The Montreal Canadiens’ recent success has management altering their strategy for the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft, but in a way that differs from their predecessors.
In the past, the first instance of success from a Montreal Canadiens roster that exceeded expectations prompted general managers to forget their long-term plans and ride the wave of success.
Deviating from their plan to make the Canadiens a sustainable power at the first sign of growth has cost the Canadiens valuable time over the last two decades, and many fans are worried that could be happening right now.
This Canadiens management team isn’t getting fooled by the very encouraging signs from their top players early on this season. They’ve categorically refused to sacrifice assets to improve the team in the short term, and they remain focused on the future, most notably the 2023 NHL Draft.
Eyes On The Future
In a fantastic interview with TVA Sports‘ rising star, Anthony Martineau, General Manager Kent Hughes confirmed that he remains extremely active this season in hopes of brokering some moves that could help the team add more picks and prospects.
The Montreal Canadiens GM hasn’t wavered in the slightest when it comes to his end game this season; he wants to capitalize on what is supposed to be a rather deep draft in 2023. Already owning two first round picks, their own and that of the Florida Panthers via the Ben Chiarot trade, Hughes would like to add another 1st round pick before the end of the season, as he feels this is the kind of draft that could set the Canadiens on the right path.
“Ideally, yes,” said Hughes when asked about his desire to acquire a third 1st round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. “We have some good youngsters within the organization and it would be important to get our hands on some quality assets that will be able to keep up with them in the future.”
The belief is that having all these extra picks will help the Canadiens add three stellar youngsters to a strong core of youngsters that are currently growing within the organization.
No Lottery Pick? No Problem
Having three picks in the top 32 brings significant advantages, outside of just being able to pick three very good youngsters to help round out the Canadiens’ rebuild. It provides them with even more options to acquire top-end talent.
Having that kind of asset liquidity is extremely important, as the Canadiens tried to move up in the 2022 NHL Draft a few times, but didn’t have the right assets to do so.
By acquiring a third 1st round pick, amongst other assets, for their pending free agents and many veterans, they’re giving themselves the ammunition to make the best of what they have. After all, the Canadiens’ best youngsters this season, outside of Kirby Dach, were all selected between 10th and 20th overall of their respective draft classes.
When asked whether he believed the team could reach the status of contender without picking at the top of the 2023 NHL Draft, Jeff Gorton remained confident that the Canadiens are already well on their way.
“I think, yes we can,” said Gorton to the Athletic about being able to win without another top-5 pick “When you look at our roster, if you’re looking at Kirby Dach, he’s a third pick overall. If you’re looking at Kaiden Guhle, he’s a high pick. We have a lot of guys drafted pretty high that are doing well. So there’s a lot of talent here, and there’s a lot more coming. Obviously, when you have the first pick overall, it’s always helpful to accelerate the process, but there’s other ways too.”
Making It Count
The Canadiens feel they have the base needed for success, and they’re absolutely right, as three players under the age of 24 have powered them to a surprising start this season.
What they need now is an ever-flowing pipeline of top-end talent, which they did a good job of adding to with the 2022 NHL Draft, and could likely cement with a strong 2023 NHL Draft.
Ultimately, the belief is that the Canadiens will eventually slow down their feverish pace to start the season and settle into the bottom 10 of the standings in the NHL, but, in the meantime, the growing culture and development of their top youth look just as promising as you’d hope a top-5 pick would eventually look.
You need that kind of base to infuse more talent down the line, so an important balance is necessary.
But when the time will come to decide on the present or the future, nobody should be worried the Canadiens will take the easy way out.
Not this time.