The Montreal Canadiens are going to fight to the very end, but the impressive strength of the Metropolitan Division could significantly improve their 2023 NHL Draft outlook if things continue.
As it stands right now, the Montreal Canadiens are seven points out of a playoff spot with 33 points in 33 games, while the Florida Panthers are just ahead of them with 34 points in 34 games.
With both teams being at .500 and Montreal owning both teams’ 1st-round picks, it would currently give them the 10th and 12th best odds at the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery.
Notwithstanding both teams’ difficult schedules throughout the rest of the season, there’s now another obstacle coming to a head: the deep Metropolitan Division.
There are currently five Metropolitan Division teams in a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, the resurgent New York Rangers and the relentless Washington Capitals hold the Wild Card spots with 43 and 40 points, respectively through 35 games.
The team immediately trailing them in the Wild Card race is the New York Islanders, another Metro Division team, with 38 points in 34 games.
Watch Out For The Atlantic
On top of the Metropolitan Division clogging up the playoff picture in the NHL, the Atlantic Division is about to get even tighter.
It already seems like a foregone conclusion that the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs cannot be caught at this point, after very strong starts to their season. On top of that, the Tampa Bay Lightning have taken off over their last 15 games, after a very slow start to the season (three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals will do that to you).
As it stands right now, for either Montreal or Florida to make the playoffs, they’d have a better chance at aiming for the 3rd Atlantic Division spot, rather than a Wild Card spot, as Tampa has less points than the Rangers and has only one point up on the Capitals, albeit with three games in hand.
And yet, that’s not the end of it, as the Buffalo Sabres have seemingly pulled a reversal of past seasons and have exploded in December after a slow start in November, winning 15 of a possible 20 points in their last ten games.
Thanks to the rapid progression of Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin and Dylan Cozens, the Sabres are on a mission as of late and have even caught up to the Panthers, who had a 12-point lead on the Sabres just a month ago.
Factor in the Ottawa Senators slowly coming back to life and the Detroit Red Wings also right in the Wild Card hunt, and the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers have their work cut out for them.
It may not please fans, but general manager Kent Hughes has to be loving the mounting odds being stacked against both Montreal and Florida.
Adversity is never a bad thing for a young team, but this also makes his outlook on the 2023 NHL Draft that much more attractive with almost half the season having been played.