Any Chance Montreal Passes on Talented Shane Wright?
As the recently concluded NBA Draft proved, there can be surprises even at the top of drafts. Few expected Paolo Banchero to be the No. 1 choice. Now there are some rumblings that Juraj Slafkovsky is making a push to replace Shane Wright as the first selection by Montreal in the upcoming draft. The NHL draft odds list Wright (-350) as the favorite to go to Montreal with the top pick; however, Juraj Slafkovsky is getting closer to Wright as the draft approaches as Wright’s odds were recently at -500.
Wright, Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley going first, second and third in the draft has a Moneyline of -120 compared to +150 with Slafkovsky going first followed by Wright.
The NHL Draft will be held in Montreal on July 7-8. After Montreal, the other top picks are New Jersey, Arizona, Seattle, and Philadelphia.
The result of Columbus trading defenseman Seth Jones to Chicago and the Buffalo Sabres dealing Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights is that four of the top 16 selections will be taken by Columbus and Buffalo. The Sabres and Arizona Coyotes each have three first-round picks. Typically games against Montreal and New Jersey fly under the radar on the NHL schedule. That should change once the draft is over with the top two picks landing with the Canadiens and Devils.
Is Wright Still the One?
Wright certainly looked the part of a potential No. 1 pick for Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League. He had 32 goals and 62 assists in 63 games during the 2021-22 season. Wright added three goals and 11 assists in 11 playoff games.
Wright missed the previous season. When he returned, he hasn’t only piled up the points but finished in the top 10 in the OHL in faceoffs won. His well-rounded game is just part of the reason why he has been considered the top player in this draft for quite some time.
The last time a player went first overall out of the OHL was in 2015 when Connor McDavid went to the Edmonton Oilers.
There was no doubt that McDavid was going to be the top pick. There could be a little more drama this time around.
If it is Wright, the Canadiens would love to see Wright become that type of player considering that McDavid led the NHL in scoring both during the regular season and in the playoffs during the recently completed season. Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, and Aaron Ekblad are among the other recent No. 1 overall selections out of the OHL.
Who’s No. 2?
The New Jersey Devils were considered to be the big winners in the NHL Draft Odds when they moved up from fifth to second. If Montreal is seriously considering passing on Wright, that will definitely ring true. Regardless of which player the Devils take, they will join a talented nucleus of young players.
Jack Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, had a breakthrough season with 56 points in 49 games in an injury-shortened season. Dawson Mercer had an impressive rookie campaign while Jack’s brother Luke is an exciting defensive prospect who went fourth overall in 2021.
Slafkovsky would bring some size as a 6-foot-4 left wing out of Slovakia. He had seven goals in seven games in the Olympics despite playing against players 10-15 years older than him.
New Jersey hasn’t been shy about taking talented American-born players even if they are a little undersized. If the Devils go that way, Logan Cooley could be the choice.
The Defense Doesn’t Rest
Two defensemen have gone within the top six picks in each of the last three drafts including the most recent Calder Trophy winner, Moritz Seider of the Detroit Red Wings as well as Owen Power, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft.
Simon Nemec had a huge postseason in Slovakia with Nitra MHC with five goals and 12 assists in 19 games. This came after he had 45 points in 76 regular-season games over the last two seasons. As if he wasn’t already high up on draft boards, putting up six points in eight games in the IIHF World Championships caught the attention of every NHL team.
Will it be enough for him to break into the top 3? The sportsbook listed the total at 4 ½ for Nemec’s draft position. The Moneyline is -800 for him to go within the first four selections.
Another top European prospect on defense is the 6-foot-3 David Jiricek who had five goals in 29 games for Plzen HC in the Czech Republic. The Moneyline is set at -250 for Jiricek to go in the first five picks.
If New Jersey and Arizona both go with forwards, Seattle would have its pick of the best defensive prospect followed by the Philadelphia Flyers, a team in need of defensive reinforcements.
Kevin Kochinski, 61 points in 65 games in the WHL, and Pavel Mintyukov (17 goals, 45 assists at Saginaw of the OHL) are other defensemen to keep an eye on.
Playing the Waiting Game
One of the main questions that surface throughout the first round is how long will it take for the top picks to break into the NHL?
Cole Sillinger, the No. 12 overall pick, led the way with 79 games, 16 goals, and 15 assists. as the top choice. After picking third overall, Arizona will be back on the clock at 27 and 32. Finally, Winnipeg has selections No. 14 and 30.
Once Michigan was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, No. 1 pick Owen Power, No. 2 choice Matty Beniers and No. 5 selection Kent Johnson headed to the NHL with Buffalo, Seattle, and Columbus. No. 3 pick Mason McTavish played nine games early in the season and the same was the case with San Jose’s William Eklund.
One thing to look for in this years NHL Draft Odds; could Arizona native Cutter Gauthier end up with the Coyotes? The Coyotes are a team in need of some feel-good stories. The odds are almost identical for the left-winger out of the U.S. National Development Team program going fifth or falling out of the top five. Would the Coyotes be willing to take him with the third pick?Follow us on Twitter