Should the Montreal Canadiens fail to win the NHL Draft Lottery, recent history shows that they will be more than alright.
With no disrespect to Shane Wright, the 2022 NHL Draft’s lack of a consensus generational talent, like Conor McDavid or Auston Matthews, makes the loss of a lottery more palatable. That is not to say that the players at the top of this draft don’t have 1st line/1st pairing potential, it’s quite the opposite. A handful of players at the top of this class are projected to be top-line players at the next level. The draft’s top tier gives the Canadiens options that could very well end up being the most valuable picks in the draft when all is said and done.
A Look At Recent Drafts
If we look at the last five drafts, many top-end players were picked by teams who finished last but failed to win any of the Draft Lotteries in their respective years.
For example, before the 2017 NHL Draft, the Colorado Avalanche had the best odds and missed out on each of the top-3 selections and was left with the 4th overall pick. The Avalanche watched the New Jersey Devils (Nico Hischier), Philadelphia Flyers (Nolan Patrick) and the Dallas Stars (Miro Heiskanen) pass them in the draft order, but that didn’t stop them from picking the best player in the draft. With that 4th overall selection, the Avs took defenceman Cale Makar, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Before the 2018 NHL Draft, the Ottawa Senators finished last in the NHL and, like Colorado the year before, ended up with the 4th overall pick in the 2018 draft. The Senators took advantage of the Canadiens’ reach for a center in Jesperi Kotkaniemi to select future captain Brady Tkachuk at 4th overall.
The trend continued at the 2020 NHL Draft, as the Detroit Red Wings slid to picking 4th overall, despite finishing last, and missed out on Alexis Lafrenière. That didn’t keep general manager Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings down, as they pounced on winger Lucas Raymond with the 4th overall pick. Raymond has now quickly established himself as one of the top youngsters in the NHL.
The 2022 NHL Draft
With the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft, the Montreal Canadiens can pick no lower than 3rd overall, due to the Canadiens finishing last in the standings, and there are only two lotteries this year. This means that, if the Canadiens don’t win either lottery, they’ll be picking 3rd overall. With this draft boasting three top-end forwards in Wright, Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky at the top of virtually every list, the Canadiens will be assured a valuable player.
You then have some wild cards in defencemen Simon Nemec and David Jiricek, who could realistically bump some of the aforementioned forwards outside of the top-2. With the World Championships coming up in the next couple of days, both Nemec and Jiricek will look to cement their draft statuses. An explosive tournament for either could see them rise to the top of some NHL club’s list.
For example, a team that has established centermen like the New Jersey Devils could be more apt to pick one of the highly coveted right-handed defencemen in Nemec and Jiricek. With Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Dawson Mercer as options at center, they may seek to address the right side of their defence once and for all.
Nonetheless, should the Montreal Canadiens covet a forward, you can bet that one of Wright, Cooley or Slafkovsky will be available. If they feel there’s a top-pair defenceman in Jiricek or Nemec, they may even lean towards picking them The Canadiens would likely prefer to pick No. 1 for the first time since 1980, but the big picture is to secure more top-end talent to build for the future; something the Canadiens are assured to do by picking top-3.