2015 NHL Draft Lottery: Jackets have shot at McDavid

The NHL playoffs are well underway, but this evening the clubs who failed to make the postseason will be uniquely focused on something that can potentially alter their future in a huge way: the NHL Draft Lottery.

In previous seasons, the non-playoff teams took part in a weighted lottery to move up a maximum of four spots, with the team finishing in last place having a greater chance of winning than the team finishing 17th and just out of the playoffs. This meant that only teams picking in the top five had a chance of moving up to the top pick.

For this season, the rules were changed to distribute the odds a bit more throughout, with the worst team having a lower chance of winning the lottery. The most interesting change, however, is that the team that wins the lottery will be immediately awarded the first overall pick.

The timing couldn’t be better for the clubs not participating in the playoffs, thanks to Connor McDavid – I’m sure by now you’ve heard of him.

Not since Sidney Crosby in 2005 has there been this much excitement surrounding the top available prospect. McDavid is considered a true generational talent, a player than can immediately step into an NHL lineup next season and be a contributor.

The Jackets finished the season in 23rd place, giving them 8th-best chance at winning the lottery.

The full lottery odds:






Buffalo Sabres



Arizona Coyotes



Edmonton Oilers



Toronto Maple Leafs



Carolina Hurricanes



New Jersey Devils



Philadelphia Flyers



Columbus Blue Jackets



San Jose Sharks



Colorado Avalanche



Florida Panthers



Dallas Stars



Los Angeles Kings



Boston Bruins

Of course if the Jackets win, they’ll move up to first place and take McDavid. If a team higher than them in the standings wins, they’ll pick 9th overall. A team below them winning will keep them at 8th overall.

Due to the higher-profile nature of this draft because of McDavid, teams have seemingly embraced the philosophy of tanking, and though that conversation will not take place here, I for one am dead-set against it. For this reason, I’m hopeful that a team that played to win all season is rewarded with a lottery win.

Imagine if the Kings win. A season after winning the Stanley Cup, they just miss the playoffs and draft McDavid. Their return to elite contender status will happen almost instantaneously.

How about a team like Florida, who came so close to making it to the postseason after years of being poor to mediocre- McDavid could be the final piece needed to become a team that regularly finishes at the top of the standings. McDavid is that good, folks.

Columbus is a lot like Florida in that sense. We know why the Jackets didn’t make the playoffs this year, after taking part last season. Adding McDavid would go a long way in ensuring the Jackets remain a top team in the NHL. It would be a fine reward for Columbus as well, who even after being eliminated from playoff contention they played dominant hockey, nearly winning out in March and April. McDavid would be the perfect prize for refusing to embrace the tank philosophy.

Even if the Jackets aren’t lucky enough to win the McDavid sweepstakes, this draft is deep enough that they’ll get a very, very good player at 8th or 9th overall. They say you don’t draft for need, but if you have a glaring deficiency in your organizational depth chart, that could serve as a tiebreaker when it’s your turn to make your selection.

For the Jackets, they are stocked up front after loading up on high-end forwards in recent years. Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel, Marko Dano and Sonny Milano were all first rounders in the past two drafts. Add those names to the likes of Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, William Karlsson, and even T.J. Tynan, Nick Moutrey, Peter Quenneville and Daniel Zaar; and the team has a multi-talented crop of young forwards in the organization.

The same can’t be said about the defense. Mike Reilly is the top defensive prospect, but he may not even sign with the Jackets. Recent second-round picks Dillon Heatherington and Ryan Collins are promising, but both are defense-first blueliners, who don’t have game-breaking ability. Austin Madaisky is the only other prospect worth mentioning, and though before a season-ending injury he was an AHL All-Star, he remains anything but a sure thing.

The remedy for this is for the Jackets to take a blueliner if they are drafting 8th or 9th.

There are a handful of defensemen who could be top-ten picks in June. Noah Hanifin is Central Scouting’s top ranked blueliner, and despite falling in other rankings he should remain a top-five pick. Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski are ranked 2 and 3, respectively, among defenseman and at least one should be there when the Jackets take the podium. Either would be an excellent fit with the Jackets- Provorov was a point-per-game scorer with Brandon of the WHL, and would have a mentor in countryman Fedor Tyutin. Werenski had a terrific freshman year with Michigan and brings strong skating and puck-moving ability. I’d be happy with any of those three joining the Columbus organization, but my personal preference would be Werenski.

The draft lottery takes place at 8:00pm EST prior to the Rangers and Penguins game. If the Jackets win the lottery it will be cause for celebration, but even if they pick 8th or 9th, the team will be getting an excellent prospect, which by itself would be a kind reward for a lost season.

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