A year ago at this time, you wouldn’t have had time to read this story.
You would have been far too busy clicking on the NHL draft lottery simulator — over and over and over again.
It’s what Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan admitted to doing. It’s pretty much what every NHL fan in the country was doing.
Part of it had to do with the potential of selecting a generational talent in Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine. But the bigger reason was that, with all seven Canadian teams out of the playoffs, winning the lottery was the next-best thing to winning the Stanley Cup.
So when the Toronto Maple Leafs were awarded the No. 1 pick and the Winnipeg Jets moved up four spaces to win the No. 2 pick, it was almost parade-worthy.
“They needed some good news,” Shanahan said at the time. “I hope they’re out in the streets of Toronto right now just feeling a little bit better.”
This year’s NHL draft lottery, which takes place Saturday night in Toronto, is different.
While Vancouver finished with the second-worst record in the league and Winnipeg was 20th, five of the seven Canadian teams — Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto — qualified for the playoffs, with the Oilers and Senators advancing to the second round.
Fans in Vancouver are no doubt playing the simulator, given the Canucks have the second-best odds of picking first (12.1%). But nationally, the landscape doesn’t seem as dire now that so many Canadian teams have already won.
“Last year’s lottery will always be a good memory for this organization as far as the opportunity to acquire a very special player,” said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, whose team has a 2.7% chance of winning this year’s lottery.
This year, there is no McDavid, no Matthews. There might not even be a Jack Eichel or a Patrik Laine or even a Matthew Tkachuk at the top of the order. Instead, there are question marks surrounding top prospects Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.
“We’re excited about the top five, but I don’t know that there’s that generational player that we’ve seen the last couple of years with McDavid and Matthews and Eichel and Laine,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning.
“But we think those top two players (Patrick and Hischier) are both real good players in their own right and conceivably could come to training camp and compete for a job on the team next year. But I feel comfortable that we’re going to get a real good player.”
In some ways, this year’s draft resembles the 2012 draft, where Nail Yakupov went first overall and many players were coming off a season where they had missed time with significant injury. There was plenty of talent available — including Morgan Rielly (5th overall), Hampus Lindholm (6th) and Filip Forsberg (11th) — but no slam dunks.