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Draft: the future in a choice

Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley. If there was a consensus choice a few months ago, there are now three contenders to become the top of the class in the 2022 draft.

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For the first time since 1980 with Doug Wickenheiser, the Canadian will speak in the very first row. And to add a bit of magic, the Bell Center will be the scene of this draft.

Kent Hughes and the leaders of the CH hid their game well as the decisive day approached. The general manager repeated more than once that he had not yet made his choice.

“But it’s always a good thing to have the first choice because we decide our own fate,” said the rookie GM more than once.

After a miserable season where the team went from making the Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning to 32e and last place, the Habs will dictate a large portion of its future with a single selection.

“When you speak in the front row, you have no right to be wrong, recalled a recruiter from the West. It may seem very easy since you draw first from the large pool of players, but there are years when it gets complicated. In 2022, there is not a hockey genius, a gifted person who is beyond doubt. »

“My feeling is that I don’t know who will come out on top,” added a Western scout. There is Wright, the one we saw for a long time as the lucky one. There is the great winger of Slovakia [Slafkovsky] and the creative and dynamic center in Cooley. The CH is looking at the three options. »

A debate

Another western recruiter surveyed by The newspaper hesitates for several seconds when asked a very simple question, namely to whom the Canadian will turn with the first choice.

“Yes, there is clearly a debate for the first choice, he replied after a pause of about five seconds. Wright will become a good center in the NHL. I describe him as a good player, there is no doubt. But he’s not a franchise guy. Shane is smart, he’s responsible both ways of the rink, he has a good shot and good offensive skills. But it doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat. I would think of others. Slafkovsky has a rare element to his game, that of a natural scorer. And on top of that, he’s very imposing at 6’4″. Cooley, meanwhile, is probably the one with the highest potential. »

It’s not just the unpredictability based on three candidates, there’s also the fact that the Canadiens will come to this draft with new hockey faces. We will live the post Trevor Timmins era with Bobrov and Lapointe.

Before coming to Montreal, Gorton and Bobrov worked with the New York Rangers. In 2019, they drafted winger Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick after Jack Hughes with the Devils.

Three years later, Kakko still hasn’t taken off in Manhattan.

“I don’t know if it can become a factor, but Kakko is a big winger in the mold of Slafkovsky, underlined a recruiter from the East. Gorton could still be put off by this fairly recent pick. »

Tons of choices

The CH will have very good ammunition for this repechage which will take place on Thursday (1er turn) and Friday (2e round until 7e tower) with 14 choices.

On paper, the Canadian currently holds the 1er26e33e62e66e75e92e and 98e choice. We are therefore talking about eight selections among the first 100.

Hughes and Gorton could easily consider trading a few picks in order to move up a few ranks.

“I imagine a scenario where Hughes trades the 26e choices and other choices in order to get closer to the 15e rank in the first round, predicted a Western scout. The Canadian has drafted several players in the past, but there is a limit of 50 contracts. They will have no choice but to prioritize quality over quantity. »

The complete center

SHANE WRIGHT

Shane Wright in the colors of the Kingston Frontenacs.

Photo courtesy OHL, Terry Wilson

Shane Wright in the colors of the Kingston Frontenacs.

  • Center | right-handed | Canadian | Date of birth: January 5, 2004 | Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
  • 6 ft | 199 lbs.
  • 94 pts (32 g, 62 p) in 63 gp
  • 1er hope in north america

Two years ago, a year ago and even six months ago, Shane Wright held the top-of-the-class tag for the 2022 draft. sparkles not as strong.

Wright’s name still remains at the top for several NHL teams, but other teams have also slipped him past Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley.

“When you look at a guy for three years, you find fault with him at the end, recalled a recruiter from the East. His story reminds me of that of Sean Couturier. By his draft year in 2011, Sean had dropped to 8th place. But the Flyers have never regretted this choice. I feel a similar shortness of breath with Shane. There have been expectations for a long time. However, he remains a very good hockey player. »

Wright had followed in the footsteps of John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid by making the jump to the OHL at age 15. In his rookie season with the Kingston Frontenacs, he scored 39 goals and had 66 points in 59 games. Captain of the Frontenacs this season, he hit the target 32 ​​times and collected 94 points in 63 games.

If he is recognized as an intelligent and responsible center, Wright is not unanimous for his hard work.

“I came out of Kingston disappointed more than once,” said a Western scout.

RECRUITER CARD

  • Meaning of the game: 4.5
  • Speed: 4.0
  • Character/Competitor: 2.5
  • Skills with the puck: 4.5
  • Size/gauge…: 3.5

“Wright has what it takes to be a number one. He did not have a great season, but we must not forget his season as a 15-year-old in the OHL and his very good Under-18 World Cup in the summer of 2021.

– A recruiter from the East

“A smart young man, a responsible center. He probably doesn’t have the potential to be a big star. He’s not the next Patrice Bergeron, but he looks like a center in the mold of Nico Hischier. He will play in the first two lines, he has good skills and talent. »

– A recruiter from the East

Giant size winger and natural scorer

JURAJ SLAFKOVSKY

Juraj Slafkovsky in action in a duel against Germany at the World Cup in Finland last May.

Photo archives, AFP

Juraj Slafkovsky in action in a duel against Germany at the World Cup in Finland last May.

  • Left winger | left handed | Slovak | Date of birth: March 30, 2004 | GST (Finland)
  • 6 ft 4″ | 229 lbs.
  • 10 pts (5 g, 5 p) in 31 pj
  • 1er hope in Europe

Juraj Slafkovsky was never afraid to say it openly. He would dream of mixing the cards in this repechage by climbing the stage first in Montreal.

“I recently read that the Canadian was looking for a left winger to play with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. I’m sitting here and waiting if the Habs are looking for me! »

The 6-foot-4, nearly 230-pound Slovak winger offered that answer to TSN colleagues.

Slafkovsky has two crucial cards in his game, that of the natural scorer and the potential winger.

“Juraj is a big guy, he can dominate with his physicality, he finds space in the offensive zone, he protects the puck and he has a natural instinct as a scorer. You don’t teach a player how to score goals. It must be natural and it is the case with him. One day he will score 40 NHL goals. »

On the international stage, Slafkovsky did Slovakia proud with seven goals in seven games at the Beijing Olympics to help the small country come away with a bronze medal. The 18-year-old left winger, however, presented more modest numbers with TPS Turku in the Finnish Elite League.

“There are doubts about his consistency, but he didn’t have a lot of playing time with TPS,” said an Eastern scout.

RECRUITER CARD

  • Meaning of the game: 4.0
  • Speed: 4.0
  • Character/Competitor: 3.5
  • Skills with the puck: 4.5
  • Size/gauge…: 4.5

“He scores goals and that’s a rarity in the NHL. He has this scoring instinct, he gets there in different ways. Juraj has a big frame and he finds space when there is none. But he will need a good cross to use his shot. »

– A recruiter from the East

“He had remarkable international tournaments with the Olympic Games and the World Cup. He dominated against men. But I didn’t like his consistency, we never saw the same winger in Finland. »

– A Western recruiter

Denis Savard in the nose

LOGAN COOLEY

A dynamic player with a strong character, Logan Cooley is an attractive candidate for the 2022 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Hockey’s NTDP, Rena Laverty

A dynamic player with a strong character, Logan Cooley is an attractive candidate for the 2022 draft.

  • Center | left handed | American | Date of birth: May 4, 2004 | USA under 18
  • 5 ft 10 in | 180 lbs.
  • 75 pts (27 g, 48 p) in 51 gp
  • 2e hope in north america

There is the specter of 1980. That year, the Canadiens were talking first in the draft. The CH had chosen Doug Wickenheiser, a center for the Regina Pats, before defender Dave Babych, but especially before center Denis Savard, who played with the Montreal Junior.

“When I look at this year’s draft, I’m afraid that the Canadian will relive the 1980 scenario. I’m afraid to see Wickenheiser again in Shane Wright and Savard in Logan Cooley”, imagined a recruiter from the East.

Cooley, a center from Pittsburgh, is described as a much more dynamic and creative forward than Wright. But he doesn’t have an imposing physique at 5’10” and 180 lbs.

“He has more flashes in his game than Wright, he is also a tougher center, underlined an Eastern scout. If he was 6’2″, there would probably be no debate for his selection rank. He reminds me of Jack Hughes, but a tick down. »

If he doesn’t play in the NHL at age 18 in the fall, Cooley will report to the University of Minnesota Gophers of the NCAA.

RECRUITER CARD

  • Meaning of the game: 4.0
  • Speed: 4.0
  • Character/Competitor: 4.5
  • Skills with the puck: 4.5
  • Size/gauge…: 3.0

“For me, Cooley is the best prospect in this draft. He has more character and he is very dynamic. He finds ways to create games through his intelligence. »

– A Western recruiter

“Logan has great offensive potential. He often turns into a magician on the ice, he has this spectacular side. He skates well, he works and he is competitive even if he is not the biggest. »

– A Western recruiter

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