The 2022 NHL draft is not short on talent and unpredictability

The Canadians not only have the top pick in the draft, which begins with the first round on Thursday (7 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS), but they’re also hosting the event at the Bell Centre.

For the first time since 2019, the draft will take place in person with fans in the arena. The 2020 and 2021 NHL Drafts were held virtually due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“I think it’s exciting for us as a management group and certainly exciting for us as an organization,” Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said. “I remember the last time the draft was in Montreal (2009), and it was packed. That’s not the case everywhere in the draft, so especially when we own the first pick, I can only imagine the buildup of anticipation. “. , excitement and interest in the Montreal Canadiens.

“You hope, as an organization, not to pick No. 1 overall too often, but when he’s in that situation, he’s pretty special.”

The NHL Draft will be held in Montreal for the 27th time, the most of any NHL city. The Canadiens have made the top pick five times, the most of any NHL team. Rounds 2-7 of the draft will be Friday (11 am ET; NHLN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS).

Montreal is the first team to host the draft and pick No. 1 since the Toronto Maple Leafs selected forward Wendel Clark in the 1985 NHL Draft at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The big question is, what will the Canadians do with the first pick? Shane Wright (6-foot, 199 pounds), a right-handed center with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, was ranked No. 1 in the NHL Central Scouting rankings of 2022 draft-eligible North American skaters all season and is the best projected option.

The Canadiens haven’t said whether they’ll select Wright, or maybe Juraj Slavkovsky (6-4 229), a TPS left winger in Liiga, Finland, who is No. 1 in Central Scouting’s final international skater rankings, or possibly change selection.

[RELATED: Complete coverage of 2022 NHL Draft | Canadiens undecided on No. 1 pick]

And the drama doesn’t stop there. The New Jersey Devils own the second pick in the draft, and there have been several reports that they possibly traded to No. 1 or fell back in the draft.

Arizona Coyotes (No. 3), Seattle Kraken (4), Philadelphia Flyers (5), Columbus Blue Jackets (6), Ottawa Senators (7), Detroit Red Wings (8), Buffalo Sabers (9), and Anaheim Ducks (10) complete the top 10.

The Coyotes have three first-round picks (Nos. 3, 27, 32), as do the Sabers (Nos. 9, 16 and 28). The Canadiens (Nos. 1, 26), Ducks (Nos. 10, 22), Blue Jackets (Nos. 6, 12), Winnipeg Jets (Nos. 14, 30) and Minnesota Wild (Nos. 19, 24) have each one two.

The fact that there are several top-tier players in the draft adds even more intrigue.

“I think the part that we’re going to see, and you’re going to hear, is that there are a lot of players that have a similar projection, a similar edge, different positions and that’s what’s going to make this decision difficult,” said Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “There’s no slam dunk. There are a lot of really good hockey players that we can add to our stables, so it’s a good deal.”

New Jersey has selected a player eight times with a top-two pick, most recently center jack hughes (No. 1, 2019 NHL Draft).

Wright remained No. 1 in Central Scouting’s North American Skaters rankings throughout the season despite missing more than 13 months of competitive hockey. He played in the 2021 IIHF U-18 World Championship, scoring 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in five games while serving as first-place captain of Canada. The OHL canceled its 2020-21 season due to COVID-19.

“I think it would be very special to be drafted by Montreal,” said Wright, who was born in Ontario. “First of all, it’s the dream come true of just being drafted, and then being drafted first overall by a franchise in such an amazing city with that kind of fan base and the history around that organization would be quite amazing. Definitely a life for a lifetime.” dream come true for sure”.

Wright was eighth in the OHL with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) and had 28 power-play points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 63 regular season games.

“He plays a strong two-way game with professional structure and habits and has an excellent shot with an unpredictable release that can beat goaltenders from any angle,” said Joey Tenute of NHL Central Scouting. “Shane is the definition of a hockey player and he will be a franchise player in the NHL.”

Slafkovsky was born in Slovakia but has lived and played in Finland for the last three seasons.

He was named the Most Valuable Player at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Still 17 years old (he turned 18 on March 30), Slafkovsky scored a tournament-high seven goals in seven games to help Slovakia win the Olympics medal. bronze, his first Olympic men’s hockey medal. With his seven points tied for the tournament lead, he led Slovakia with 24 shots on goal and averaged 15:50 of time on the ice despite being the youngest player in the tournament.

“Juraj is a physically mature forward who already plays a mature game at the professional level and what stands out most about him is his continued improvement and development over the course of the season,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Scouting. “He is like a sponge, he absorbs the game and adapts his game to the level of the game. He has the potential to develop together with players like Alexander Barkov, Leon Draisaitl Y auston matthewswhich without a doubt places him as the potential number one pick in Montreal.

“I’m not a fan of using the word NHL ready with 18- and 19-year-olds, but physically, he could be the closest player to competing for an NHL job next year.”

Slavkovsky and compatriot Simon Nemec (No. 3 in Central Scouting’s international skater rankings), a defenseman with Nitra in Slovakia, could become the highest-selected Slovakian-born player in an NHL draft. Marian Gaborik currently holds that distinction, being ranked #3 in the Minnesota Wild in the 2000 NHL Draft. Gaborik played 17 seasons in the NHL with five teams.

Logan Cooley (5-10, 180), a center on USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program U-18 team, is No. 2 in Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters and Joaquin Kemell (5-10, 185), a JYP forehand in Liiga (FIN), is No. 2 in Central Scouting’s final international skater rankings.

Although Wright might be the favorite to be No. 1 because of his well-rounded, smart, well-rounded game, there are others to consider with the No. 1 pick, Marr said.

“This draft class has expanded to where the top two North American players or the top two international players can take the number one spot,” Marr said. “You would have to go back to the 2013 NHL Draft where you had a similar situation (when Barkov was No. 2 for the Florida Panthers).”

Cooley was second in the NTDP with 75 points (27 goals, 48 ‚Äč‚Äčassists) in 51 games. He scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and had 23 shots on goal in six games to help the United States finish second at the 2022 IIHF U-18 World Championship.

“The gap between the top two North American prospects (Wright and Cooley) got narrower as the season went on,” Marr said. “They both possess NHL qualities and use their skills and assets within their own style of play. There is an integrity to Shane’s game in that he has the innate ability to rise to the level of play required to get results, whether it’s with his speed, his exceptionally quick hockey wits or just competing with a never-give-up approach.”

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