With the 2016 NHL Draft well behind us and Central Scouting releasing its first 2017 Draft rankings, the focus now turns to next year’s group of prospects, including the presumptive top pick Nolan Patrick. The other big story line for next off-season will of course be the addition of the Las Vegas expansion team as the 31st member of the NHL, as well as the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. However, Las Vegas will also play a big role in next summer’s entry draft.
Fear not, fans of bottom-dwellers: Patrick will not just be handed to the Las Vegas TBD’s just because they are new to the league. Instead, Las Vegas will be given the same draft lottery odds as a team that finishes third to last in the league. This gives them an edge over the 2000 Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets, the NHL’s most recent expansion teams who chose third and fourth respectively in their inaugural drafts, as Las Vegas will at least have a possibility of picking first overall. However, Las Vegas also stands the risk of falling as far as #6 overall if the lottery balls don’t bounce their way. There is nothing to be determined beyond the first round though; Las Vegas will pick third in each subsequent round.
The other draft factor that has the chance to be interesting is Las Vegas’ ability to trade picks. While the Expansion Draft will allow the team to hand-pick thirty players, and then additionally explore the free agency market, the team may wish to pursue players that have term on their contract and that would be unlikely to go unprotected. The only assets that Las Vegas will have to pursue such players before the Expansion Draft are their 2017 Entry Draft picks, which again will include a top-six pick and the third pick in the second and third rounds, all valuable selections. While GM George McPhee will already be facing the tall task of building a farm system from scratch and may not be willing to part with his draft assets, the potential for Las Vegas to add a franchise player at the 2017 Draft is also something to think about.
Patrick and his peers are surely excited enough at the possibility of being drafted into the NHL, but one of them will also have the title of the first ever draft pick of the Las Vegas franchise, making the 2017 NHL Entry Draft all the more interesting.