Play it safe or try the circuit?

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

For once, no player agrees.

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

Alain Chaney sums up the situation well.

“It’s very difficult for the Canadian to have first pick in an imperfect draft,” 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 number one choice in a market like Montreal,” he says.

And how!

We’re still talking about the Canadian’s decision to choose Doug Wickenheiser over Denis Savard, more than 40 years later.

Always a recruiter at heart

Chaney and McKenzie know a thing or two about the draft. The former was part of the Anaheim Ducks’ scouting team and head scout for 20 years. He will always have the job in his own skin.

Coaches say, “Once a coach, always a coach”. I say, “Once a recruiter, always a recruiter”.

Throughout the winter, he kept in touch with his many NHL connections and watched countless videos. He is well prepared for the analyst role he will take on in the first two rounds of the Repechage presented on TVA Sports.

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

Wright: Superior game sense

Chaney is clear on two things. He criticizes the smear campaign waged against Wright.

He was also convinced that the Canadian’s new management had turned every stone and scrutinized every corner to find out all about the contenders for first choice.

He has no doubt that conversations are lively in the Bell Center offices at the moment. He wants to be a little bird to attend the meetings.

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

“He’s a responsible player on both sides of the ice. Will it be a first or a second center? Worst case he would be number two, which would be very, very, very good anyway. »

Slafkovsky: great potential

As for Slafkovsky, Chaney’s focus is not so much on his size as on his skills.

“He has a certain talent,” he continues.

“He proved himself at the Olympics and at the World Championships in spring. Some argue that the caliber of games this year has been lower and that the World Cup never brings together the elite of players.

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

But it can also be deceiving.

Think of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who had a great second half of the Finnish league before being drafted by the Canadian, and his compatriot Kaapo Kakko, who has yet to impress at Rangers.

“After the analysis, I think Slafkovsky has a little more potential for development than Wright. But if he doesn’t reach that potential, things go badly,” Chaney continues.

“The question is whether you want to hit a home run or try a safe bet. I think maybe we’ll play the safety card more on the Canadian side,” he added, referring to Wright.

From 10 to 5 presses

The Kingston Frontenacs center was a unanimous choice preseason.

“The 10 senior recruiters I spoke to at the time all agreed he was the top choice,” says Bob McKenzie.

“As of mid-January, Wright was still in the good graces of nine of them, but the 10 took great pride in the fact that things had gotten tight between him and Slafkovsky.

“When I repeated the exercise during the May primary election, I was unable to reach one of my informants. But the record had fallen to six for three for Wright.

“As part of the Memorial Cup tournament [Wright n’y était pas ni Slafkovsky]the count rose to five for Slafkovsky, four for Wright, and one for Cooley.

“I think if I spoke to 31 of the 32 chief scouts for an odd number, the score would have been 16-15 for each player. »

In Wright’s defense, he didn’t play at all last year as OHL canceled their season due to COVID-19.

“Scouts who love him remember his good performance as a 15-year-old player in the OHL and his performances as a 16-year-old at the U18 World Cup,” McKenzie said.

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

Go for the circuit

And who would Chaney vote for?

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

“I’ve always loved hitting home runs! When I was with the Ducks, everyone said Corey Perry didn’t skate. But it was a 29th pick, which isn’t the same.

“Nevertheless, he hasn’t become a worse player in the NHL. He compensated for his lack of speed with his good line-up, his goal-shooting talent and his great competitiveness. »

But trying to hit the long ball comes with risks.

“You don’t want it to end with one bunting [amorti au baseball] », picture Chaney.

The Canadian certainly doesn’t need that when he’s remodeling.

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