Canadiens to pick 3rd overall at 2018 NHL Entry Draft

On Saturday night, the National Hockey League (NHL) performed their annual draft lottery. The Montreal Canadiens went into it having the fourth best odds, but Montreal was sent into a world of excitement when it was confirmed that the Habs would be picking in the top three.

Due to format changes this year, the order of the top three would be announced during the second intermission of the Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks playoff game. Unfortunately, the Canadiens did not win the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes – but with a universally accepted “big three”, Habs faithful can expect a highly touted 18-year-old in the lineup on opening night in October.

This will be the second time in franchise history that the Canadiens will selecting 3rd overall in the draft. The last time being not long ago in 2012, where Trevor Timmins announced Alex Galchenyuk as the team’s selection. Since then, Galchenyuk’s 255 career points has him tied with Filip Forsberg, who was selected 11th overall by the Washington Capitals, as the highest scorer in the draft.

 

History

Last ten 3rd overall picks:

2017: Miro Heiskanen (D – Dallas Stars)

2016: Pierre-Luc Dubois (LW – Columbus Blue Jackets)

2015: Dylan Strome (C – Arizona Coyotes)

2014: Leon Draisaitl (C – Edmonton Oilers)

2013: Jonathan Drouin (LW – Tampa Bay Lightning)

2012: Alex Galchenyuk (C – Montreal Canadiens)

2011: Jonathan Huberdeau (C – Florida Panthers)

2010: Erik Gudbranson (D – Florida Panthers)

2009: Matt Duchene (C – Colorado Panthers)

2008: Zach Bogosian (D – Atlanta Thrashers)

As you can see above, the third overall pick has a very high success rate with every single player becoming NHL regulars (except Miro Heiskanen who was drafted only last year, was sent back to Europe this year where he had an extremely successful year).

Between the other nine players who have played a game in the NHL, they combined for 608 goals and 1,021 assists for 1,629 points in 3,020 career games or 0.53 points per game. Of course, some players have contributed more than others as Duchene, Huberdeau, Galchenyuk and Draisaitl combine for 40% of those points. Regardless, the third overall slot seems almost certain that an NHL regular will be picked.

In the same timeframe as the above list, let’s take a look at the Habs’ first round picks:

2017: Ryan Poehling (25th overall)

2016: Mikhail Sergachev (9th overall) — Later traded to Tampa for Jonathan Drouin

2015: Noah Juulsen (26th overall)

2014: Nikita Scherbak (26th overall)

2013: Michael McCarron (25th overall)

2012: Alex Galchenyuk (3rd overall)

2011: Nathan Beaulieu (17th overall) — Later traded to Buffalo for 3rd round pick

2010: Jarred Tinordi (22nd overall) — Later traded to Arizona for John Scott

2009: Louis Leblanc (18th overall) — Later traded to Anaheim for conditional 5th round pick

2008: Traded to Calgary in Alex Tanguay deal. Pick ended up as Greg Nemisz (25th overall)

With some hits and misses there (as every team has), the historical success rate of the 3rd overall selection should prove to be comforting to Habs fans in the coming months ahead.

Zadina – Likely Pick?

While things can change in the weeks, it is universally expected that no matter which team had won the right to pick 3rd overall, Filip Zadina – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) would be the favourite to be selected in this position.

Filip Zadina
Position: RW
Birthplace: Pardubice, Czech Republic
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'0
Weight: 195
Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

The “big three” in this draft are considered to be the Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, the Russian winger Andrei Svechnikov and the Czech winger Filip Zadina.

Dahlin is on a tier of his own, as the franchise defenceman has been recognized as the best player in the draft for a number of years now. While Svechnikov was always seen as one of the best forwards, likely the #2 pick – Zadina has had an incredible draft year and shot up the draft board into the top three, similar to Patrik Laine in 2016 and Nico Hischier in 2017.

Zadina is just the latest product out of the Halifax Mooseheads prospect factory, which just in the last five drafts alone, have pumped out Nico Hischier (1st – New Jersey), Nathan MacKinnon (1st – Colorado), Jonathan Drouin (3rd – Tampa Bay) Timo Meier (9th – San Jose), Nikolaj Ehlers (9th – Winnipeg) and Zach Fucale (36th – Montreal).

Filip is unique in the sense that he is one of few highly touted prospects in recent years to be developed in the Czech system. As a 13-year old, he started playing for his hometown HC Pardubice U-16 team where a goal per game and more than a point per game player. By 15, he had moved up the ranks through U-16 and U-18 to his clubs U-20 squad, and made his professional hockey debut with the men’s team in the Czech Extraliga in 2015-16.

As a 16/17 year old, Zadina split time between the U20 team – scoring 18 points in 20 games and the men’s professional team scoring 2 points in 25 games (an impressive feat in a low scoring professional European league playing limited/sheltered minutes).

For his NHL draft year, Zadina was selected 11th overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Halifax Mooseheads, and he made the trip across the Atlantic to begin adapting to the North American game. In his first year in North America, Filip recorded 44 goals and 38 assists for 82 points in 57 regular season games. Despite being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Zadina registered five goals and seven assists for 12 points in 9 games.

He had a little break from the “Q” over the holidays as he went to represent the Czech Republic at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championship in Buffalo, NY. The Czech’s finished fourth out of ten teams and Zadina’s seven goals and one assist in seven games was good enough to land him on the tournament all-star team. Fun fact: Zadina was the highest scoring draft eligible player in the tournament, with those above him all being older and drafted by NHL teams.

While he is praised for his play in all three zones as a two-way forward and is defensively sound, Zadina has consistently been primarily a goal scorer. At the U16 level, he scored 47 goals in 43 games (30 assists), had 40 goals in 53 games at the U18 level (15 assists), 23 goals in 45 U20 games (18 assists), a goal at the professional level and 44 goals in 57 QMJHL games (38 assists). In international play, he has 46 goals and 27 assists in 65 games. At every level he has played at, Zadina has consistently been a point per game player with most of his production coming from goals. That fixes a much-needed trait for the Canadiens.

“High-end skilled forward with excellent playmaking ability. He has very good vision, excellent anticipation and exceptional natural instincts. Possesses strong puck skills, a quick, accurate release, and looks to shoot. He is committed to playing a two-way game.” – NHL Central Scouting

Eyes will be on Zadina again in international play in May as he appears to be representing the Czech’s at the 2018 IIHF World Championships in Denmark.

 

Other Options

There is a chance that the Montreal Canadiens could choose to shock the world and reach for a player that they like more that isn’t ranked as high, or that the team trades down a few spots. Oliver Wahlstrom (Winger), Adam Boqvist (Defenceman) and Quinton Hughes (Defenceman) are the next players in the draft with the highest ceiling, with Brady Tkachuk (Winger) hovering around as well.

Unless the Habs reach for a lower ranked player at their position, or trade down a few spots, it is expected that Zadina will be a Montreal Canadien.

The other scenario is, while Rasmus Dahlin is the sure-fire #1 overall selection, Andrei Svechnikov is regarded as being closer to Filip Zadina in talent level than Rasmus Dahlin. For this reason, because crazier things have happened, Carolina could feel higher on Zadina than Svechnikov and maybe go that route. If that were the case, the Habs would be getting a goal scoring winger just like they would have in Zadina. Svechnikov scored at a remarkable rate in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season with 40 goals in 44 regular season games for the Barrie Colts, as well as 5 goals in 8 playoff games.

No matter who it is, the Montreal Canadiens are in a good position to pick a great player this summer.

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft is set to take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas – home of the Dallas Stars, from June 22-23, 2018.

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