The lack of consensus at the top of the 2022 NHL Draft could actually become an advantage for the Montreal Canadiens as they prepare their strategy.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes reiterated at every step that the team does not yet know who they’ll be picking and has stood by that statement since early May. Nonetheless, with every draft ranking that comes out, the debate over who the Canadiens should take at the top of the 2022 NHL Draft grows more intense.
Typically, Bob McKenzie’s yearly segment for his Final 2022 NHL Draft Ranking list has always been used to give an indication of how the scouting world was feeling about certain prospects. However, this year, the exercise proved to be the most volatile ever, as the top two prospects, Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky, seem stuck in a deadlock. Even though McKenzie’s rankings have Slafkovsky narrowly edging out Wright, he believes it could go either way.
“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.”
The lack of consensus is seen as a negative for Montreal, but it could likely facilitate the process of trading back into the top-10.
How Does A Lack Of Consensus Benefit The Montreal Canadiens?
By not having an obvious choice with the 1st overall pick, it forces the Montreal Canadiens to do extra homework when it comes to projecting the developmental curves of these top prospects. However, it also provides Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens with an opportunity regarding trade leverage, as teams will now be at the mercy of the Montreal Canadiens’ choice, especially the New Jersey Devils.
It seemed likely that Slafkosvky would fall into the Devils’ lap at No. 2 and would be drafted or traded to the highest bidder, as they’re already set at center with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier and want to compete now. However, with the Canadiens taking a real opportunity to evaluate the possibility of drafting Slafkosvky over Wright, that removes any certainty over who would fall to No. 2 and gives the Canadiens more leverage to broker a trade to move down or trade up into the Top-10.
The possibility of the Canadiens taking Slafkovsky puts a big damper on the dangling the 2nd overall pick for the New Jersey Devils. That’s because any prospective team trading up for such a high pick would be doing so for a specific player in mind and would be paying a substantial price to do so. The lack of certainty at the top hampers the Devils’ position as it will force teams to go down to the last minute before executing what is likely to be a highly complex trade; a scenario many teams would likely avoid.
The lack of certainty over which of the top-2 prospects could be available will significantly limit the Devils’ trade options, and also remove any certainty over which prospects will be available at subsequent ranks in the Top-10. The Canadiens’ decision could leave many teams in limbo, and thus would allow the Canadiens to initiate conversations with teams with Top-10 picks with the advantage of foresight.