The 2022 NBA Draft was a landmark moment for the sports gambling community. In the week leading up to the event, sharp bettors were all over Paolo Banchero going No. 1 overall to Orlando, even though the media and the odds made it seem as if Jabari Smith was a lock to be selected first.
Banchero was as high as 20/1 the week before the draft, but his price came crashing down when word got out that professional betting groups were buying up the market. Then, on the day of the draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Magic were actually going to pick Smith. But it turned out that the wiseguys — not the media — were right all along.
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While the NHL Draft won’t come close in terms of betting handle or overall interest, we’re seeing a similar pattern with the market for the top pick.
2022 NHL Draft odds, betting picks
Bet: Shane Wright to go No. 1 Overall (-260, Caesars)
For the entire 2022 draft cycle, Shane Wright was the consensus No. 1 overall pick for this draft class. In fact, you could go back to when Wright was a 15-year-old to find people talking about the Burlington, Ontario, native being a shoo-in to go first overall in 2022.
But over the past month, the tone around Wright has changed as members of the media have started to anoint Juraj Slafkovsky as the top prospect in the draft after the Slovakian winger excelled at the Olympics and World Championships.
So when TSN’s Bob McKenzie (who uses a survey of 10 scouts to compile his order) and Corey Pronman of the Athletic both listed Slafkovsky as the No. 1 prospect in their final draft rankings, the price on Wright began to crash. And it fell even further when TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Montreal Canadiens may be interested to see if the New Jersey Devils, who are set at center with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, would want to give up some assets in order swap the No. 2 pick for the No. 1 selection to draft the Slovakian winger.
While there is certainly a chance that Slafkovsky will be selected first on Thursday, it’s pretty hard to believe the market on Wright, who was listed as high as -5000 at times throughout the year, has crashed this much based off a couple of prospect rankings and a potential trade concocted by a member of the media.
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It’s also worth remembering the 2022 NHL Entry Draft is taking place in Montreal and the Canadiens are a perfect fit for Wright. The fan base is over the moon for Wright, who would make a perfect No. 2 center behind Nick Suzuki. Should first-year general manager Kent Hughes go with Wright, the roof will blow off the Bell Centre on Thursday. If he goes with Slafkovsky, the reaction will be much more volatile.
Putting all that aside, it comes down to this: If you presented any sharp bettor with -260 odds on Wright to go No. 1 overall at the beginning of May, they would have taken it with open arms.
Long shot: Simon Nemec to be selected No. 2 overall (16/1, Bet365)
If you’re someone who likes to take a chance on a long shot, look no further than backing Simon Nemec to go No. 2 overall at 16/1.
Nemec popped up as the No. 2 overall prospect on plenty of lists throughout the year, but Slafkovsky’s rise has bumped him down a peg or two. Even with his compatriot’s surge, respected draft models have Nemec as the second-best prospect in this class and the Devils do have a reputation for being an analytical organization.
Additionally, the Devils already boast plenty of young talent up front, so adding a top-rated defensive prospect to their organization should be pretty high on their priority list at the draft. Nemec is worth a roll of the dice.