Winners and losers of the 2018 NHL draft lottery
The NHL held its annual draft lottery on Saturday night, determining the draft order of the teams that did not qualify for the playoffs.
While the team with the best chances of landing the No. 1 pick did, in fact, wind up with that selection, there were some surprises (and disappointments) in other NHL cities.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers:
Buffalo Sabres. Oh, the hockey irony of getting the second overall pick when they tanked for the first in 2015, and then getting the first overall pick when they genuinely didn’t want to be terrible this season. This is the first time the Sabres will draft first overall since 1987, when they took Pierre Turgeon.
The addition of a game-changing defenseman in Rasmus Dahlin could alter the trajectory of this franchise, as well as give coach and Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley an enormously talented blueliner whom he can groom.
By winning the draft lottery, the Buffalo Sabres are in position to add Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the consensus No. 1 ranked prospect for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. So what will the Sabres be getting in Dahlin, should they choose to take him No. 1 in June? Believed by many to be one of the best defensemen to enter the draft in the last decade — if not longer — Dahlin is a mature 18-year-old blueliner who is poised and creative with the puck on his stick. He is a smooth skater with high-end hockey sense and vision, making him solid at both ends of the ice. For reference, Dahlin’s 0.49 points per game in the Swedish Hockey League this season, was identical to that of Victor Hedman in the same league in his draft year. Dahlin, who checks in at 6-2, 183, still needs to add some muscle and sharpen things defensively to maximize his potential, but his deficiencies are limited. Already having Jack Eichel in the mix and last year’s first-round pick Casey Mittelstadt showing great potential, Dahlin should be the cornerstone defenseman Buffalo sorely needs. He won’t fix everything right away, but that will be another great piece for the Sabres to build around should they do what everyone expects them to on the draft floor in June.
Teams finishing with the worst record. One of the most notable things about the Sabres winning was that it was just the second time in eight years that the team with the highest odds actually won the NHL draft lottery.
Just a note for you future Jack Hughes tankers out there.
Tom Dundon. The new owner of the Carolina Hurricanes has been criticized for his nontraditional managerial approach, and there’s been speculation that he might have trouble finding the right candidate for his vacant general manager role because of it. (As well as his frugal nature.)
But his team defied its odds (2.7 percent chance for the No. 2 overall pick) and is primed to draft the kind of impact offensive player his roster lacks. The Canes’ GM gig just got a bit sexier.
Marc Bergevin. The beleaguered Montreal general manager didn’t end up with the first overall pick, but the Canadiens will snag an impact player at No. 3. Unless, of course, Bergevin decides to move the pick to bolster a veteran lineup that’s very “win now.” Which, for the record, he should not do.
Fin, the Canucks’ mascot. The NHL draft lottery is apparently not mascot-friendly.
Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning told Sportsnet 650 that Fin, the team’s plush orca mascot, was denied an appearance in Toronto on Saturday night. “Fin wanted to go this year, but we checked with the league and they said he couldn’t come,” said Benning.
Personally, I really can’t believe the NHL wouldn’t allow a mascot to a very serious event in which a series of lottery balls determines the order of logos being placed on oversized cardboard squares. Well, at least the Canucks only dropped one spot in the lottery, which is a nice change from recent seasons.
Ottawa Senators. The Sens had the second-best lottery odds at 13.5 percent, but fell to No. 4 overall thanks to the Hurricanes and Canadiens jumping the line to the top three. The Senators will obviously still land a quality player here, but it’s going to be whomever the Canadiens opt not to draft.
Also, we were robbed of this summer’s Erik Karlsson drama being even more dramatic with countryman Rasmus Dahlin as the understudy ready to replace him.
Teams outside the top eight. The general feeling about the 2018 NHL draft is that the top eight picks will yield significant players, but there’s a drop in impact after that. Which is why as good as it is that the New York Islanders have back-to-back picks in the draft — thanks to the Calgary Flames giving up a first-rounder for Travis Hamonic in an ill-begotten move — it’s a bummer neither of them are in the top eight.
The NHL’s timing. The NHL’s decision to announce the first 12 picks prior to the Vegas Golden Knights vs. San Jose Sharks playoff game on Saturday night, and then announcing the order of the top three picks during the game’s second intermission, was a good one in theory. It brings more eyes to a Saturday night game on NBC. It gets the draft lottery some social media buzz.
But announcing the results in the second intermission pushed it past 10 p.m. on the East Coast, which isn’t ideal. Otherwise, a fun idea that just needs a tweak.