Exploring the Possibility of the Canadiens Taking Another Defenseman at Fifth Overall

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Canadiens have the fifth overall pick in the draft for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Habs took Austrian defenseman David Reinbacher to help shore up their blueline. This year, the expectation is that the Canadiens will add an offensive player as they continue to build their top-six forward group.

But there is still the possibility of going defence again. After all, this is one of the deeper defensive classes in recent history. Depending on how the board falls, there is an increasing possibility that the Canadiens may feel like adding to their blueline is the best option. Let’s explore this a little further.

The San Jose Sharks have the first overall pick, and we can safely assume that Macklin Celebrini will be the selection. Anyone else here would be shocking. The draft really begins at pick number two, the Chicago Blackhawks. What they do could have a significant effect on how the rest of the draft plays out. The debate right now seems to be between Artyom Levshunov, considered by many to be the best defenseman in the draft, and Ivan Demidov, one of the most talented forwards available.

The Hawks might feel more inclined to go defenseman here, as they already have an elite offensive forward in Connor Bedard. But Demidov on Bedard’s wing might just be too enticing to turn down. I’m sure the Habs are hoping Demidov falls to five, but it’s not even a guarantee that he makes it past two. So, for this exercise's sake, let’s say he doesn’t.

This brings us to Anaheim at three. I’d say the Ducks are the most likely team in the top five to take a defenseman, as they already have a very talented young crop of forwards. That crop got even stronger when they acquired Cutter Gauthier earlier this season, moving out Jamie Drysdale in the process. The Ducks could really use a right-shot defenseman like Levhsunov, but the ability to add another elite forward would be enticing. Let’s say they stick with Levhsunov.

This brings us to Columbus, who don’t have a glaring need at any one position. They could go forward or defenseman, though the newly hired Don Waddell made it seem as though the Jackets will be taking a forward once again, having taken Adam Fantilli third overall last year. And with big Cayden Lindstrom still on the board, he seems like a great fit to play second fiddle to Fantilli and form an extraordinary duo down the middle of the ice.

So, to recap, the top four went Celebrini, Demidov, Levshunov and Lindstrom, which is a very real possibility come June 28th. That would leave the Canadiens with a lot fewer options than they will likely be hoping for. There are still some solid options on the board, like Tij Iginla, Beckett Sennecke or Berkly Catton, but the defensive prospects on the board could also be enticing.

Anton Silayev, Zane Parekh Zeev Buium and Sam Dickinson are all still on the board, and all have the potential to be difference-makers at the next level. At five, the Canadiens could feel as though they’d be passing on an excellent defenseman to reach for a forward. It might make sense to take a player like Parekh, a right-shot defenseman with incredible offensive upside, and look to address the forward position via trade, using their surplus of young defensive prospects to get it done.

And while trading down could be an option, there may just not be many offers enticing enough for the Canadiens to consider. Because you won’t want to trade with a team looking to draft a forward. And with so many defensemen still available, I’d doubt teams are giving up a ton of assets to move up when they feel good about there still being an impact player available when it’s their turn to pick.

It'll be interesting to see how the Canadiens view the forwards available. They may very well be higher on some prospects than a lot of the consensus rankings out there. I know Sennecke has risen a lot since the new year. He may very well be the pick at five in this scenario, but only time will tell.

Still, I’d want to have as much choice as possible when the Canadiens step up to the podium to make their pick, which means the more defensemen that go in the top four, the better. Here’s to hoping Chicago elects to shore up their blueline before adding another elite offensive talent.