The Montreal Canadiens aren’t going the Wright way after all.
Hockey fans were stunned Thursday night when the Habs selected Slovakian-born player Juraj Slafkovsky with the first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Canada sportsbooks had Canadian Shane Wright as the overall consensus selection for months leading up to the event.
Many draft picks remain to be seen as rounds 2-7 are slated for Friday morning. But Slafkovsky’s selection has already caused ripple effects throughout the league.
8 other Canadians chosen in first round
Slafkovsky may have been the top overall pick, but the story of the night belonged to Wright.
Passed up by three other clubs, the Burlington-native’s freefall landed him with the Seattle Kraken at No.4.
In total, nine Canadians were selected in the first round. Those names include:
- No. 4: Wright (Kraken)
- No. 7: Kevin Korchinski (Chicago Blackhawks)
- No. 9: Matthew Savoie (Buffalo Sabres)
- No. 11: Connor Geekie (Arizona Coyotes)
- No. 12: Denton Mateychuk (Columbus Blue Jackets)
- No. 21: Owen Pickering (Pittsburgh Penguins)
- No. 22: Nathan Gaucher (Anaheim Ducks)
- No. 29: Maveric Lamoureux (Coyotes)
- No. 32: Reid Schaefer (Edmonton Oilers)
Canada sportsbooks: Kraken’s odds remain low
As of Friday morning, Ontario sports betting apps had yet to update their odds for the outright winner of the NHL’s 2022-23 season.
But regardless, the possibility of the Kraken leapfrogging teams in the Western Conference – even with Wright – remains low.
Seattle’s outright championship odds:
- BetMGM Canada: 126.00 European odds, +12500 American (third-worst odds)
- BetRivers Canada: 61.00, +60000 (fifth-worst odds)
- Bet365 Canada: 126, +12500 (third-worst odds)
- Caesars: 151.00, +15000 (third-worst odds)
- DraftKings: 101.00, +10000 (second-worst odds)
In case bettors were curious, the Canadian draftee with the best team odds is Pickering (St. Adolphe, Man.) with the Penguins (21.00 European odds, +2000 American). Pittsburgh picked him at No.21. But the youngster remains a project.
He is expected to be sent back down to the minors for further development.
How did Wright fall to No. 4 in the NHL Draft?
Of all the Canadian rookies looking to make an imprint, perhaps Wright has the most fuel.
Sure, there was a growing possibility of Slafkovsky or American Logan Cooley dethroning the Canadian for the top pick.
But even with 30 minutes prior to Draft Night beginning, major operators still had the centreman as the overwhelming favourite to go first overall.
So why the big drop to No.4?
Numerous experts point to Wright’s stalled progression over the past couple of years. Consider the 18-year-old was stripped of his entire 2020-21 season due to COVID-19.
Thrown in the fact the youngster had an underwhelming 2021-22 campaign with his club, the Kingston Frontenacs – and some cracks begin to emerge. Slafkovsky, for his part, skyrocketed his draft stock following his performances at the Beijing Olympics and World Championships.
He finished The Games as the tournament’s top leading scorer, MVP and led Slovakia to its first-ever medal ever (bronze) in Olympics ice hockey.
Canadiens’ bad season leads franchise to No.1 pick
As the No.1 overall pick, Slafkovsky is walking into an interesting situation. Put simply: The Habs stunk last season.
They won just 22 games – its lowest total since 1995 – and managed just eight wins in its first 38 contests.
That led to the dismissal of head coach Dominique Ducharme in early February.
But unlike other bottom-of-the-barrel teams such as the Arizona Coyotes, Montreal didn’t intend to tank.
It was purely organic. Player injuries, COVID-19 protocol and an internal disconnect, fueled futility.
Montreal potential darkhorse in upcoming season
That makes the club’s prospects for the 2022-23 Stanley Cup all the more interesting.
Punters must remember that Montreal is just two years removed from a final’s appearance.
Much of its core remains, including Carey Price, Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki.
Throw Slafkovsky into the mix, and things could get interesting.
Here’s Montreal’s odds:
- BetMGM: 151.00 European odds, +15000 American (second-worst odds)
- BetRivers: 101, +10000 (second-worst odds)
- Bet365: 126, +12500 (third-worst odds)
- Caesars: 101.00, +10000 (fifth-worst odds)
- DraftKings: 151.00, +15000 (second-worst odds)
Calder Memorial Trophy odds not yet open
Of the four major sports leagues, hockey is the least wagered on.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that major sportsbooks in Canada have yet to open their books up to the 2022-23 Rookie of the Year race.
In the NHL, the award is known as the Calder Memorial Trophy.
But when the market does open, the following players are expected to contend:
- Wright (Kraken)
- Slafkovsky (Canadiens)
- Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils)
- Cooley (Arizona Coyotes)
But punters beware: the Calder is tricky.
The eligibility requirements state a player cannot have played 25 games or more in any major professional league before his NHL rookie season.
Nor are candidates allowed to play in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons.
Thus, in theory, players with former (minimal) NHL experience are still eligible for the award, given they fit under the criteria.
That can make all the difference for someone 18 years old.
Draft Nights puzzling sportsbooks
Draft Nights have been exceptionally memorable amongst the major sports leagues of late.
Fans will remember when oddsmakers were thrown for a loop with the NBA in late June.
Similar to the Wright, Slafkovsky situation, the Orlando Magic picked Paolo Banchero with the No.1 pick.
This, despite the fact that sportsbooks and reports heavily favoured Jabari Smith Jr. as the top dog.
Many were left to question whether Magic brass initially misled insiders in the aftermath of that selection.
Certainly, Wright’s omission from the top spot will evoke much chatter.
But ultimately, the Canadian can restore punters’ faith in his abilities with a terrific rookie campaign.
The NHL season starts on Oct.7.