 18. The Bell Center was packed and the crowd was already chanting his name. Leblanc was a logical and consensual choice. Imagine the reaction if the team had announced, taking the microphone: “The Montreal Canadiens are proud to select, from Andover High School, Massachusetts…Chris Kreider!” “. Can you hear the boos from here?
Also in 2009, who would have dared to draft defenseman Victor Hedman before John Tavares, with his 104 points in 56 games and waited for several years?
The work is just beginning for Jeff Gorton, Kent Hughes and his group.
The Canadian junior series are not over. Kingston, Shane Wright’s side, who added two assists yesterday in a 6-3 loss, are down two games to one against North Bay. In the West, Winnipeg leads 2-1 against Moose Jaw, though Conor Geekie and Matthew Savoie don’t seem to pose a threat to Wright up front.
Gorton, Hughes and company are leaving for Finland this week for a specific reason. The Ice Hockey World Championship begins on Friday.
They will be watching three players in particular, Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky who, despite a below average hockey IQ, strikes the imagination with his size at 6 feet 4 inches and 218 pounds, his speed and his hands, and two right-handed defenders, Slovak Simon Nemec and Czech David Jiricek.
A major snag in the rating though, many of their performances will be difficult to rate. Slovakia will face Canada and Switzerland, but also France, Italy, Germany, Kazakhstan, Denmark…
The Czech Republic and Jiricek will have more worthy opponents with the United States, Sweden, Finland, but the meetings against England, Latvia and Austria will be to be taken with a grain of salt.
Hughes, you guessed it, will take an active part in this draft, without clipping the wings of his hockey men. But he’ll have to play devil’s advocate and keep his scouts on his heels: Does Shane Wright have greater development potential than Cooley, for example? Can he become the number one center that the majority of observers intend him to be? Are you absolutely sure Jiricek won’t be the next Moritz Seider?
The GM of the Canadian has a sure eye and he will be an asset. Many NHL teams are biting their fingers for not choosing their foals sooner: Patrice Bergeron, second round in 2003; Kris Letang, third round in 2005; Drake Batherson, fourth round in 2017.
It seems that he also strongly suggested to a friend in the middle in 2011 not to miss this kid from the USHL, big as a nail, but talented as not one. His friend didn’t listen to him, nor did the other clubs, and Johnny Gaudreau, who was not his client, was finally drafted 104th overall by Calgary…
Between now and the draft, Kent Hughes will do everything to sow doubt. It would be frowned upon to reveal his game since he must remain open to all types of scenarios. Displaying his intentions would take away his bargaining power.
Perhaps, no doubt, when the meetings are over, the players analyzed from top to bottom, the Canadian will opt for Shane Wright. And will this provide CH with a very promising center line for the next ten years with Nick Suzuki.
But Hughes won’t make his pick to please the fans on draft day. And it’s totally healthy like that.
Back when he was still GM of the Chicago Blackhawks, Stan Bowman expected his team to have a much better season, especially with the acquisition of a number one defenseman, Seth Jones. That’s why he didn’t hesitate, in addition to selling young defenseman Adam Boqvist, 8th overall pick in 2018, and reversing the first-round picks in 2021 with Columbus from 11th to 31st, to give his choice of first round in 2022.
But the Hawks had another season of misery. They were sixth in the lottery standings and Bowman’s successors were eagerly hoping to win one of the top two prizes since they would have had the “luxury” of transferring that 2022 top pick to 2023 as a result.
But Chicago didn’t win and must trade its sixth overall pick to Columbus in July. We could also see the beaming smile of the GM of the Blue Jackets, Jarmo Kekalainen, when the Hawks logo appeared on the card held by Bill Daly.
In the end, Columbus gets the 13th overall pick in 2021 (Cole Sillinger, already in the NHL at 18), the 6th overall pick in 2022, Adam Boqvist, 21, 22 points in 51 games in Columbus this winter, a 2021 second-round pick (assigned to the Hurricanes for 23-year-old defenseman Jake Bean, 25 points in 67 games, 20:34 OT) against Seth Jones, the 31st pick in 2021 (Nolan Allan) and a sixth-round pick.
1- Alexandre Pratt looks back on this historic Canadian win in the draft lottery, with some caveats!
2- Richard Labbé summarizes the crazy evening of the Canadian.
3- Justine Dufour-Lapointe gets back on her feet wisely after her Olympic disappointment. Katherine Harvey-Pinard spoke to him.