The weirdness of the 2019-20 NHL season just got weirder after the NHL Draft Lottery gave qualifying teams like the Nashville Predators a chance at the top overall pick.
Let me start by saying I’m not condoning that the Nashville Predators lose on purpose so that they have a chance at the top overall pick in the lottery. All I’m saying is that these results just made things a lot more interesting.
Normally the draft lottery is something far off the radars of Predators fans and the team itself. A perennial playoff team that usually picks in the back half of the first round.
Not so fast when it comes to this season. Even though the Predators were charging up the standings and had a wildcard spot when the pause was initiated, the lottery has left them with a semi-decent chance at the top overall pick.
The one caveat is they have to lose to the Arizona Coyotes in the qualifying round to remain in the running. All of the qualifying round losers will have a chance at being the current “placeholder” team for that No.1 overall pick.
Examining the possible scenarios
If the Predators lose in the qualifying round but also fail to draw the top pick, they’ll fall somewhere between picks nine through 15 based on point percentages. Picking in that range will still allow them to get a host of dynamic skaters to boost their offensive prowess.
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It’s truly a bizarre outcome that I’m not so sure the NHL is pleased about. It makes the league look somewhat gimmicky and unfair that fringe playoff teams like the Nashville Predators have a chance to really bolster their roster by winning the top overall pick instead of a struggling franchise like the Detroit Red Wings or Ottawa Senators.
Either way, you can’t help but ask yourself how far you think the Predators can actually go even if they do get past Arizona. Will it all be worth it to take yourself out of the running for the top pick if all you accomplish is getting past Arizona?
Of course the players and coaches aren’t thinking this way, but it’s totally normal for fans to sometimes think this way. You may be naturally thinking more about the long-term future of the roster, and not so much about a quirky 24-team playoff format.
An instant boost to the roster
Whoever gets the top overall pick is going to get a sensational player that will most likely be Alexis Lafreniere out of the QMJHL. An incredible player who checks all of the boxes as the top prospect in the draft class, and one that will instantly boost their NHL team.
Lafreniere is a dynamic scoring winger who can also play a commanding physical game that really sets him apart from the ordinary prospects in the draft class. He’s the clear-cut choice to make for any team who gets the top pick.
Now let’s circle back to the Predators. Think about how beneficial a player like Lafreniere would be to a team like the Predators. A team that has plenty of veteran talent, a future quality franchise goaltender in Juuse Saros, and two of the best defenseman in the league with Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.
This team has the nucleus, but they’re clearly missing some elite offensive playmakers. Insert Lafreniere here. He has the skills to quickly become a franchise-changing player for anyone who drafts him.
This is why the draft lottery looks so unfair, and teams like the Red Wings have to be infuriated that they’re missing out. Here’s a full list of the order of selections after the first phase of the NHL Draft Lottery:
- Placeholder team
- LA Kings
- Ottawa Senators (from San Jose)
- Detroit Red Wings
- Ottawa Senators
- Anaheim Ducks
- New Jersey Devils
- Buffalo Sabres
How far can they really go?
The Predators could definitely find a hot streak in this upcoming playoff format and go deep into it. Maybe even get to Western Conference Final, but that’s still a major stretch in thinking.
I’m as optimistic as anyone at times with the Predators, and no one really knows what to expect from this quirky situation. But just based off everything that has happened prior to the pause, and looking at the strengths and weaknesses, I don’t see the Predators advancing much further than the qualifying round.
Perhaps the draw of the next opponent after defeating Arizona will have something to do with it. The Predators match up better against certain teams over others, and the next round will be re-seeded after the qualifying round.
Let me repeat myself in saying I don’t want the Predators to lose on purpose to Arizona, and they are the slightly better team on paper. They should advance past Arizona and make this a moot point.
However, if the Predators get eliminated by the Coyotes, then how insane would it be for the Predators to cap off this wild ride of a season with the top overall pick?