Not only will the Montreal Canadiens host the NHL draft in July, they’ll have a chance to make headlines after winning the draft lottery Tuesday night.
The Canadiens have endured a tumultuous season as they finish last in the overall standings and retain the right to the No. 1 pick.
The New Jersey Devils changed the draft order by winning the second of two lotteries and moving from fifth to second in the draft order.
The Devils’ victory lifted Arizona from second to third, Seattle to fourth and Philadelphia to fifth. Depending on the team’s standing in the standings, the remaining places from 6 to 16 remain unchanged.
Montreal finally got a big win after a season in which the Canadiens were sidelined by a string of injuries and free agency losses that led to the team firing coach Dominic Ducham and general manager Mark Bergerwen. Kent Hughes took over as general manager, and Martin St. Louis remained in his interim coaching title.
The Canadiens went from reaching the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals (where they lost to Tampa Bay in five games) to finishing 22-49-11 — the team’s fewest wins in more than 60 games.
The timing of the lottery winnings at least matches the long wait for the Canadiens to host the draft on July 7 and 8. Montreal was slated to host the event in 2020, but the last two drafts were held remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Montreal became the first team to host a draft and have the No. 1 overall pick since the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Wendell Clark in 1985.
It’s the fourth time the Devils have won the lottery since 2011, including 2019, when they moved from third to first with Jack Hughes, and 2017, when New Jersey moved from fifth to first one. The Devils also won the lottery in 2011, and they went from No. 8 to No. 4 when teams were limited to four spots.
The NHL tweaked its rules this year to limit winning teams to just 10 spots up in the draft order. Another rule that went into effect this year bars teams from winning more than twice in five years.
The draw determines the top 16, and the remaining 16 will be determined by the team’s ranking in the playoffs.
This year’s top draft prospect is thought to be Ontario Hockey League center Shane Wright, who is No. 1 among North American skaters at NHL Central Scouting.
Originally from Brampton, Ontario, Wright plays for Kingston Frontenac and has a chance to become the first OHL player to be drafted since Edmonton drafted Connor McDavid with the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. Wright is averaging 1.49 points in 63 regular season appearances this season, scoring 32 goals and 62 assists.
Wright said he won’t be able to watch the draft lottery because he’s gearing up for the playoffs.
Slovakia’s Juraj Slafkovsky is the No. 1 international prospect.
Slavkovsky scored seven goals at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, won MVP honors and helped Slovakia win bronze – the country’s first Olympic ice hockey medal. After Marian Gaborik was drafted by Minnesota in 2000, the 6-foot-3 wing had a chance to become the highest-drafted player of Slovakian descent.
The prospect’s next step will be to participate in the NHL’s rookie group, which will be held in Buffalo from May 29 to June 4.
The draft lottery also identified two of the top 16 picks.
Chicago’s pick at No. 6 will move to the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the Blackhawks’ deal to acquire Seth Jones last summer. The Blue Jackets will also select No. 12.
The Buffalo Sabres will now have three first-round picks after Vegas was selected 16th overall in a trade that sent Jack Eichel to the Golden Knights in November. Buffalo will also select the ninth overall pick and also have a first-round pick from the Florida Panthers, which will not be determined until the playoffs are complete.
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