Panthers' improbable Stanley Cup run has totally messed up Canadiens' draft pick

May 25 2023, 4:57 pm

Everyone loves a good underdog story… Well, almost everyone.

The Florida Panthers advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday usually wouldn’t affect the Montreal Canadiens. But since the Habs possess the Cats’ first-round draft pick this year, Montreal’s worst-case scenario has now come true.

While many Canadiens fans rejoiced when the Panthers eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round of the playoffs, Florida sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final has caused the Panthers’ pick to drop substantially — which is bad news for the rebuilding Habs.

For those who may have forgotten, Montreal originally ended up with Florida’s pick over a year ago, via a trade.

In March of 2022, Florida traded a handful of assets, along with their 2023 first-round pick, to Montreal in exchange for defenceman Ben Chiarot. The Panthers were loading up for a big playoff run that year, but the gamble blew up in their faces as Chiarot only suited up for a total of 20 regular season games and 10 playoff games before they were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2.

Chiarot ended up signing with the Detroit Red Wings over the offseason, leaving Florida high and dry.

This year, Florida snuck into the playoffs by a thin margin, finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division. Had they not made it at all, the placement of their first-round pick that Montreal possesses would have landed somewhere between 15 and 16, and would have been decided at the May 8 draft lottery.

And had they lost in Round 2, it would have been locked at 17.

But since the underdog team, against all odds, has clawed their way to the Final, that first rounder drops down to 31st or 32nd overall, depending on who wins the Cup.

Luckily for the Canadiens, their position in the draft lottery allowed them to end up with a fifth overall pick, putting them in a prime position to add another talented player to their already-promising prospect pool.

As for what Montreal’s general manager Kent Hughes will do with the Florida pick, fans will have to wait until June 28, when the NHL Entry Draft kicks off, to find out.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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