Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has been propping up his young defencemen as being vital pieces to his roster transformation. Over the last week, his comments regarding the excitement toward his young defensive core and the need for scoring punch hints at the Canadiens likely selecting a forward with their 1st pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Taking to the airwaves of TSN690, Hughes continued to praise his defensive depth chart, all while pointing out that his current young pieces at forward need help. Host Mitch Melnyk asked Hughes to speak of his organizational depth chart (NHL, AHL and beyond) and what he finds most impressive.
“I think we’ve got a good group of young defencemen coming and some good existing defencemen,” said Hughes on his depth chart. “We’re excited about some of the young defensive prospects we have coming up and some of the guys we have currently upfront. We realize that we need to get faster and bigger (upfront), and we need to generate more offensive opportunities.”
This isn’t the first time Hughes points out his young defencemen as being a major strength in the organization moving forward; Hughes has continued to highlight the performances of Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Justin Barron, Arber Xhekaj and Alexander Romanov so far this season.
“We’re going to get younger’ said Hughes during his exit meeting about his vision for the future. “We saw Barron and Harris. Guhle is coming. Xhekaj is coming. There’s going to be a lot of youth, but our objective will remain to build a team that is capable of winning on a regular basis. The decisions we take this summer will enable that.”
Clearly satisfied with the group of defensive prospects coming up, the Canadiens currently boast Joshua Roy, Sean Farrell and Riley Kidney as top offensive prospects in the pipeline. A boost at forward, especially at center, is a significant need for the Canadiens; and Hughes has already given us a clue about his draft strategy and how organizational need factors into it.
Montreal Canadiens To Pick Best Player Available?
When interviewed on 91.9 Sports FM, the Canadiens’ general manager spoke at length on how the 2022 NHL Draft has become a priority for him at this junction, having just returned from the Under-18 World Hockey Championships in Germany. When asked about his draft strategy, when faced with so many viable options to select, Hughes provided some clarity on how he would approach his selections in July.
“I believe that, in a normal setting, you should go with the best player available,” said Hughes about his draft philosophy. “But, if there are similar shades of grey, then you go for the shade that the team needs the most.”
In the past, the Montreal Canadiens have been burned on the draft floor by selecting a player based on the organizational need, rather than the best player available at that rank. One could think back to the 2018 NHL Draft that saw the Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes reach for centermen Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Barret Hayton, despite having better players like winger Brady Tkachuk or defenceman Quinn Hughes available at the moment of their selections.
The three forwards likely to go in the top-5, if not higher, are Shane Wright, Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky. Wright and Cooley are centers, while Slafkovsky is a power-forward type player; both of which are glaring needs for the Montreal Canadiens. Their draft strategy will be dependent on the NHL Draft Lottery outcome, but it does seem like improving themselves at forward looks like a short-term and long-term goal for the club that could be jumpstarted on July 7 at the NHL Draft.