1st overall - Juraj Slafkovský
The Montreal Canadiens liked what they saw in their evaluation of Slafkovský and took him at number one. He’s a big, strong, puck-carrying player with good hands and a strong work ethic whose trajectory grew the longer the season progressed.
There is a lot to like about Slafkovský, and the main thing for me is his level of play in the home plate area where his skill with the puck and size will be invaluable.
Slafkovský’s confidence was on full display a week before the draft as he boldly stated that he’d be a good fit with Cole Caufiled and Nick Suzuki, and he quickly endeared himself to the Montreal fans with quotes and high-fives all through the evening.
However, one of the best things that I heard was that he would get AHL time if he needed it; there is no need to rush him. I personally don’t think he’ll need to go that route, but I think it is important that the club and fans won’t see that as a step back for his development. I think he is NHL ready, and that he will be on the ice opening night. He has, however, only played a limited number of games at the senior level and could use time in the minors to get some rest and confidence back, if the slump hits him hard.
Trades - Alexander Romanov and the 98th pick for 13th overall; 13th and 66th picks for Kirby Dach
I’ll combine these trades together, for obvious reasons.
The interesting thing is the answer to the question that Eric Engels asked at the press conference after day one: the trade was agreed upon prior to the selection at first overall. It addresses the need for a centre and Montreal gets a young reclamation project to fill a top-six role.
Losing Romanov hurts on a personal level, but his trade value had only ever been higher once: the spring that he left Russia after winning the Gagarin Cup with CSKA when he was an unknown commodity.
It is a smart move, especially considering the defensive depth that Montreal has right now.
The important bit here is if Montreal gets Dach work out then they are primed for success down the line. But what happens if he doesn’t?
Still, I like these trades.
26th overall - Filip Mešár
I like this pick. It was maybe a bit early, but in the consolidated draft rankings that Jared Book put together, Mešár was at position 26.
A short, smart winger with a good to great shot ... where have we heard that before? Let me tell you right now, this is the new Artturi Lehkonen. The one thing that fans need to remember, however, is it took Lehkonen four years to get to the NHL, and I expect a quite long road for Mešár to get there as well. The important word is patience.
The smart move here from the Canadiens was to pick Mešár in the first round, which means that he can go to the AHL next season. Montreal is in full control of his development, and since he is drafted out of Europe, Montreal has four years to sign him.
33rd overall - Owen Beck
Adding another centre is always good, and Owen Beck has a toolkit that should be good for his development. He is one of the better skaters in the draft, strong in the faceoff circle, and he is more or less a sure bet to make the NHL in at least a bottom-six role.
With good development and really making sure the brain, hands, and eyes catch up to his feet might make Beck reach an even higher place in the lineup, especially if it comes with a scoring touch.
The same as with Mešár, patience is key for Beck’s development.
62nd overall - Lane Hutson
Grade: B+ (but could very well turn into an A+ down the line).
This is a swing for the fences. The short defender has skills that are translatable to an NHL career. He reads the play extremely well, his positioning is more or less perfect, he uses his stick to cut off passes and steal the puck, and he controls the puck well for zone entries and exits.
He is a dynamo, or a cobra, in the offensive zone as he glides around finding empty ice and scoring chances. It is a really interesting pick and the fact that he brought a note from a doctor saying he is still growing shows that he is eager to prove he has what it takes to be an NHLer. Right now, the size is what made him a pick outside of the top 15. maybe even the top 10. I like swinging for the fences, and I want this kid to succeed.
75th overall - Vinzenz Rohrer
Right where Rohrer was projected to go in our consensus rankings is where Montreal snatched him up. He plays with an edge, but is very smart about it and more physical than his frame seems to be able to dish out. He is a versatile player who never quits, and these are skills that are necessary if you’re going to make it to the NHL from this position. My colleagues at McKeen’s has been raving about Rohrer the whole spring.
I understand the pick. It’s not a swing for the fences pick but rather one to get on base. It’s easy to project into the future.
92nd overall - Adam Engström
It is easy to forget that Engström is on the ice sometimes, as he falls out of the spotlight. He knows what he needs to work on — defence and offence — but his transitional play is there and that’s what Montreal is banking on.
Engström left Djurgården for Rögle, which is a good move. In recent years, Rögle has become a good destination for young players to take that next step forward. I don’t see Engström becoming a top four defenceman, but rather a serviceable bottom-two if — and it’s a big if — he can work his defence out.
I would have preferred another high-risk pick here, and that’s the reason for a lower grade.
127th overall - Cedrick Guindon
This is a pick I really like. Guindon has tools and a projection that can lead into the NHL. The smartness of a player can really help him develop further and his two weaknesses are skating and physique, two things that are fixable. You can learn to skate better and you can build muscle.
The AHL has loads of guys like Guindon, as do the European leagues; guys who are on the verge of reaching the NHL and with the right situation they get a chance and can become part of the NHL team on a regular basis. It’s a smart pick in that regard.
128th overall - Traded to Vegas for 2023 fourth-round pick
An okay trade, and a rare one for a 2023 selection. It adds a mid-round pick for next year.
130th overall - Jared Davidson
When selecting an over-ager this early in the draft, you look at trajectory, and the one thing that Davidson has is just that; he has become better offensively with every passing year. The centre has gone all-in on offence and looks to continue to progress along that route.
It is an interesting pick, Montreal undoubtedly saw something in him as they picked him earlier than the second- and third-year players further down the order.
There was no standout prospect that I would have taken at this level of the draft, so picking one with a positive trajectory and more available data is a smart move.
162nd Overall - Emmett Croteau
Croteau is a big goalie from the USHL and the NCAA route will gives the Canadiens four years to evaluate him. It is a pick you have expected Montreal to do in previous drafts and one can see the logic in picking a goalie for future development here.
From what my goalkeeper friends tells me, the numbers are sort of what you expect from a high-school goalie. With netminders like Jakub Dobes, Joe Vrbetic, and Frederik Dichow in the development system, there’s no harm in adding another long-term option.
194th overall - Petteri Nurmi
The one thing I like with this type of pick is that you take a seventh-round pick and use it on a player with a positive trajectory. We have seen Montreal do the same thing before; Arsen Khisamutdinov, as an example. By using a pick, you get the rights to a player for a couple of years and don’t have to fight others for him on the open market.
While Petteri Nurmi isn’t a flashy player, he was on the WJC team this winter. He plays in Liiga for HPK and it is a good move to leave him there. I am unsure of this pick, especially as Elite Prospects contributor Lassi Alanen doesn’t see much upside from it:
Petteri Nurmi to MTL at #194. Went from playing at the U18 level two years ago to being a Liiga regular this season. I don't see much upside with this pick, though. Double overager with limited offensive skill. I guess you are banking on the upward development curve. #GoHabsGo— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) July 8, 2022
I like the strategy of locking on an over-ager here, I am just not sure that Nurmi is the player to direct the attention upon as I see no outstanding skill in any of the facets of his game.
216th overall - Miguël Tourigny
Again, getting an over-ager with a seventh-round pick is smart thinking, and this pick I do like. As a defenceman, Tourigny has a nose for the goal, but he does need to work on his skating, especially for a shorter player. He thinks offence most of the time, and has skills in the playmaking area, too.
The question that arises in this case is whether it can translate to the NHL. Probably not, and hence why he nearly went undrafted, but it is a home-run swing that is completely understandable. I am sure that Tourigny will play pro hockey in his career, but will the Montreal Canadiens gets the benefit of it. Either way, I like the choice.
Overall, I think this is an excellent draft for the new management with Kent Hughes at the helm. While the organization may not have taken a centre with the first pick, they sorted out a centre via a trade and picked the player they believed the most in: Juraj Slafkovský.
While adding Kirby Dach to the team cost Alexander Romanov, it is a trade that makes sense. Our defensive expert on the podcast, Jason Paul, pointed out that Romanov’s days as a top-six defenceman in the organization might have been numbered. The Habs hadn’t been able to determine whether Romanov was the player we saw in the World Juniors or the player we saw in the KHL. With the defensive pipeline that Montreal possesses, it was from that depth that the asset for a centre would have to be taken.
I like the picks of Filip Mešár and Owen Beck, but also that they took a chance on Hutson and Tourigny. There is a lot of potential added, and few things not to like about the work done over the two days of the draft.