The Montreal Canadiens had the luxury of owning the first round of the 2022 National Hockey League (NHL) draft and they set their sights on Juraj Slafkovsky on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
The suspense continued until the very last minute, when general manager Kent Hughes and his team seemed to have long hesitated between Slafkovsky and center players Shane Wright and Logan Cooley.
Slafkovsky has invited himself among the heads of poster of this amateur auction recently, when he surprised the entire hockey world at the Beijing Olympic Games tournament in 2022, with seven goals in as many games for Slovakia.
The 18-year-old left winger is a true power forward, boasting a frame of 6'4″ and 229 lbs. Many Canadiens fans have long dreamed of seeing him complete a line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.
With the TPS of Turku, in the Finnish Elite League, Slafkovsky has amassed 10 points in 31 games. He did even better in the playoffs with seven points in 18 games.
Upon his arrival on the red carpet near the Bell Center, the Slovak had been booed by some supporters eager to see the Habs turn to Wright. He is the player from his country to have been drafted the fastest, beating Marian Gaborik's record third position in 2000.
You have to go back to 1980 to see the Canadian select one last time in the first round. At the time, the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge chose Doug Wickenheiser, a player who hasn't broken anything in the NHL.
Shane Wright slips
< p>With the second choice, that of the New Jersey Devils, a second Slovak was selected. Defender Simon Nemec, author of a good season with Nitra, in his native country, was the player chosen.
Despite the availability of Wright as a center player, it is another pivot, Logan Cooley, who was chosen by the Arizona Coyotes. Wright was nevertheless selected in the next round, the fourth, by the Seattle Kraken.
As usual, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was greeted with boos from the crowd. He went there with a few words in French to welcome the fans, remaining confused by the ire of the fans towards him.
Before the selection of the Canadian, a tribute was paid to the memory of Bryan Marchment, a former National League defenseman who had become a scout for the San Jose Sharks. The 53-year-old man was found dead in his Montreal hotel room on Wednesday.
Martin Lafleur and Tanya Bossy were invited to the stage alongside the curator to remember the passing of their illustrious fathers earlier in April, Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy.
CH head coach Martin St-Louis, for his part, went there with an interesting wink by mentioning that he It was his first draft appearance in 47 years. Remember that all the formations of the circuit had raised their noses at the auction vis-à-vis the candidacy of the former Tampa Bay Lightning striker, more than 25 years ago.