Ranking the Placeholder Teams
The odds that the Ottawa Senators would walk out of the NHL draft lottery with the first overall pick weren’t particularly good, but it was still fun to dream. Fans hoped for the best, but were generally content with the knowledge that it was probably going to land with a team like Detroit, or Buffalo, or Los Angeles. When the Senators weren’t announced as the winner of the first overall selection, it therefore wasn’t deeply shocking or surprising. What was a little bit alarming, though, was the fact that one of the league’s “placeholder teams” is going to have the honour of selecting Alexis Lafreniere when the draft is eventually held. People in Sens Nation weren’t necessarily upset that Ottawa didn’t win, but were rather peeved that a potentially already-good team might. So, with that in mind, here’s an absolutely definitive ranking of the placeholder teams in terms of contentedness I'll feel if they win:
1) Arizona Coyotes
Much like the Buffalo Sabres, they did everything they could in the McDavid draft year to set themselves up for future success. Unlike the Sabres, they didn’t walk out with Jack Eichel as an elite consolation prize. Seeing Arizona get a bit of good luck in the draft lottery would be a feel-good story. They’ve been such a non-factor in the league for so long, that it’s almost impossible to hate the idea of them landing #1.
2) Winnipeg Jets
Even though they’ve been back in the league for a number of years now, the Winnipeg Jets still feel like a shiny new team. It’s true that they’ve had some on-ice success in recent seasons, but having a first overall selection to usher in the next era of Jets hockey would be phenomenal for that organization and city.
3) Minnesota Wild
This is an aging team that’s going nowhere fast these days. They need a bit of good news to help turn things around.
4) Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are building something special, and are doing it the right way. This is a really fun team to watch, and it’s clear that bright things are on the horizon. Even if they already have some great pieces in place, adding Lafreniere doesn’t feel like it would be unfair. Smart teams should be rewarded.
5) Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets pushed all their chips in last year. It was great fun to see an organization take the shots that so many are often scared to take. While it didn’t pay off with a Stanley Cup, it did pay off in the form of a mini memorable run for fans. The problem for them now is that the cupboards are a little bit barer than they once were. Getting a first overall selection could be a nice reward for taking chances and reminding other teams that this is ultimately an entertainment business.
6) New York Rangers
This is an example of rebuilding done right. The Rangers tore their core to the ground, accumulated picks, and made investments in spots where they can make a difference – e.g. Artemi Panarin. They almost improved too fast for their own good, which makes them a deserving candidate for Lafreniere.
7) Montreal Canadiens
As much as it wouldn’t be ideal for the Senators, seeing the Quebec-born star land in Montreal with the first overall pick would be quite the story. Imagine the pressure on him from day one.
8) Calgary Flames
The Oilers have had so many chance with first overall picks. Maybe it’s time that the team three hours south got a chance too.
9) New York Islanders
It’s honestly difficult for me to come up with a blander winner than the Islanders. They need the help to an extent, but other teams have much more compelling narratives or needs.
10) Nashville Predators
They’ve been good enough for long enough that seeing them win the first overall selection would feel a little bit icky, but there’s nothing overtly offensive about the idea.
11) Florida Panthers
They’ve had so many shots with high-end draft picks, but can never seem to put it all together. Handing them another one just seems like it would be a waste.
12) Vancouver Canucks
With Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes already in the fold, and cap troubles on the immediate horizon, gifting Lafreniere to the Canucks just wouldn’t feel right. That their rebuild has taken so long and contains structural deficiencies is a failure, not something that should be rewarded with the first overall pick.
13) Pittsburgh Penguins
The Crosby/Malkin era isn’t over yet.
14) Chicago Blackhawks
Their run of three Stanley Cups in six seasons just feels a little bit too fresh for them to land a first overall selection, doesn’t it?
15) Toronto Maple Leafs
They’ve already got Auston Matthews. They’ve already got William Nylander. They’ve already got Mitch Marner. They’ve already got John Tavares. They don’t need Alexis Lafreniere.
16) Edmonton Oilers
They’ve had their chances with first overall picks. Give someone else a turn.
Where are you hoping that Lafreniere lands when the placeholder winner is determined? Let me know in the comments section.
As always, thanks for reading.