This year’s NHL draft lottery in Toronto came and went on April 29th without much fanfare due to the fact there’s no clear number-one prospect this summer. The last two drafts have featured stars Connor McDavid and Auston Mathews as the top picks respectively with an excellent supporting cast including Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, and Zach Werenski in 2015 and Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujärvi and Matthew Tkachuk in 2016. This year’s top pick two picks could be centres Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads who are ranked one and two by NHL Central Scouting.
Teams will have to do their homework prior to the seven-round June 23/24 draft in Chicago though since there are no sure-fire franchise players available. There will certainly be some skilled youngsters up for grabs with solid NHL potential, but most experts view this as an average draft, much like 2012 when forward Nail Yakupov went first overall to the Edmonton Oilers. Winnipeg native Patrick is considered to be a good two-way forward, but missed much of the season due to an injury. He still managed 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games though.
Hischier of Switzerland is more offensive-minded than Patrick and finished the season with 38 goals and 86 points in just 57 games to finish 10th in scoring in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was also named the league’s rookie of the year. Other top-10 ranked players include high-school player Casey Mittelstadt of Minnesota as well as forwards Klim Kostin of Russia and Elias Pettersson of Sweden. As for the lottery itself, the big winners were the New Jersey Devils as they entered the proceedings with the fifth-best odds of 8.5 per cent and will now draft first overall next month.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars also lucked out as the Flyers jumped from 13th to second in the draft and the Stars hopped from eighth to third spot. The Flyers’ upward move of 11 draft spots was the highest jump since the lottery was first introduced back in 1995. On the other side of the coin, the new expansion franchise the Vegas Golden Knights fell from third to sixth and the Arizona Coyotes, who had the same odds as Vegas, fell to seventh. In addition, this season’s worst team, the Colorado Avalanche, fell to fourth spot after entering the lottery with the best odds of 17.9 per cent.
The Avalanche became the 11thlast-place team with the best odds of winning the lottery to miss out on the number-one pick. It’s also the second time New Jersey has hit the jackpot as they won the 2011 lottery with just a 3.6 per cent chance to do so. The Devils didn’t draft first though since they entered the proceedings with the eighth pick and the rules at the time allowed a team to move up only four spots. New Jersey could use the help as they’ve missed the playoffs for the past five seasons.
The lottery settled the order of the top 15 draft picks, which go to the 15 teams that failed to make the playoffs. The remaining 16 draft positions depend on the results of the current postseason. The top 15 picks are as follows: 1-New Jersey, 2-Philadelphia, 3-Dallas, 4-Colorado, 5-Vancouver, 6-Las Vegas, 7-Arizona, 8-Buffalo, 9-Detroit, 10-Florida, 11-Los Angeles, 12-Carolina, 13-Winnipeg, 14-Tampa Bay and 15-the New York Islanders.