Let’s face it. Everyone feels pressure of some kind especially at the draft. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks for instance. They own the pivotal third pick. They have options. But they need to make sure they make the right pick. Luckily for them, both Alex Turcotte and Bowen Byram are elite talents and taking either of them will benefit them.
But then there are teams in a different situation. They have to get this draft right. Whether it’s because they are in the midst of a rebuild or they’ve missed in previous years, these teams have to make right decisions as it alters the very course of their franchise for years to come.
There are five teams in my mind that absolutely must get this draft right. If not, changes might not be very far away. Who made the cut? Let’s dive in.
Let’s start with the hosts of the NHL Draft. Pieces are falling into place for the Canucks but they have to keep the momentum going. They have several questions on the blue line.
Alex Edler is a UFA. Chris Tanev seems like he’ll be back. But we don’t know about Derrick Pouliot or Brendan Gaunce. Quinn Hughes is on the way. But they have serious concerns that Jim Benning must address.
Benning could use the 10th pick on a defenseman. But there’s also some intriguing forward options out there. He has an important decision to make given where the Canucks are at. Some have suggested he’s on the hot seat. This draft and offseason could go a long way in determining that fate. Oh and there’s always pressure to do something as the host of the draft.
Poor Jason Zucker. That’s twice now he’s been rumored to be part of a potentially big trade out of Minnesota. Sure seems like a matter of time before he goes, doesn’t it?
That’s just one of several issues going on with the Wild. They hold the 12th pick in this draft. They also could be looking at a very busy offseason. GM Paul Fenton could be looking to shed salary in order to be a player in free agency.
The Wild missed out on the playoffs in a season where it was more wide open than usual. Fenton has to do something drastic in order to get this turned around. But for the draft, the Wild need to nail their picks.
Ryan Kesler had hip surgery. Corey Perry might be gone also. The Ducks have to find young talent to replace them. They own the ninth pick and could go in several directions.
They’re also in a position where the youth they do have need to make their case for more playing time. With a lot of questions and not very many answers, the pressure is on the Ducks to land an impact player with this pick. Then we’ll see how GM Bob Murray handles the offseason and the Perry situation.
When you have Connor McDavid and his best years ahead of him, you automatically make this list.
There’s a new GM in town and expectations are out of this world. The Oilers expect to make the playoffs every year and they have to make sure the players they draft fit their system. To say they haven’t done very well in recent years is a massive understatement. If you can neutralize McDavid, you need a new direction.
They should be able to land an impact player eighth overall, but how many times have we said that about their other picks? Ken Holland now runs the show so it’ll be curious to see what approach they take. No matter what it will be over-scrutinized.
Los Angeles Kings
An aging roster coupled with not hitting on recent picks have put the Kings in a pickle. They need young talent in the worst possible way. They have the pressure of making sure the fifth pick in the draft gets them going in the right direction.
The issue is they have to decide which player that is. Some top centers are expected to be available. They thought they had that player in Gabriel Vilardi but has struggled with back issues since winning the Memorial Cup.
The Kings need to turn this around quick. Outside of the Oilers, they face the most pressure to nail this draft.
So what teams that didn’t make this list should have? Let us know. And stay tuned for the next part of our series where we explore prospects that might unexpectedly fall given the right circumstances.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.