Montreal Canadiens Could Have 15 Picks When They Host NHL Draft

MONTREAL, QC - SEPTEMBER 16: Montreal Canadiens center Nick Cousins (21) celebrates Montreal Canadiens center Nate Thompson (44) goal during the New Jersey Devils versus the Montreal Canadiens preseason game on September 16, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - SEPTEMBER 16: Montreal Canadiens center Nick Cousins (21) celebrates Montreal Canadiens center Nate Thompson (44) goal during the New Jersey Devils versus the Montreal Canadiens preseason game on September 16, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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The Montreal Canadiens host the NHL Draft in June. They are struggling in the standings and will be sellers at the deadline. They could end up announcing 15 picks at the draft they host if they choose to sell.

The Montreal Canadiens are spendings their All-Star break going through their scouting meetings and deciding whether they should be buyers or sellers. The trade deadline will be four weeks away when the Habs next take to the ice on Monday night, and they will be 13th in points percentage in the Eastern Conference at that time.

With 32 games left to play and five teams to jump over if the Canadiens are going to make the playoffs, becoming buyers seems unlikely. It just doesn’t make sense to trade away picks and prospects to add veterans when even making the playoffs is a very unlikely scenario.

There is a small chance the Habs brass take the time over these meetings to discuss how they started the season 11-5-3 when everyone was healthy and that they could have a good run down the stretch. Several players are slated to return shortly after the break and newcomers Ilya Kovalchuk and Marco Scandella give them added depth. It’s possible they look to those points and Carey Price‘s strong play entering the break and decide to go for it.

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However, it is far more likely that they will look at their situation and come to the agreement that selling off veteran assets, especially pending free agents, is the best course for the organization. With the draft being held in Montreal in June, adding picks for that weekend should be the team’s top priority.

It would be great if the Canadiens were drafting 31st at their own draft after winning the Stanley Cup. It would also be a great event for the team and their fans if they somehow won the draft lottery and announced Alexis Lafreniere’s name at the start of the draft in the Bell Centre.

Both of those scenarios are unlikely with the Canadiens currently 24th in league standings which gives them the 8th best chance at winning the lottery. If neither of those scenarios are going to play out, the best thing the Habs can do is add as many picks as they can and make sure fans inside the Bell Centre never have to wait long before hearing another prospect has been added to the Canadiens organization.

Stockpiling draft picks was not Marc Bergevin‘s forte when he first was on scene as Habs general manager. The Habs had an extra second round pick in the 2012 draft which was Bergevin’s first, but that pick was acquired by Pierre Gauthier before he was fired. Gauthier also added two additional picks in the second round of the 2013 draft.

In the 2014 and 2015 draft, Bergevin traded away the team’s second and fourth round picks, leaving them with just two of the first 125 picks in both drafts. Bergevin also dealt the Habs second round pick in 2016. He added an extra second rounder in 2017 but traded a few later picks and ended up with seven selections in the seven round event.

The past two years, the team’s philosophy has clearly shifted. The Canadiens announced eleven selections in the 2018 draft and welcomed ten new people to the organization in 2019. That is 21 new teenagers added to the pipeline in the past two drafts which is excellent. This year, when the draft is held inside the Bell Centre in Montreal, the Canadiens could be very busy all weekend long.

Montreal already holds 11 picks for the 2020 NHL Draft. They have the Chicago Blackhawks second round pick from the Andrew Shaw trade, the have the Anaheim Ducks fourth round pick from the Nic Deslauriers deal, the Winnipeg Jets gave the Habs their fourth rounder with Joel Armia so the Habs would take on the last year of Steve Mason‘s contract, the Habs flipped last year’s fifth rounder to the Florida for the Panthers fifth this year and the Hawks also sent a seventh in the Shaw deal.

That is a lot of draft capital, but could before even more in the coming weeks. With the Habs likely set to become sellers, they could be adding picks for several pending free agents. Nate Thompson, Ilya Kovalchuk and Marco Scandella are unrestricted free agents this summer. Thompson and Scandella could fetch fifth round picks and with the way Kovalchuk has played since throwing on a Habs jersey, Montreal may be able to add another second round pick for the Russian winger.

Nick Cousins also has an expiring contract, but the 26 year old is a restricted free agent at season’s end. Cousins has been asked to do a bit too much with the Habs this season, but he is a reliable bottom six winger at the NHL level. Some team out there with aspirations of a deep playoff run could use Cousins on their fourth line and would be happy to swap a fourth round pick for those services.

If the Habs can add a pick for each of Thompson, Cousins, Kovalchuk and Scandella, that would give them 15 selections. If they choose to move a player with term left on their contract, like Tomas Tatar or Jeff Petry they would surely add another pick, and one that is much higher in the draft than what they can get for Cousins, Thompson or Scandella.

The Canadiens haven’t had more than 15 picks in one draft since 1982 when there were 12 rounds in the draft. Now there are just seven rounds, but the Canadiens could easily have 15 picks if they just sell off their expiring veterans.

Since the team is unlikely to make the playoffs and also unlikely to have the top pick, the best way to excite the fan base is to load up on as many picks as possible. I don’t even care what round. Just look at what the Habs have done in the seventh round lately.

Last year they took Rafael Harvey-Pinard in the seventh round he is lighting up the QMJHL with 56 points in 44 games. Brett Stapley was selected in the last round of the 2018 draft and is a top six centre on one of the best teams in college hockey and is close to a point per game. Cayden Primeau was taken in the seventh round of the 2017 draft and looks like he could be Carey Price’s heir apparent.

So, trade any veterans for whatever picks you can get. With the draft being held at the Bell Centre and the Canadiens likely not playing playoff hockey there for the third straight year, they should add as many picks as they possibly can. Trade all of the players with expiring contracts, offer up Jordan Weal, Charles Hudon, and Brett Kulak to the highest bidder. Even Tatar and Petry should be moved if you get a great return for them.

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By the end of the draft weekend on June 26th and 27th, the Canadiens may not be bragging about a Stanley Cup win earlier that month, nor are they likely to have drafted Lafreniere. However, they could have 15 or more players added to an already impressive prospect pipeline.