NHL Mock Draft 2022: Montreal Canadiens select Shane Wright with No. 1 pick

There has been a lot of debate in recent weeks, but the choice at first overall is clear.

With the first pick in the 2022 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, Eyes On The Prize selects Kingston Frontenacs centre Shane Wright on behalf of the Montreal Canadiens.

It’s the first time we’ve made the opening selection in the mock draft in SB Nation’s history, which dates back to 2009. The previous high was third overall, in 2012 (we chose Mikhail Grigorenko; the actual pick was Alex Galchenyuk) and 2018 (Filip Zadina, with the Canadiens’ brass opting for Jesperi Kotkaniemi).

All of SB Nation’s NHL sites will be participating in this exercise, making the first-round pick of their respective team (provided they still hold the pick originally assigned to them).

Leading up to the NHL Draft Lottery, we polled our community to see which player they wanted to take among a group of the top prospects available. With over 1000 responses, the choice was overwhelming at the time, as it was among the EOTP staff when we made this selection.

There were several quality options on the board, as you’d expect when having the choice of any draft-eligible player in the entire class. Logan Cooley has the potential to be an exciting top-end centreman in the NHL. Juraj Slafkovsky was perhaps the most notable draft-eligible player this season for what he was able to achieve in international competition. And there are two very good defencemen at the top in David Jiricek and Simon Nemec as well. In the end, however, Shane Wright was simply too complete a package to pass up with the opening selection for a team trying to build a contending roster.

Birthplace: Burlington, Ontario
Date of birth: January 5, 2004
Shoots: Right
Position: Centre
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 199 lbs.
Team: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

There are no weaknesses in Wright’s game. Many analysts regard him as the best two-way forward in the class. There are teams who would spend a relatively high pick to select a guaranteed third-line player; Wright’s floor is that of a second-line centre with defensive prowess and offensive ability that will serve him well in the NHL.

Being ranked right at the top of the list, his game has been under the most scrutiny all season long. While other players could improve their stock with stellar performances, Wright’s could go nowhere but down with poor ones.

The negative reviews began with a slow start to his OHL season, then really kicked into gear at the World Junior Championship. He had only one point and was outshone by presumptive 2023 first overall pick Connor Bedard on Team Canada. Perhaps as a Canadiens site we were less impacted by such a showing in a short tournament — extremely so in this case as the event was cancelled after just two games — because Nick Suzuki had experienced something similar in his WJC appearance, and still become a 60-point NHL centreman, with the promise for more.

With that criticism filed, attention turned to his season performance, and many felt he should have produced more than 94 points, which ranked him second on his team and eighth in the OHL. If he were billed as simply an offensive-minded player, those numbers would put his standing into question, but his point-production is only part of his game. It’s less worrying that he didn’t pile up more points when his underlying stats like shot-creation and transition play are both at the top of the class.

Wright is an intelligent player on the ice, keeping the puck moving away from his net. He can do that thanks to his incredible awareness, keeping tabs on the full flow of the game. There is still work to be done, and he did focus most of his energy on the defensive side this season. He has a great base to work with and will have the time and an NHL coach in Martin St. Louis with the patience to work with him to improve his game further.

Rankings (pre-lottery  →  final)

Elite Prospects: #1  →  #1
FCHockey: #1  →  N/A
HockeyProspect: #1  →  #2
McKeen’s: #1  →  #1
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #1  →  N/A
Craig Button (TSN): #1  →  #1
NHL Central Scouting: #1  →  #1 (NA Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): #1  →  #2
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #1  →  #1

Wright was the unanimous pick among the various prospect sources at the time of the NHL Draft Lottery, when we profiled the top prospects and conducted the poll above. He played three more games in his 2021-22 season after that, all losses in the OHL playoffs that saw Kingston eliminated. He had four points in the those three games, ending the playoffs with 14 points in 11 games. That again wasn’t the top mark on his team, as two previously drafted players finished above him, and list-makers have been questioning whether these are the types of placements a first overall pick should be finishing.

We will get a good measure of how things have changed when Bob McKenzie publishes his final rankings in the next day or so that poll the NHL scouts who directly report to the general managers making the final decision. We’ll see if this slight hesitancy present from other sources is reflected in that ranking. As for us, we are perfectly content to deem him the best player in the draft class and the one we’d select first. Having a one-two punch of Suzuki and Wright in the middle of the ice is an excellent foundation to rebuild around.

In addition to this being the first time we’ve picked at first overall, it’s also the first year we’ll make two selections in the mock draft, holding another pick (from the Calgary Flames) at 26th. That decision is sure to be more of a debate, one we’ll hold once the Toronto Maple Leafs make their choice at 25.

The history of Eyes On The Prize’s SB Nation NHL Mock Draft selections

2022: Shane Wright (first)
2021: Xavier Bourgault (31st)
2020: Mavrik Bourque (16th)
2019: Thomas Harley (15th)
2018: Filip Zadina (third)
2017: Urho Vaakanainen (25th)
2016: Tyson Jost (ninth)
2015: Thomas Chabot (26th)
2014: David Pastrnak (26th)
2013: Josh Morrissey (25th)
2012: Mikhail Grigorenko (third)
2011: Mark Scheifele (17th)
2010: Ryan Spooner (27th)
2009: Scott Glennie (18th)

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