Who Will the Montreal Canadiens Select 1st Overall?
There’s plenty of buzz surrounding the NHL draft tomorrow in La Belle Province with the Montreal Canadiens hosting and having the first pick.
Not only does being a first overall pick come with pressure, but that pressure becomes insurmountably higher when it features one of the most storied franchises in NHL history with an extremely passionate fanbase.
Things get even more interesting surrounding this selection because there really isn’t a consensus pick for the Habs to make at this time.
It is expected to come down to Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley, which Montreal general manager Kent Hughes confirmed on Monday.
There are different elements to love about the games of all three of these players games, which makes this selection one that could be polarizing.
Wright received exceptional status to play in the OHL at age 15 with the Kingston Frontenacs and has been the likely selection with this pick over that time frame. Things have certainly changed over the past six months, with Cooley and Slafkovsky making pushes of their own to be that coveted first overall pick.
Wright is likely the safest option with the highest floor of these three players, and it could ultimately come down to whether the Canadiens want to make an upside selection or play things more safely. Wright is also a center, arguably the most important position in the NHL, and that could be an additional thing the Habs look at with how they want to build their roster moving forward. Nick Suzuki is already a bonafide top-six center in the NHL, and the floor of Wright is high enough that he projects to form a really solid second-line center in the league, which is something that should be appetizing for a Montreal team that has been lacking at the position for over two decades.
Slafkovsky has a 6’4″ frame and good speed, which teams drool over when there’s a potential power forward in a draft class. If things go well for him, there’s been comparisons made to Rick Nash’s, which is something a lot of NHL teams could certainly use on their roster. There’s a debate about whether or not this player has a high enough floor to be the top pick, which has merit after he put up just ten points in 31 games during Liiga action in the Finnish league this year. That said, Slafkovsky went to the Olympics and World Championships to play for Slovakia and tallied 17 points in 18 games playing against men. Those are much different circumstances than Wright had this season, but the Canadiens will have to measure whether or not his playing style will translate to having success on the smaller NHL ice.
In terms of Cooley, he’s likely the most dynamic of the trio, and there’s a lot to like about his two-way presence. It seems that it’s more of a longshot that he’s the selection at first overall if you consider the odds, but there’s no doubt he’s worthy of being in the conversation.
With all of that in mind, this feels like a situation where there’s some fatigue surrounding Wright’s game. He’s been in the spotlight for so long, and analysts have started to nitpick, which has translated to more buzz around this selection. Wright is still the odds on betting favorite to be taken by Montreal (-300), but there’s no doubt Slafkovsky has at least made the Habs think twice in considering him.
Below you can find the top three player odds to be the first overall selection at tomorrow night’s NHL draft from the FanDuel Sportsbook.