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Craig Button does not rank Will Smith among the top five draft prospects

Connor Bedard will go first in the next draft. That’s a given.

But behind him, nothing is. We suspect that Adam Fantilli will head to Anaheim, but it’s not a certainty. It would be a surprise to see him available for Columbus, but surprises do happen.

Behind Bedard and Fantilli, guys like Matvei Michkov, Leo Carlsson and Will Smith round out what I like to call the “honorary top-5” of the 2023 draft. These are surely the top five talents.

But not everyone feels the same way about the top-5.

In his ranking of top prospects for the upcoming draft, Leo Carlsson rounds out the top-3 (Bedard and Fantili are there too) and Matvei Michkov is fourth. Will Smith, however, is sixth.

But why? Because Swedish defenseman Axel Sandin Pellikka is fifth.

It’s important to make one nuance here. Button is not doing a mock draft. So he’s not saying that the Habs will pick the right-handed defenseman fifth in the upcoming auction.

What he is saying is that the guy is, in his eyes, the fifth-best player.

Seeing Matvei Michkov ranked fourth doesn’t mean he sees the Sharks taking him, and seeing Will Smith ranked sixth (the Coyotes’ pick) doesn’t mean he’ll be playing in a college arena next year – oh no, bad example: he’s off to the NCAA.

In fact, the chances of Smith being available to the CH are slim: he’d have to go to San Jose.

And if Michkov is available, I don’t expect the Habs to draft him. I really think the club will go in another direction, whether it’s Ryan Leonard or David Reinbacher.

Those are the names floating around right now, but there could be others.

Will the Habs seriously evaluate Axel Sandin Pellikka’s candidacy? After all, if the club is considering taking Reinbacher, a guy whose character didn’t impress Anthony Martineau, they can’t be closed to the idea of taking another right-handed defenseman, right?

Especially as the Swede is ranked well above Reinbacher in Button’s rankings.

Obviously, a ranking doesn’t make a draft, but it’s interesting to see that Leonard (12) and Reinbacher (20) aren’t in the TSN prospect expert’s top-10.

Will the Habs draft the best player available?

In gusts

– Clearly.

– Jesse Puljujarvi free as a bird?[HF]

– Quite a photo.

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