In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll discuss predictions for Thursday's NHL entry draft, as well as the fantasy implications of such predictions.
Montreal's First Overall Pick
On Monday, Habs GM Kent Hughes told the media that Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, and Logan Cooley all remain potential candidates for the team's first overall pick. Despite those public comments, I'd be surprised if the Habs didn't select Wright on Thursday. In a league where most contending teams have two strong centers, the Habs would be wise to select the draft's most highly touted centerman, creating a promising 1-2 punch down the middle with Shane Wright and Nick Suzuki. At present, it doesn't seem like anyone in the organization, aside from Suzuki, could fill the role of top-six center. Christian Dvorak, Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling all seem better suited for roles in the bottom-six. Although the team lacks options at center, they have a fair bit of depth on the wings, both on the current roster and in the prospect pipeline. In addition, good wingers tend to be more common than good centers. Based on those realities, I don't think it makes sense for Montreal to take Juraj Slafkovsky – a winger who may have higher ceiling than Wright, but also a lower floor.
Based on interviews, Wright seems like the most mature of the top-pick candidates. He's had the spotlight on him from a young age and has learned how to carry himself in the public eye – an important trait when playing for one of the league's most passionate fanbases. He's a cerebral player with great hockey IQ, which makes him a perfect apprentice for head coach Martin St. Louis (MSL), who places an emphasis on decision-making, thinking through the game, and constantly developing.
Now that we've established why it makes sense for Montreal to pick Wright, let's discuss the potential fantasy implications of such a pick. If Wright plays in Montreal next year, I'd be most interested in the impact he'd have on the players around him. I imagine someone like Christian Dvorak, who tallied an impressive 17 points in 22 games under MSL last year, would be forced into more difficult minutes in order to make Wright's transition to the NHL a bit easier. Given Wright's highly r