Canadiens make controversial pick at No. 31 with Logan Mailloux, who asked not to be drafted after being charged
General manager Marc Bergevin is defending the Montreal Canadiens' controversial selection in Friday's NHL entry draft.
The Habs took Logan Mailloux with the No. 31 pick just days after the defenceman posted a statement on Twitter asking teams not to choose him in this year's draft.
Mailloux's statement followed news that he had been charged and paid a fine in Sweden for distributing a sexual photo without consent.
"Being drafted into the NHL is an honour and a privilege that no one takes lightly," he wrote. "The NHL Draft should be one of the most exciting landmark moments in a player's career, and given the circumstances, I don't feel I have demonstrated strong enough maturity or character to earn that privilege in the 2021 draft."
The Canadiens issued a statement shortly after the pick was announced saying the club was "aware of the situation and by no means minimize the severity of Logan's actions."
"Logan understands the impact of his actions. His recent public statement is a genuine acknowledgment of his poor behaviour and the first step on his personal journey," read the statement.
"We are making a commitment to accompany Logan on his journey by providing him with the tools to mature and the necessary support to guide him in his development. We are also committed to raising awareness among our players about the repercussions of their actions on the lives of others."
Bergevin told reporters Friday that Mailloux was "remorseful" and had apologized to the family involved.
"We will work closely with him, give him the support that he needs. I know he's been remorseful about the incident, which we truly don't agree with it in all sense of the word," the GM said. "But he's a young man who made a serious mistake of judgment. And we need to work with him and we did talk to him and he's very aware of that and very remorseful. So that is a big step."
Bergevin said he knew there were some who would not agree with the Canadiens' decision to add Mailloux to the prospect pool.
"We understand and we're fully aware and as an organization, it's very unacceptable," he said. "But also, it's a young man who made a terrible mistake. He's 17 years old and he's willing and he understands and he's remorseful and he has a lot of work to do but he already started to put it behind him and have a hockey career."
Mailloux plays for the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights but spent last season on loan to SK Lejon in Sweden's third division.
The six-foot-three, 213-pound blueliner had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 19 games with Lejon.
His statement said not being drafted in 2021 would allow him to "demonstrate an adequate level of maturity and character next season with the London Knights" and give NHL teams a chance to reassess his character ahead of the 2022 draft.
The Knights issued a statement earlier this month saying the club was aware of a "situation" involving Mailloux in Sweden.
"It is our understanding that the situation has been resolved in Sweden and the player has apologized," it said. "Team staff are working with Logan, ensuring that he is accessing the supports that are in place to help him better understand his actions, the ramifications of his actions and ensuring that this does not happen again. The team and the (OHL) will continue to closely monitor the situation."
Montreal is coming off a Cinderella post-season run after sneaking into the playoffs with a 24-21-11 record.
The Habs proved to be a feisty foe, dispatching the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-game first round series, sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in round two and ousting the Vegas Golden Knights in a gritty six-game bout before finally falling in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Bergevin has plenty of work ahead of him when the draft resumes with the second round on Saturday. Montreal owns picks No. 63, 64, 76, 87, 113, 126, 127, 142, 191, 223.
Defenceman Kaiden Guhle was the Habs top pick in the 2020 draft, going 16th overall.
SHOCKED, DISAPPOINTED AND CONFUSED
The reaction was swift and almost entirely negative after the Habs selected Mailloux.
"You don't need to be female or the parent of a girl to be shocked by the Montreal Canadiens selection of Logan Mailloux in the NHL draft, but if you're male, just for a moment try putting yourself in the position of a female fan and picture how devastating this must feel," said TSN analyst Gord Miller.
Miller tweeted that the victim said she has not received a sincere apology.
"I can't begin to understand what Montreal was thinking doing this now," wrote Miller.
Mailloux turned 18 on April 15 meaning the incident occurred when he was a minor.
Others on social media reacted with disappointment in the decision after the Habs did so much to endear themselves to the hockey world with their Cinderella run to the finals in the playoffs.
"I have always supported the Habs, but as a female and mother of a daughter, I'm having a bit of a hard time with the decisions by the Canadiens to draft Logan Mailloux," wrote one Twitter user.
"Being a female sports fan actually sucks," wrote another. "The amount of men defending what this loser Logan Mailloux did is gross and actually scary... It's not okay what happened. Legal action was literally taken. I think you guys should specify that hockey is for everyone, except women who get preyed on by NHL players and their prospects."
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2021.
-- with reporting from CTV News Montreal.