James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

I still remember the moment. I was at the 2018 NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo when a Montreal reporter came over to chat: he said the Canadiens were leaning heavily towards taking Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the first round that year. Were they going to trade down from No. 3, since Kotkaniemi was more top-10 than top-five at the time? Nope. This was wild to me: Sure, the Habs needed a center, but you never draft for position that high. And Kotkaniemi was still very much a project at the time, a player who had struggled at the summer’s Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, but grew throughout the season and finished off strongly at the world under-18s. He was still figuring out his skating stride and wasn’t even a true center, spending time on the left wing as well.



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