MONTREAL -- There’s going off the board, and then there’s doing what the Montreal Canadiens did in selecting right-handed defenceman Logan Mailloux at the 2021 NHL Draft on Friday.
This was completely off the radar, an utter shock, and a dismaying choice.
With the 31st overall pick, the Canadiens chose Mailloux, who had renounced himself from the process after he was charged in Sweden with invasion of privacy and defamation.
Mailloux paid a $1,650 fine for showing teammates with SK Lejon in Sweden a Snapchat of him engaged in a consensual sexual activity with a woman who did not consent to having such images shared with anyone, something that initially came to light in this report from DailyFaceoff’s Frank Seravalli.
He then released the following statement after several teams had heard about the incident and questioned him on it in pre-draft interviews.
"Being drafted into the NHL is an honour and a privilege that no one takes lightly," Mailloux said on social media earlier this week. "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. I know it will take time for society to build back the trust I have lost, and that is why I think it is best that I renounce myself from the 2021 NHL draft and ask that no one select me this upcoming weekend."
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, moments after stunning the hockey world by selecting Mailloux, said this statement was the impetus to trust Mailloux is worth giving a second chance to.
“By drafting prospect Logan Mailloux with the 31st overall pick, the Montreal Canadiens organization not only selected a promising hockey player, but also a young man who recently admitted to making a serious mistake,” Bergevin said in his own prepared statement. “The Canadiens are 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 acknowledgement of his poor behaviour and the first step on his personal journey.”
“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,” Bergevin added. “We are also committed to raising awareness among our players about the repercussions of their actions on the lives of others.”
What the Canadiens are doing is impossible to condone.
While Bergevin repeated several times that Mailloux was 17 at the time of the incident, that he “made a terrible mistake,” and that “he’s remorseful,” rushing to pick him before he’s proven that could only boil down to who he is as a hockey player, and that’s unacceptable.
Mailloux’s a player, Bergevin said, that would likely have been chosen before the Canadiens made their next pick in the draft (63rd), one whom he felt had significantly more upside than the next best prospect available and one who just happens to fill the greatest need the Canadiens have after it was confirmed earlier this week -- a day after Cale Fleury was selected in the Seattle Expansion Draft -- that Shea Weber’s career was unexpectedly -- and likely permanently -- halted by a multitude of injuries. The idea that his character is up to standard hardly passes the sniff test.
Mailloux’s remorsefulness for his actions -- outside of how it might have affected his reputation and his career -- is in considerable doubt. Especially given that the victim of his actions doesn’t believe he’s remorseful at all.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Katie Strang, the young woman said all she had hoped for from Mailloux was a sincere apology but instead received a three-sentence text that smacked of insincerity.
“I do not think that Logan has understood the seriousness of his behaviour,” said the victim in an email to Strang.
During Bergevin's short press conference he said that the Canadiens have had internal discussions about reaching out to the victim's family and that they intended to do so. Afterwards, Sportsnet reached out to the Canadiens to know if the victim and her family were consulted before they made their decision to select Mailloux but received no response to the inquiry.
In asking Bergevin just before if the NHL approved the team’s selection, he responded: “You cannot remove yourself from the draft.”
“Even if you said so, you’re eligible to be drafted,” Bergevin said. “So, that was clear with the league.”
When asked for an official comment from the NHL, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet there was none, other than “Montreal was free to do what it did.”
The team’s decision ran completely cross-current to the ones several others in the league had made. Seravalli reported that at least four teams had crossed the six-foot-three blue liner off their draft list before he had renounced himself, and at least six others opted to not even interview him.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens, who for nine years under Bergevin have placed character as high on their list as hockey sense and skating ability when it comes to recruitment, appear to have betrayed their ethos with this pick.
When Bergevin was questioned on that point specifically, he responded, “Nothing’s changed,” before once again framing Mailloux’s actions as a lapse in judgment from a teenager.
“He’s ready to work to become a better person,” said Bergevin, “and we believe that it’s an error of immaturity and that he’s really sincere towards the victim’s family and he really wants to improve so that nothing like this ever happens again.”
When asked how the organization intends to help Mailloux in that process, Bergevin couldn’t specify. He simply said Mailloux, who’s expected to play with the OHL’s London Knights if he doesn’t make the Canadiens next season, is aware that the organization intends to work with him.
They could have gone in any other direction but chose this one, and the backlash will be ferocious and entirely understandable. It’s already raging on social media, where Mailloux, who will address the media on Saturday, ended his statement earlier this week by saying his decision to take his name out of contention to be selected “would allow me the opportunity to demonstrate an adequate level of maturity and character next season and provide all the NHL teams the opportunity to reassess my character towards the 2022 NHL draft.”
That the Canadiens chose to use their pick on the player before submitting to that process is unjustifiable.