With only an 8.5% chance of winning the NHL Draft lottery, getting the No. 1 pick – and Connor Bedard – was mostly wishful thinking for the Canadiens and his fans.
Bedard will continue his career with the Chicago Blackhawks, but the Habs have not lost outright, as they retain their fifth place.
“We had a better chance of picking sixth than keeping our fifth-place pick based on the odds (24.5% vs. 44%), Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes told reporters after the session. We would have liked to win the lottery, but we planned to draft between the fifth and seventh rank and we got the best rank of the three. »
Three centers: Adam Fantilli, smoking this winter in the NCAA, the Swede Leo Carlsson and the big right-handed producer of the American development program Will Smith are considered among the logical choices after Bedard, according to a majority of specialists.
There’s also Russian winger Matvei Michkov, already dominant in the KHL, but who could be available at No. 5 due to the geopolitical situation in Russia and his contract until 2026 with SKA St. Petersburg. Not to mention the mystery surrounding the death of his father, found lifeless in “unexplained circumstances”.
“Now that we know where we’re fishing, we’re going to have to go into detail and understand the obstacles,” Hughes said of the possibility of choosing Michkov. It will be difficult to predict, but for any team it is a risk-reward assessment to draft him. If you compare Michkov and another equal player, these factors will weigh against him, but we have not reached that point, you must first judge whether another is equal to him. »
Austrian David Reinbacher and Swedish Axel Sandin-Pellikka are considered among the best defenders available at the moment. Both throw from the right.
A generational player capable of transforming the team? dared to ask a colleague.
“In a particular market like Montreal, it would be hard to call him that right now, but there are some really good players available between second and seventh, and keeping our pick in fifth place means good because you never know what the teams in front of you can do. »
The Blackhawks won their bet. General manager Kyle Davidson has gutted his squad, even traded two of his best forwards 25 or younger, Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach, last summer to begin rebuilding from scratch. Chicago nevertheless finished ahead of Anaheim and Columbus in the standings, but fate worked in its favor.
“I’m in a bit of a shock, I don’t have the words,” Davidson told reporters. I saw some of my colleagues jump for joy. »
Bedard, the probable first choice, and even considered the most talented player available in the NHL draft since Connor McDavid in 2015, would join the organization of the Blackhawks at the time of the departure of its great stars of the last decades, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
The Anaheim Ducks had a better than 25% chance of drafting first overall. They end up with the consolation prize for second overall, probably Fantilli, 65 points in 36 games in his rookie NCAA season, and arguably a first overall pick in a regular draft. The Columbus Blue Jackets fall from second to third.
The CEO of the Canadian was courteous as usual with the media, but it will be understood not to reveal his strategy publicly.
Montreal has a second first-round pick, from the Florida Panthers for Ben Chiarot, but he’ll likely plummet from 17th to 29th with their next win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, which would see them reach the quarter-finals. ace. They lead their series 3-0. That pick will slide to 31st if the Panthers reach the Finals and 32nd if they win the Cup.
“We have to prepare to use all our choices, but we are open to all options,” said the GM of the Canadian. Every year, there’s a lot of talk in the weeks leading up to the draft. We will see if there are any chances to make trades like last year that can improve the team or accumulate other choices.
“Right now, we don’t know. In May last year, the acquisition of Kirby Dach was not in the plans. We expected to get a third first-round pick. »
Hughes directed some of the best American and Canadian hopefuls of the 2005 vintage, including Will Smith and Matthew Wood. Both took part in the World Under-18 Championship in Switzerland, where Kent Hughes returned from a week ago.
“I won’t mention names for obvious reasons, but I was impressed with several players. Some I know a little more. It’s always nice to see them there. We will also watch a lot of videos between now and the draft in Nashville. »
What role does he intend to play in team meetings given his inside information on certain players?
“In the case of Will Smith, for example, it’s not a disadvantage to know him too much. I will be able to tell our scouts that he is a good individual off the ice and that we will not have any problems with him. But our scouts are better able to compare him to the other players available, and that’s where they should be trusted. »
The Canadian will not draft according to specific needs, but will choose the best player available, swears Kent Hughes.
“On the other hand, if two players are really neck and neck, you will have to consider certain factors to decide between them,” he said.
For the most optimistic, the Canadian will draft in the top 5 and Connor Bedard will not find himself in his division, not even in the Eastern Conference. We comfort each other as we can…
1. Chicago Blackhawks 2. Anaheim Ducks 3. Columbus Blue Jackets 4. San Jose Sharks 5. Montreal Canadiens 6. Arizona Coyotes 7. Philadelphia Flyers 8. Washington Capitals 9. Red Wings Detroit 10. St. Louis Blues 11. Vancouver Canucks 12. Arizona Coyotes (acquired from Ottawa) 13. Buffalo Sabers 14. Pittsburgh Penguins 15. Nashville Predators 16. Calgary Flames