A lottery it really is this year.
While the NHL draft lottery always garners quite a bit of attention, some years are just a bit different if the top pick is a game-changer, whether you’re talking about Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews or this year’s No. 1 option. With prospect Rasmus Dahlin listed as the consensus top pick this year, and described by many as having no weaknesses, he is considered to be one of the top defensive prospects to enter the league in possible decades. The 18-year-old defenseman out of Sweden should immediately change the state of any franchise that wins tonight.
With the lottery just hours away, how will each club look if they were to get lucky and win it?
Buffalo Sabres (18.5%) — The Sabres franchise would get a huge boost with the addition of Dahlin plus some badly needed luck that they seem to never have. Already boasting one of the worst defenses in the league and sudden talk that the team shouldn’t consider Rasmus Ristolainen a No. 1 defenseman, the team and general manager Jason Botterrill’s job would get much easier if they can win the lottery.
Ottawa Senators (13.5%) — Winning the lottery should make their tough decision easier as they traded away their top pick in the Matt Duchene trade, which is, fortunately for them, top-three protected. Winning the lottery is a no-brainer as they would take Dahlin who could either join star defenseman Erik Karlsson or allow the team to trade the veteran, knowing they already have his replacement. However, the real issue is they end up in the top three, do they keep the pick or send it to Colorado to avoid giving Colorado an unprotected first-rounder in 2019.
Arizona Coyotes (11.5%) — Despite having the third-worst record in the league this year, the Coyotes seem to be heading in the right direction as they went 19-12-4 in their final 35 games of the season as many of the team’s young players had started to figure things out. What better way to improve on that then to add Dahlin, who could convince fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to stay on with the team for many years to come.
Montreal Canadiens (9.5%) — With the injury struggles of aging defenseman Shea Weber and little else defensive help nearby, the team could use the infusion of a franchise-changing defenseman joining the team. With Weber and goaltender Carey Price on huge contracts, a cheap franchise player could move the team in the right direction.
Detroit Red Wings (8.5%) — What better way to finally start the rebuild, then by adding a young, talented defender to join the team. With few defensive prospects on the horizon, the team’s suspect defense could get a huge boost with Dahlin. With the return of Mike Green unknown, and a group of aging veterans, the team needs someone to take over as the face of the franchise.
Vancouver Canucks (7.5%) — The Canucks rebuild is looking better and better with players like Adam Gaudette, Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen and defenseman Olli Juolevi about to arrive. Throw in Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and a number of other prospects on the way, Dahlin would only quicken this team’s rise of young players. On top of that, the team is loaded with defensive-minded blueliners and could use an offensive power-play quarterback.
Chicago Blackhawks (6.5%) — While a lottery victory by the Blackhawks might infuriate the rest of the league, the Blackhawks do need to bolster their defensive depth and Dahlin could easily vault a struggling team back into the playoffs as he could take a lot of pressure off veterans Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
New York Rangers (6%) — Just started a rebuild and they walk away with a generational talent? While many people believe the Rangers intend to have a quick rebuild and compete for a playoff spot within the next year or two, having Dahlin on the roster would only jettison the team to that goal quicker and putting him alongside Brady Skjei and Neal Pionk along with veteran Kevin Shattenkirk would help stabilize their blueline.
New York Islanders (6% total with 3.5% from their pick and Calgary’s 2.5%) — Perhaps winning the lottery would be enough to convince John Tavares to stay. Regardless, adding Dahlin to their defensive woes would only stabilize a team that has the offense to reach the playoffs. He could be a cornerstone the franchise hasn’t had there since Denis Potvin. Add in the fact that the Islanders also have the Calgary Flames’ pick, the team has a better chance to winning the lottery than quite a few teams.
Edmonton Oilers (5%) — Angry fans might protest Edmonton walking away as another lottery winner, but adding Dahlin to, again, a failing defense would allow a team that already has McDavid and Leon Draisaitl should bounce back to where they left off one year ago. Dahlin would provide the team with the No. 1 defenseman that they currently lack
Carolina Hurricanes (3%) — As the percentage begin to really drop, Carolina would only get richer as the team is already loaded in quality young defensemen and would allow the team to move other defenseman like Justin Faulk and acquire more scoring, which the team badly needs.
Philadelphia Flyers (1.5% from St. Louis Blues) — Adding Dahlin could put Philadelphia at the same level with Pittsburgh, Washington and Tampa Bay.
Florida Panthers (1%) — The hottest team that didn’t make the playoffs would get a much needed boost if they could hit that 1/100 chance.