Top pick still not certain

NHL draft

Rather than tip his hand on who the Montreal Canadiens plan to select with the first pick in the NHL draft, general manager Kent Hughes joked they’ll end up with all three of Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley, a West Mifflin native.

If the Canadiens want to make a splash, they could end up with two of them.

There’s uncertainly surrounding who’s going No. 1 for the first time in nearly a decade, when the Colorado Avalanche chose Nathan MacKinnon in 2013. In the aftermath of MacKinnon leading the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup, the Canadiens are confronted with a potentially franchise-changing decision in their first time picking first in 42 years tonight and as the hosts of the draft in Montreal.

“If there was any one player with a perfect track record, it would be a pretty simple decision and we probably would have already declared what we were going to do,” Hughes said Wednesday. “Everything we can know, whether it’s Shane or Logan or Juraj, we want to know to what extent they will be able to live with the pressure of playing in Montreal.”

Wright for years has been playing with pressure, in the microscope in the Ontario Hockey League as the long-projected top pick in this draft. He put up 94 points in 63 games of junior hockey this past season.

The Canadian center believes he’s NHL-ready and wants the pressure of getting picked first overall by the Canadiens at Bell Centre 51 years after they selected Guy LaFleur in the same slot.

“I’m competitive,” Wright said. “I always want to be first, I always want to be the best.”

Dan Marr, head of NHL Central Scouting, has said Wright and Slafkosky, a big forward from Slovakia, are the most likely prospects to play in the league next season. Slafkovsky has drawn comparisons to late Hall of Famer Clark Gillies.

Draft order

(Top 10 picks)

1. Montreal Canadiens

2. New Jersey Devils

3. Arizona Coyotes

4. Seattle Kraken

5. Philadelphia Flyers

6. Columbus Blue Jackets

7. Ottawa Senators

8. Detroit Red Wings

9. Buffalo Sabres

10. Anaheim Ducks

Note: The Pittsburgh Penguins pick at No. 21 in the first round


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