Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The 2018 draft lottery power rankings

We’re headed towards the second round of the playoffs, where eight teams will continue their quest to play for the Stanley Cup in June. But for almost half the league, the season culminates on Saturday. That’s when we’ll get the annual draft lottery, in which all the league’s non-playoff teams gather to find out which ones will luck their way into top-three picks at this year’s entry draft.

After last year’s Nolan-vs.-Nico debate, we’re back to having a clear-cut first-overall pick. Rasmus Dahlin will be the first defenceman taken with the top pick since Aaron Ekblad in 2014, and he’s already being hyped as the sort of prospect who could turn a struggling franchise around. That’s good news, because there are plenty of struggling franchises to be found. Fifteen teams are entered in this year’s lottery, and all of them will be hoping their logo comes up in the top spot. Well, all of them except one. We’ll get to that.

You can find the full set of weighted odds here. This is the third year under the new system, in which the top three spots are up for grabs and teams can move all the way up if the ping pong balls bounce their way.

The first year of the system saw a predictable outcome, when last-place Toronto kept the top spot. Last year was big for the long shots, with the worst four teams all falling out of the top three. What will this year bring? We don’t know yet, but we’ll take our annual look at the possibilities from a few different angles.

The “Which Team Needs It Most?” Ranking

We’ll start with the obvious category. Every team that missed the playoffs would love to add Dahlin — heck, every team in the league would. But some teams certainly need him more than others.

Not ranked: Florida Panthers: No doubt they’d love to add a talent like Dahlin. But they’re already a good young team built around a No. 1–overall pick on the blueline.

5. Arizona Coyotes: After suffering through yet another miserable year, they head into the last year of Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s deal wondering what the future might look like without him. The answer is probably “not good,” but adding another elite offensive defenceman would help.

4. Vancouver Canucks: Between Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, the future looks reasonably bright up front, and Thatcher Demko appears to be the goalie of the future. But with Olli Juolevi off to a somewhat-underwhelming start, the defence could use a future stud. (Also, can we talk about how weird it is that the Canucks have been around for nearly 50 years and have never really had an elite defenceman?)

3. Buffalo Sabres: Their blue line is terrible, and there isn’t much in the way of elite help coming from their prospect pipeline beyond maybe Brendan Guhle. Plus, their fans are completely miserable and could desperately use some good news.

2. Ottawa Senators: Despite half-hearted denials, the Erik Karlsson situation seems set to drag on into the off-season. Adding an elite Swedish blueliner might help nudge Karlsson towards sticking around. And even if it didn’t, there’s no better way to ease the pain of losing today’s Karlsson than by adding the next version.

1. Edmonton Oilers: Yes, I know, the thought of the Oilers winning yet another lottery is a touchy one, and we’ll get to that. But they’ve been chasing a top blueline presence for years, and adding Dahlin to the Connor McDavid show for the next decade would just about guarantee a Stanley Cup or two. Nobody could screw that up. [Thinks for a minute.] Almost nobody could screw that up.

The “Who Actually Deserves It?” Rankings

The short answer: Nobody, since we’re relying on a system of ping pong balls and random chance that’s designed to reward failure. Here’s the longer answer.

Not ranked: Chicago Blackhawks: Yes, yes, your Stanley Cup mini-dynasty finally missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Hearts are breaking for you all around the league.

5. Ottawa Senators: The team itself probably doesn’t deserve it, given the mess they’ve made of just about everything over the course of the season. But the fan base? Yeah, they could probably use a break these days.

4. New York Islanders: They make the list for pretty much the same reasons as the Senators. But we’ll move them one spot higher, since a lottery win will help ease the pain when John Tavares signs with the Rangers.

3. Arizona Coyotes: They haven’t had much lottery luck, missing out on McDavid and local boy Auston Matthews among others. They were this year’s worst team early on, with a record-setting start that had them out of contention by November, and you could have forgiven them for going in the tank to protect their top odds. Instead, they won their way up a few spots in the standings. It would be nice to see that rewarded.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet

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