The Montreal Canadiens not only host the NHL Draft in July, but they will have the chance to be the headliners after winning Tuesday night’s draft.
The Canadiens retain the first-choice right, a bright spot after a turbulent season in which they changed coaches, overhauled their front office, finished last overall and, most recently, mourned the death of former star Guy Lafleur.
“I can only imagine the anticipation, excitement and interest building up for the Montreal Canadiens,” general manager Kent Hughes said of the city and the fan base that lives and breathes. essentially “Blue White and Red” all year round. “You hope as an organization that you don’t pick the No. 1 overall too often, but when you’re in that situation it’s pretty special.”
The New Jersey Devils’ lottery luck continued, winning the second of two lottery draws to move from fifth to second place. It’s the fourth time the Devils have won the lottery since 2011, earning them the No. 1 picks in 2017 and 2019.
“Adding another centerpiece to our squad on the road is all every team wants to keep doing, and it will allow us to do that,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said of a team that missed out. the playoffs in nine of his last 10 seasons. “So who this player may be, no idea at the moment, but we’re delighted to have hit the lottery.”
The Devils’ win moved Arizona second to third, Seattle to fourth and Philadelphia to fifth. The remaining places 6-16 remained unchanged based on where the teams finished in the standings.
The last 16 spots in the draft order will be determined by where the teams finish the playoffs.
This year’s top draft prospect is considered Ontario Hockey League center Shane Wright, who is ranked first among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
Wright, who is from Burlington, Ont., and plays for the Kingston Frontenacs, has the opportunity to become the first OHL player drafted first since Edmonton picked Connor McDavid with the No. 1 pick in 2015. Wright averaged 1.49 points per game while finishing with 32 goals and 62 assists in 63 regular-season outings this season.
Wright said he couldn’t watch the draw because he was preparing to play in a playoff game.
The Slovak Juraj Slafkovsky is ranked first among international hopefuls. He scored seven goals to win the MVP title at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February and help Slovakia win bronze, the country’s first Olympic ice hockey medal. The 6-foot-3 winger has a shot at becoming the highest-drafted Slovakian-born player after Marian Gaborik was picked third by Minnesota in 2000.
The top US-born prospect is Logan Cooley from the USA Development Program and ranked second among North American skaters. He’s from the Pittsburgh area.
Montreal had the best chance of winning the No. 1 pick — but only 18.5% — and became the 10th team to finish last and retain the top pick since the NHL introduced the lottery in 1995.
The Canadiens have waited a long time to host the draft, scheduled for July 7-8. Montreal was originally scheduled to host the event in 2020, but the last two drafts were held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hughes said it was too early to tell which player the Canadiens might target. A former officer, Hughes started the job January 19, replacing Marc Bergevin. Hughes also revamped the front office, firing coach Dominique Ducharme in February and replacing him with Martin Saint Louis, who maintains the interim coaching tag.
The Canadiens went from the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, which they lost in five games to Tampa Bay, to a 22-49-11 result – the franchise’s fewest wins in more than 60 games.
Montreal becomes the first team to host the draft and have the first pick since Toronto in 1985, when the Maple Leafs selected Wendel Clark.
The draft lottery also settled two top-16 picks.
Chicago’s No. 6 selection will go to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the trade in which the Blackhawks acquired Seth Jones last summer. The Blue Jackets will also pick No. 12.
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