The question is on everyone’s lips. Who will the Canadiens pick as their first pick in the draft? Will he choose Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovsky? Will he surprise by opting for Logan Cooley instead?
For once, no player is unanimous.
This is our chance, Habs fans will wryly say.
Alain Chainey sums up the situation well.
“It is very difficult for the Canadian to have the first choice in an imperfect draft,” he said.
Bob McKenzie brings a different story.
“It’s one thing to be the first pick in the draft. But it is another thing to be the first choice in a market like Montreal, ”she says.
We still talk about the Canadian’s decision to have preferred Doug Wickenheiser to Denis Savard, more than 40 years later.
Always a recruiter at heart
Chainey and McKenzie know a thing or two about the draft. The former was part of the scouting staff, as well as being the scout leader of the Anaheim Ducks for 20 years. He will always have the job in his skin.
Coaches say “once a coach, always a coach”. I say: “once a recruiter, always a recruiter”.
Throughout the winter, he kept in touch with his many NHL connections and watched tons of videos. Well prepared for the analyst role he will play during the first two rounds of the repechage, which will be featured on TVA Sports.
McKenzie has been ranking prospects for nearly 40 years. He gets his information from a dozen NHL scouts.
Wright: superior sense of play
Chainey is clear about two things. He disagrees with the smear campaign against Wright.
He is also convinced that the Canadian’s new leadership has turned every stone and scrutinized every corner to find out all about the first choice contenders.
He has no doubts that conversations are animated right now in the Bell Center offices. He would like to be a little bird to attend meetings.
“Wright is an excellent player who has an above-average sense of play,” he said.
“He is a responsible player in both directions of the ice. Will it be a first or a second center? At worst, it would have been number two, which would still be very, very, very good. “
Slafkovsky: great potential
As for Slafkovsky, Chainey focuses not so much on his size as on his capabilities.
“He has a certain talent,” he continues.
“It proved its worth in the Olympics and the Spring World Championships. Some argue that the caliber was less than this year’s Games and that the World Championship never brings the cream of players together.
“But who was Slovakia’s top scorer in these tournaments? Slafkovsky! “
But it can also be misleading.
Think of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who had played an excellent second half of the season in the Finnish championship before being enlisted by the Canadian, as well as his compatriot Kaapo Kakko who has not convinced anyone so far with Rangers.
“After the analysis, I think Slafkovsky has a little more development potential than Wright. But if he doesn’t reach that potential, he’s doing badly, ”continues Chainey.
“The question is whether you want to score a home run or try a safe bet. I think that, on the Canadian side, maybe we will play the safety card more ”, he adds, referring to Wright.
10 to 5 pressures
The Kingston Frontenacs center was a unanimous choice before the season.
“The 10 chief recruiters I spoke to at the time agreed it was the first choice,” says Bob McKenzie.
“In mid-January, Wright was still getting the favor of nine of them, but the 10 were putting a lot of emphasis on the fact that he had become squeezed between him and Slafkovsky.
“When I repeated the exercise during the first pick lottery in May, I was unable to contact one of my informants. But the record had dropped to six to three for Wright.
“As part of the Memorial Cup tournament [Wright n’y était pas ni Slafkovsky]the tally has risen to five for Slafkovsky, four for Wright and one for Cooley.
“I think if I had talked to 31 of the 32 scouts to get an odd number, the score would have been 16-15 for both players. “
In Wright’s defense, he didn’t play at all last year, as OHL canceled his season due to COVID-19.
“Scouts who love him remember his beautiful appearance as a 15-year-old player in the OHL and his performances as a 16-year-old at the U18 World Championship,” said McKenzie.
“In May 2021 he was number one on all the lists. But as an NHL team executive told me, it happened a long time ago in a world like ours. “
Go for the circuit
And who would choose Chainey?
“I would go with Slafkovsky,” he replies without hesitation.
“I’ve always loved going home runs! When I was with the Ducks, everyone said Corey Perry didn’t skate. But he was a choice number 29, which is not the same.
“He has become no worse player in the NHL anyway. He made up for his lack of speed with his good positioning, his scoring talent and his great competitiveness. “
But trying to hit the long ball carries risks.
“You don’t want it to end with a bunting [amorti au baseball] », Photo Chainey.
The Canadian certainly doesn’t need it when he’s rebuilding.