The Stanley Cup isn’t the only franchise-altering prize available to NHL teams this offseason. Monday is the Draft Lottery for the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville, i.e. the moment we finally learn which team gets the right to draft Connor Bedard.
Bedard’s status as perhaps the best draft prospect since Connor McDavid has made this year’s lottery one of the most hyped in years. Fans and draft experts have speculated for two years over which team will land Bedard, while a handful of NHL teams have
tanked hard A.F. used strategic rebuilding to put themselves in a better position to draft him.
Now, for those of you asking “hey, the Nashville Predators are in the draft lottery this year! There’s a chance Connor Bedard comes here, right?” Well, because we can’t have nice things in Smashville, sadly no. The NHL changed the lottery format in 2021 to ensure the winning lottery team can only move a max of ten spots in the draft order. The Predators finished 15th from the bottom, which means if they DO win the lottery, the highest pick they can land is 5th overall.
That means another team is going to land a generational talent in Bedard. Who will it be? More importantly… who should we hope it will be?
Odds to land Bedard: 25.5% (18.5% chance of winning the lottery, 7% to draft first by virtue of the draft winner not being able to move up the #1 spot)
The skinny: The Ducks reward (?) for being the NHL’s worst team this season is a one-in-four chance at ending up with Bedard. They have a couple of burgeoning young stars already in Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, and Troy Terry, but didn’t exactly try hard to put a team together around them this year. You can’t really blame them, given where they landed in the standings.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: One one hand, it would be fun to see Bedard dishing dimes to Zegras and Terry for the next decade. On the other, it’s the Anaheim Ducks, so the hell it would.
Odds to land Bedard: 7.5%
The skinny: Perhaps no franchise in the NHL needs Bedard more than the Coyotes, who are desperate for absolutely anything to build around. But of course, the Coyotes couldn’t make the tank job easy, and a hot stretch in February and March knocked them from preseason-Bedard favorites to only the sixth best odds
Do we want them to get Bedard?: Sure, they’re a Central Division team. But unlike some of the other teams on this list, the Yotes have at least been TRYING to build something. And c’mon, let the Coyotes have something.
Odds to land Bedard: 11.5%
The skinny: Nothing about the Blackhawks having the third-best odds to land Bedard feels right. From the most blatant tank job in years, to the off-ice situations surrounding the team, to the way team officials have treated long-time staff members, media, and fans… there’s just nothing redeemable about where this team is right now, and seeing them land Bedard would be nothing less that gross. And even if there was, this is still the hated Blackhawks we’re talking about.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: Lol, hell no.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Odds to land Bedard: 13.5%
The skinny: The Blue Jackets have the second-best odds to land Bedard, which is sort of impressive because — unlike every other team in the top six — they EXPECTED to be in the playoff race this year, and even brought in Johnny Gaudreau and re-upped Patrik Laine to boost their odds. A bevy of ill-timed injuries and under-performing players derailed the season.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: They’re the only team in the top five who didn’t actively try to suck, so among the favorites, they’re the most palatable to land Bedard.
Detroit Red Wings
Odds to land Bedard: 5.0%
The skinny: No team has been screwed over by “lottery luck” more than the Red Wings, who have been bumped down in the draft order four of the past six lotteries, two years which included being bumped down two or more spots. That’s kept them from drafting that sure-fire superstar they desperately lack. They still have a lot of talent in the system to be a “team on the rise,” but Bedard would accelerate things.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: Has the O.G. Preds’ top rivalry cooled enough in the past decade to make this okay? Maybe. Would you rather see Bedard here in the East than with the Blackhawks, Ducks, or Blues? Probably.
Odds to land Bedard: 8.5%
The skinny: The Habs won the top overall pick in last year’s lottery (which they used on Juraj Slavkovsky,) which in turn came one year after Montreal played in the Stanley Cup Final. That probably helped Montreal accelerate their rebuilding timeline; landing Bedard would drop a cinderblock on the gas pedal.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: This seems to be a common “dream scenario” for a lot of people: an original six market with a growing core and a hockey-mad fanbase. It admittedly would be fun to see (especially since Montreal is safely in the East,) and it seems like the Preds and Habs are bonded by the Weber-Subban swap. So yeah, we could probably feel good about this.
Odds to land Bedard: 6.5%
The skinny: Like the Blue Jackets, the Flyers didn’t tank to get here; they simply just failed royally at trying to build a playoff team. They only have the 7th best odds in the lottery, but that’s still better than the odds they had in 2017, when they moved up from the 13th spot to the second overall pick.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: The answer this question probably depends on your taste for the likes of John Tortorella, Tony DeAngelo, Ivan Provorov, Gritty, cheesesteaks, Always Sunny, Will Smith, the Love sign as a tourist attraction, etc.
San Jose Sharks
Odds to land Bedard: 9.5%
The skinny: The Sharks have the 4th best odds, which means regardless of what happens, the Sharks are going to wind up with their highest draft pick ever since 2003, when they picked former postseason Preds-killer Milan Michalek 6th overall. Similar to Detroit, Anaheim, and Columbus, the Sharks already have a bunch of good prospects waiting in the wings; they just need that game-changing centerpiece to tie it all together.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: Be honest, that Milan Michalek mention just brought back eerie memories of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and others dashing the Preds’ Cup dreams again and again and again. They’re probably a tad low on the rooting list.
Then again, there are WORSE options…
St. Louis Blues
Odds to land Bedard: 3.5%
The skinny: The Blues have the 10th lowest odds to get Bedard out of 11 teams. There’s no way THIS is the year they get lucky, right?
Do we want them to get Bedard?: If this happens, strong chance I start humming “when the blues go marching in” as I meander deep into the woods, never to be seen again.
Odds to land Bedard: 3.0%
The skinny: Despite a two-game winning streak to end the year, the Canucks just barely hung on to be the 11th and final team eligible to land Bedard, who just so happens to be a Vancouver native and a childhood Canucks fan. It would be a storybook ending that (I’m pretty sure) not even Jim Rutherford could somehow run into the ground.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: I mean among all the Western Conference teams in the Bedard race, this one seems the most benign for Preds fans. So… sure?
Odds to land Bedard: 6.0%
The skinny: This is unfamiliar territory for the Caps, who are in the lottery for just the third time since Ovechkin’s first playoffs. But speaking of Ovi, you can’t tell me putting Bedard next to the guy who might retire as the great goal-scorer in NHL history wouldn’t be fun as hell to watch.
Do we want them to get Bedard?: If you’re a fan of fun hockey and enjoying watching star players thrive in marquee markets, this might be the darkhorse pick for you. If you’re a firm believer that this whole process is rigged and Gary Bettman personally hates you and your favorite small-market team, you probably should cheer for a different outcome.