Despite the doubts, Shane Wright remains for many the consensus choice for the Montreal Canadiens, ranked first overall. If there's anyone who can beat him to the finish line, it's probably Logan Cooley, and the American forward believes he has what it takes to do the Habs great service.
The center player watched intently as NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly revealed one by one the ranks of the top 16 picks in the upcoming draft.
"I almost missed it," he laughed. I thought it was the next day and zapping, I came across the post. It was cool to see where I could end up. »
In light of the lottery, Cooley can begin to imagine himself in the uniform of the Canadiens, the New Jersey Devils or the Arizona Coyotes, since it would be surprising if he slipped out of the top-3.
Author of 75 points in 51 games with the American national development program under 18, Cooley has, according to several recruiters, the highest offensive potential of the draft.
“Scouts have seen me evolve over the past two years, with the Under-17 and Under-18 teams. They saw my progress. I'm a more complete player, I'm efficient on 200 feet and my hockey IQ is among the best in this class. I think I did enough to deserve to be in the conversation for first overall pick. That being said, in the end, everything will depend on what the general manager and the recruiters will judge to be the best for their organization, ”says the one who met the Canadian this season.
A TOUGH YEAR
Unlike Wright, still in the playoffs in the OHL, or Slovakia's Juraj Slafkovsky, who will play in the World Hockey Championship starting Friday, Cooley is back home because his season ended with a loss against Sweden in the World Under-18 final.
"It's been a big season," he admitted. At the beginning of the year, I had a hard time ignoring the distractions surrounding the draft. The better I was, the more I was able to block out outside noise and focus on my game. That said, I'm happy with my season. I think I have improved in several aspects of my game. I would have liked to produce a little more offensively at the end of the season, but in the end, I think I had a good season. »
In theory, Cooley will join the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers next season in the NCAA. He had signed a letter of intent with Notre Dame University, but ultimately decided Minnesota was a better place for his development.
"I was 14 when I joined Notre Dame and I didn't know much about the program. In the end, I felt like the coaching staff and their style of play no longer fit me. Also, I wanted to play in the Big Ten division and I think Minnesota is the best team there. I really like the coaches and we will have a good team, led by Matthew Knies and Brock Faber. »
“Right now, I think I have the skating skills, the hockey IQ, the hands and several other attributes to play in the NHL. In the end, it will depend on my physical strength. I intend to train this summer in order to gain mass. At the end of the day, I will listen to the recommendations of the team that is going to draft me. »
Logan Cooley is not the only player from the American national development program who will hear his name in the first round on July 7, in Montreal.
According to some, they could be between six and eight to become first-round picks.
In doing so, they would approach the record of eight set in the 2019 draft, in which Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight, Cam York, Cole Caufield and John Beecher were claimed in the first round after spending the season with the US national team.
This year, in addition to Cooley, forwards Cutter Gauthier, Jimmy Snuggerud, Rutger McGroarty, Isaac Howard and Frank Nazar as well as defensemen Ryan Chesley, Seamus Casey and Lane Hutson all have chances to make the top 32 picks.
“We all had the same goal, which was to form a team and continue to improve as a group. I think we all managed to not get distracted by the draft. Honestly, we barely talked about it together. We were really focused on the team," Cooley said.
FRANK NAZAR, UNDERESTIMATED
Among his teammates, Nazar is certainly the one who has caused the most ink to flow in the past week. In its final rankings, NHL Central Scouting ranked the center 21st among North American skaters.
If we combine this list with that of Europe, we therefore understand that the Central considers that Nazar is a hope for the end of the first round, which has greatly reacted since many see him as a hope of the top-15, even top- 10.
Among these, count Logan Cooley.
"I don't think we should pay too much attention to this list. I don't think that means much. Frank is much lower than he should be. He is an excellent player who has a good skate and an excellent hockey IQ which allows him to make plays under pressure. He has been an important player for us throughout the season. Come draft day, I predict you'll come out a lot higher than 21."
Nazar finished last season with 70 points in 56 games.