Montreal Canadiens: What drafting a defenceman third-overall could mean

WORCESTER, MA - MARCH 25: Quinn Hughes #43 of the Michigan Wolverines skates the puck against the Boston University Terriers during the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Northeast Regional Championship Final at the DCU Center on March 25, 2018 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Wolverines won 6-3 and advanced to the Frozen Four in Minnesota. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Quinn Hughes
WORCESTER, MA - MARCH 25: Quinn Hughes #43 of the Michigan Wolverines skates the puck against the Boston University Terriers during the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Northeast Regional Championship Final at the DCU Center on March 25, 2018 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Wolverines won 6-3 and advanced to the Frozen Four in Minnesota. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Quinn Hughes /
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It’s unclear what the Montreal Canadiens will do with their third-overall pick and taking a defenceman could hint at a certain thought process.

The top-five of this year’s draft has a nice crop of forwards after Rasmus Dahlin. At the number three, the Montreal Canadiens have options at selecting one of Filip Zadina, Brady Tkachuk, or could go off the board a little and take Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Either option would have a valuable forward who can end up being a big-time contributor going to Montreal.

The team’s history at the draft has brought another narrative to the table. What if the Montreal Canadiens choose to take a defenceman? Marc Bergevin has been known to love his defenceman so it wouldn’t be too crazy of a possibility. Elliotte Friedman’s comments on his latest episode of the 31 Thoughts Podcast have added some fuel to that fire.

According to the Insider, he’s heard from different teams that Bergevin wants to go after one of the defencemen. The likely candidates in this conversation are Evan Bouchard, Quinn Hughes, Noah Dobson, and Adam Boqvist. The Habs likely saw a lot of Dobson and Hughes in the last few weeks.

Related Story: Zadina shares thoughts on draft decisions

The former was part of Acadie-Bathurst’s Memorial Cup-winning team taking on both Will Bitten and Cale Fleury in the process. Hughes, on the other hand, had a phenomenal performance in that final Frozen Four game against Jake Evans and the Fighting Irish back in April. Bergevin’s possible interest wouldn’t be from a single game though. Hughes an elite defenceman who possess above average sight, awareness, and offensive skill.

That said, the rule of thumb at the draft is to take the best player available at that point in time. Teams in the past have gone their own way at that front, but many choose not to stray from that path.

What if the Montreal Canadiens draft a defenceman?

The perception of the move depends on whether Bergevin chooses to stand pat at three or move down. Seeing as how a lot of those d-men aren’t projected to be taken until five, the Montreal Canadiens could talk to teams like the Arizona Coyotes or Detroit Red Wings to swap picks. However, Ottawa complicates things if the Habs are set on taking a blueliner.

Odds are the Senators are losing Erik Karlsson at some point and may take the 2018 NHL Draft as an opportunity to replace him internally. If one of Bergevin’s guys are at risk of being taken at four, the Habs may stand in front of it and taken a defenceman at three.

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But as good as these players project to be, it’s still surprising to hear of this possible move from the Habs. Although improving on defence is another high-alert area, you’d think the organization would be banking on the growth of Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen, or Josh Brook, Cale Fleury, and Scott Walford.

Additionally, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room where Zadina screams offensive dynamo while Tkachuk is an all-around power forward. Kotkaniemi is the easiest choice to rationalize as he’s a skilled centre despite needing time to grow. Perhaps the Habs believe in the centres they already have in the pool and feel they can put their trust in them.

Jonathan Drouin will be going through his second season in the middle, and there’s also Evans, Lukas Vejdemo, Ryan Poehling, and Joni Ikonen in the pool. There’s also the chance Bergevin acquires a young centre in a Max Pacioretty deal who is ready to play right away.

Preparation

The best way for fans to get ready for this draft is to not go in with any expectations. Friedman’s words are based on what he’s heard and not fact. The Montreal Canadiens could end up walking up to the podium, announce Zadina as their pick, and be on their merry way. This isn’t to say that drafting a defenceman would be a horrible idea.

Selecting Hughes, Bouchard, or Dobson is a big addition to the organization. But doing it at three is what raises the eyebrows.

Next: Gems in the 2017 NHL Draft

Montreal is guaranteed to get a good player whoever they end up taking. And with the amount of work Trevor Timmins and the rest of the scouting staff have put into this, they’ll be sure that whoever it is can help.