Photo by Brandon Titus / Inside Hockey

Devils, Canadiens to Select Top-Two in Entry Draft

For the third time in six years, the Devils will select in the top-two of the NHL Entry Draft. Already familiar with missing the postseason, the Devils have been well-acquainted with the only upside of finishing in the bottom of the standings.

The Devils will select second overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, moving up by three spots, pushing the rival Flyers, who finished two points worse than New Jersey, to fifth overall; Seattle fell from third to fourth and Arizona will select third after a season in which they were one of two teams to finish with under 60 points in the regular season. The Canadiens though, who finished the first 32-team season in 32nd place, retained their spot, winning the right to select first overall in the July draft which will finally be held in their home building after the 2020 and 2021 drafts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shane Wright has been ranked the top prospect in this year’s draft class since the preliminary rankings. In 63 games this season, the Burlington, Ont. native scored 94 points including 32 goals. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, the center may have the size and skillset to jump right into the NHL for the Canadiens.

New Jersey’s decision may be a bit tougher. Slovak-born center, Juraj Slafkovsky may indeed be too intriguing and impressive to pass up. He’s also listed as a center and has nice measurements–6-foot-3, 218 pounds. Also boosting his stock in a season in which he played for TPS Turku of the Finnish professional hockey league, the SM-Liiga, was his showing at the 2022 Winter Olympics where he scored seven goals in as many games. He is the undisputed top European prospect.

Other prospects who may be give the Devils some thought at second overall include center, Logan Cooley of the US National Team Development Program and another Slovak, Simon Nemec, who is rated as the best blueliner in the draft.

The lottery win by New Jersey, who was the only team to move up on Tuesday, is actually the club’s fourth lottery win in franchise history. They won to select first overall in 2017, selecting Nico Hischier and in 2019, selecting Jack Hughes. They also won it in 2011, but at the time the rules only allowed for teams to move up four spots–moving New Jersey from eighth overall to fourth, a pick that was ultimately used on defenseman, Adam Larsson.

The NHL Entry Draft will return to in-person for the first time since that 2019 draft. This will also be the first 32-pick first round after Arizona was stripped of their own first round pick last year due to sanctions stemming from combine testing violations.

The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be held in Montreal at the Bell Centre on Thursday, July 7 and rounds 2-7 will be conducted on Friday, July 8.