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Canadien: drafting fifth won’t be easy

Last night, we learned that the top-5 in the upcoming draft will be as follows: Chicago, Anaheim, Columbus, San Jose and Montreal. The CH hasn’t slipped down the rankings, but it hasn’t gone up either.

The Hawks will draft Connor Bedard, and it’s logical to think that Adam Fantilli will play in Anaheim. But what’s next?

Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov and Will Smith. These are the five players many believe will make up the top-5 of the mighty 2023 NHL auction.

The Canadiens, by drafting in the top-5 (thanks to the Coyotes’ late-season comeback), will surely have the chance to draft one of these five players. Mathematically, it’s irrefutable.

But will Kent Hughes, Jeff Gorton and the rest of the scouting staff absolutely set their sights on one of these guys? Not necessarily, no.

In fact, there are many indications that the Habs won’t necessarily draft Michkov. But if he slips to fifth, can he pass him up?

Because yes, even if the Russian has all the talent in the world, we know there are red flags related to his situation, whether it’s his contract or the Russian factor. I don’t know if the Habs will want to take the chance.

And that’s where it gets interesting.

From what we understand, the CH will not hesitate to draft Carlsson if he slips out of the top-4. The same goes for Smith, a player Kent Hughes knows very well.

But Michkov?

If the Blue Jackets don’t take him (there are rumours that Columbus is interested) and the Sharks pass, the CH will have a choice to make: Michkov or a less talented but safer player.

Basically, the CH will probably have to play double or nothing.

Obviously, if he passes on Michkov, the problem will be with the Coyotes. That said, since Arizona will be drafting twice in the top-12 (sixth and 12th), the decision isn’t the same.

More importantly, the CH would be the first club to “go outside the top-5” by drafting a prospect who isn’t among the five named.

With the Florida Panthers’ pick set to go 29th, 31st or 32nd instead of 17th, the Habs don’t really have a safety net in the draft any time soon.

That will be the case… unless the Maple Leafs decide to string together four wins in a row. #Improbable

If Bedard, Fantilli, Carlsson and Smith go before the CH can talk and the Habs decide not to draft Michkov, they’ll have a few options on the table.

First, he could draft a player like Dalibor Dvorsky or Zach Benson, to name but a few. Will the CH staff, who like to think outside the box, dare to do so?

If that’s not the case, it could involve a transaction. In particular, he could move down a few ranks in the draft (although this doesn’t seem to be in the house plans) to pick up an asset in return.

Alternatively, the club could outright trade the pick for an excellent young player. It’s not impossible, but I don’t believe it either: I see the CH drafting at No. 5 and taking their options at that point.

But obviously, the CH can’t go wrong.

After drafting Juraj Slafkovsky and Filip Mesar in the first round in 2022, management finds itself in a position that’s not unpleasant (a top-5 pick in a big auction is great, obviously), but it’s not easy.

And since the club wants to get back to the top sooner rather than later, drafting with a big pick in 2024 is certainly not an option. So making a mistake isn’t an option right now.

The GM knows that.

In bursts

– Speaking of the draft.

– Good listening.

– Really?

– Good point.

– Clearly.

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