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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Canadiens Hope to Change Fortunes with Top Pick in NHL Draft

  • The 2021-22 season was the first time the club has finished last in the league since 1940, and set the team record for regulation losses.
  • Either Canadian center Shane Wright or Slovak winger Juraj Slafkovsky are expected to be taken first overall.
David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

Just one year removed from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canadiens have a lot to prove at Thursday’s NHL Entry Draft in their home city.

After finishing the 2021-22 season with an NHL-worst 55 points, Montreal won the draft lottery and the first overall selection.

The campaign marked the first time the club has finished last in the league since 1940 — and set team records for regulation losses (49), goals against (319), fewest wins (22), and fewest points (55) in the process.

Injuries, salary-cap problems, poor coaching, and lack of production from young talent all played a part in the Habs’ lost season. They have already addressed several of the issues and can continue to do so Thursday.

  • In June, Montreal traded oft-injured captain Shea Weber to Vegas for forward Evgenii Dadonov
  • The move was largely a salary dump — the 36-year-old’s 14-year, $110M contract is highest in the league by total value and 19th by cap hit ($7.9M) among defensemen.
  • In 2021-22, the Canadiens had the highest cap hit in the league ($92.5M).
  • After firing head coach Dominique Ducharme in February, they hired Martin St. Louis.

The question now is what they will do with the No. 1 pick.

For months, the decision to take Canadian center Shane Wright seemed obvious — but Slovak winger Juraj Slafkovsky has flown up the draft boards — and betting odds — in recent weeks.

Whoever ends up with Montreal will have great expectations to help turn around one of the NHL’s most storied franchises.

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