In no surprise to anyone who was paying close attention, the Maple Leafs won the NHL Draft Lottery. Held prior to Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinal between the Penguins and Capitals, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly read off the 14 picks one by one.
Surrounded by 14 hopeful participants that included BONY clubs, the Devils and Sabres, they hoped to be in the top three for a shot at projected number one overall pick Auston Matthews. The 18-year old American prospect from Scottsdale, Arizona was good enough to join NBC host Kathryn Tappen live via satellite from Helsinki, Finland where it was after 3 AM. He’s representing Team USA in the world championships. He didn’t seem that nervous to find out who would win the chance to select him in late June.
While Matthews could become the first American since Patrick Kane (Blackhawks ’07) to go number one overall, the two runners up won’t come out empty handed. Prized Finn prospects Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine are expected to go second and third this summer. Both were outstanding in leading Finland to the 2016 Under-18 World Junior gold in Helsinki.
There really wasn’t much suspense early on. Form held. As Daly read off backwards from 14 on, each team found out where they will pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. That included the Devils, who remained at 11th. The Sabres also stayed at eighth. Here is the order from 14 down with no movement:
11.New Jersey Devils
At that point, there hadn’t been any suspense. Form held. However, the Canucks were originally in the top three with a great chance to win the lottery along with the Oilers. That’s when things changed. When Daly called out the Canucks for number 5, it meant that Winnipeg had moved into the top 3. Next came the Oilers at 4 dashing their hopes of winning yet another lottery.
After a commercial break because it’s NBC and it is a draft lottery, the final three came down to the Blue Jackets, Jets and Leafs. Right there, you had a feeling the Leafs would come out the winner. Mr. Daly made it official. After announcing the Jackets at number 3, he returned to reveal that the number one overall pick would go to Toronto. That meant Winnipeg will pick second. Here are the final five picks from 5 to 1:
3.Columbus Blue Jackets (moved down from 4 to 5 back up to 3)
2.Winnipeg Jets (moved up into top 3 to get 2nd pick)
1.Toronto Maple Leafs (highest odds and lottery winner)
The NHL Draft will be held on June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. It will be the third time in their history that they’ve hosted the event. They last did in ’98 and ’91. The Sabres will select eighth and still wind up with a good player. With Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart already starring in an improved first year under vet coach Dan Bylsma featuring leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly along with Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jake McCabe, the future remains bright.
As for the Leafs, President Brendan Shanahan and GM Lou Lamoriello had to be celebrating. With former first round pick William Nylander showing that he can play along with top prospect Mitch Marner lighting up the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), their rebuild looks real bright.
If you’re a Ranger fan after a first round exit, not so much. If you’re an Islanders fan, you are pumped for Game 3 on Tuesday with the second round series against the Lightning tied headed back to Brooklyn. Can the draft just get here? 😛