The Nashville Predators’ season ended in ugly fashion. Even though it was a tough season, the expectation for a deeper playoff run was real.
But I am not here to curse your darkness. The Nashville Predators now have a one in eight chance to get the No.1 overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery.
This could be the first No.1 pick in franchise history. The closest the Predators have ever come to a top overall pick was the second overall pick in their first season in which they selected David Legwand.
The highest pick the Predators have ever had aside from their first season was No.4 overall when they took Seth Jones. Many of their high first-round picks in franchise history have gone on to make big impacts on the franchise:
- 2000: Scott Hartnell, No.6 overall
- 2003: Ryan Suter, No. 7 overall
- 2004: Alexander Radulov, No.15 overall
- 2008: Colin Wilson, No. 7 overall
- 2009: Ryan Ellis, No.11 overall
- 2014: Kevin Fiala, No.11 overall
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When the NHL decided to end the regular season and go straight to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers format, a plan had to be put in place so that the draft lottery could be held.
How could a lottery be held when the season ended with games still on the table? Here’s a quick rundown.
The seven teams that didn’t make the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, along with eight “placeholder” teams, the losers of the qualifier series, would have a chance at the top pick.
The seven teams that didn’t qualify would have better odds at the No.1 pick than the placeholders.
Teams like the Detroit Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils had abysmal seasons, and a number one pick would greatly benefit them. 2020 had other plans.
When Phase 1 of the draft lottery finally ended, you guessed it, one of the placeholder teams won that coveted No.1 pick and a shot at phenom Alexis Lafreniere.
Since a placeholder team won the pick, this necessitated the need for an additional phase of the Draft Lottery, Phase Two. It will be televised nationally on NBCSN and NHL Network as the Stanley Cup Qualifiers have concluded and the 16-team Stanley Cup playoff field is set.
What Could Lafreniere Do For The Predators?
One word. Lots. The Predators are in desperate need of scoring wingers, which Lafreniere is. The Predators’ lack of scoring ability was showcased in their series against the Arizona Coyotes.
Lafreniere would bring speed, puck handling ability, and scoring to a team that desperately needs all of these things. And he’s widely considered ready for the NHL from day 1.
Without a doubt, Lafreniere will play in the NHL in his first year. If the Predators are fortunate enough to get the No.1 pick, you will see him in a Predators jersey on opening night. The question is, where will he fit into the lineup?
Changes have to be made to the current Predators team. The hope is that management realizes this and has the courage to make the changes that are needed. Frankly speaking, this isn’t a Stanley Cup contending roster where it sits right now.
Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith are the two high profile free agents this year that could be moving on. Their departure would make room for Lafreniere, and Granlund’s spot on the second line would be the perfect place for him.
Lafreniere and a rejuvenated Matt Duchene at right-wing would be a deadly combination on the second line. If the Predators can scrounge up enough cap space, they could possibly find a quality free agent to center this line.
There are lots of options if players leave, and prospects are brought up, but those are conversations for another time. But getting the chance to select Lafreniere would be a nice prize to win after getting ousted in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
What If They Don’t Get The No.1 Pick?
Of course, there is the much higher probability that they don’t get the No.1 pick, so we have to be prepared for the worst. The worst isn’t actually that bad, though.
If the Predators’s luck doesn’t land them Lafreniere, they will pick eleventh or twelfth according to the Predators’ Thomas Willis.
— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) August 10, 2020
Even if the Predators fall back to those spots, there will be plenty of highly-regarded prospects at this spot in the draft. The Predators and GM David Poile will have a good opportunity regardless to get a franchise changing player that can be called up in the near future.
These players are all viable picks within the Predators’ range. All are centers that can handle the puck and have the ability to score.
Some other notable picks depending on how the draft shakes out include Jack Quinn, a right winger from the OHL, and Dylan Holloway, a center from Wisconsin.
While all of these picks wouldn’t provide the immediate help that the Predators need, all would be great additions to the prospect pool. A prospect pool that may need replenishing depending on which route the Predators’ management decides to go.
With a little draft luck or smart drafting (getting picks eleven or twelve), the Predators can forge ahead in what looks to be, at the very least, a minor rebuild going into next season.
Phase Two of the NHL Draft Lottery happens later today at 5:00 P.M. CDT. The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is scheduled for October 9, which will come shortly after a Stanley Cup champion is hopefully crowned.