(Editor’s Note: Eric, a reader of the site and a friend, inquired about contributing to The Open Field. He knows so much about hockey and the NHL, and wanted to provide insight on the upcoming draft. If you ever want to contribute an article or even write for us on a regular basis, visit the contact us page for information. Based on this article’s quality, I would expect more from Eric in the future here at The Open Field….)
With the NHL playoffs already underway and full of excitement, many people do not realize another hockey event is taking place this Saturday that has fans excited.
The NHL Draft Lottery.
Now before you think I’m joking trying to compare playoff hockey to 14 non-playoff teams finding out their draft order, hear me out. First off, not one Canadian team made the playoffs this season which means every single one of them has a chance of getting the first overall pick. In fact, there is a 68.5 percent chance that a Canadian team gets it. It’s well known that hockey has the smallest following of the Big Four sports in the United States until playoffs come around. Compare that with a country where some people consider hockey a religion and people riot in the street after losing in the Stanley Cup finals. It wouldn’t surprise me if the lottery has more viewers than Game 2 of an Eastern Conference Semifinals series. So why is this draft lottery so special?
Last year we had the McEichel sweepstakes with two franchise players being talked about leading up to the draft. This time, there has been a consensus number one overall pick since last year’s draft, Auston Matthews. Matthews looks to be only the seventh American drafted first overall since 1963 and the first since Patrick Kane in 2007; which is fitting seeing as he broke Kane’s National Development Team record for points in a season during his last season with the team. What really sets him apart is the decision he made last summer to skip playing juniors or college hockey to play professionally overseas and I loved it. Here is a 17-year-old kid who knew he was ready to play with the big boys and THAT HE DID, finishing tenth in scoring in the Swiss top league. His coach has made it clear that Matthews is ready to be a first line center in the NHL.
With all this being said about him being an elite player, this lottery will have an effect on what his career will be, depending on who wins. Below are each team’s odds of winning and the places I’d like to see Matthews end up.
Toronto Maple Leafs – 20%
Edmonton Oilers – 13.5%
Vancouver Canucks – 11.5%
Columbus Blue Jackets – 9.5%
Calgary Flames – 8.5%
Winnipeg Jets – 7.5%
Arizona Coyotes – 6.5%
Buffalo Sabres – 6%
Montreal Canadiens – 5%
Colorado Avalanche – 3.5%
New Jersey Devils – 3%
Ottawa Senators – 2.5%
Carolina Hurricanes – 2%
Boston Bruins – 1%
Where I want him to end up
With the rumors of Steven Stamkos coming to Toronto this offseason, the potential of those two on the top two lines would be fun to watch. As a Bruins fan, even I wouldn’t mind seeing Bergeron and Krejci battle against Stamkos and Matthews for the next couple seasons.
This would be the feel good story of the draft. The Coyotes recently purchased their AHL affiliate in order to relocate them to Tucson and rebuild the brand of hockey in the desert. What better way to help that then by drafting a franchise player who grew up in Arizona watching the team that drafts him. Add in the young talent already on their roster with Max Domi and Anthony Duclair and Auston Matthews gets to grow the game he loves in the city he loves.
If the Sabres go back to back years drafting Jack Eichel and then Auston Matthews then that might be a more interesting combo than Stamkos and Matthews. An 18-year-old and 19-year-old starting their careers together should get hockey fans excited to watch them develop as teammates in Buffalo, as well as for Team USA.
Bonus Section- Edmonton, please don’t win the lottery
The Oilers have had four first overall picks in the last six years including last year and they are still at the bottom of the standings. I would hate to see Matthews end up there and not play for successful teams because they do not have top tier defensemen. Connor McDavid was supposed to be a savior this year and even he could not help them granted he was injured for part of the season. The only shining hope if Edmonton wins is that they might be open to trading the pick to get other players and lower draft picks.
For all hockey fans, diehards or casual, I would highly suggest tuning into the draft lottery this Saturday whether it’s for your team getting the first pick or just to see where Auston Matthews ends up.
by EricFOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD