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NHL - US Sports: Major talking points from NHL Draft

The 60th NHL draft in history took place on Thursday and Friday in Montreal with plenty of storylines arising from it.

For the first time since 1985, the team hosting the draft selected first overall, and immediately the Canadiens made the 2022 version one to remember. 

Montreal shock home crowd

The biggest surprise of the 2022 NHL draft came right at the beginning as the hosting Montreal Canadiens chose not to select heavy favourite Shane Wright with their number one pick, instead opting for Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky.

The 18-year-old was second favourite to be selected first, but some way behind centreman Wright ahead of the event.

As Canadien's General Manager Kent Hughes read out Slafkovsky's name a shocked gasp could be heard from the home crowd, who quickly composed themselves to give their new star a welcoming applause.

Given his imposing size, Slafkovsky is considered one of the most NHL ready players in the draft. His record of five goals and five assists in 31 games with TPS in the Finnish Liiga last season aren't numbers which particularly stand out, but his dominant performances at international level clearly made a huge impression, not least on the Canadiens.

Slafkovsky won the most valuable player award at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing as the youngest player, scoring seven goals in as many games to help Slovakia win a bronze medal - the country's first ever medal at the Olympics.

He again starred at the recent IIHF World Championships scoring three goals and registering six assists for nine points in eight games.

Canadian Wright ended up falling to fourth in the draft with the Seattle Kraken snapping up the player who was number one in the NHL Central Scouting's rankings. 

Devils address need

The New Jersey Devils picked second and with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Dawson Mercer already providing solid depth at centre, they also passed on Wright and selected another Slovakian, offensive defenceman Simon Nemec.

Nemec fits a need for the Devils, who have drafted four defencemen in the past five years, particularly given the fact he is a right-shooter who has the ability to run an effective powerplay. 

Coyotes pick Cooley ahead of Wright 

Arizona Coyotes also surprised many passing on Wright to take another centreman Logan Cooley, who is the top prospect from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. 

Cooley will likely prove to have more offensive upside than Wright, who had a slow start to last season which may have impacted his perceived value in the draft.

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Wright lands at fourth

Granted exceptional status at 15-years-old to enter the OHL, Wright was proudly selected by the NHL's newest team, the Kraken.

Admitting to begin disappointed at falling down the draft, Wright said the shun of Montreal particularly will motivate him further, which will be music to the ears of the Kraken who will want to develop the two-way six-footer into a franchise centrepiece.

Gauthier rounds out top five

Rounding out the top five selections was American winger Cutter Gauthier, who became a Philadelphia Flyer.

Like Cooley, Gauthier is a product of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program who possesses a wicked shot release which saw him score 34 goals in 54 games last season. 

Blackhawks move and shake

The Chicago Blackhawks arrived at Montreal's Bell Centre without any first-round picks but ended the night with three defencemen, selecting Kevin Korchinski (seventh overall), Sam Rinzel (25th) and centre Frank Nazar (13th).

The Blackhawks traded top-scorer Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators (for the 7th pick) and centre Kirby Dach to the Canadiens (for the 13th pick). 

The Canadiens had earlier acquired the 13th overall pick used by Chicago to select Nazar from the New York Islanders in exchange for defenceman Alexander Romanov.

Leafs free up goalie cap room

Chicago's 25th pick came from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who took the Blackhawks' 38th selection, moving 13 spots down the draft in order to unload the final two seasons of netminder Petr Mrazek's $3.8 million per-year contract to the re-building Hawks. 

In doing so, Toronto freed up cap space to create flexibility in their pursuit of a number-one netminder which may still be Jack Campbell, who is now an unrestricted free agent, but negotiations with him are said to have been problematic thus far. 

Goalie market heats up

During the draft, several teams made moves to solidify their goaltending. Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche acquired Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers in exchange for three picks, which means Darcy Kuemper will hit free agency which opens on Wednesday.

The Detroit Red Wings sent their 73rd overall pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Ville Husso, who they immediately signed to a three-year contract.

New Jersey Devils gave up two 2022 picks to the Washington Capitals in order to acquire Vitek Vanecek while the Minnesota Wild announced a new two-year contract for three-time Stanley Cup Champion Marc-Andre Fleury, who was a pending free agent.

Along with the Leafs, a number of other teams will be active in the netminding market and it'll be particularly intriguing to see where Kuemper and Campbell sign up.

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