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Playoff Outcomes Could Help Canadiens Draft Hopes

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Montreal Canadiens NHL Draft

The Montreal Canadiens own a good trade asset in the Winnipeg Jets’ 1st-round pick, and certain playoff outcomes could make that pick more interesting than initially thought.

Since acquiring Winnipeg’s 1st-round pick in exchange for Sean Monahan in early February, general manager Kent Hughes has been monitoring the Jets’ performances to gauge where that pick may eventually land.

Initially, many believed the pick would land between 27th and 32nd overall, given the Jets’ strong season, but, where the pick ultimately lands will be tied to Winnipeg’s success or lack thereof in the NHL Playoffs.

NHL betting odds currently have the Winnipeg Jets at +1500 odds to win the Stanley Cup this season, which are the 11th-best odds of the 16 qualified teams. That’s not a significant show of confidence from money lines, but, they also didn’t have the Florida Panthers marching to the Stanley Cup Finals on their bingo cards either, so anything is possible.

That being said, there are a multitude of scenarios for the final draft rank of Winnipeg’s 1st rounder, ranging from 32nd overall to 23rd overall.

We break it all down for you below:

Usual NHL Draft Order

First off, the last four picks in an NHL Draft, regardless of the NHL standings, go to the final four teams in the NHL playoffs; that’s to say the four teams that make it to their respective Conference Finals.

The order is then split as follows:

  • 32nd overall: Stanley Cup Champion
  • 31st overall: Runner-Up
  • 30th overall: Conference Final Loser With Most Points
  • 29th overall: Conference Final Loser With Least Points

This means that, if the Winnipeg Jets reach the Conference Finals, the lowest their 1st-round pick could be is 29th overall. Should they reach the Stanley Cup Finals, the pick would become 31st overall should they fail to win the Cup or 32nd overall should they break Canada’s Stanley Cup 31-year drought.

Montreal Canadiens fans remember this process well, as the Florida Panthers, the lowest-seeded team in the NHL Playoffs last year, went to the Stanley Cup Finals. In doing so, the rank of their 1st-round pick, owned by the Canadiens at the time, rose from 17th overall to 31st overall.

But what happens if the Jets fall to the Colorado Avalanche in round one or to their potential opponents in round 2? Well, that’s where things get interesting.

Montreal Canadiens Could Receive Help From Other Sources

If the Jets fail to make the Western Conference Finals, things get a little interesting. They may have finished with the 4th-best record in the NHL, but, the fact that they didn’t win the Central Division could help their pick slide a little more than initially thought.

The final four teams would get picks 32 to 29, but then, the next picks are earmarked for any division champions that fail to qualify for the Conference Finals. As a reminder, the New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks all won their respective divisions this season.

Should all four division champions make the Conference Finals, the Montreal Canadiens would have the following scenario on their hands:

  • 32nd overall: Stanley Cup Champion
  • 31st overall: Runner-Up
  • 30th overall: Conference Final Loser With Most Points
  • 29th overall: Conference Final Loser With Least Points
  • 28th overall: Non-Division Champion With Most Points (Carolina)
  • 27th overall: Non-Division Champion With Second-Most Points (Winnipeg -> Montreal)

Given the strength of each division, the possibility for upsets is real; and that’s where things become interesting.

If say, two of the four division champions were to be eliminated from playoff contention in the first or second round by a lower-seeded team, that would disrupt the draft order quite a bit. For this exercise, let’s say the Florida Panthers are shocked in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Dallas Stars end up getting ousted in the second round, and the final four teams standing are the Lightning, Bruins, Canucks and Oilers.

Then the draft order would play out as such:

  • 32nd overall: Stanley Cup Champion
  • 31st overall: Runner-Up
  • 30th overall: Conference Final Loser With Most Points
  • 29th overall: Conference Final Loser With Least Points
  • 28th overall: Divisional Champion With Most Points (Dallas)
  • 27th overall: Divisional Champion With 2nd most points (Florida -> Philadelphia)
  • 26th overall: Non-Division Champion With Most Points (Carolina)
  • 25th overall: Non-Division Champion With Second-Most Points (Winnipeg -> Montreal)

The Best Scenario For Montreal Canadiens

So let’s get down to brass tacks here.

The best possible scenario for the Montreal Canadiens would be if 2024 was the year of the upsets, with all four divisional champions and the Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the Winnipeg Jets, missing the final four.

Although improbable, a final four that includes two of Toronto/NYI/Washington coming out of the East and LA/Nashville/Edmonton/Colorado in the West would ensure that Winnipeg’s pick could fall all the way to 23rd overall.

Should all the stars align, this would be the breakdown in draft order:

  • 32nd overall: Stanley Cup Champion
  • 31st overall: Runner-Up
  • 30th overall: Conference Final Loser With Most Points
  • 29th overall: Conference Final Loser With Least Points
  • 28th overall: Divisional Champion With Most Points (NYR)
  • 27th overall: Divisional Champion With Second-Most Points (Dallas)
  • 26th overall: Divisional Champion With Third-Most Points (Florida -> Philadelphia)
  • 25th overall: Divisional Champion With Fourth-Most Points (Vancouver -> Calgary)
  • 24th overall: Non-Division Champion With Most Points (Carolina)
  • 23rd overall: Non-Division Champion With Second-Most Points (Winnipeg -> Montreal)

Endless Possibilities

Although the odds of this scenario playing out would be highly improbable, it goes to show the range of probability leading into the playoffs, as Winnipeg’s pick could range widely from 32nd to 23rd overall.

If the Montreal Canadiens will be looking to use Winnipeg’s 1st rounder as an asset in a larger trade for a top-six forward, some playoff luck would go a long way.

No matter where the pick ultimately lands, you can expect general manager Kent Hughes to already be planning his next move, with his plentiful bank of futures and prospects ready to be leveraged in the right deal.

*For more NHL betting lines and futures, head over to FanDuel