The city of Montreal was set to host the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, but those plans were scuttled when the world was turned upside-down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continued pandemic restrictions meant that the city was unable to hold the draft in 2021 as well, but things finally seemed to change when fans returned to the stands at NHL arenas and the city was awarded the 2022 NHL draft. But as the Canadiens were once more forced to play games behind closed doors this season, the possibility of the draft being moved out of Montreal once again became a very realistic thought. In his annual meeting with the media at the NHL All-Star Weekend, Commissioner Gary Bettman stated that the NHL “would consider” moving the draft out of Montreal if the pandemic restrictions were still in place.
This was a disheartening development for many in the city who were eager to see Montreal host its 27th NHL Draft, but it seems that those fears can now be laid to rest. According to Chris Johnston of TSN, speaking on TSN’s Insider Trading program, the threat of the draft being moved out of Montreal again is “totally gone.” Johnston reports that the expectation is for the draft to be held as it was pre-pandemic, meaning with representatives from every NHL club on the draft floor and the hosting arena featuring a full-capacity crowd. NHL officials will “be heading to Montreal” next week to finalize all the details, but the bottom line is that it looks as if the vision of a draft in Montreal will finally be realized after a significant wait.
For Montreal as a market, this announcement can have particular significance because of the state of the Canadiens’ season. Despite their resurgence under coach Martin St. Louis, the team is still last in the NHL with 37 points. Should they stay in that place in the standings, they will have the highest odds of winning the #1 overall pick in the 2022 draft, and be guaranteed to be picking inside the top-3. For a hockey-mad market like Montreal, the Canadiens potentially being able to select a future franchise cornerstone like Shane Wright at a draft hosted inside the Bell Center is an exciting prospect and a nice consolation prize for a fanbase that has been through a largely miserable season.