Very clever the one who, this year, can predict the choice of the Canadian in fifth place in the repechage. Unlike last year, when he held the first choice, the CH this time is dependent on the decisions of four teams in front of him.
Barring any surprises, Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson are expected to be the top three picks – not necessarily in order in the case of Fantilli and Carlsson on June 28.
However, it is always necessary to keep in mind the possibility of witnessing twists and turns. Last year, for example, almost no one saw Shane Wright end up in Seattle in fourth place.
The key player remains Matvei Michkov. The young man has just confirmed his presence in the draft in Nashville, but would refuse to speak to certain teams, according to eminent colleague Elliotte Friedman.
Among the less attractive aspects in his case, Michkov is under contract in the KHL until 2026. He could very well also sign a contract extension in Russia when his contract expires, like Kirill Kaprizov, the star of the Wild, the had done at the time.
His detractors also criticize him for his individualistic character, friction with his teammates, a hyper-controlling entourage and a marked disinterest in defensive tasks.
The tragic death this winter of his father, always present in the stands, even during training, sometimes even with the general manager of the team, will have effects, in one direction or the other.
Despite his shortcomings, Michkov, a winger, has incredible talent. Not just rare scoring instincts, but a vastly above-average view of the game. His style of play is reminiscent of that of Nikita Kucherov.
The manager of an NHL club surveyed Wednesday said he probably wouldn’t hesitate to pick him with a top-five pick. But not everyone is of the same opinion.
A team that already has a good Russian contingent could be tempted more easily. The Anaheim Ducks, holders of the second pick, drafted a Russian in the first round, tenth overall, defenseman Pavel Mintyukov. However, he had already been playing in North America for two years, in the Ontario Junior League, and is not bound by contract to the KHL. The Ducks already have two top young centers in Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish and could afford to draft a winger, although Fantilli and Carlsson can also play on the flanks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, third to decide, drafted Russian KHL forward Yegor Chinakhov in the first round, 21st overall in 2020, and Kirill Marchenko in the second round in 2018. Both have previously joined the organization . But DG Jarmo Kekalainen has just accelerated his reconstruction process. Will he want to wait until 2026 before welcoming his first choice?
The Sharks are going through a rebuild. They are in no rush to win. They could afford to choose a player still far from reaching the NHL. In this case Michkov. San Jose hasn’t drafted directly from Russia in the first three rounds since Andrei Zyuzin in 1996. They’ve changed bosses a few times since, though.
Selecting Michkov in the top three or four would obviously open up interesting scenarios for the Canadian. But for now, let’s trust the echoes of the environment. After Bedard, Fantilli and Carlsson, therefore, would remain Will Smith, Matvei Michkov, David Reinbacher and, for some, Ryan Leonard.
Despite extraordinary individual skills, Michkov does not seem to have the profile to please the management of the Canadian. It looks for talent in its players, of course, but an openness to the community, self-sacrifice, a willingness to learn and to question its style and its methods of play for the needs of the cause.
Smith remains a player with rare offensive instincts. The 6-foot, 181-pound right-handed center has just amassed 127 points, including 51 goals, in 60 games in the American development program. Logan Cooley, the third overall pick last year, had 75, including 27 goals, in 51 games on the same team in his qualifying year.
This young man is also associated with general manager Kent Hughes. He managed it when he was young and even served as an advisor to him in his agency until he was hired by the CH.
Will Smith is not a potential Patrice Bergeron in terms of defensive play, but he could very well be employed on the wing in the National League. Montreal is well off at center for the next decade with Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach and possibly Owen Beck.
Austrian David Reinbacher is a tall 6-foot-2, 185-pound Austrian right-handed defenseman. He has good mobility, already shows a lot of maturity in the defensive chapter and is not devoid of offensive skills. He has dog to spare.
This young man is already playing in the professional ranks, in Kloten, in the Swiss National League, where he amassed 22 points in 43 games last year. He also participated in the World Championship recently. He was the only one of his vintage to do so with Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli.
His admirers see him as a possible number one defenseman in the National League and some do not hesitate to compare him to the young right-handed defenseman of the Red Wings Moritz Seider. His detractors see an offensive ceiling too low to make him a number one.
Reinbacher, however, remains a rather safe choice, in the worst case a top four defender, and capable at best of being a must in defense. His status would also allow him to join the school club of the team that will draft him next season, like Simon Nemec and David Jiricek last year.
Ryan Leonard is not lacking in character. Will Smith’s right winger has become popular in Montreal in recent weeks following rave reviews from Kent Hughes, but this one was not born yesterday and would not have put the chip in the ear of his rivals if he had wanted to keep it a closely guarded secret.
A manager of an NHL club was generous enough to share with us his analysis grid on the price to pay to go from fifth to second place. Most National League teams refer to it, and each draft rank is rated according to the success rate of the years prior to that rank.
The difference between the success rate of a second pick and a fifth, less than one might imagine, has a definite price: a late first-round or early second-round pick. The 31st choice of the Canadian, obtained in the transaction of Ben Chiarot, could be enough according to the established scales.
The gap between the fifth overall choice and the fourth is minimal, barely 1% difference in the success rate. A team wanting to move up a spot at this stage of the draft shouldn’t have to give up a first- or second-round pick to move up a spot.
Despite everything, this type of exchange remains very rare at the top. We haven’t seen a club with a top-four pick agree to drop a few spots since the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2004.
The Anaheim Ducks, for example, would have to price four prospects almost evenly to accept such a deal, or, for example, eye a Michkov in the belief that he is still available at number five.
So don’t hold your breath.