The NHL Draft Lottery will be held on Saturday night. It marks the debut of a new format — one in which separate drawings will be held to determine each of the top three picks, with all 14 non-playoff teams eligible to win one of those spots.
The stakes are high. Presumptive top pick Auston Matthews may not be a Connor McDavid-level sure thing, but he’s considered an elite prospect with the potential to be a franchise player.
So as we wait for the ping pong balls to start bouncing, let’s set the stage with some pre-lottery power rankings. You already know how the 14 non-playoff teams are ranked in terms of their actual lottery odds, so instead let’s try a few slightly more subjective categories.
The “Who Actually Deserves It?” RankingsIf there’s any justice in the hockey world, here are the teams that should be smiling at the end of the night. (Note: There is no justice in the hockey world.)
No. 5: Toronto Maple Leafs – Hey, they finished last, right? And the fanbase hasn’t had anything good happen to them in roughly 30 years, so they’re probably due.
No. 4: Carolina Hurricanes – A bad team that overachieved all season relative to expectations, then wound up with nothing to show for it besides lousy lottery odds. Besides, it would be nice to see a super longshot win one of these things someday. No, not you, Bruins.
No. 3: Columbus Blue Jackets – You have to give them credit: The Blue Jackets never tank. Oh, they’re always bad. They just never do it on purpose. There’s a certain honour in that.
No. 2: Arizona Coyotes – Matthews is a hometown kid, and we all assumed that the Coyotes would spend the season doing everything short of scoring into their own net to make sure they had the best odds at landing him. But they didn’t. Much like the Jackets and Hurricanes, there’d be a sense of karma behind seeing them rewarded.
No. 1: Buffalo Sabres – They finished dead last in each of the last two seasons, then lost the lottery both times. Sure, they still wound up with Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel. But it could have been Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid. A basic sense of fairness says they’re due.
The “Who Needs It Most?” RankingYes, of course, everybody wants Auston Matthews. But who really needs him?
No. 5: Toronto Maple Leafs – Granted, they don’t actually need a first-line centre, since they’re signing Steven Stamkos this summer and Johnathan Tavares in two years. Still, depth is always good, right?
No. 4: Montreal Canadiens – These days, it’s hard to remember that it was just a year ago that the Canadiens looked like real Stanley Cup contenders. Now, some are wondering if they’re on the verge of wasting Carey Price‘s prime. Winning the top pick would wipe out a year’s worth of negativity in an instant. (For a day or two. It’s still Montreal.)