The 2018 NHL Draft is a unique opportunity for the Montreal Canadiens. They hold the third overall pick, which by itself is a major chance to draft a talent that can help fix some of the issues facing the franchise. They also possess four second-round picks, including two in the first 10 picks of the second day of selections thanks to a trade that sent Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to Chicago. The Habs still have their own pick in the third round, and then three picks in the fourth, making it nine total picks in the first four rounds.
For a team that is lacking true depth in their prospect pool, and an elite standout talent waiting in the wings, with this many picks available to them, the Canadiens can do any number of things and come out with a positive result in the end.
The riskiest proposition for the Habs would be to trade down from the third overall pick if they believe a player they want will still be available to them a few picks later. That player could be a centre like Joe Veleno, Rasmus Kupari, or Jesperi Kotkaniemi, or a defenceman like Quinn Hughes or Evan Bouchard.
Regardless of their choice, they could likely collect a king’s ransom for the third overall pick if they believe the player they want will still be available. That includes getting NHL-ready talent that the team could put to immediate use, especially if they can work out a trade around a centre or left-handed defenceman.
The Edmonton Oilers have been mentioned in speculation since the season ended, especially around Oscar Klefbom and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them wheeling and dealing at the draft table.
The best option may be to simply stand pat, keeping all their picks and letting Trevor Timmins work his draft magic. The 2018 class has a ton of talent, and the Habs will have a chance to land some of the talent that slides down the draft board. As we’ve noted in a previous season, Timmins and his staff are among the best around in the NHL on the draft’s second day.
Giving Timmins that many chances at the podium is bound to strike figurative gold over the course of the draft. It also replenishes the prospect pipeline very quickly, giving the Habs an easier road to retooling their NHL roster down the road when players get set to begin their professional North American careers from the CHL, NCAA, or European leagues. The only caveat is that outside of their third overall pick, there’s little chance that the haul of picks will provide the immediate relief the Habs need going into the 2018-19 season.
The final option for the team is a combination of the prior two options, where the Canadiens keep their third overall pick, but trade back into the first round. As stated above, the draft is loaded with talent, and given the names available even outside of the top 10, it’s a crapshoot to figure out who will be drafted where, and who will slide down the board. Montreal can take advantage of this with their multiple second-round picks, using them, possibly in conjunction with a roster player, to jump back into round one and add another one of those quality prospects.
There are plenty of players who fit organizational needs. Whether it be playmaking centres, scoring wingers, or a cavalcade of talented defenders, this draft has it all.
Regardless of which route they go, the Canadiens will be walking out with a handful of new prospects. They can take a risk and trade down from the third overall pick to get some NHL-ready help, or they can play it safe and stock the cupboard for future seasons. Either way the team has given Trevor Timmins a golden ticket this year, and having this many swings only stands to benefit the team overall.