Draft lottery best case scenarios from a Toronto Maple Leafs perspective
Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
By Jon Steitzer18 days ago
As much as it isn’t fun trailing in a second round playoff series, it is somewhat nice that the Leafs draft lottery days are behind them. Maybe it won’t feel that way when we see a team immediately jump to contender status after adding Connor Bedard, but for now, I’ll absolutely take the playoff situation and bountiful harvest that previous draft lotteries have provided for the Leafs.
While the Leafs don’t have a specific dog in the fight there are still better outcomes for Toronto in Monday’s draft lottery. It’s best that the Atlantic Division doesn’t benefit too much or at all. Preferably, Connor Bedard and as many of the top picks as possible find their way into the Western Conference. And frankly, there is also some bias against other Canadian teams thriving that need to be accounted for. So in that spirit, here are the rankings of the ideal draft lottery winners in 2023.
1. St. Louis Blues
This is already starting off a little gross. No one should wish for good things to happen to St. Louis, but here we are. St. Louis bumps down the maximum number of Eastern Conference teams and that is their selling point. The flaws with the Blues winning is that they’ve got a pretty good supporting cast and a number of other recently acquired futures that could turn them into a strong team in the very near future, especially since they could have been competitive for a playoff spot this year, but chose to embrace the rental market for their stars instead.
Couple a Blues win with a Predators win for the secondary lottery draw and you’ve probably got the closest thing to an ideal outcome from a making life easier in the East perspective. With a 3.5% chance of winning, don’t hold your breath about it happening.
2. Arizona Coyotes
I know that there are a large number of hockey fans that would immediately cry “RIGGED” the second the Coyotes picked first overall and the Connor Bedard situation could either go a franchise saving Sidney Crosby direction or it could go a franchise crumbling Eric Lindros direction depending on Connor Bedard’s willingness to step into one of the NHL’s messiest situations.
Taking all of that out of the equation and just focusing on how the Coyotes would leapfrog the Canadiens pushing them back in the draft order (as well as the Blue Jackets, but let’s face it most of historical hatred is directed at Montreal) there is a benefit from an Eastern Conference perspective. There is also the fact that teams around the league wouldn’t have to worry about Bedard making a team a contender just yet.
3. Nashville Predators
Now the Nashville Predators don’t actually have a shot at moving up into first overall, they just have a shot at moving up into 5th overall in the draft. That move keeps the top four as they are and that is a largely harmless thing to have happen, but it would bump the Canadiens, Red Wings, Senators, and Sabres all back one spot in the draft order. That’s not a bad outcome, especially when there are three other Eastern Conference teams that would be bumped back a spot as well.
Even if the Predators don’t win the first draft drawing, they are a great outcome for the second spot as it can still have the desired effect.
4. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks moving up into the top spot doesn’t really change anything from a Leafs perspective other than it pushes the Blue Jackets down one spot and that’s slightly better from an Eastern Conference perspective. I’d also like to believe that the world is a happier place when the Sharks are competitive and San Jose can potentially stick it out with Erik Karlsson on what would instantly become one of the top powerplay units in the league.
5. Anaheim Ducks
Keeping the order as it is has a ton of merit. The status quo is getting my vote over a lot of the other options listed below and there is something amusing about the Ducks very much being in a District 5 situation and having their Adam Banks walk into the locker room and make them competitive again. At least right now that seems amusing. After NHL marketers and broadcasts beat this into a fine pulp we’ll anxiously wait for anything to happen to make it all go away.
6. Vancouver Canucks
So here is some bias against Canadian teams winning on my part. A lot of what is the selling point about the Blues winning the lottery also applies to the Canucks. In theory they are the best option. Of course, if you’ve met a Canucks fan or seen how the organization has been run for the past few years there should be little desire to see this team rewarded.
Imagine Connor Bedard being drafted by his hometown team, the team he cheered for all his life, and he steps in on day one and makes them a true contender again. I hate that. I don’t want that for them at all. If you can look past all that, feel free to slot them in as a 1B after St. Louis. Otherwise, I think most people outside of Vancouver who are reading this will probably say I have them too high on this list.
7. Calgary Flames
The Flames winning is completely harmless. They’ve got the added bonus of bumping a good number of Eastern Conference teams back with the exception of the Blue Jackets and Canadiens. Not a terrible outcome.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
You’ve probably noticed that one of the Western Conference teams didn’t make my run of the top eight teams. You’ve probably noticed which one it is too and we’ll deal with them in a bit.
As for the Blue Jackets winning, it’s probably best off that if an Eastern Conference team wins the draft lottery it is the one that was legitimately bad and has the greatest need of improvement. Of course, the Blue Jackets aren’t as bad as their 2022-23 record shows and this sentiment might be regretable very soon.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins
There is something incredibly funny about Penguins winning another draft lottery moments after they’ve shown Brian Burke the door and I want that for all of us. The Penguins winning also doesn’t put them into first in the draft, it would move them to fourth and bump back a lot of Atlantic Division teams, including Montreal, in the process. While I am not a fan of them getting a great player who will speed up their retooling, it is what it is.
10. Washington Capitals
I’m putting the Capitals ahead of the Flyers mainly because they are the least offensive option.
11. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers are pretty close to the Capitals in my considerations of who I could be okay with winning the draft lottery but watching John Tortorella suck the life out of a generational talent is not something I’m eager to see. It’s better for the league that Bedard is a star and doesn’t have his love of hockey torn away from him. Sorry Gritty.
12. Buffalo Sabres
Sabres are another one of those teams that have no shot at 1st overall, so if they win it will unfortunately result in Buffalo getting a likely elite player, but not a generational one. That would be unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as the remaining outcomes.
13. Detroit Red Wings
While Steve Yzerman might no longer be viewed as the greatest thing to happen in the history of NHL GMs, I’d still rather not see him gifted the opportunity to build around a generational talent or really anyone who might go in the top five. I’m far more comfortable with the Wings picking when they are scheduled to and expect they can inflict enough pain from whatever draft spot they wind up in and wouldn’t be surprised if they bundled their pick from the Canucks (Islanders pick) with their own pick to get the player they want.
14. Chicago Blackhawks
No one in hockey should want the Blackhawks to win the lottery. This would just be a good things happening to bad people situation. Similar to the Canucks situation but on a grander scale and with no real benefit to the Leafs in this scenario either. If they get bumped out of the top three that would be a nice turn of events but unfortunately they are winding up with a great prospect no matter what happens in the lottery.
15. Ottawa Senators
Wanting the Senators to lose the lottery is a bit of a no brainer. If the Senators don’t win one of the two lottery spots the pick remains with the Arizona Coyotes. The Senators getting one of the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th overall picks in this draft plus having Jakob Chychrun for next season would be insufferable and a good sign that the Coyotes are cursed.
16. Montreal Canadiens
We’d all have to quit watching hockey.
We’ll see what happens on Monday when a room full of underperforming GMs look to have their jobs saved by ping-pong balls.
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