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The most important rule when drafting early: don’t overthink it

How not to make your selections at the NHL Draft

2022 NHL Draft Lottery Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

We’re here! It’s time for the Seattle Kraken to select their second 1st-round pick in franchise history. They’ll also be selecting their second, third, fourth, and fifth 2nd-round picks (barring a trade or two). This draft is naturally quite important for the Kraken, not only because they sent off a lot of talent to acquire those picks, but also because if another season goes by without icing a competitive club, fans may start to grumble. Coaches and general manages might feel their seats heating up, and the overall dressing room mood could suffer.

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Christopher Mast/2021 NHLI

But we’re not here to talk about next season. We are here to talk about tomorrow night. In Montreal, at the Bell Centre, at 7pm ET (4pm Pacific), the names will start to come off the board. It’s almost certain, though less so than it was a couple weeks ago, that Shane Wright will be chosen by the team hosting the draft, the Montreal Canadiens. Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky are likely to follow in some order, and then it will be Ron Francis’ turn at the podium.

Don’t Try to Outsmart the Room

Ron, if you’re reading this, I don’t think you’re the type of guy to go way off the board. You’ve built a talented and diverse group, giving you solid information that is backed by analytics. That commitment to combing through the data is the sort of thing that is going to give the Kraken an edge in identifying mid-to-late round talent. But at the top of the draft, you should just go with the consensus.

Between similarly ranked players, such as defenders Simon Nemec and David Jiříček, analytics or health concerns could sway the decision one way or the other — and that’s fine. There isn’t even a clear cut No. 1 in this draft anymore, so deciding amongst virtual equals is a part of the job. And while people may look back and say “We could have selected Player B, who went right behind us when we got Player A” that’s the gamble you take when forecasting what sort of professional hockey career a teenager will have. It’s not something to lose sleep over.

2022 USA Hockey All-American Game Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

But here is what I do lose sleep over. The idea that the team might identify a player ranked somewhere in the middle of the first round, and grab him at No. 4 overall. Maybe a scout has seen a local product numerous times, maybe the owner knows a guy who thinks this kid is the next Player B. Whatever the reason might be, you have to resist the temptation, accepting that those players will (almost definitely) not be there when you come back to the podium in Round 2, and taking the player with the highest odds of becoming an NHLer.

The Kraken have a top-5 pick this year. Something that doesn’t happen often (except in Buffalo), and not something you want to continually end up with either. They need to pick one of the five best players available, who will help them become a contender over the next 3-5 years. A forward, if one of the cream of the crop falls to No. 4, or one of the two d-men mentioned above. And if they stretch to grab a late riser like Cutter Gauthier (C/LW), I’m not going to complain too bitterly (after all the name Cutter fits the nautical theme pretty well). But if there is any chance at all that Francis & Co. are considering picking another name out of the hat, they should trade back, charging a dear price to whichever team wants to move up into the fourth slot and choose a player who has a high likelihood of skating on their opening night roster.

Please just don’t go with someone way off the board.