By Bob Trask – When you look beyond the obvious where the Canadiens are virtually assured of having one of the top 3 or 4 picks in the 2022 entry draft, we can discover a rare opportunity for the team. Yes, the Canadiens already have 14 picks in the 7 round draft but in addition to the multitude of picks another opportunity exists.
In one of his early statements, Kent Hughes stated that when acquiring players, prospects are sometimes better than picks because they have had additional time to develop and their progress can be analyzed more accurately.
A Look Back
The 2021 entry draft looks like it was a successful one for the Canadiens but the scouts had to be flying somewhat blind. Most leagues played shortened schedules and some leagues cancelled their seasons entirely. It had to be nearly impossible to get an updated evaluation on many prospects and some had to have been overlooked.
It is some of these prospects who were missed the first time around that may fall into the Canadiens’ lap.
Every year, there are players chosen in a draft who were passed over in their first year of eligibility. Whether it’s a growth spurt, a sudden realization that they need to work harder to get noticed or some other factor, some players find their stride a little later than others.
These are the kinds of players who could be scooped up with the additional picks that the Canadiens hold. This also fits in well the Hughes’ statement it can be easier to predict the development path of older, more experienced players than it is for 18 year olds.
The other advantage of taking a late bloomer is that by the time the deadline arrives to offer them a contract they will be much more mature and the team will have a better idea of what their ceiling might be. Instead of deciding whether to offer a CHL player a contract at age 20, the deadline becomes 21 or 22. For 2nd tier juniors, college players or Europeans the deadline could be as high as 23 or 24 years old.
An example of this type of player is Kai Uchacz who played this year for the Red Deer Rebels. He played only 3 games in the AJHL in 2021 but suited up for 52 games in the WHL this year scoring 14 goals and adding 19 assists. He is a big center who is ranked at #95 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting (source: eliteprospects.com). If and when he is finally selected remains to be seen and I chose him randomly for purposes of illustration.
Options at the Draft Table
When it comes to the draft, Hughes and the scouting staff can monitor the situation as it unfolds.
- With a multitude of picks they can afford to make a couple of high risk/high reward picks.
- They could also choose to bundle two or more picks to move up in the draft.
- They could take a chance on one or two late bloomers.
- They could use a combination of two or more of these approaches
- If none of those options are attractive at the time the pick rolls around and another team is looking at a prospect that appeals to them, Hughes could trade the Habs’ pick for a choice in 2023 or 2024.
Kent Hughes has an embarassment of riches to bring with him to the draft table and a great many options on how he can deploy them. It may be the most exciting draft for the Canadiens since Guy Lafleur was chosen first overall in 1971 or the big haul in 1984 where the first four choices were Petr Svoboda, Shayne Corson, Stephane Richer and Patrick Roy.