Canadiens GM Kent Hughes Doesn’t Lean About the NHL Draft

“I think I deserve to be number one and I think I will be number one,” says Shane Wright, one of the top candidates.

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We know one player will not be picked by the Canadians with the No. 1 pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

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“Jack (Hughes) wouldn’t be our first pick overall,” GM Kent Hughes said with a chuckle when asked about his son after the Canadians won the NHL lottery Tuesday night. “I can promise you that.”

Jack Hughes, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds, was ranked 26th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting after posting a 7-9-16 total in 39 games this season with Northeastern University.

Jack’s older brother Riley Hughes was selected by the New York Rangers in the seventh round (216 total) of the 2018 NHL Draft. Riley, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound right winger, was 2-10-12 in 31 games this season in Northeastern.

Kent Hughes knows what it’s like to be a hockey dad and an agent for players, which he was for more than 20 years before becoming general manager of the Canadians in January.

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On Tuesday evening, Hughes was asked his best advice for young players like top-rated detective Shane Wright as they await the NHL draft, scheduled for July 7-8 at the Bell Center, knowing which teams hold the top 16 picks.

“From a player’s perspective, at least, I often describe the draft as the most worrisome event you might look at with fondness,” Hughes said. “Because it’s a long process, going from (picking) the first to the fifth, it can take 30-45 minutes when people are waiting and don’t know what’s going to happen.

“Ultimately, this is an acknowledgment of what they have accomplished so far, but there is a lot of work to be done,” Hughes added. “People will remember less about where you were chosen and more about what you accomplished. So you keep your head kinda low and keep working to be your best. That is the daily mantra throughout your career if you want to be a really successful hockey player.”

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Hughes didn’t want to walk his hand over who might take Canadians with pick #1. GM said he was willing to listen to trade offers for the pick, but that’s not something he’s yet discussed with Jeff Gorton, executive vice president of hockey operations, or GM assistant John Sedgwick or survey crew. Hughes said it was not in the team’s plans to trade the selection.

Wright, a 6-foot-191-pound center, was ranked the number one figure skater in North America by NHL Central Scouting after posting a 32-62-94 total in 63 games with OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. In 2019, Wright became the fifth player in OHL history to be granted an exceptional player status – after John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Conor McDavid and Shawn Day – allowing him to join the league at the age of 15. In his first season at OHL, Wright had a 39-27-66 aggregate in 58 games.

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“I think that’s where I have to go,” Wright told Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino about the possibility of him being the first pick in the NHL draft. “I think I’m the best player. I think during my play and throughout my whole life I’ve shown that I’m the best player. I’m a competitive guy and I want to be in this place. I don’t want anyone to take that away from me. I think I deserve to be number one and I think I’ll be the first choice” .

Juraj Slafkovsky, left winger from Finland, 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, is the highest-rated European skater in the draft after posting 5-5-10 totals in 31 games with SM Liiga’s TPS Turku.

Hughes, who heads into the IIHF World Championships starting Friday in Finland with Gorton, hasn’t seen Slavkowski play in person yet, but has seen it on TV and in video.

We’re excited,” Hughes said. “We got our first overall pick. We think we have the opportunity to craft a player who will have an important role in the future of the Montreal Canadiens. When? How? That is decided, like every other year in the draft. But we’re excited. We’re excited about the potential in this draft.”

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