The debate on who the Montreal Canadiens should draft first overall continues but is that debate causing some to undervalue the rest of the 2022 NHL Draft?
Two of the best NHL draft analysts in the game joined the Montreal Hockey Now Podcast recently and had differing views of how deep the 2022 draft pool really is. A week ago, Sportsnet and longtime NHL analyst and former NHL assistant coach and executive Pierre McGuire cautioned fans and media not to hype this year’s draft too much. In fact, he compared it to the 1999 NHL Draft, which for many is considered one of, if not the worst drafts ever.
“I just have to caution everybody because I think it’s important to be fair about this, especially to the young players,” McGuire said of the 2002 NHL Draft pool of prospects. “The 1999 draft is probably the worst draft that the National Hockey league has had since the draft started. I’m not saying that this draft will be similar but this draft is not overly deep.
To be fair to the players and to the teams, I know there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance and hype but I spent a lot of time out on the road this year; I watched a significant amount of tape, I’ve been in touch with a lot of my scouting friends and the people I used to work with, and I would just tell you that as excited as everybody is about the new draft coming up, and everybody getting together for the first time in awhile – which I think is really significant – you just gotta be careful that you don’t overhype this draft because it’s not particularly or overwhelmingly strong.”
In the latest episode, longtime NHL Draft analyst and NHL scout, as well as former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button gave his take. Before he did, MHN Podcast Marco D’Amico informed him of McGuire’s opinions and comparison to the 1999 NHL Draft. D’Amico then said he believes the the Shane Wright-Juraj Slafkovsky debate at the top is diminishing the way some are valuing the rest of the draft.
“I think you nailed it. …I think you absolutely nailed it,” Button replied. “Drafts, so much of the time get defined by what’s at the top. You can only take a draft for what’s in it. You can’t force a draft to have a Connor McDavid or an Auston Matthews. It either has those players or it doesn’t. But over time, this is what happens. …’Oh it’s not a very good draft!’. …you know it and I know it. We all know it. In four or five years time, we’re going to look at the draft and we’re going to see players drafted later in the first round, into the second, into the third round that end up being really good players.
Who thought Jake Guentzel was going to be a 40-goal scorer in the NHL? Who thought Johnny Gaudreau was going to be a point-a-game player? Who thought Nikita Kucherov was going to do what he did? Or Brayden Point? The best player in the 2012 Draft is Andre Vasilevskiy, he went 19th and everybody goes ‘You can’t draft a goaltender in the first round’ oh you can’t? OK. So we know through history that there’s going to be all stars, hall of famers.”
As for the 1999 NHL Draft?
“1999 as I go back, the hall of fame inductees are going to be announced Monday and you could have two guys 2 and 3 that are going to get announced,” Button said with a chuckle referencing the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. “So I’ve heard it over the years and I think Marco, you absolutely captured it, it gets mentioned by what happens at the top of the draft. I use this and it’s a long time ago, but I think it’s illustrative of what happens. I talked about [Miro] Heiskanen, [Cale] Makar, [Elias] Pettersson going 3,4, 5.
It’s a long time ago but in the 1988 draft, all the discussion was about [Mike] Modano and [Trevor] Linden. They were two very different players. Modano goes one and Linden goes two. But I’m going to read off how the rest of the draft went. Number 3 was Curtis Leschyshyn; Number 4 was Darrin Shannon, Number 5 was Daniel Dore, Number 6 was Scott Pearson – Curtis had a really good career – Number 7 was Marty Gelinas – pretty good junior player, got traded for Gretzky – at 8 was that high school player, fromThayer Academy, Jeremy Roenick, 500 goals, 1,000 points, at nine, was that tier 2 player from Notre Dame, Rod Brind’Amour. Then at ten was the great Teemu Selanne – ‘Ah yeah he’s a Finnish player’.
As Button pointed out, that 8-9-10 from the 1988 NHL Draft trio tuned out to be hall of fame worthy players, with one, Selanne already inducted into the hall of fame.
“I mean 8,9 and 10. Selanne is in the hall of fame, I think Roenick should be in the hall of fame, Brind’Amour should get consideration for the hall of fame right?” Button asked rhetorically. “They went 8, 9 and 10 for different reasons. We can go through them. I don’t know what people were saying about them in 1988 at the draft but it turned out to be pretty special at 8,9 and 10. We’re going to get that all the time but when it’s not easily identifiable, we tend to doubt it, and that’s OK too, that’s OK too!”