MONTREAL — Does Shane Wright still have the right gear for the Montreal Canadiens?
While Montreal general manager Kent Hughes hasn’t said who he’ll take with the No. 1 selection of the NHL Draft which begins Thursday night with Round 1 at the Bell Centre, it would be hard to see his club getting any better. away from the OHL. Kingston Frontenacs Center.
Although Hughes indicated that the staff will decide between Juraj Slafkovsky, Logan Cooley or Wright with the best selection, the newly hired general manager did not rule out swapping the No. couldn’t refuse for that to happen.
The belief in NHL circles is that Hughes is just shy and has no intention of changing gears, but no one will really know until the Canadiens show up on the microphone on a crowded ice rink just after. 7 p.m.
Wright, 18, had 32 goals, 62 assists and 94 points in 63 games for the Fronts last season. He had three goals and 14 points in 11 playoff games with Kingston.
“I still think they’ll pick Shane Wright,” a league executive said Tuesday. “He’s the best player in this draft. Will he be ready to play next year? It’s up to them, but I think he’s the guy they want and I’d be surprised if ‘they weren’t making him number 1.”
There have been differing opinions on who should be the No. 1 pick because both Slafkovsky and Cooley have pleaded to be in the discussion. Some scouts think Wright has been ranked No. 1 for so long that some scouts have started seeing him too much.
“You look so much at a player and you start to separate him,” the executive added.
That’s it. We heard the same thing about John Tavares when he was selected No. 1 overall by the New York Islanders in 2009 by the London Knights. Instead of seeing all of his abilities, people started to see his mistakes and he had a stellar NHL career.
That year, defenseman Victor Hedman went second overall for the Lightning.
It was no surprise to see Craig Button, respected director of TSN scouting and former NHL general manager, stick with Wright as the best player in his mock draft released Monday. He said he believed Wright would make the difference.
“I just see him as the best player in this draft,” Button said. “There are other good players, but Shane Wright does so many different things that impact the game. You can use comparisons and I use Patrice Bergeron.
“Shane Wright will never be a superstar in my mind, but, like Patrice Bergeron, they will be critically important to a team’s success. And that’s regardless of the team they play on. Patrice Bergeron goes to the Hockey Hall of Fame, so if you can select a player that you think can be a Hall of Famer, I think Shane Wright fits the bill.
“With (Nick) Suzuki and Wright in the middle at numbers 1 and 2, it sets the Canadians up for the future.”
The ideal scenario would see the Habs select Wright with the first pick and strike a deal with the New Jersey Devils for the No. 2 pick to take either Cooley or Slafkovsky.
Cooley, a forward in the United States National Development Team program, had 13 goals and 36 points in 24 games last season. He has committed to play at the University of Minnesota next season.
As for Slafkovksy, he is considered by some scouts to be the player who had the most consistent season from start to finish with TPS Turku in the Finnish Premier League. Those who saw him at the IIHF World Championship in May said he was by far the best player with the Czech club.
Slafkovksy is the most ready for the NHL, and if the Canadiens want someone to play next season, they’ll go that route.
Hughes has draft capital with 14 picks, which is why he would love to make a splash with the home crowd. The Devils and Ottawa Senators, who have the seventh pick, have both said publicly they’re ready to distribute their picks if they can get an impact player in return.
It should be noted that all three players have their supporters and that is why there is uncertainty as to who will be the No. 1 choice. The reality is that Hughes will do what is best for the franchise and Being the Canadiens’ best choice comes with a different pressure than other NHL markets.
Interestingly, Habs special assistant Vincent Lecavalier has spoken to Wright about that pressure before.
“We try to assess how a player projects,” Hughes said. “We can look at a player and say that’s who he is right now where he’s playing. They’re at different levels of hockey and we’re trying to say, ‘This guy is able to do this at this level, can take it to the next level?’
“There is a hockey component, a positional component and there are all these things that we assess. The other part is that it’s hard to be 17 and under the microscope like Shane and others before him. But it’s almost harder to be the first overall pick in Montreal.
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