The 2022 NHL Draft concluded on Friday, July 8 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. While it was an overall positive weekend for the host team and there’s no denying the Canadiens are in better position now than last week, it wasn’t the home run weekend many analysts and prognosticators are claiming.
The crowd for Thursday’s first round was unlike any at prior drafts. Montreal fans were rowdy and excited as ever with anticipation as to who the team was going to select first overall. A noticeable hush fell over the crowd when first-year GM Kent Hughes announced the team was selecting Slovak Juraj Slafkovsky instead of Shane Wright, who was the presumed No. 1 overall pick for the better part of two years.
Montreal had three first round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, but only selected twice. Its other first-round pick, Filip Mesar, is also from Slovakia and projects to be a dynamic top-six winger. The Canadiens made a pair of trades in the first round, ultimately losing a first-round pick and stable defenseman Alexander Romanov to acquire young center Kirby Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Montreal got the Slafkovsky pick correct, but might have jumped the gun in acquiring Dach.
Read more about the 2022 NHL Draft.
Juraj Slafkovsky Will Have a Better Career Than Shane Wright
Although he has the look and size (6-foot-4, 218-pounds) of an absolute stud, Slafkovsky wasn’t really considered a potential top pick until the weeks leading up to the draft. His first overall selection, however, shouldn’t be a surprise.
The native of Kosice recorded 10 points in 31 games with TPS Turku in Finland’s top professional league, SM-liiga, last season at just 17-years-old. He didn’t turn 18 until May 30. Slafkovsky was also dominant in international competition against much older players.
He scored seven goals in seven games for Slovakia in the Winter Olympics and helped pace the country to a bronze medal finish. He proved that wasn’t a flash in the pan at the World Championships, where he registered nine points in eight games.
Wright, who shockingly fell to the Seattle Kraken at fourth overall, has only played against competition his own age. He recorded 94 points in 64 games with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL last season, but doesn’t possess the same physical tools or shot as Slafkovsky.
For what it’s worth, he told reporters that he’s “definitely going to have a chip on my shoulder” about being passed over at No. 1.
Kirby Dach is Overrated and Overhyped
Montreal is still not close to contending for a Stanley Cup in the ever-competitive Atlantic Division that includes the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, and Ottawa Senators, which acquired 40-goal-scorer Alex DeBrincat from the Blackhawks over the weekend. There was no reason for the team to trade a first round pick this weekend.
That said, it’s not as though the Habs dealt a first and Romanov for an aging veteran. Instead, they acquired a 21-year-old center, who’s 6-foot-4 and 197 pounds. It fills a need for big centers for the Canadiens, but Dach is running out of time to achieve his potential as a top offensive player in the league.
Following a decent 23-point rookie season in 2019-20, the 2019 third overall pick played just 18 games with Chicago in 2020-21. He became lost in the shuffle in 2021-22, registering only 26 points in 70 games despite averaging 18:03 minutes of ice time per night. He did more with less ice time as a rookie.
While there’s a chance the Habs could help Dach unlock his potential, it’s just as likely that he crumbles under the intense scrutiny of the Canadiens fans and media. Montreal isn’t an easy place to play, and Dach could find that out if he doesn’t have a great start to the 2022-23 season.
Join our Discord to leave a question or comment regarding this article. We have sports fans talking betting all day — every day! JOIN THE DISCORD NOW AND QUALIFY FOR PRIZES & BETTING SWAG!