The NHL draft lottery is tomorrow night, which for all the non-playoff teams is one of the most exciting moments of the off-season. The stakes are even higher this year with the main prize being Connor Bedard — the highest regarded prospect in years. Given the somewhat new rules of the lottery, there’s a limit on how high the Penguins can go, and Bedard is out of the question. Here’s a nice chart from Tankathon that visualizes things nicely.
The Penguins have a 3.2% chance of bumping up to the fourth overall pick if they win the lottery. But if Nashville or Calgary wins it, there is a slight chance that Pittsburgh drops to 15th overall. Odds are overwhelming at 94.7% that the Pens stick in the spot they are, 14th.
11 teams do have at least a chance at bumping up to No. 1 overall if the lottery goes their way. From a Pittsburgh perspective, here’s the least to best landing spaces for the presumed next phenom.
11. Washington: This would be the worst outcome for the Pens. The Capitals have had star players and were one of the top teams in the league in the 2010’s, they’ve had their moment in the sun, they don’t need Bedard. Bedard is a natural shooter and would steal goals from Alex Ovechkin’s chase towards Wayne Gretzky, the fit isn’t even right. But the Caps have a real shot — for as bad as the Flyers were this year, Washington only had five more points in the standing.
10. Philadelphia: The chief rivals can’t fall too far on this list from the Pens’ perspective. Bedard playing for John Tortorella, at least to start his career? Yeah that sounds like no fun. The Flyers have squandered everything they’ve touched in going on 50 years, let’s hope Bedard isn’t the next case that they somehow ruin. This organization could foul up a one-car funeral procession, there’s no good reason Bedard should be subjected to their assortment of ineptitude. The Flyers deserve no good things or fortunate breaks like winning such a major lottery like this season. Let them win it in a future year when the next Nail Yakupov or Alex Daigle comes along.
9. Arizona: The Coyotes aren’t a real NHL team. Yeah they’re technically in the league, and useful mainly for absorbing everyone else’s retired players, but this joke of a franchsie is as unserious as it gets. The Coyotes play in a 4,600 capacity arena for cryin’ out loud. I know what you’re thinking, “but hooks this could turn things around out there and really save them!” That’s not wrong, but some things aren’t worth saving. The NHL’s experience in Arizona hasn’t taken root, they still don’t have a new building for sure yet— at some point it’s better to pull the plug, not prop them up.
8. Montreal: The Canadiens just got the first overall pick last year and still aren’t even as close as they should be to contending or bouncing back. Bedard won’t change that and the intense media market would put a lot of pressure on his every move and heap tons of expectations on him to change that. No Hab has scored 100+ points since 1985-86, for better or worse this isn’t a market of star players any more. It’s just a relic of the past with a sense of entitlement and out-sized, unrealistic delusions of grandeur.
7. Anaheim: Outside of a few runs in the 2000’s, this is another fairly irrelevant organization that doesn’t even make waves in their own market where they make as much buzz as whatever counter-programs the Super Bowl. This is an East coast bias call, but it’s tough to see Bedard making much of an impact or getting a lot of visibility with the Ducks, unless he drags them into the playoffs ala what the other Connor does in Edmonton. Only in Anaheim they don’t have a Leon Draisaitl (which, to be fair, no one has a Leon Draisaitl).
6. San Jose: A lot of the above for Anaheim applies here too as far as the turn off of going to a West coast team. And the Sharks salary cap situation is arguably the worst in the league with all the terrible contracts they have on the books, several for many years to come. Not an ideal situation for Bedard to be handed over into.
5: Detroit: When is it time to start doubting the Yzer-plan? Stevie Y can do no wrong to the people of Detroit, but he’s failed to turn the corner and just building the team back up after a few years of stripping them down and waiting out bad contracts. Winning the Bedard lottery would do just that, and send him to one of the premiere teams and markets for the league and maybe, just maybe, breathe some life back into the Red Wings. There’s a lot of good in that.
4: Columbus: As a division rival, you might rank the Blue Jackets further down this list. But at this point, I just feel sorry for them. They’ve been in the NHL for almost 25 years — a quarter of a damn century! — and almost nothing has gone their way and they’ve accomplished nothing. Sure, it would suck for Bedard if he had to live in Ohio and be less popular than the Buckeyes’ starting slot receiver, but maybe he could make the Columbus/Pittsburgh “rivalry” an actual rivalry. That would be fun, at least.
(Also while it’s not ideal for a potential elite player to join the division, think of how much this hurts teams like the Flyers and Islanders. Helps take the sting off it. And I feel like being ambivalent on CBJ and focusing on being anti-Caps+Flyers is less greedy and more targeted, therefore possibly more effective). These words might come back to haunt me since CBJ has a fairly decent chance to actually win the draft (better than WSH and PHI combined), but I don’t think it would be bad for the Pens if he landed there.
3: St. Louis: The Blues have some decent pieces and might not be down for very long. Adding Bedard would probably ensure that. Despite the high ranking, I’m not really all that keen or hoping for it and at 3.5%, it’s probably not going to happen anyways but I think we could all live with this as Pens’ fans as a random out of conference team that isn’t terrible and also only one time zone behind.
2. Chicago: Wait, how did this get to be my second team? I don’t really this to happen, but then again the Blackhawks are down bad. They haven’t won a playoff series since their last Cup win in 2015. All the bad actors from their scandal have been washed out. Icons like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are gone. It would be good for the league for Bedard to pump up an important market. It would be good for the Pens if he goes out of conference.
1. Vancouver: Hey, call it a reward for ol’ Gentleman Jim. Bedard is from Vancouver, would be kinda nice if he is back there for the Pens. It’s also the least likely to happen, so don’t get your hopes up. Can’t even say this is a great destination, the main thing about doing this exercise is that I kinda feel bad for Bedard. His immediate future probably isn’t going to be that fun professionally.