For fans of 16 NHL teams, their focus is on the playoffs however for the 14 that are not playing the focus immediately shifts to the future. This is not a foreign concept for San Jose Sharks fans as around the same time last year we watched NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley flip over the cards and hoped that the Sharks logo was not behind card number nine. However it was and the Sharks slim hopes of adding Connor McDavid to their lineup were dashed. The Edmonton Oilers would go on to pick first overall, the Sharks would select Timo Meier at ninth and the rest is history.
Fast forward to 2016, the Sharks are not involved this time around as they are playing the Nashville Predators in the second round leading the series one game to zero and don’t even have a first round pick as they moved it to the Boston Bruins for Martin Jones. However for many teams in the draft lottery this year had not suffered a minor one-year absence from the playoffs some teams, in fact, have not seen playoffs or playoff success in that time. Now we will take a look at the top five picks and who moved up and who moved down thanks to the lottery.
5th Overall Pick: Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks who had the best chance of picking third overall saw themselves drop to fifth when it was all said and done. The Canucks could have used the help picking one of the top three guys but they are still going to get a good player with the fifth overall pick. The question is what direction do they go in. To me, the major weakness on the Canucks and in their depth chart is defense so do they forgo a Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Dubois and draft a defenceman like Jakob Chychrun or Olli Joulevi even though they are likely not the best players on the board? Should be intriguing to say the least.
4th Overall Pick: Edmonton Oilers
Many fans feared that the Edmonton Oilers would get yet another first overall pick to add to their string of luck in the NHL draft lottery. I joked that when Brian Burke didn’t want to say what his good luck charm was that it was likely a shiv to take care of Oilers GM Peter Charialli if he had won again. However, the Oilers run of luck would run out as they would fall out of the best odds to draft second overall all the way to fourth. Now the smart money would say they should draft a defenceman again a Jacob Chychrun or Olli Joulevi regardless but I’m curious if they draft a forward and then move an existing forward(s) to shore up the blueline. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl still on entry-level deals, it would make a ton of sense to moving Ryan-Nugent Hopkins who would very likely fetch a good return that would help on the blue line right now. If they go that route they could definitely take a hard look at Matthew Tkachuk or maybe an Alexander Nylander since they are perfectly fine at center ice.
3rd Overall Pick: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets have a shockingly good prospect pool and should be ready to really turn the corner sooner than later. They get a bit of a jumpstart here as they move up one slot to the third draft position instead of being pushed back a spot. They have last years first round pick Zach Werenski who left the NCAA to sign a deal on the path of being the future cornerstone of their defence, Sonny Milano who should be close to being NHL ready after marinating in the minors to join an already young up and coming roster that features players like Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad, Ryan Murray and Seth Jones. To me, they should take the consensus number 3 prospect Jesse Puljujärvi. He is NHL ready now and will only help this developing team improve to be a force in the Metropolitan Division.
2nd Overall Pick: Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets are probably the luckiest team in the draft, sure the Toronto Maple Leafs will draft first overall after finishing dead last in the league and that should not be understated but the Jets moved up from drafting sixth to drafting second overall and getting the opportunity to draft either Auston Matthews or Patrick Laine. Either of these players would really help the Jets right now in the war zone that is the Central Division. My guess is it will be Patrick Laine that falls into their lap and what a nice addition that would be for their team again an NHL ready player who could play either wing. The thoughts of an Ehlers – Scheifele – Laine combination is the stuff of nightmares, the second line of Connor/Dano – Burmistrov/Little – Wheeler not a bad second act. The Jets have a lot of talent in their system and Laine could jump start them to respectability while cheap players fill in the gaps in the lower lines. The Jets have a real opportunity to really turn the corner after years of dreadfulness as the Atlanta Thrashers combined with years of trying to correct the damage done while in Atlanta after the move to Winnipeg.
1st Overall Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs
After finishing as the worst place team in the NHL this year the Toronto Maple Leafs seem to have everything coming together for them after almost two decades of futility. With a management team in place, that had a vision for the future with fresh minds like Kyle Dubas bringing fresh ideas and not trying to buy their way out of the mess they have made. The leafs stripped their team down to the bolts and will draft 20 players over the next two drafts will finally have the piece they have been missing all this time when they draft their future number one center in Auston Matthews. With all due respect to Tyler Bozak, the leafs have never really had the right center for players that have come and gone over the last 5 years. Nazim Kadri was likely not going to become a number one center they wanted although he could be a very solid number two. There is also the never-ending rumors about the Leafs signing pending UFA Steven Stamkos in the offseason. Needless to say being able to take a player like Matthews should jump start their rebuild and might see them trade that stockpile of draft picks to get players that will help them return to contention sooner than expected.
There isn’t much to complain about for Shark fans here although the Oilers and Canucks will get good players they could have had better players in the top three, two of which will now go to the eastern conference. While the Jets are in the conference they are also in the central division limiting how often we see them. Not having yet another top three pick in our division especially to the Oilers is a huge win for the Sharks and their fans.