There was a lot of early drama Thursday at the 2022 NHL Draft when the Montreal Canadiens took forward Juraj Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick.
Wait, not Shane Wright? The Wright vs. Slafkovsky debate filled many conversations in Montreal before the start of the draft at the Bell Center. Wright seemed to be the favorite, but the Habs went with the big Slovakian forward over the Canadian forward and had the arena buzzing.
As for the Carolina Hurricanes, there was no drama Thursday. None.
The Hurricanes came to Montreal without a first-round pick, surrendering it with their offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi last year when they snagged the Finnish forward – the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft – away from the Canadiens.
Carolina president and general manager Don Waddell said before the draft the Canes could look to move into the opening round with a trade eleven in Montreal, perhaps making some noise. That did not happen, leaving the Canes to make their eight draft picks Friday when the second through the seventh rounds will be held.
“Not a priority,” Waddell told reporters in Montreal. “To get back in the first round you have to give up a lot. I didn’t think it was worth it at this point.”
The draft will resume Friday at 11 am at the Bell Center. Carolina’s first pick of the 2022 draft will be No. 60, late in the second round, and the team’s latest in a draft since picking 63rd in 2006.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had Canadiens fans booing lustily Thursday as he took the stage to kick off the first in-person draft since 2019. He had a nice retort, calling the boos and his reception a “return to normalcy.”
Bettman later found a way to earn some strong cheers, announcing the Canadiens had made a couple of trades, including one with the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Kirby Dach.
That came before Wright, from the Kingston Frontenacs, was taken fourth overall by the Seattle Kraken.
While the Canes’ strategy Friday could be a best-player-available approach in their selections, one trend may not continue: the drafting of Russian players.
The Canes have selected five Russians in the past two drafts — both held virtually because of COVID-19. The pandemic also had its impact on scouting, leaving teams to rely more on video.
“It made everything more uncertain,” Canes assistant general manager Darren Yorke said last week. “Now things are relatively back to normal outside of the country (travel) restrictions with Russia and Belarus, but that’s not pandemic related.”
While getting Russian players to come to North America to play hockey has been problematic at times in the past, the Russian invasion of Ukraine now has created a different kind of hurdle and could prevent other Russian players – draftees or those already in the NHL – from leaving their home country.
The Anaheim Ducks drafted defenseman Pavel Mintyukov with the 10th pick Friday. But Mintyukov played junior hockey for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, and the Moscow native has said he has no immediate plans to return to Russia.
The Washington Capitals later made forward Ivan Miroshnichenko, who competed in Russia last season, the 20th overall pick. The Minnesota Wild took Russian forward Danila Yurov at No. 24.
Second round—No. 60
Third round—No. 71 (from Blackhawks)
Fourth round—No. 124
Fifth round—No. 156
Sixth round—Nos. 171 (from Ducks), 188
Seventh round—Nos. 205 (from Blue Jackets), 220.