The Montreal Canadiens had the luxury of owning the first round of the 2022 National Hockey League (NHL) draft and he had his sights set on Thursday night at Bell Center Juraj Slafkovsky.
• Also read: 2022 NHL Draft: All first-round picks
The tension lasted until the very last minute, when general manager Kent Hughes and his team appeared to have hesitated for a long time between Slafkovsky and centers Shane Wright and Logan Cooley.
Slafkovsky was most recently one of the headliners of this amateur auction when he surprised the entire ice hockey world with seven goals in as many games for Slovakia at the Olympic tournament in Beijing 2022.
The 18-year-old left winger is a true power forward, measuring 6’4″, 229lbs. Many Canadiens fans have long dreamed of seeing him line up with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.
With Turku’s TPS in Finland’s elite league, Slafkovsky accumulated 10 points in 31 games. He did even better in the playoffs with seven points in 18 games.
Upon arriving on the red carpet near the Bell Center, the Slovak was booed by some supporters, keen to see the Habs reach out to Wright. He is the fastest drafted player in his country, beating Marian Gaborik’s record third in 2000.
We have to go back to 1980 to see the Canadian selection in the first round one last time. The Bleu Blanc Rouge chose Doug Wickenheiser, a player who hasn’t broken anything in the NHL.
Shane Wright slips
With the second pick, that of the New Jersey Devils, a second Slovak was selected. Defender Simon Nemec, author of a good season with Nitra in his home country, was the chosen player.
Despite Wright’s availability as a center player, another center, Logan Cooley, was selected by the Arizona Coyotes. Wright was still selected to the next round, the fourth, by the Seattle Kraken.
As usual, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was greeted with boos from the crowd. He began a few words in French to greet the fans but remained confused by the fans’ anger towards him.
Prior to the Canadians’ selection, a tribute was paid to Bryan Marchment, a former National League defenseman who became a scout for the San Jose Sharks. The 53-year-old was found dead in his Montreal hotel room on Wednesday.
Martin Lafleur and Tanya Bossy have been invited on stage along with the commissioner to commemorate the deaths of their famous fathers, Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy, in early April.
CH head coach Martin St-Louis, meanwhile, drove there with an interesting wink, mentioning that it was his first appearance in the repechage in 47 years. Recall that more than 25 years ago, all the formations on the circuit turned up their noses at the auction at the candidacy of the former Tampa Bay Lightning forward.