The question is on everyone’s lips. Who will the Canadiens choose as the first pick in the draft? Will he select Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovsky? Will he surprise by opting instead for Logan Cooley?

For once, no player is unanimous.

This is our chance, will ironically say the fans of the Habs.

Alain Chainey summarizes the situation well.

“It’s very difficult for the Canadian to have the first choice in a draft that is imperfect,” he said.

Bob McKenzie brings a different story.

“It’s one thing to be the first pick in the draft. But it’s another thing to be the first choice in a market like Montreal,” he says.

And how!

We are still talking about the Canadian’s decision to have preferred Doug Wickenheiser to Denis Savard, more than 40 years later.

Always a recruiter at heart

Chainey and McKenzie know a thing or two about the draft. The former was part of the scouting staff, in addition to being the head scout of the Anaheim Ducks for 20 years. He will always have the job in his skin.

Coaches say, “once a coach, always a coach”. I say: “once a recruiter, always a recruiter”.

All winter, he kept in touch with his many NHL connections and watched tons of videos. He is well prepared for the role of analyst he will occupy during the first two rounds of the repechage, which will be presented on TVA Sports.

McKenzie has been ranking prospects for nearly 40 years. He gets his information from a dozen NHL head scouts.

Wright: superior game sense

Chainey is clear on two things. He takes issue with the smear campaign being carried out against Wright.

He also says he is convinced that the new management of the Canadian has turned over every stone and scrutinized every corner to find out everything about the contenders for the first choice.

He has no doubt that the conversations are lively right now in the Bell Center offices. He would like to be a little bird to attend the meetings.

“Wright is an excellent player, who has an above average sense of the game,” he said.

“He is a responsible player in both directions of the ice. Will he be a first or a second center? At worst, he would be a number two, which would be very, very, very good anyway. »

Slafkovsky: beau potential

As for Slafkovsky, Chainey doesn’t dwell so much on his size as on his skills.

“He has a certain talent,” he continues.

“He has proven himself at the Olympics and at the World Championships in the spring. Some argue that the caliber was lower at the Games this year and that the World Championship never brings together the cream of players.

“But who was Slovakia’s top scorer in these tournaments? Slafkovsky! »

But it can be misleading too.

Think of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who had a great second half of the season in the Finnish League before being drafted by the Canadian, as well as his compatriot Kaapo Kakko who has not convinced anyone so far with the Rangers.

“After analysis, I think Slafkovsky has a little more development potential than Wright. But if he doesn’t reach that potential, it’s bad,” Chainey continued.

“The question is whether you want to hit a home run or go for it with a sure bet. I think that, on the Canadian side, we will perhaps play the safety card more, ”he adds, referring to Wright.

From 10 to 5 presses

The Kingston Frontenacs center was a unanimous pick before the season.

“The 10 head recruiters I spoke to at the time agreed that he was the first choice,” says Bob McKenzie.

“In the middle of January, Wright was still getting favor with nine of them, but the 10 were putting a lot of emphasis on the fact that it had become tight between him and Slafkovsky.

“When I repeated the exercise during the first choice lottery in May, I could not reach one of my informants. But the record had fallen to six against three for Wright.

“As part of the Memorial Cup tournament [Wright was not there nor Slafkovsky], the count went to five for Slafkovsky, four for Wright and one for Cooley.

“I think if I had spoken to 31 of the 32 head scouts for having an odd number, the score would have been 16-15 for either player. »

In Wright’s defense, it must be said that he did not play at all last year, since the OHL canceled its season due to COVID-19.

“Scouts who love him remember his fine appearance as a 15-year-old player in the OHL and his performance as a 16-year-old at the World Under-18 Championship,” McKenzie said.

“In May 2021, he was number one on all lists. But as one NHL team executive told me, that was a long time ago in a world like ours. »

Go for the circuit

And who would Chainey choose?

“I would go with Slafkovsky,” he replies without hesitation.

“I always liked to hit home runs! When I was with the Ducks, everyone said Corey Perry didn’t skate. But it was a 29th choice, which is not the same.

“He still became a not worse player in the NHL. He compensated for his lack of speed with his good positioning, his scoring talent and his great competitiveness. »

But attempting to hit the long ball comes with risks.

“You don’t want it to end in a [baseball amortized] bunt,” image Chainey.

The Canadian especially does not need that when he is rebuilding.