Well, the NHL Draft Lottery is now officially behind us, which means we can set our sights on the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, where the Canadiens will select fifth overall. The Canadiens, fortunately, did not move down, despite that being the most likely outcome, and instead stayed put at number five. The Chicago Blackhawks we’re the big winners, moving up from third to get the chance to select Connor Bedard.
This is the first time since 2005 in which the Canadiens will select fifth overall when the Canadiens used that pick to draft Carey Price. It will be the seventh time in franchise history that the Canadiens will draft fifth, barring a trade, something Kent Hughes has said is unlikely. It’s also unlikely that they’ll use that pick on a goalie this time around. But the Habs should get an excellent player at this pick, regardless.
This draft class is one of the stronger ones in recent history, and it blows the 2022 draft class out of the water. The Canadiens might be one of the more intriguing picks of the draft, as they’ll likely have a tough decision to make once they’re on the clock. Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli will go first and second, but after that, it’s not quite as clear who goes three between Will Smith and Leo Carlsson. Still, I would expect each of those guys to go with picks three and four, leaving the Canadiens with a tough decision. Do they take Matvei Michkov?
Of course, it’s entirely possible a team ahead of the Canadiens makes their decision easier by taking Michkov, as the San Jose Sharks did in the Athletic’s post-lottery mock draft. In that scenario, the Canadiens had Carlsson fall to them at #5, a massive win in my books. But there’s a risk associated with Michkov, which might scare off a few teams, choosing instead for talented players that will be available immediately.
There’s definitely a risk with Michkov, but in my eyes, there are five players in this draft that separate themselves from everyone else, and Michkov is one of them. He may not be available until 2026, but I think he could be like Kirill Kaprizov and immediately become a star in the NHL due to his development overseas. Whatever the Canadiens will do, it’s essential they make the most of a top-five pick in a deep class. The last three times the Canadiens had a top-five pick (2012, 2018, 2022), they came in weaker draft classes. This is an opportunity that cannot be wasted.
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