At or around this time last year, the Canadiens won the NHL draft lottery with, it should be remembered, the best chance of winning by virtue of their 32nd and last place overall.
This nice twist of fate would allow him, according to a majority of fans and specialists, to get his hands on the first consensual choice, center Shane Wright, who has been tipped for this title for several years.
It was an interesting victory, especially since the draft was in Montreal, but a poisoned gift: the choice was less clear internally and Wright was not in the eyes of management the reincarnation by Patrice Bergeron, not even that of Nick Suzuki.
The Canadian had the courage to stay true to his convictions by drafting the colossus Juraj Slafkovsky, even if the supporters, many of whom were already wearing Wright jerseys in the colors of the CH, chanted the name of the Ontarian.
Slafkovsky’s charisma, and the fact that the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes shunned Wright at second and third in favor of defenseman Simon Nemec and center Logan Cooley, helped turn the boos into cheers at the Bell Center.
It was a learning year for the giant Slafkovsky, scoring ten points in 33 games before falling in battle. He was nevertheless the only one of his full-time class in the NHL this winter.
Nemec spent the season in the American League without a recall from the Devils, Logan Cooley shone in the American collegiate ranks with the University of Minnesota and Wright played for four teams: the Seattle Kraken, his farm club in Coachella Valley, the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Junior League and the Canadian junior team.
After a disappointing playoff run at Windsor, where the Spitfires were swept in four games by the western conference’s worst playoff team and Wright limited to three points, including a goal, in four games, the youngster was loaned to the Kraken school club in anticipation of the playoffs.
As the Kraken approach two victories from the semi-finals in the NHL playoffs, Coachella Valley has just reached the final of its division, having eliminated the Tucson Roadrunners and the Colorado Eagles. In eight games, Wright had a goal and two assists, tenth in scoring for the Firebirds.
Very clever who can identify the best player of this vintage. Defenseman David Jiricek, the sixth overall pick by Columbus, has been a scorcher in the American League this season and earned a recall. Logan Cooley, Arizona’s third overall pick, was a Hobey-Baker Trophy finalist after amassing 60 points in 39 NCAA games.
Austrian center Marco Kasper, eighth overall pick by Detroit, was the fourth to play in the NHL at the end of the season, after a season of 23 points in 52 games at Rögle in the Swedish Elite League (SHL). . Noah Östlund (16th Buffalo), Jonathan Lekkerimäki (15th, Vancouver) and Liam Öhgren (19th, Minnesota) did well at Djurgardens in their bid for promotion to SHL.
Defensemen Kevin Korchinski (8th, Chicago) and Pavel Mintyukov (10th, Anaheim) both had strong offensive seasons in the junior ranks. What if it was Lane Hutson, the Canadiens’ late second-round pick, with 48 points in 39 games at Boston University in the NCAA?
A unanimous choice this year
The 2023 lottery, presented Monday evening at 8 p.m. in New Jersey, and from 7:30 p.m. on TVA Sports, has a very different cachet. Connor Bedard is the most anticipated player since Connor McDavid in 2015. Bedard is a real player with the potential to transform an NHL team. He just had 143 points, including 71 goals, in 57 games as a 17-year-old in the Western Junior League.
By comparison, Wright had 94, including 32 goals, in 63 games in his year of OHL eligibility.
At the World Junior Championship, Bedard shattered records, with 23 points in seven games. Wright, 19 months older, was limited to seven.
Guillaume Lefrançois offers us an enlightening overview of Monday evening, including the teams with the best probabilities of winning and the operation of the famous abacus.
Unfortunately, the Canadian has only an 8.5% chance of picking first, compared to 25% last year, as this time he finished 28th overall, ahead of San Jose, Chicago, Columbus and Anaheim, with nine wins more than the previous season.
Montreal has the same probability of winning the second prize. Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov and even Will Smith are tipped as serious contenders for second place.
You can have fun by Monday night with the lottery simulator. On our first and only attempt, the Columbus Blue Jackets won and moved from second to first, and the Vancouver Canucks climbed nine places to second. The Anaheim Ducks went from first to third place and Montreal slipped from fifth to sixth place under the Canucks’ leap.
Fiction will give way to reality on Monday evening…
Only four teams in NHL history have been able to close an 0-3 playoff deficit. The Los Angeles Kings were last, beating the San Jose Sharks in the first round in 2014.
We should therefore no longer bet on the chances of the Toronto Maple Leafs reaching the third round, following their defeat in overtime at the hands of the Florida Panthers on Sunday, by virtue of the game-winning goal by Sam Reinhart.
Their first-round win over the Tampa Bay Lightning may avert an administrative purge and a splintering core, but a sweep won’t save anyone.
The Canadian can almost already mourn the 17th overall pick. He had obtained a first-round pick in 2023 from the Panthers last year in the exchange of Ben Chiarot, let us remember. But that pick will slide to 29th if the Panthers eliminate the Maple Leafs, 31st if they reach the Finals and 32nd if they win the Stanley Cup.
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