Question: What bums an NHL general manager out more than missing the playoffs?

Answer: Missing the playoffs and having ones poor season on display during the second round for a primetime Draft Lottery Show.

And so, we should all send thanks to whoever decided to move the lottery to Tuesday and the eve of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only have they spared GM’s from having their agony on live TV during the intermission of the primetime series of the semifinals, they’ve also given teams a longer time line to get their plan in place before June’s draft. Nobody loves extended time more than sports executives.

Tuesday will help answer the question–where does the consensus number one prospect, American-born center, Jack Hughes land?

Hughes, whose brother was the seventh overall pick by the Canucks last summer and went on to play five games for the club this season, is a dynamic, creative and explosive player. This past season he tallied 86 points (23 goals, 63 helpers) in 41 games with the U.S. Development Program while serving as the team captain. This past winter, he suited up for the Americans at the U20 World Junior Championships, adding four assists in as many games. Even if his 5-foot-10, 170 lb. build is undersized for the National Hockey League, he figures to have the ability to produce and succeed offensively because of his elite skillset and enjoy a career thanks to an overall smart game.

In other words, he has all the makings of a first line center in the NHL. As such, he’s being touted as the big prize of this year’s draft lottery. The past four have produced the likes of Rasmus Dahlin, Nico Hischier, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid.

While Hughes seems to be uncontested to go first in this offseason, Finnish winger, Kappo Kakko seems to be locked in as the second-best prospect. He briefly challenged for top prospect at times this season and it’s easy to see why. In seven games representing Finland at the U20 World’s, Kakko netted five points including a pair of goals. His season in TPS Turku of the SM-Liiga, Finland’s highest professional league, saw him at a near point-per-game pace, scoring 38 points in 45 games. He finished the season tied for third in scoring trailing two of his countrymen 10-15 years older than him. Also high-skilled and blessed with a creative, but smart style of play, he also figures to be a prize for a team on Tuesday. Good given the second overall pick is also available.

The third and final pick up for grabs might not yield a player that can come to the league right away, but the chance to add a high-end prospect such as winger, Vasily Podkolzin (Russia) or any of the top Canadian players available–centers, Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge, WHL) and Kirby Dach (Saskatoon, WHL) or defenseman, Bowen Byram (Vancouver, WHL), certainly adds a nice consolation to the team that draws the lottery outside the top-two.

For the first time since 2011, one of the top three picks has a legitimate chance to be won by a team that is competing in the postseason. This, thanks in part to the Matt Duchene flop of a trade with Colorado, that saw Ottawa agree to send a non-protected first round pick among others to acquire the now ex-Sen. Ottawa, who finished 30th last season, dropped outside the top-three, earning the fourth overall pick. They opted to keep the selection and take Brady Tkachuk and in doing so, agreed to transfer the pick to this season. Now, it has the potential to help earn the Avalanche, who finished with 90 points this season, a top prospect expected to be ready for the NHL in months. They’re positioned to have the best odds on Tuesday (18.5%).

Meanwhile, the Kings and Devils have the second and third-best odds, both holding a greater than 10 percent shot at first. Rounding out the top-10 in order of odds from 9.5 to 3.5 percent: Detroit, Buffalo, the Rangers, Edmonton, Anaheim, Vancouver and Philadelphia.

Minnesota, Chicago, Florida, Arizona and Montreal all hold odds at three percent or lower. While discouraging, consider the 2017 Draft in which the Flyers moved from 15th to 2nd; the Stars from 8th to 3rd and the Devils from 5th to 1st. Could we see a repeat of sorts? Tune in to the NHL Draft Lottery show on Tuesday at 8p.m. on NBCSN.

 

About The Author

Mad about being born into a Mets household during the Yankees dynasty, Neal McHale turned to something different after the 2000 World Series. He got NHL 2001 as a gift and it helped pioneer a hockey love affair. His first sportswriting gig was covering the historically-gritty Big East Conference. Since 2015, he's been with Inside Hockey covering the NHL.

Related Posts