TSN’s Draft Analyst, Craig Button, joined Montreal Hockey Now to talk about the Montreal Canadiens prospects currently at the Memorial Cup and to talk about the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft.
Button was quick to praise a couple of Montreal Canadiens prospects, and was eager to discuss the upcoming NHL Draft, where Montreal will be picking five times in the top 70.
Montreal Canadiens Prospects
The Montreal Canadiens’ most promising prospect at this time has to be defenceman Kaiden Guhle, and Button had nothing but praise for the strides in his development over the past couple of years.
“The way he plays the game, it just screams NHLer,” said Button on Kaiden Guhle. “It screams 15-16-year NHL career, because he has such maturity to his game and that’s certainly something that’s progressed over time. Every area of his skating: the agility, the leverage, the power, the speed.”
When Guhle was traded from Prince Albert to Edmonton in December 2021, his game evolved even further; as he began to get more involved in the transition, all while being a major presence in the offensive zone. Button believed that Guhle had it in him all along, but that the circumstances allowed the Canadiens prospect to express himself offensively with more ease than before.
“Kaiden has such an understanding of what’s around him; he didn’t have the same support group in Prince Albert,” said Button on Guhle’s rapid growth since being traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings in December 2021. “He’s a player that’s not going to take unnecessary risks, but now you end up coming over to Edmonton and they’re a good team. There’s no unnecessary peril by him trying to do some of those things. He understands he has the backup and he can do more of those things.”
Button also had some praise for another Montreal Canadiens defensive prospect in Arber Xhekaj, who has burst onto the scene since being signed to an entry-level contract back in October. The towering defenceman, who was playing as an overager in the OHL this season, improved by leaps and bounds and has grabbed the attention of many folks working in the scouting circles.
“When you watch a player develop the way Arber has developed, I think he’s unique,” said Button on Xhekaj. “There are defencemen, and then there are unique defencemen. I think with his range, his skating and initiative; and you start to think about how far he’s come in his game. I really do believe the Montreal Canadiens have a really good NHL prospect in Arber Xhekaj.”
2022 NHL Draft
When Button released his final draft rankings for TSN, he maintained Shane Wright as his No. 1 prospect in the 2022 NHL Draft, which aligns with Montreal Hockey Now’s own 2022 NHL Draft rankings. Button went into detail about how a raging debate over who should go 1st overall is a healthy and yearly notion that every market goes through when they hold the 1st overall pick.
“Think back to the draft a couple of years ago with Jack Hughes went 1st,” said Button when discussing the debate surrounding the 1st overall pick. “Kappo Kakko was really good, and people said that maybe he should go 1st. You know, Auston Matthews went first, but there was a lot of talk about Patrik Laine. If we go back to Mario Lemieux’s draft, there was even talk of him not being the best player!”
When it came time to justify why he maintained Wright as his top prospect, despite all the noise, Button looked at the total package and felt like Wright’s strengths put him above the rest and make him the likeliest to reach his ceiling in the NHL.
“When I watch Shane, you’re evaluating hockey sense, puck skills, understanding of the game, skating,” said Button on his evaluation of Wright. ” To me, he was always a player that stood out as the best, if not the very best, of his age group. At the end of the evaluation, I just couldn’t make a case for somebody being better than Shane Wright.”
In his estimation, Button believes that the totality of Wright’s game, which is often overlooked due to a lack of flash or dynamism that has come to be expected from top drafted players, shouldn’t hold him back. He went through a similar situation when he drafted Jarome Iginla in the 1st round of the 1995 NHL Draft when he was with the Dallas Stars; as many questioned the lack of flash in Iginla’s game.
“Over time, I kept hearing folks say ‘Oh, but he doesn’t pull you out of your seat’ or ‘ He doesn’t have that wow factor’,” said Button on the critique about the lack of flash in Wright’s game. “I went back to Jarome Iginla when we drafted him in 1995 and I can’t begin to tell you how many NHL teams came up to us and asked ‘What did you see in Jerome?’. This seems to be a lot of the common theme.”
To listen to the full episode of Montreal Hockey Now’s interview with TSN’s craig Button, see below: