One of the virtues (if that) of finishing last overall is to have a rough idea of where the team will be picking with their first selection. Thanks to the NHL draft lottery, the team that finishes last, while not guaranteed the first overall selection, can slip no further than third overall. This is the situation the Montreal Canadiens find themselves in heading towards the NHL draft. They hold the best odds of ‘winning’ the first overall pick and if they lose, can slip no further than third. It makes planning a pick a bit easier. Still, with the randomness of the lottery, the Montreal Canadiens draft can go in a number of different directions.
Montreal Canadiens Draft Options In The 2022 Class
The draft lottery will take place on May 10th. The league will then unveil the order to the public. The Canadiens will know where they pick and fans and media will debate about which prospect the team should take. If the Habs win the lottery and pick first overall, there is little debate over who the pick should be. If they fall, however, then there are some interesting options to consider at each pick.
If the Canadiens win the lottery, the consensus first overall pick among scouts is Kingston Frontenacs center, Shane Wright. Since he was granted exceptional status to enter the OHL as a 15-year-old, Wright has been pegged as the 2022 draft’s top prospect. As a rookie with the Frontenacs, Wright scored 39 goals and 66 points in 58 games. Unfortunately, his second season was whipped out, along with the entire OHL season, due to the COVID pandemic.
When the game started back again this year, Wright started the season pretty slow. His slow start saw his position as the top-ranked prospect come into question. Wright, however, answered any questions with a strong second half of the season. In 68 games, he scored 32 goals and 94 points. As it stands right now, there are no other prospects that are challenging Wright as the first overall pick.
Wright is a gifted offensive player. He is a pure goal scorer with a wide variety of shots. The centre can also play the role of playmaker and distribute the puck really well. Wright is also a responsible player defensively. The 18-year-old really looks like the complete package. For a full report on Wright, see Last Word on Hockey’s scouting report.
If the Habs end up picking second overall, the consensus prospect is Logan Cooley. The Pittsburgh native had a great season with the US National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad. He scored 27 goals and 75 points in 51 games this year. Cooley is the only player that could give Shane Wright a challenge as the first overall pick. He is an extremely skilled player with excellent skating ability. Cooley also excels in the defensive zone as well.
The 18-year-old represented the USA at the World Junior Championships this year, collecting one assist before the tournament was postponed due to a COVID outbreak. He did play in the U18 National Championships, leading team USA to a silver medal. Cooley was named the top forward of the tournament and was named a tournament all-star.
As it stands right now, Cooley is committed to the University of Minnesota but if he isn’t NHL ready, he is very close. That means he may get an offer to sign a pro contract to get him into the NHL right away. Check out Cooley’s full scouting report here.
Third Overall Pick
This is where the intrigue starts. There are several players the Canadiens could pick if they were to fall to the third pick. There are a number of prospects the Habs would feel comfortable selecting depending on how they value them.
The 6’4 218lbs winger from Slovakia turned a lot of heads during the 2022 Winter Olympics. Slafkovsky scored seven goals in seven games, leading Slovakia to a historic bronze medal at the tournament. He led the tournament in scoring, was named the MVP and was a tournament all-star. He followed that up with an impressive showing at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. His three goals and nine points in five games led Slovakia to a silver medal at the tournament. He is also the top-ranked European skater according to the Central Scouting’s latest rankings.
Slafkovsky’s size and scoring ability make him a very attractive prospect. He seems to have all the tools to become a dominant power forward at the NHL level. His physical gifts give him an advantage he uses in both the offensive and defensive zone. He is a big strong player that can protect the puck and possesses a hard and accurate shot. He uses his size and length to knock opponents off the puck and get into passing lanes. Still, his game does need some refinement. While his skating is not bad by any stretch, he does need to work on his first few steps and acceleration. He also needs to work on his decision-making in the offensive zone and his defensive awareness. For a full scouting report see here.
Nemec is the first defenceman on the list. Like his countryman Slafkovsky, Nemec had a tremendous year. He was on the bronze medal Olympic notching one assist during the tournament. He was also the MVP of the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament where Solivakia earned a silver medal. To go along with his international success, Nemec also performed well domestically. Playing for HK Nitra in the Slovak Extraliga – a men’s league, the 18-year-old scored one goal and 26 points in 39 games.
Nemec has already logged big minutes in a men’s league, so he could be NHL-ready. Although the level of competition in the Slovak league is not a top-tier European league, he may be served best by playing in a stronger Euro league or the AHL. Still, he has all the tools and ability to develop into a top-flight, two-way defender. With all his tools, Nemec has the potential to be a true number one franchise defenceman. For a full scouting report on Nemec, see here.
Thanks to the COVID pandemic fans of the Winnipeg Ice had to wait to see their top draft pick from 2019. The wait was worth it as Savoie scored 35 goals and 90 points in 65 games this year with the Ice. While the WHL was shut down for the 2020-21 season, Savoie played for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. The 19-year-old posted 21 goals and 38 points in 34 games. He was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team for his efforts.
Savoie is undersized at 5’9 but has high-end offensive skills. He skates well and he tries on defence. His size does become an issue in his own end as he has trouble against larger players. His high-end skill is what will make him attractive to NHL teams although he is going to need more seasoning before he is NHL ready. Savoie could develop into a top-line center at the NHL level if he develops. For a full scouting report, see here.
Joakim Kemell has been a late riser in pre-draft rankings as of late. This is due to a strong showing at the U-18 World Hockey Championships. He scored six goals and eight points in five games helping Finland capture a bronze medal at the tournament. The strong tournament showing came on the heels of a strong rookie season with JYP in the SM Liiga. He led all rookies with 15 goals (totalled 23 points) in 39 games.
Kemell is a work in progress. He has several areas of his game he needs to work on. His skating is fine but needs improvement. His size (5’11, 176 lbs) makes it hard for him to contain bigger players. Still, these are all correctable issues with the right coaching. One thing Kemell can do very well is score goals. That is something that can’t be taught. Kemell will need more seasoning in Europe and then the AHL before he is ready for the NHL. Still, with his ability to put the puck in the net if he adds some muscle and improves his skating, he could be a dynamic player. For a full scouting report, see here.
Montreal Canadiens Draft Options
With the Habs guaranteed to pick in the top three, there are several ways the team can go. Despite there being no generational talent in the draft, there are quality players there. If they slip past second overall, the Montreal Canadiens draft gets very interesting. There are several players the Habs could pick at three. Along with the names listed, there are other prospects like David Jiricek, Brad Lambert, Conor Geekie and Jonathan Lekkerimaki the Habs might consider at the third pick. With such a range of opinions on the prospects, there have already been a lot of conversations about who to take. The debates over who to pick will only intensify once the Montreal Canadiens draft position is revealed Tuesday at the draft lottery.
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