Free washer | The Canadian’s hopes for the draft

Free washer | The Canadian’s hopes for the draft
Free washer | The Canadian’s hopes for the draft

Kent Hughes didn’t look like a loser Tuesday night after the NHL lottery. Neither does the Canadian’s co-chief recruiter Martin Lapointe.


Posted at 10:37 a.m.

Members of the team’s management seemed relieved to keep the fifth pick, obviously a strategic position for them. And this place was not acquired. The CH had a 17.3% chance of winning one of the first two lots, but also, above all, a 58.2% chance of falling a place or two.

Judging the body language of the Canadiens GM, we seemed convinced that we could get our hands on the prospect targeted in fifth place.

Hughes said both little and a lot during his press briefing Tuesday. Let’s proceed by elimination to try to identify the team’s targets.

“With more or less equal talent, we would draft a forward,” said Kent Hughes. We shouldn’t absolutely favor the attacker to the detriment of the defender, but we already have a lot of depth in defense, particularly on the left side. So the idea of ​​adding a top six forward to our organization is interesting. But it could also be a right-handed defender if he is the best player available at our rank. »

By briefly summarizing the comments of the general manager of the Canadian, who is not in the habit of leading journalists down false leads, we can therefore rule out left-handed defenders Zeev Buium, Sam Dickinson and Anton Silayev.

Which right-handed defender was Hughes referring to? Without a shadow of a doubt Artyom Levshunov, already exiled from Russia for two years, 6 feet 2 inches, 209 pounds, 35 points in 39 games in his first season at Michigan State, in the NCAA. But unless there is a major surprise, he will not be available in fifth place.

Another right-handed defenseman, Zayne Parekh, is turning heads for his 96 points, including 33 goals, in just 66 games with Saginaw in the Ontario Junior League, but his defensive deficiencies are a concern.

The attackers arrive. Russia’s Ivan Demidov is probably the most talented after consensus top pick Macklin Celebrini, whose last name is probably already embroidered on the back of a lottery-winning San Jose Sharks jersey.

The Chicago Blackhawks, holders of the second choice, could therefore set their sights on Demidov, 5 feet 11 inches and 168 pounds, outrageously dominant in the Russian junior circuit with 60 points in 30 games and under contract for only one additional season. Demidov would be a good line partner for center Connor Bedard. But Chicago could also turn to right-handed defenseman Levshunov.

The Anaheim Ducks draft third. Clubs generally tell us that they will choose the best player available, and not draft according to the needs of the organization, but the past often proves us the opposite: they go into contortion to circumvent their fine principles.

Anaheim is well stocked in centers, with Mason McTavish and Leo Carlsson, and has no shortage of forwards who can play this position with Cutter Gauthier and Trevor Zegras. On defense, Pavel Mintyukov, a left-hander, is already a rising star. Behind him, Olen Zellweger, a small offensive defenseman, is on his way to establishing himself in the NHL.

On the right, there is Tristan Luneau in the long-term plans. Jamie Drysdale was traded to the Flyers to get Gauthier. Ducks GM Pat Verbeek recently said he was looking for a top right-handed defenseman and a right-handed forward. If Demidov is drafted by Chicago, it is difficult to see the Ducks turning away from Levshunov, the best defenseman available in the eyes of many.

There would remain one club to draft before the CH, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here the mystery persists. Columbus still doesn’t have a general manager. For the moment, Ville Siren has survived the dismissal of its accomplice, the ousted general director Jarmo Kekalainen. The former head recruiter of the Canadiens, Trevor Timmins, is his deputy.

Hughes and the Canadian management, we guess, would like to see Columbus turn to a defender. The Blue Jackets look comfortable with their centers in place. Adam Fantilli, the third overall pick in 2023, is already a number one pick at 19 years old. Cole Sillinger is progressing well. He had 32 points last year in his third season, at 20 years old. Captain Boone Jenner, 30, is under contract for two more seasons. Gavin Brindley just had 53 points in 40 games at the University of Michigan. There is also Luca Del Bel Belluz and Luca Pinelli.

On defense, Zach Werenski, a lefty, is the undisputed number one and he is only 26 years old. Denton Mateychuk, also a left-hander, first choice, twelfth overall, in 2022, has just had a big offensive season in the Western Junior League. David Jiricek, the sixth overall pick in 2022, is the big prospect on the right. Columbus could increase its bank of prospects in defense and the CH probably guesses it.

If things go as planned at the top, Cayden Lindstrom, Tij Iginla and Beckett Sennecke would therefore still be available. Lindstrom fits the profile the organization is looking for. This left-handed center is already 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds. He amassed 46 points, including 27 goals, in 32 games in Medicine Hat, in the Western Junior League, in a season marked by several injuries.

With several forwards under six feet in the current lineup, Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Alex Newhook, Montreal would not shy away from the arrival of a strong forward to swell the ranks in the company of Kirby Dach and Juraj Slafkovsky, among others .

There are some question marks surrounding Lindstrom. He played little in the second half of the season due to injuries. He didn’t look great in the playoffs, but probably he wasn’t healthy. He subsequently skipped the Under-18 World Championship. But the potential is undeniable.

Prorated over a full 68-game season, Lindstrom would have amassed 98 points. That’s huge for a 6-foot-4 center with such hands in his draft-eligible year (he turned 18 in February).

Iginla, the son of former Calgary Flames captain Jarome, would be an interesting plan B. This six-foot, 186-pound forward scored 47 goals in Kelowna, in the Western Junior League. Cole Eiserman fans, at the risk of disappointing you, the chances of seeing him end up in Montreal are almost zero.

Ottawa will keep its choice

There was no movement in the standings at the end of the lottery. The Ottawa Senators maintained their seventh place. Unsurprisingly, they will keep their choice. For those who have forgotten, the Senators must give up their first round pick in 2024, 2025 or 2026 for their lack of transparency in the contract file of Evgenii Dadonov.

He held a partial no-trade clause which was not revealed to the Golden Knights during a transaction between Vegas and Ottawa. Two years later, Dadonov invoked this secret clause to abort a trade from the Golden Knights to the Anaheim Ducks.

We obviously want to see the Senators move up the rankings over the next two seasons so as not to sacrifice a top pick. This organization has not drafted in the first round in the last two vintages and the first pick of 2021, tenth overall, Tyler Boucher, does not announce anything interesting.

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