The NHL will hold its annual draft lottery tomorrow night, and it’s fair to say that this one will be the most heavily hyped since the weird Sidney Crosby lockout thing back in 2005. With Connor McDavid, the league’s next great franchise player, sitting on top of everyone’s draft list and more than a few teams having blatantly tanked some or all of their season to get him, this one random drawing will quite literally change the course of league history.
So we figured it was only appropriate to put together a draft lottery preview. One problem: That’s kind of hard to do. After all, the odds are what they are. The Sabres have a 20 percent chance of winning, and everyone else has less. Boom. Preview over.
But that would be no fun. So, in addition to looking at the actual odds, let’s see if we can’t come up with a few more ways to slice and dice the 14 eligible teams and analyze what the various winning scenarios would mean to the league and its fans.
The “Let’s Start With the Actual List” Power Rankings
We should begin at the beginning. So here are the 14 non-playoff teams that are eligible for the lottery, and their odds of seeing their number come up. Remember, only one number is drawn and only one team wins; that team moves all the way up to no. 1, meaning everyone else can only move down one slot.
1. Buffalo Sabres — 20%
2. Arizona Coyotes — 13.5%
3. Edmonton Oilers — 11.5%
4. Toronto Maple Leafs — 9.5%
5. Carolina Hurricanes — 8.5%
6. New Jersey Devils — 7.5%
7. Philadelphia Flyers — 6.5%
8. Columbus Blue Jackets — 6.0%
9. San Jose Sharks — 5.0%
10. Colorado Avalanche — 3.5%
11. Florida Panthers — 3.0%
12. Dallas Stars — 2.5%
13. Los Angeles Kings — 2.0%
14. Boston Bruins — 1.0%
The “Who Actually Deserves It?” Power Rankings
Forget about what the odds say. Who actually deserves to land the top pick? We took a crack at this question back in December, but a lot has happened since then. So let’s revisit that idea with an updated look at which teams would win this thing in a fair and just world.
5. The Buffalo Sabres — Hey, the system is designed to help the worst teams, and they were certainly the worst team.
4. Literally anyone but the Buffalo Sabres — Tanking should never be rewarded! (Please disregard the fact that half of the teams on this list eventually started tanking, too.)
3. Toronto Maple Leafs — I know, I know, it’s a homer pick. But Leafs fans have been miserable for almost five straight decades. Don’t they deserve one nice thing to happen to them before they all die?
2. Carolina Hurricanes — They were bad, but they never really tanked, and actually got better as the year went on. Maybe this wouldn’t be the most satisfying result, but it’d certainly be a fair one.
1. Columbus Blue Jackets — They’re in an underrated market that watched a decent team get shredded by injuries, then fight back to screw its own draft position with a late-season nine-game win streak. The Blue Jackets are basically the only bad team in the league that never tanked. They were a surprise no. 1 on our list five months ago, and they should be the consensus pick now.
The “What’s Best for the League?” Power Rankings
In theory, what’s good for the NHL is good for NHL fans. Things don’t normally work out that way, but it’s worth at least considering which destination would be the best from the league’s perspective.
5. Arizona Coyotes — Not only would McDavid stabilize the league’s problem-child franchise, he could also boost interest in hockey in the region just in time for the Las Vegas expansion to arrive.
4. Philadelphia Flyers — Face it: The league is more fun when the Flyers are good. Plus, the NHL would promote the hell out of McDavid vs. Crosby.
3. Buffalo Sabres — Wait, what? You’re going to stick a generational talent in this tiny market? Well, here’s the thing: Despite being terrible for two years running, Buffalo is somehow the league’s best TV market.
2. Los Angeles Kings — This is a championship-caliber team in a big market, and dynasties are good for business — even though the league often doesn’t seem to realize it.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs — People would hate it, but the math checks out. The Leafs drive more revenue than any other team, even though they’ve been a joke for a decade, but there are signs that the golden goose may finally be starting to slow down. That would be bad news for a league in which Canadian markets still drive a huge chunk of overall revenue, so hitting the fast-forward button on the Leafs’ rebuild would be awfully convenient for everyone.