NHL Sour Rankings: How Winning the Lottery Would Change Each Contender

NHL Sour Rankings: How Winning the Lottery Would Change Each Contender

Tony Ferrari explores how each potential NHL draft lottery winner would improve with Connor Bedard or the next best talent in the running.

Connor Bedard

Photo by Keith Hershmiller

The day is near. On May 8, lottery balls will alter the fate of one NHL franchise for the next decade or more as they can get the opportunity to draft a generational talent in Connor Bedard. 

The prizes don’t end there, though, as whichever team wins the secondary lottery will come away with a potential franchise center in Adam Fantilli.

The 2023 NHL draft could help shape the future of the NHL, unlike any draft we’ve seen since the 2015 class. The tanking was so hard this year because of the quality at the top of the draft – even beyond the top two. That led to teams making roster moves that were blatantly putting themselves in worse shape in the immediate future.

While all 16 teams who missed the playoffs can win the lottery, the NHL altered the draft lottery format. They made it so that teams could only move up 10 spots if they won one of the lottery draws. Therefore, only the top 11 seeds will be eligible for the No. 1 selection in the 2023 NHL draft.

So that leaves us with one question: how would winning the lottery alter the fate of every eligible franchise?

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1. Anaheim Ducks, 18.5 percent

Pairing the game-breaking talent of Bedard with the likes of Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish in California would be extremely fun for hockey. The Ducks lacked structure this season, and their defensive ability was non-existent at times, but the fun factor of Bedard with the Ducks could be through the roof.

Anaheim was supposed to be better than they showed this year. Securing the NHL’s next superstar, along with a fresh voice and system behind the bench, could be the perfect combination to boost them out of the basement this upcoming season. Bedard has built-in chemistry with McTavish from their Team Canada experiences, and the skill sets of Bedard and Zegras could mesh immaculately, so the Ducks have plenty of options if they land him.

While the Ducks likely won’t be in playoff contention without a resurrection of John Gibson’s excellence in net and a massive season from their young talent, they should find themselves playing some of the most entertaining hockey in the NHL next season with Bedard in the fold.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets, 13.5 percent

The Blue Jackets had every excuse not to be good this season. They were right up near the top of the league in man-games lost. They added the flashy star in Johnny Gaudreau in free agency last summer but failed to address their lack of center and defensive depth. They received below-average goaltending for much of the season. It was a tough year.

With that said, the Jackets have several high-end young players in their system, from Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger up front to David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk on the back end. They have a number of very good players in their prime, including Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski, among others. Adding Bedard to that group could be a recipe for a quick turnaround with the help of good health next season.

Bedard would likely immediately center their first line and take some of the load off Laine as their only high-level finisher. He would give the team a star like they’ve never had – with all due respect to Columbus great Rick Nash. Bedard in Columbus would be the finishing touch on the next generation that they’ve been looking for.

3. Chicago Blackhawks, 11.5 percent

There may not have been a team more openly trying to win as few games as possible as Chicago. They signed a bunch of one-year deals in the off-season with the understanding that they would be trading those players if they played even relatively well. They traded one of the greatest players in franchise history in Patrick Kane and may have moved Jonathan Toews had he been healthy.

Already announcing that Toews would not be returning and a clear shift towards the next generation, Bedard would help usher in the new era of Chicago hockey. They have some good prospects in their system, but they still lack depth in their prospect pool. They are still in the early stages of their rebuild, but getting the piece in Bedard would help ensure it isn’t a prolonged process.

4. San Jose Sharks, 9.5 percent

The Sharks have some veteran players who are still quite good, including Erik Karlsson, but they also have a lackluster roster outside those veterans. This has led to poor results over the last few years as those players have continued to age while the team hasn’t injected young talent into the lineup.

Next season looks to be when William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau and other young players should start to force their way into the lineup. Adding Bedard to that group could make the Sharks a sneaky team who can take down anyone on their best night. Bedard would likely find himself on the wing and insulated by a veteran center such as Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl, allowing him to do what he does best and work toward playing center at his own pace.

5. Montreal Canadiens, 8.5 percent

Although they just won the draft lottery last year and selected Juraj Slafkovsky first overall, the Canadiens would be an interesting landing spot for Bedard. He would find himself in one of the league’s biggest and most pressure-packed markets, but he hasn’t ever shied away from the spotlight. Bedard would be the team’s first true superstar skater in decades. Carey Price has held that title as a goalie for years, and while P.K. Subban’s star burned bright, his run in Montreal ended earlier than expected.

Bedard would give them a game-breaker at center to create a one-two punch with captain Nick Suzuki. Montreal will still have struggles moving forward as they have plenty to figure out roster-wise, but with so much young talent coming into the fold last year, they are well on their way to relevance again.

6. Arizona Coyotes, 7.5 percent

The NHL’s college-rink team could use a generational talent to re-energize hockey in Arizona, couldn’t they?

Bedard could be the centerpiece for a very good squad in a few years if they move into their full-time home. With Bedard and Logan Cooley down the middle for the next decade or more, the Yotes would have centers to match any team’s top two pivots.

While some would see Bedard heading to the desert as less ideal for the NHL’s marketing, it could help invigorate the franchise’s fan base. Building fans at Arizona State University could be a great long-term play as the students watching Bedard cook as a rookie will have families down the road. They will want to bring them to see Bedard and the team compete when they’re ready to do so.

7. Philadelphia Flyers, 6.5 percent

The Flyers are in a bad spot. They didn’t have much of a direction this season despite not having much success since early November. They didn’t sell big pieces at the deadline, which led to the firing of their GM. Thankfully, with Daniel Briere at the helm, they seem more open to selling off anything not nailed down. He’s already talked about the 2023 first-round pick being critical to taking the next step, and Bedard would be an excellent one at that.

The team has a long way to go regarding returning to contending status. It could be worse next season, even with Bedard. With that said, the hardest piece to acquire in a rebuild is the star to build around that can be the best player on the ice in any given game, and Bedard would give them that right away.

8. Washington Capitals, 6.0 percent

Chaos is fun, and Bedard heading to Washington would be absolute chaos.

Adding Bedard to a power play featuring the second-greatest goal-scorer in hockey history in Alexander Ovechkin could be pure ecstasy. The finishing prowess of Ovechkin and Bedard would be impressive. The other underrated factor to the Caps winning would be allowing Bedard to learn from No. 8 for the next few years.

It would give the Capitals their new stud before their old one is even out of the picture, which could be huge for Bedard as he wouldn’t immediately be the team’s biggest star in this scenario. He won’t be asked to come in and be the savior immediately. Alleviating that pressure could unleash Bedard even more.

9. Detroit Red Wings, 5.0 percent

The Red Wings have suffered from the worst lottery luck in the draft lottery era. They have not won the lottery despite routinely being near the bottom of the standings, and they’ve fallen more spots than anyone as the teams behind them routinely jump ahead. That pain would be worth it if the balls fall in their favor this time.

Right as the Red Wings are beginning to come out of their rebuild, winning the Bedard sweepstakes would be a gift from the hockey gods. They have their No. 1 defenseman of the future in Moritz Seider. They’ve got young, intriguing pieces like Lucas Raymond and Macro Kasper. They’ve got the hometown kid and captain Dylan Larkin around to usher the next generation in. Adding Bedard would help them almost immediately ascend to playoff contender status and legitimate contender status shortly after.

10. St. Louis Blues, 3.5 percent

The Blues are the kings of retooling on the fly without truly bottoming out, and they would be well on their way if they moved up from 10 to one. Bedard would be an astronomical addition to a team that really isn’t that far away from being a good team. They have some solid pieces, such as Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, but they will need them to continue developing.

The Blues have three first-rounders this year, as they possess Toronto’s and Dallas’ first-rounders in the latter third of the round. If they managed to add the best player in a half-decade to their roster while adding two more premium prospects on Day 1 of the draft, they could build a juggernaut.

11. Vancouver Canucks, 3.0 percent

The final team with a chance to jump up to the top spot, it would be poetic if the Canucks were blessed with a miracle and gifted the hometown phenom. The Canucks have been in and out of turmoil over the last few years, but Bedard would heal all wounds. He doesn’t hide his fandom for the Canucks, either.

Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are beginning to get out of the “young guy” stage of their careers. With very little coming in their prospect pool, lucking their way into Bedard would be a gift. The Canucks have been in the news a lot over the last year for the wrong things – it would be good to see them in the news for a positive story.

The Curious Case of The Ottawa Senators

12. Ottawa Senators, 2.5 percent

The Ottawa Senators can’t win the first overall pick, but if they do win the first or second lottery, they will move up to pick No. 2, a spot where University of Michigan center Adam Fantilli could go. Fantilli is the most complete player in the draft, and in just about any year going back to 2016, he would have been the first overall pick. Fantilli could be a 40-goal, 90-plus point center who plays a good defensive game and blends power, skill, and speed effortlessly.

Ottawa won’t have their pick if they don’t win the lottery, though. It could be Adam Fantilli or bust because they moved their 2023 first-rounder in the trade that brought Jakob Chychrun. Their odds are very low to win either of the lotteries, but if they do, the celebration should be quite large. They could either go with a one-two punch of Fantilli and Tim Stutzle down the middle or move Stutzle to the wing with Fantilli, freeing him up to be an even more high-octane offensive dynamo.

The Worst of the Rest

13. Buffalo Sabres, 2.0 percent

14. Pittsburgh Penguins, 1.5 percent

15. Nashville Predators, 0.5 percent

16. Calgary Flames, 0.5 percent

While none of these squads can win either of the top two picks, they can move up 10 spots. That could get them into the range of players such as Swedish stud center Leo Carlsson or the high-octane winger Matvei Michkov. Both players could be game-changers as soon as they get into the lineup. As small as their odds of winning are, they would be massive wins for a group of teams on the precipice of the playoffs.

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