Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie discuss whether or not Montreal's controversial decision to spurn Shane Wright was the best thing for the high-level prospect.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Shane Wright though, I don't think he wanted to be where he was, for at least a little bit. I know he's taken this with stride, the fact that he was projected to go first and went fourth to the Seattle Kraken. I think he handled it about as well as he could.
I do feel bad for him that he had, or he felt like he had, to shoot a glare at the Montreal Canadiens table when he was accepting his jersey and ball cap and shaking the hand of Gary Bettman. I felt bad for him in that moment, more so than him just sliding. I think it's all going to work out. He's going to have a chance to prove himself. He's going to have an opportunity to be the guy for the Seattle Kraken, and I think that's great.
But I felt a little bit bad for him in that moment that he had to, or at least it looked like he felt he needed to show up the Montreal Canadiens table after the Montreal Canadiens went with Juraj Slafkovsky instead. So I'll just open the floor to you on that, your thoughts on Montreal's decision and, right, going number four to Seattle and reacting the way that he did.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Man, I have to say just with how that played out and then, we'll eventually get to the trade. But I think the Canadiens ended up producing the most exciting moment I've seen at an NHL draft as long as I've ever followed the NHL draft. I understand there have been draft day trades before and people have gotten excited.
But I think there were people in the moment as those trades were being announced that thought-- there are people thinking, OK, the Canadiens are going to find a way to trade back into that top 4 and get Shane Wright and believe what's left and right. If that happened, you could have just shut the draft down at that point. It didn't happen that way, but it was exciting. It was incredible, and I hadn't seen anything like it.
But for a guy like Shane Wright who I thought was going to go number one-- I've been on record saying he was going to go number one. And so many other people said this same thing because they thought the Canadiens were essentially throwing up a smokescreen. For them to go out and get Juraj Slafkovsky first overall, that's madness. That is a gutsy pick.
The Canadiens, for years, fans have wanted them to solidify their center depth. And there was an opportunity for them to do that with taking Shane Wright. But they end up taking a big scoring winger, who-- that's also an area where the Canadiens have needed help at for quite some time. They haven't had a lot of guys who are known for just being skilled, talented players and people who could score goals. And it seems as if Juraj Slafkovsky-- even if you want to get into a whole debate about who he's played up against to bring up some of those totals and how he's played at the Olympics and all that, the type of players he was playing up against, but I think the Canadiens see him as a guy who could eventually fill a need for them down the road in a way that Shane Wright couldn't.
And I still think that the confidence that Juraj Slafkovsky kind of showed, leading up to him being picked with some of the stuff that he was saying-- and it seems as if the way that he was able to embrace that pressure-- I don't know if he realized this at one point. But I think there was someone that said just prior to him being drafted-- there were some people booing, and he wasn't fazed by it. He got asked about it later and said, you know what, there are some guys who like me, some guys who boo me. But if I play well enough, they'll all like me.
And it got to a point where he's able to walk through the crowd and give depth to everyone. Like, he was WWE style. It was crazy what was going on with Juraj Slafkovsky. And the fact that that's how he was responding to the pressure, the adoration and everything else that came with it from that crowd, I think that's an easy pass, an easy A for Juraj Slafkovsky on that.
And that gives me questions about how a guy like Shane Wright would have handled something like that. And the fact that he was bypassed by New Jersey and Arizona, I have way more questions about Shane Wright. And I mean, look, I felt bad. And I felt bad too for him because we all thought he was going to go number one. And then for him to go to number four, kind of like a mini Aaron Rodgers situation in what we were seeing here. A guy who we thought was going to go a lot higher had to sit back and wait for his name to be called.
I didn't mind the glare at the Canadiens table though. I thought that was pretty funny. It was entertainment. We want entertainment with the National Hockey League. Why not have him give the death stare to the Canadiens' management, thinking like, oh, you guys are going to regret this pick.
And I was talking about it. I forget who I was talking about it with but another hockey reporter. And there's an opportunity for Shane Wright to not have that pressure of being the number one guy going to Seattle and working along a guy with a guy like Matty Beniers. He doesn't have to necessarily be the absolute, the absolute guy in Seattle either. There's an opportunity for Shane Wright to make the most of him falling to fourth overall.
But for the Canadiens, like, I mean, I think a lot of people hope for their sake that this works because they had an opportunity to take a center for free and not try to trade for Kirby Dach to get it. But Juraj Slafkovsky seems to be the guy. And we just have to wait and see how he pans out.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah. I mean, I think the one that you touched on silver lining for, not silver lining, but I feel like there would have been pressure obviously in Montreal. But there would have been pressure for Shane Wright to be in the NHL and contributing next season.
And we've seen, like, Alexi Lafreniere's development maybe stunted a little bit. Maybe he's not the player we expected him to be. Maybe he will be that player. Maybe his trajectory was sort of disrupted. And he wasn't handled the best way possible.
And now I think Shane Wright who missed out on so much hockey when he was a young guy, a young junior player, even though he got to junior so quickly, he missed out on so much time. And now he can probably go back there without there being any second guessing or any criticism because he's the fourth overall pick.
And he doesn't have to be in the NHL next year. He can go back to junior and play a full season, which I think will be important for him. And then maybe he's the best player of the draft anyway, and Seattle will be, obviously, over the moon with that. But--