Habsent Minded 4.63 (feat. David St-Louis): Part 1 — Why Shane Wright?

Elite Prospects has earned a reputation as a great source of scouting knowledge about each year’s draft class, and their annual draft guide is a must-read. In the latest episode of Habsent Minded, Elite Prospects writer and Eyes On The Prize alumnus David St-Louis joins host Patrik Bexell to discuss the NHL Entry Draft class of 2022.

Patrick Bexell, european correspondent: We first had David St-Louis on the podcast about five years ago, to discuss that year’s draft. I’ve been asking for a repeat appearance ever since, as has the audience. I finally managed to trick David into joining us once more, this time to see what Montreal Canadians must do with the first overall pick.

David, your work, and that of the entire team at Elite Prospects, is incredible and it shows in the Draft Guide that was just released. [on June 15th]. It is an absolute treasure.

David StLouis, Elite Prospects NHL and Prospect Writer: Thank you. I am very happy to be here. I don’t do a lot of podcasts, but if you ask me for a while, I usually say yes. (giggles) I would say that five years is the deadline.

Patrick: Let’s dig into your brain a bit. In the Montreal situation, we have had advocates and rumors about [Juraj] Slafkovsky, [Logan] Cooley, and even Elite Prospects has [David Jiříček] in second. But through it all, Shane Wright still seems like the number one overall pick, right?

David: Yes. He is still for us. The way we do our ranking is we all vote for the top 10 prospects, and every time [throughout the year] we did that exercise, Shane Wright came out on top. So naturally he is our clear number one. There was a time [Wright’s position] was more up for debate, but that was from November to January. After that period, Wright’s performance improved and there was no one who could challenge him.

We talk about other players. We talked about Slafkovský, Jiříček (but then he got injured), but Shane Wright was the only one who was always in the conversation. I think we’re more confident about Wright than other outlets, it’s not like they’re not justified in their rankings and their decision to have other people in that top overall position, it just, to us, was pretty clear Shane Wright.

Patrick: What makes Shane Wright the first overall pick?

David: He has a complete game, has the biggest upside and comes with the most certainty in this draft class. Yeah, he’s a center, so there’s a little bit of added value from his position, but we don’t overemphasize that. These things in themselves make it easy for us to place him at number one, but beyond that, he also has a lot of skill. Even just in terms of skill, he outclasses a lot of players in this draft class. We project his skating, puckhandling and shooting to be above NHL average after five years, so I think he’ll be a scorer. Add to that his defensive game and his offensive awareness, and he really is the complete package.

The really special thing that sets him apart from the others is his play off the puck. He’s the best in this draft class when it comes to the ability to position himself, to anticipate puck rotations, to anticipate the moves of his teammates and the opposition. This allows him to support his teammates and kill the opposition’s plays. His hockey sense scored highest in this draft class, and that goes into his anticipation, his ability to process the game and his ability to adapt and pressure. That hockey sense, coupled with his above-average physical abilities, is a pretty safe bet.

Patrick: Many of the other top-ranked players in this year’s draft class have the option to play in top-tier professional leagues other than the NHL if they don’t make it to the NHL. Wright, on the other hand, only has the NHL or the CHL as options. Will that hurt him, either because it slows his development or because teams may prefer prospects with more immediate impact?

David: It’s hard to predict, but I don’t think it matters too much. Wright, as an NHL player next season, just has to learn to play the NHL beat. Many people have talked about Wright’s “engine” and his pace of play, and the same has been said about Nick Suzuki. That’s the only thing Wright will have to learn when he gets to the NHL because the rest of his game is pretty much NHL-ready, and he was playing the kind of game, at the end of this season, that would work in the NHL. . If he joins the NHL next year, I’m not sure if he’ll produce much or not, but I’m not worried about his ability to survive and even thrive in some games against weaker lineups.

Slafkovský really thrives when the team revolves around him; when he gets 20 minutes a night and a lot of puck touches, when they use him as the team’s main striker, the [puck carrying] Forward. We saw that in the world championships. [with Slovakia], but he won’t get that in the NHL in the first year, and I think that’s my real problem with him. He’s got the physique, he can play the hockey system, he can sit in front of the net and wreak havoc and protect the goalie, he can play on the boards and his passing game is good enough to be an NHL player in the first year. But he is not as adaptable as Shane Wright. He will need a proper setup for him to be successful. Looking at what we know about [Montreal’s] track record for next year, I’m not sure I’m going to get [that setup] from the beginning.

Ultimately, I think you can make a case that both Wright and Slafkovský are NHL ready. But going back to Wright, he could still go back to junior and it would be useful for development because he needs to work on being the main playmaker, meaning take a page out of Slafkovský’s playbook, take the puck and really take charge. learn how to manipulate defenders and create plays for teammates even more, like Nick Suzuki does. He does all of these things, but not as consistently as he could, and that extra year in the OHL could really help teach him that.

Stay tuned for part two, coming soon, when Patrik and David discuss the other key names at the top of the draft standings, including a pair of Central European defenders and this year’s top USHL prospect.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length. The full, unedited conversation that serves as the source for all parties is available below.

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