The NHL Draft Lottery Power Rankings

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The NHL will hold its annual draft lottery tomorrow night, and it’s fair to say that this one will be the most heavily hyped since the weird Sidney Crosby lockout thing back in 2005. With Connor McDavid, the league’s next great franchise player, sitting on top of everyone’s draft list and more than a few teams having blatantly tanked some or all of their season to get him, this one random drawing will quite literally change the course of league history.

So we figured it was only appropriate to put together a draft lottery preview. One problem: That’s kind of hard to do. After all, the odds are what they are. The Sabres have a 20 percent chance of winning, and everyone else has less. Boom. Preview over.

But that would be no fun. So, in addition to looking at the actual odds, let’s see if we can’t come up with a few more ways to slice and dice the 14 eligible teams and analyze what the various winning scenarios would mean to the league and its fans.

The “Let’s Start With the Actual List” Power Rankings

We should begin at the beginning. So here are the 14 non-playoff teams that are eligible for the lottery, and their odds of seeing their number come up. Remember, only one number is drawn and only one team wins; that team moves all the way up to no. 1, meaning everyone else can only move down one slot.

1. Buffalo Sabres — 20%
2. Arizona Coyotes — 13.5%
3. Edmonton Oilers — 11.5%
4. Toronto Maple Leafs — 9.5%
5. Carolina Hurricanes — 8.5%
6. New Jersey Devils — 7.5%
7. Philadelphia Flyers — 6.5%
8. Columbus Blue Jackets — 6.0%
9. San Jose Sharks — 5.0%
10. Colorado Avalanche — 3.5%
11. Florida Panthers — 3.0%
12. Dallas Stars — 2.5%
13. Los Angeles Kings — 2.0%
14. Boston Bruins — 1.0%

The “Who Actually Deserves It?” Power Rankings

Forget about what the odds say. Who actually deserves to land the top pick? We took a crack at this question back in December, but a lot has happened since then. So let’s revisit that idea with an updated look at which teams would win this thing in a fair and just world.

5. The Buffalo Sabres — Hey, the system is designed to help the worst teams, and they were certainly the worst team.

4. Literally anyone but the Buffalo Sabres — Tanking should never be rewarded! (Please disregard the fact that half of the teams on this list eventually started tanking, too.)

3. Toronto Maple Leafs — I know, I know, it’s a homer pick. But Leafs fans have been miserable for almost five straight decades. Don’t they deserve one nice thing to happen to them before they all die?

2. Carolina Hurricanes — They were bad, but they never really tanked, and actually got better as the year went on. Maybe this wouldn’t be the most satisfying result, but it’d certainly be a fair one.

1. Columbus Blue Jackets — They’re in an underrated market that watched a decent team get shredded by injuries, then fight back to screw its own draft position with a late-season nine-game win streak. The Blue Jackets are basically the only bad team in the league that never tanked. They were a surprise no. 1 on our list five months ago, and they should be the consensus pick now.

The “What’s Best for the League?” Power Rankings

In theory, what’s good for the NHL is good for NHL fans. Things don’t normally work out that way, but it’s worth at least considering which destination would be the best from the league’s perspective.

5. Arizona Coyotes — Not only would McDavid stabilize the league’s problem-child franchise, he could also boost interest in hockey in the region just in time for the Las Vegas expansion to arrive.

4. Philadelphia Flyers — Face it: The league is more fun when the Flyers are good. Plus, the NHL would promote the hell out of McDavid vs. Crosby.

3. Buffalo Sabres — Wait, what? You’re going to stick a generational talent in this tiny market? Well, here’s the thing: Despite being terrible for two years running, Buffalo is somehow the league’s best TV market.

2. Los Angeles Kings — This is a championship-caliber team in a big market, and dynasties are good for business — even though the league often doesn’t seem to realize it.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs — People would hate it, but the math checks out. The Leafs drive more revenue than any other team, even though they’ve been a joke for a decade, but there are signs that the golden goose may finally be starting to slow down. That would be bad news for a league in which Canadian markets still drive a huge chunk of overall revenue, so hitting the fast-forward button on the Leafs’ rebuild would be awfully convenient for everyone.

The “What’s Best for McDavid?” Power Rankings

Are you Connor McDavid? Cool, because we’ve got a list for you. Everyone else should probably skip this part.

5. Philadelphia Flyers — This isn’t the safest pick, because Philly can get ugly with its superstars (just ask Eric Lindros). But when they love you, you run the town.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs — McDavid is a Canadian kid and grew up a Leafs fan, so this would be really cool for the whole 15 seconds it took for the market to turn on him and destroy him.

3. Colorado Avalanche — Not only are they stacked with young talent, but if you become a franchise player in Colorado, they will later hire you for any job you want.

2. San Jose Sharks — A good team that plays in California? What could be better?

1. Los Angeles Kings — Oh, right: a very good team that plays in California. Remember to wear sunblock to the next few Stanley Cup parades, kid.

The “Oh, That’s Not Good for the Rest of Us” Power Rankings

By design, most of the teams with good odds at landing the top pick are bad, and will probably be bad for a while even with McDavid in the lineup. But a few teams in this year’s lottery are already good, or very close. Which possibility should terrify the rest of the league the most?

5. San Jose Sharks — They’ve been good for over a decade, but the big teardown appears to finally be here. Unless they get McDavid and drop him into a lineup that already has young guys like Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, in which case they instantly become a Pacific contender again.

4. Colorado Avalanche — They’re stacked with young talent up front, and are just one year removed from a 112-point season. How scary does “Nathan MacKinnon, third line center” sound?

3. Dallas Stars — They’re already one of the best offensive teams in the league and have the reigning Art Ross winner on the wing. Adding McDavid to that mix would just be unfair.

2. Boston Bruins — Mainly because they’d wait two years and then trade McDavid to Dallas.

1. Los Angeles Kings — The two-time Cup champs narrowly miss the playoffs mostly due to bad luck and injuries, then add McDavid? God help us all.

The “Conspiracy Theories” Power Rankings

Which result would create the most enduring conspiracy theory about how the league had rigged the entire thing? Wake up, sheeple!

5. Los Angeles Kings — Obviously, Gary Bettman puts the superstar in the biggest American market he can find, just like his old boss David Stern trained him to do.

4. Buffalo Sabres — Obviously, Bettman promised billionaire owner Terry Pegula that he’d hook him up. That’s why the Sabres were so focused on marketing McDavid all year long, even though the odds said they’d have only a 20 percent chance at getting him. They knew the fix was in!

3. Toronto Maple Leafs — Obviously, Bettman rigged the lottery to get his biggest-revenue team back into the playoffs and/or as his parting gift to his old pal Brendan Shanahan.

2. Boston Bruins/Philadelphia Flyers (tie) — Obviously, Jeremy Jacobs or Ed Snider told Bettman to make sure their number came up, and he did what they said just like he always does when they demand another lockout.

1. Arizona Coyotes — Obviously, Bettman rigged the lottery because hockey in Arizona is his legacy and he’s obsessed with never admitting it was a failure.

The “Unintentional Comedy” Power Rankings

Which results would provide us with the most laughs, both now and into the future?

5. Boston Bruins — Think about the teams that just barely slipped into the wild card and then lost in the first round, looking back and realizing that five playoff games cost them two decades of Connor McDavid.

4. San Jose Sharks — But only if they send Joe Thornton as the team representative and tell him he can celebrate however he wants.

3. Arizona Coyotes — It’s cruel, but imagine being a Buffalo Sabres fan who spent the year cheering desperately for your team to finish dead last, only to find out that the no. 2 spot was going to end up holding the winning number all along.

2. Florida Panthers — Guys. You guys: Connor McDavid being mentored by Jaromir Jagr.

1. New Jersey Devils — For one thing, I’m pretty sure that 90 percent of fans have completely forgotten that the Devils are even in the lottery (and actually have pretty decent odds). Also, we’d get to see Lou Lamoriello’s reaction — here’s an exclusive live video feed of him practicing his happy face. Plus, McDavid would probably have three good games and be named head coach.

The “Under Absolutely No Circumstances” Power Rankings

No. Just no.

5. Edmonton Oilers — They’re a tire fire, a train wreck, a running joke, a black hole from which no hope or happiness can ever escape. You might as well load McDavid into a nuclear submarine and fire him into the Mariana Trench.

4. Edmonton Oilers — Also, they already had the first overall pick three seasons in a row just a few years ago. Literally nobody wants this to happen.

3. Edmonton Oilers — Connor McDavid seems like a perfectly nice kid. Why would you do this to him? Why?

2. Kansas City Scouts — Wait, are they still in the league? No? OK, then in that case …

1. Edmonton Oilers — Look, I’m all for fairness and integrity, but if the Oilers win the lottery, then the league absolutely has to scrap the results and run it again. Don’t even delete the footage or try to cover it up — just have Bill Daly walk into the frame screaming, “Take two!” while angrily stuffing Ping-Pong balls back into the machine. Every hockey fan will understand.

The “Break the Internet” Power Rankings

Finally, the most important category of all: Which result would cause instant chaos, immediately crash Twitter, and plunge the hockey world into a decades-long civil war? It goes without saying that if you’re not a hockey fan, these are the results you should be rooting for.

5. Edmonton Oilers — See above.

4. Philadelphia Flyers — Just thousands and thousands of Flyers fans dropping F-bombs and insulting the mothers of every other fan base in the most graphic ways imaginable. Note: Most of these Flyers fans probably wouldn’t even know the draft lottery had happened.

3. Buffalo Sabres — Anticlimactic, sure, but we’d all get to enjoy one last round of the Great Tanking Debate of 2015, and that would be a nice warm-up for the Great Tanking Debate of 2016. Which starts next week, by the way.

2. Los Angeles Kings — The worst-case scenario comes to life. Everyone goes into full-fledged panic mode, especially fans of Western Conference teams who realize they now have no hope for the next decade and immediately turn to Oilers fans for advice on how to handle that.

1. Toronto Maple Leafs — The team with the most fans + the team with the most fans who hate them + 4,000 media guys all scrambling for the contrarian hot take + Joffrey Lupul comes back to Twitter + Phil Kessel reaction shots + bitter Raptors fans realizing their playoff run just got bumped to the classified section + I live-tweet my own heart attack = YES, PLEASE. Admit it: You all know there’s a very sick part of you that wants to see this. Make it happen, hockey gods.

Filed Under: NHL, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins

Sean McIndoe ’s work can be found at Down Goes Brown. When he's not writing, he makes hockey jokes on Twitter at @downgoesbrown.

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