The Montreal Canadiens are in an enviable position around the National Hockey League. Well, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche are in really enviable positions, but after that you could argue the Habs are in the next most enviable position.
While playing for the Stanley Cup at this time of year is the goal of every team around the league, only two teams can get this far. If you aren’t going to compete for the Stanley Cup in a given year, you may as well be in a position to make your team better for the foreseeable future.
The Canadiens are in that position right now as they hold the rights to the first overall draft pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. It took a very poor regular season and a little bit of draft lottery luck, but the Habs are now in an enviable (draft) position.
Who will they take? I mean, probably Shane Wright. He is a complete player, center, really good at hockey, smart, can play both ends of the ice and can flat out snipe when he gets into a scoring position. There has been some debate lately about whether he is the top pick, but just about anyone who makes a mock draft has Wright at the top.
Picking first overall has helped the Avalanche and Lightning get to where they are now. It isn’t the only thing required to build a great team, but are the Avs playing in the Stanley Cup Final without Nathan MacKinnon, who was picked first overall in 2013? Probably not.
Are the Lightning here today without Steven Stamkos, who was drafted first overall in 2008? Well, maybe because they won the Cup without him two years ago. But still, he is really good and has helped the team become the closest thing we have seen to a dynasty in decades.
Picking first overall has certainly helped the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks turn their fortunes around recently. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes it takes time, but it isn’t unfathomable to expect a terrific, franchise altering player with the first overall pick.
The Habs haven’t picked a lot of top scorers in the past few decade. Let’s take a look back at the ten most recent first overall picks to see what kind of impact Canadiens fans can expect from whoever they take first overall on July 7th.