Bob McKenzie’s 2022 Final NHL Draft Rankings were released today after surveying 10 NHL scouts, and it looks like the race for the 1st overall pick will likely finish in a coin toss.
McKenzie’s yearly segment for his Final 2022 NHL Draft Ranking list has always been an indication of how the scouting world was feeling about certain prospects. However, this exercise proved to be the most volatile according to McKenzie, as he truly feels like there is simply a tie that shook down in Slafkovsky’s favour, and could go the other way come July 7.
“It’s by the slimmest of margins over Shane Wright,” said McKenzie to justify putting the power forward at No.1 over Wright. “Five of ten scouts surveyed by TSN have the 6’4, Slovak scoring winger at No.1, while four scouts opted for the Canadian, two-way center in Wright. It’s tight though, very, very tight. I really do believe you could survey another ten scouts and get the 5-4 breakdown in Wright’s favour; it’s that close.”
McKenzie promoted the strengths of each player, hinting that both prospects are so equal in potential that it may come down to a question of organizational needs rather than a question of potential.
“Most of the scouts you talk to make mention of the fact that Slafkovsky is a bigger player,” said McKenzie on what separated Wright and Slafkovsky. “In international play, he showed more goal-scoring ability than Wright and the big Slovak did play a more assertive, physical and competitive game. Now, Wright is a better skater and has a more mature and complete, all-around game.”
At Equal Talent, Do You Go With Need?
In a situation like this one, it can really go in any direction. Montreal Hockey Now has Shane Wright listed at No.1 on their Draft Rankings, but also has Slafkosvky at No. 2, and the argument could be made to switch them depending on which team is picking. With the Canadiens’ three-decade quest to solidify their center-line and build an elite team up the middle, the penchant still seems toward Wright.
Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens have said that they would value organizational needs in the decision if they felt that the players were of equal value.
“I believe that, in a normal setting, you should go with the best player available,” said Hughes about his draft philosophy last month. “But, if there are similar shades of grey, then you go for the shade that the team needs the most.”
Hughes had voiced during his season-ending press conference that shoring up the position of center for the long-term would be a major priority to him as well.
“There are certain positions in hockey that are more important; center certainly is,” said Hughes during his exit meetings in late April, “We’ll keep evaluating and analyzing possibility to improve.”
Lining up the dots in this situation, the Canadiens have identified center as a position of organizational need and likely will not be able to address it in the coming years via free agency. It makes the decision difficult for the Canadiens, as both players are seemingly close in potential, but taking a center is usually the less risky move at that junction of the 2022 NHL Draft.
Nonetheless, McKenzie’s list has given the hockey world a clue as to what must be going on at the Montreal Canadiens draft meetings leading up to July 7. It’s sure to keep hockey fans on the edge of their seats.