When the Montreal Canadiens won one of the three spots in the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery, many were dreaming of Rasmus Dahlin in the bleu-blanc-rouge. Unfortunately for Hab Fans, the Canadiens fell just short by winning the third overall spot. Although Rasmus Dahlin would have been a game-changer for the Canadiens, the player that Montreal will be able to draft at number 3 will be able to step into the NHL as soon as next season. Unfortunately for the Montreal Canadiens, their most glaring organizational needs at center or left-defense will not be filled with this pick, but they will certainly add some scoring punch to putrid offensive corps.
Right now the top three candidates for the third overall position are Barrie Colts’ forward Andrei Svechnikov, Halifax Moosehead’s sniper Filip Zadina and USNDT’s standout scorer Oliver Wahlstrom. All three players look to have exceptional scoring abilities, but each member of this scoring trio has their own very unique style. Brady Tkachuk of the Boston University Terriers was also considered for the top-5 of this draft, but many scouts are sliding him down their rankings to the lack of progress in his development over the last year. It is also worth noting that Tkachuk would have been eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft had he been born a few days earlier, which makes him the oldest player in the draft.
Let’s look at each player in detail to get familiar with the potential picks for Montreal when they speak on June 22nd:
RW Andrei Svechnikov – Barrie Colts
Among the top potential forwards in this draft, Svechnikov is the most dynamic of the three. His great stride and puck-possession skills make him a threat every single time he’s on the ice. He has the shot, size and speed to score a goal in key situations and has shown a knack for being a clutch player for Barrie this year. Andrei was able to score a goal-per-game as a draft-eligible 17 year-old, notching 40 goals in 44 games. Standing at 6’2 190lbs, he is a beast along the boards and extremely hard to knock off the puck. He absolutely destroys the “lazy Russian” moniker and is very much involved at all times and never gives up on the play.
Although Svechnikov is universally ranked 2nd overall on scouting lists, there is always a slight chance the Carolina Hurricanes, who own the 2nd overall pick, opt for Zadina instead. The fact that the Hurricanes franchise has not drafted a Russian born player in 12 years might indicate that Svechnikov might slide to three and, if that were ever to happen, the Canadiens would run up the podium and select the young Russian before rushing to buy a lottery ticket. Needless to say, Svechnikov looks like he could have an immediate impact for the Canadiens this fall and would be essential to fixing Montreal’s scoring woes.
RW Filip Zadina – Halifax Mooseheads
Bob MacKenzie has gone on record to call Zadina a scoring prodigy, which would make his selection a huge win for any franchise. Although Svechnikov does seem like the more dynamic scoring winger, Zadina seems to be the true sniper between the two. Putting up 44 goals in 57 games, Zadina scored from virtually everywhere for Halifax. Zadina’s high hockey IQ and excellent positioning set him apart from all the forwards eligible for this summer’s draft. He always seems to make room and find himself in the slot in order to unleash his wicked one-timer or precise wrist-shot.
The 6’0 200 lbs winger put up almost identical numbers to that of former Moosehead Jakub Voracek when the latter was a 17 year-old in Halifax. Ironically enough, many have compared Zadina to Voracek since coming over to the NHL, but they note that Zadina is much more defensively responsible than Voracek was. Zadina was more of a one-man show, as most of the talented players on the Mooseheads have yet to be drafted. This makes Zadina’s offensive output even more impressive and would make him a solid choice for the Canadiens at 3rd overall.
C/LW Oliver Wahlstrom – United States National Development Team (USHL)
Oliver Wahlstrom is the best draft eligible scorer to come out of the USNDT program since Jack Eichel, which says just about as much as you need to know about him. His 22 goals and 45 points in 26 games for the USNDT put him in elite company in regards to USHL scoring and his exceptional performance at the U-18s solidified his position as an elite goal-scorer. He has outproduced last year’s 8th overall pick, Casey Mittelstadt in the USHL during their respective draft years, while also being more of a factor defensively as well. His 7 and 9 points in 7 games for the US U18 team this April have vaulted him up the rankings, as he could ultimately surpass Zadina and Svechnikov when all is said and done.
Wahlstrom projects to be a goal-scoring top-6 winger and his 6’1 205lbs frame is already pro-ready, which makes him an extremely attractive consolation prize for a team that missed out on Dahlin. Many have compared his style to that of Brock Boeser, as his wrist shot is hard and precise. Montreal would love to add such a versatile player to their top-6, but I do not see them picking Wahlstrom due to the young forward projecting as a full-time left-winger in the pros. Unfortunately for Oliver, left-wing is an organizational strength for Montreal (even if they trade Max Pacioretty during the draft this summer).
To Pick or Not To Pick?
It’s clear that whomever the Montreal Canadiens draft at 3rd overall will be a game-changer for the franchise going forward. With Bob MacKenzie calling this a very deep draft, it seems like the right time for Montreal to swing for the fences and pick that top-end offensive talent they are so sorely lacking. Although the Canadiens could always decide to trade the pick or simply trade down in the top-10, the thought of adding another potential 30-35 goal scorer will be too sweet to pass up.