December 5, 2023

Not only do the Canadians have the #1 pick in the draft, which begins with the first round on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS), but they are also hosting the event at the Bell Center.

For the first time since 2019, the draft will be held in person with fans in the arena. Both the 2020 and 2021 NHL drafts have been held roughly due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“I think it’s exciting for us as a management group and certainly exciting for us as an organization,” said Kent Hughes, general manager of Canadiens. “I remember the last time the draft was in Montreal (2009), and it was a crowded house. That wasn’t the case at every demo site, so especially with our first pick, I can only imagine the buildup of anticipation, excitement, and interest in the Montreal Canadiens.

“You hope, as an organization, you don’t pick first place overall too often but when you’re in that position, it’s very special.”

The NHL Draft will be held in Montreal for the 27th time, the most of any NHL city. The Canadians had held the top spot five times, the most of any NHL team. Rounds 2-7 of the draft will be Friday (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS).

Montreal is the first team to host the draft and pick the No. 1 since the Toronto Maple Leafs picked forward Wendell Clark in the 1985 NHL draft at the Metro Toronto Convention Center.

The big question is, what will Canadians do with the first choice? Shane Wright (6 feet, 199 pounds), right-handed center with Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, ranked first in the NHL Central Scouting rankings for North American skaters eligible to participate in the 2022 all-season and is Expected best option.

Canadians haven’t tilted their hands as to whether to pick Wright, or maybe Juraj Slavkovsky (6-4 229), left winger with TPS in Liiga (Finland), No. 1 in the final rankings of the international scouts central, or possibly trading in the selection.

[RELATED: Complete coverage of 2022 NHL Draft | Canadiens undecided on No. 1 pick]

And the drama doesn’t stop there. The New Jersey Devils have a second pick in the draft, and there have been several reports of them possibly trading up to #1 or back to the draft.

Arizona Coyotes (No. 3), Seattle Kraken (4), Philadelphia Flyers (5), Columbus Blue Jackets (6), Ottawa Senators (7), Detroit Red Wings (8), Buffalo Sabers (9) and Anaheim Ducks (10) rounded Top ten places.

Coyotes have three picks from the first round (numbers 3, 27 and 32), as well as a saber (numbers 9, 16 and 28). Canadians (No. 1, 26), Ducks (No. 10, 22), Blue Jackets (No. 6, 12), Winnipeg Jets (No. 14, 30) and Minnesota Wild (No. 19, 24) two.

The fact that there are so many outstanding players in the draft leads to even more intrigue.

“I think the part we’ll see, you’ll hear about is that there are a lot of players with similar expectations, similar rises, different positions, and that’s what will make this decision difficult,” said Tom Fitzgerald, General Manager for the Devils. “There is no slam dunk. There are a bunch of really good hockey players that we can add to our stables, so that’s a good problem.”

New Jersey has selected a player who has been voted best player eight times, most recently for the position Jack Hughes (No. 1, 2019 NHL Draft).

Wright remained No. 1 in the Central Scouting North American rankings all season despite missing out over 13 months of competitive hockey. He played in the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, scoring 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in five matches while captaining the first-placed team Canada. OHL canceled its 2020-21 season due to COVID-19.

“I think it would be very special to be drafted by Montreal,” said Wright, who was born in Ontario. “First of all, it’s a dream come true once you get drafted and then first overall through a franchise in an incredible city with that kind of fan base and the history surrounding that establishment would be incredible. Definitely a lifelong dream come true. surely “.

Wright was eighth in the OHL with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists), and 28 power-playing points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 63 regular season games.

“He plays a strong two-way game with a professional build and habits and has an excellent shot with an unpredictable firing that can beat goalkeepers from any angle,” said Joey Tenot of NHL Central Scouting. “Shane is the definition of a hockey player and would be a franchise player in the NHL.”

Slavkovsky was born in Slovakia but has lived and played in Finland for the past three seasons.

He was named the Most Valuable Athlete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Still 17 years old (turned 18 on March 30), he scored the tournament’s best seven goals in seven matches to help Slovakia win the bronze, its first Olympic medal In men’s hockey. His seven points tied him at the top of the tournament, leading Slovakia with 24 shots on target and an icy average time of 15:50 despite being the youngest player in the tournament.

“Juraj is a physically mature striker who already plays a mature game at the professional level and what stands out most with him is his continued improvement and development over the course of the season,” said Dan Mar, director of NHL Scouting. “He is like a sponge, absorbing the game and adapting his game to the level of play. He has the ability to evolve along the lines of Alexander BarkovAnd the Leon Drystel And the Auston Matthewswhich certainly makes it a potential first choice in Montreal.

“I’m not a fan of using the word NHL ready with 18-19-year-olds, but physically, he might be the player closest to competing for an NHL job next year.”

Slavkovsky and the citizen Simon Nemec (No. 3 in the Central Scout ranking of international skaters), a defensive man with Nitra in Slovakia, could become the most selected Slovakian player in the NHL draft. Marian Gaboric currently holds that distinction, going No. 3 to the Minnesota Wild in the 2000 NHL Draft. Gaboric played 17 seasons in the National Hockey League with five teams.

Logan Cooley (5-10, 180), a position with the USA National Hockey Team Under-18 Team Development Program Team, is No. 2 in the final Boy Scouts rankings for figure skaters in North America and Joachim Kimmel (5-10, 185), JYP’s right-hand wing Liiga (FIN), is No. 2 in the final rankings of the International Skaters Central Scouting.

Marr said that while Wright might be the favorite to take the top spot due to his complete intelligence and thoroughness, there are other players to consider when making a top pick.

“This recruiting category has expanded somewhat to where the best North American players or the best international players can be taken first,” said Marr. “You should go back to the 2013 NHL Draft where you had a similar situation (when Barkoff went to second in the Florida Panthers).”

Cooley is second in the NTDP with 75 points (27 goals and 48 assists) in 51 matches. He scored 10 points (three goals and seven assists) and scored 23 shots on target in six matches to help the United States finish second in the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

“The margin between the two top candidates in North America (Wright and Cooley) is getting narrower as the season progresses,” Marr said. “They both have NHL qualities and use their skills and assets in their own style of play. There is completeness about Shane’s game that he has the innate ability to live up to the level of play required to get results, whether it be with his speed, his exceptionally fast hockey skills or just competing with a no-nonsense approach. He never gives up.”

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