Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes spoke to the media from the scouting combine in Buffalo on Tuesday, discussing the team’s mindset ahead of making the first pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Hughes also updated the status of star goaltender Carey Price, who missed most of the 2021-22 season.
The 34-year-old goaltender played just five games last season as he spent time in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program in addition to recovering from knee surgery.
Ahead of the draft on July 7, and the opening of free agency on July 13, Hughes said that the team has not received further clarity on the status of Price’s knee and that the former Hart Trophy and Vezina winner has not seen additional doctors since visiting a specialist at the end of the season.
“The only way we could have complete clarity is if we learned he could not play. We’ll just have to see how he responds once he’s back to the rigours of a regular season schedule,” Hughes told reporters. “The draft is not as critical as, say, July 13, in knowing his situation. If he’s not playing, then we have the option of LTIR that we could use, but without that information we don’t have the luxury of using it.”
Price finished the season with a 1-4-0 record , a 3.63 goals-against average and an .878 save percentage.
In addition to the first-overall pick, the Canadiens have a second selection in the first round (No. 26 overall) that was acquired from the Calgary Flames in exchange for forward Tyler Toffoli. The Habs have 14 picks in total, including seven in the first three rounds.
Hughes added that the team has not decided who they will select first overall and that a final decision will be made in early July. Hughes also said the team is considering all options with their draft picks, depending on how the early rounds shake out.
“We will discuss all options. Based on how firmly our scouts believe in certain players at different ranges, we’ll think about the possibility of moving up, moving back, or trading out. Those are all things we’re going to explore,” said Hughes.
The Canadiens finished last in the NHL with a 22-49-11 record and will select first overall for the first time in 40 years. Kingston Frontenacs forward Shane Wright is the top prospect in the draft, according to TSN Director of Scouting, Craig Button’s latest rankings. However, Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky moved up many rankings after an impressive performance at the World Hockey Championships in Finland.
Wright and Slafkovsky are among 96 prospects who were invited to the combine in Buffalo, which is scheduled from May 30 - June 4.