The Montreal Canadiens may have won the 1st overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, but Kent Hughes wasn’t ready to say they knew exactly who they were taking with the selection.
“Seasons aren’t done yet, even in Canadian Major Junior. They were delayed due to Covid, which means the playoffs are still ongoing in all three leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) and the Memorial Cup,” said Hughes about his final Draft Day decisions. “There’s also going to be draft-eligible players at the World Championships, so we’re headed to Helsinki on Thursday. Up until the season is over, we’re going to continue to watch and we’ll make our decision close to July 7.”
With Hughes set to head off the Helsinki with his team to watch draft-eligible prospects like Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec and David Jiricek, the work is not yet complete to finalize their draft board. Hughes expects to be a very busy man over the next month.
“We” ll spend a lot of time with our faces in front of our computers,” said Hughes about his next couple of months. “The access to video is so much different than what it was ten years ago, and certainly 20-30 years ago. We will watch and lend our insights, and we will encourage them to think through the process.”
Hughes went into detail about how he’d like to proceed at the NHL Draft. He elaborated on his NHL Draft approach, looking to identify the best player available above all, focusing on their skills and potential trajectory. He then added a little bit of an extra layer regarding the influence of organizational need once the players start having similar potential.
“I think you always go with the pure evaluation first. If we feel there’s a player that’s the best available player in the Draft, then that’s the player that we’re going to go with,” said Hughes. “If there are different shades of the same colour, then we could value someone more because of positional need; yes certainly.”
Hughes remained excited about the opportunity to jumpstart the Montreal Canadiens’ roster transformation. Contrary to the opinions of some in the hockey world, Hughes believes the 2022 NHL Draft is rich in talent and could be a very good crop to help the Montreal Canadiens build a contender for the future.
“I think it’s a talented Draft,” said Hughes regarding the critique from the scouting community about the lack of star power in the 2022 NHL Draft. “It’s hard, in the moment, to compare it to subsequent drafts, because those players have over 12 months of development and progression on the players that are eligible this year are in right now. We’re excited about the potential of this draft.”
Trading 1st Overall before the 2022 NHL Draft?
Although he was very excited about the possibility of picking first overall in Montreal, Hughes also mentioned that he would still entertain discussions for the 1st overall pick, should a team blow them away with an offer. Hughes cautioned against going into the NHL Draft with a closed mind, preferring to keep his options open.
“You’re always better off listening to what people say. At the moment, I can’t tell you that it’s not something we would entertain,” said Hughes about the possibility of trading the 1st overall pick. “If we get calls for the pick we’ll listen, but it’s not in our plans to trade this pick.”
That being said, it would take a monumental offer not to see the Montreal Canadiens pick 1st overall at the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft. Hughes is very excited at the idea of adding a cornerstone piece for his franchise moving forward and is now headed to Helsinki to put the finishing touches on his NHL Draft board.