Harman Dayal of The Athletic writes that the San Jose Sharks are the team that is best positioned to win the draft lottery in 2024 and ultimately the first overall pick. Dayal ranked the top five teams with the best chance to do so, and in his estimation, he believes that the Chicago Blackhawks will have the second-best odds, the Philadelphia Flyers third, Anaheim Ducks fourth, and the Montreal Canadiens rounding out the top 5.
Given the offseason that the Sharks have had, the rankings are hardly a surprise. The Sharks dealt the reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a lot of bad roster players and several draft picks. The move to embrace a full rebuild was the correct one given where the Sharks are in their roster construction, but it is going to lead to a lot of lean years and in Dayal’s view this one could be the toughest.
After subtracting Karlsson, the Sharks added Mikael Granlund, Mike Hoffman, Jan Rutta, Filip Zadina, and Anthony Duclair. While several of those players still have something to offer a team, none of them appear likely to be with the Sharks long-term and most of the players will be asked to play this season in a roster spot that doesn’t match their current skillset. Take Rutta for example, he was a terrific sixth defenseman on the Stanley Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning squads but struggled last season in Pittsburgh when he was asked to play in the top-4 in the absence of Kris Letang and Jeff Petry. Rutta was exposed as a liability on most nights in that role, and this year will be asked to play on San Jose’s top defensive pairing. It’s going to be a tough year for the Sharks’ defense as they likely don’t have a single defenseman on their roster that could play in the top-4 of a playoff team.
Zadina is also going to be asked to play a role that doesn’t match his skillset as he is currently pencilled in to play in the Sharks top line. He had trouble finding minutes in Detroit and was a healthy scratch at times. Now he will be asked to dress against opponents’ top units, which might make for a tough year for the 23-year-old who is trying to rebuild his stock after struggling with the Red Wings.
Outside of Duclair, every player the Sharks acquired this offseason was a lightning rod for criticism with their former clubs. Granlund in Pittsburgh was the move that probably got Ron Hextall fired as he didn’t mix with the Penguins, Hoffman wore out his welcome in Montreal and didn’t provide much besides a shot. Dayal is predicting that all these ingredients will be a recipe for disaster in San Jose, but it could also be the shot in the arm that their rebuild needs if they are in fact able to win the draft lottery and secure the first overall pick in 2024.