The Montreal Canadiens are not only hosting the NHL draft in July, they’ll have a chance to be the headliners after winning the draft lottery on Tuesday night.
The Canadiens followed a turbulent season in which they finished last in the overall standings by retaining the right to the No. 1 pick.
The New Jersey Devils shook up the draft order by winning the second of two lottery drawings and moving from the fifth to the second slot in the draft order.
The Devils’ win bumped Arizona from second to third, Seattle to fourth and Philadelphia to the fifth slot. The remaining slots from six to 16 remained unchanged based on where the teams finished in the standings.
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The projected No. 1 overall pick is Kingston Frontenacs center Shane Wright, who had 32 goals and 94 points in 63 games in the Ontario Hockey League.
Juraj Slafkovsky, who was named MVP of the Beijing Olympics men’s hockey tournament after scoring seven goals and leading Slovakia to its first-ever medal (a bronze), could go No. 2 overall.
Montreal finally managed to pick up a big win after a season in which the Canadiens were undone by a series of injuries and free-agent losses, which led to the team firing coach Dominique Ducharme and general manager Marc Bergevin. Kent Hughes took over as GM with Martin St. Louis still holding the title of interim coach.
The Canadiens went from reaching the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, which they lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, to a 22-49-11 finish – the franchise’s fewest wins in a 60-plus-game season.
The timing of the lottery win at least lines up with the Canadiens’ lengthy wait to host the draft, scheduled for July 7 and 8. Montreal was originally scheduled to host the event in 2020, but the last two drafts were held remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Montreal becomes the first team to host the draft and have the No. 1 pick since Toronto in 1985, when the Maple Leafs selected Wendel Clark.