While the player who will be joining the Montreal Canadiens remains a mystery the position they will pick in has revealed itself. The Montreal Canadiens will pick third overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. This is the highest they have drafted since they took Doug Wickenheiser 1st overall in 1980. Going into the draft this was the most likely position that the club would pick in and deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed that very fact during the lottery. The Edmonton Oilers won the lottery and will be selecting first overall once again. The Columbus Blue Jackets, the last place team in the NHL will be picking 2nd, the Islanders 4th and Toronto 5th. According to the NHL Central Scouting rankings of North American prospects the Canadiens will select Mikhail Grigorenko with the pick. One thing to consider is that Grigorenko currently plays for a team coached by non other than Patrick Roy, former goaltender for the Canadiens and one of the names rumoured to be a GM candidate. The real variable in the draft comes from the team who will be selecting first overall by the Oilers. It is not news that they need a defenceman. They could either deal the first round pick to another team for a top defenceman or pick up the top defender in the draft in Ryan Murray. This bumps all the other players in the draft down by one place.
Looking at the third pick since the turn of the century it has been a bit of hit and miss affair. In 2000 the Minnesota Wild took Marian Gaborik with the third overall pick, 2001 the New York Islanders drafted Alexander Svitov, 2002 saw the Florida Panthers draft Jay Bouwmeester and in 2003 the Panthers drafted Nathan Horton. In 2004 the Chicago Blackhawks drafted Cam Barker, during the lockout in 2005 the Carolina Hurricanes selected Jack Johnson, 2006 the Chicago Blackhawks picked Jonathan Toews and 2007 the Phoenix Coyotes selected Kyle Turris. More recently in 2008 the Atlanta Thrashers (Jets) selected Zach Bogosian, 2009 the Colorado Avalanche picked Matt Duchane, 2010 the Florida Panthers selected Erik Gudbranson and last season’s draft saw the Florida Panthers pick Jonathan Huberdeau with the third overall pick. For the most part as you can see these picks have been highly successful. Gaborik, Bouwmeester, Horton, Johnson, Toews and Duchane have all turned into elite NHLers since their respective selections. But there are also those who have disappointed in Svitov (the worst 3rd round pick of the century so far), Barker, Turris and Bogosian. The jury still remains out on Huberdeau and Gudbranson as they have not had much time to establish themselves in the league. By far the worst 3rd pick of the 21st century was Alexander Svitov. Svitov only managed 37 points in 179 NHL games with the Lightning and the Blue Jackets before returning to the KHL. In contrast Jonathan Toews has been the best third round pick of the century, becoming a Stanley Cup champion and Team Captain.
The only scenario that has not yet been visited in this article is a trade of this pick. We do not know who the general manager of this team in going forward, but whomever this may be could consider the possibility of trading the 3rd overall pick. Rumblings have already surfaced about the Canadiens trading this pick in exchange for Quebec native Jonathan Huberdeau. While it is a bit of a stretch that the Canadiens will pick up Huberdeau they do need scoring. If they don’t feel a scorer presents himself in this draft then dealing the draft pick by itself or as part of a package could bring the team that player.
Overall this position was the most likely that the Canadiens would draft in. It is neither the worst nor best case scenario but still gives the team an opportunity to pick a special player. While it is unknown the player they will be drafting until this summer knowing what position the Canadiens draft in will at least narrow down the players a little bit.