Yeah I can’t believe it either.
In a major upset Friday night, “Team E” won the right to draft first overall at the 2020 NHL Draft. Because the draft lottery happened before the play-in round, special arrangements had to be made in the event a placeholder team won one of the three lotteries. Guess tanking doesn’t work, does it?
Boom Goes The Dynamite
The nuclear option happened. The seven teams most hopeful to win the chance to draft the next great one instead now get to watch a potential playoff team do that. A couple of different scenarios could play out.
In the event that the season resumes with the play-in round, the eight losing teams would each get an equal chance to win the top pick. If the season can’t resume for any reason, it is believed that four teams from the east and four from the west would have an equal chance to draft first.
In both scenarios, the Columbus Blue Jackets are still alive. In scenario one, if they lose their play-in series to the Toronto Maple Leafs, they’d have a one in eight shot at landing Lafreniere. In scenario two, the Blue Jackets would be one of the east teams in the running.
Could you imagine if the Blue Jackets somehow, some way landed the next great one? A lot has to happen at this point but never say never.
Detroit. Nope. Los Angeles. They pick second. Ottawa. It’s not them either. They pick third and fifth. Anaheim, New Jersey and Buffalo won’t get him either. We all thought Lafreniere would be on one of these teams. Now? Half the league has been eliminated including the six mentioned above, San Jose and the eight teams who have a bye in the playoffs.
If Lafreniere Lands In Columbus
This means Columbus has a chance. After all of the crazy things this franchise has been through in its existence, could you imagine that this is the year where they win a lottery for the first time in team history? 2020 has been strange and that would be icing on the cake.
So let’s imagine the unthinkable happens. Let’s say the Blue Jackets win the right to draft first overall. The franchise was already trending upward anyways. Now add a franchise player who would be the eventual face of the franchise. It would infuse an energy not seen often within the walls of Nationwide Arena.
If there’s a position the Blue Jackets need a jolt up front, it’s on left wing. Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and for now Josh Anderson give the Blue Jackets great depth on the right. Lafreniere is primarily a left winger. Imagine a line with Lafreniere, Pierre-Luc Dubois and any of the aforementioned wingers. Yeah that’s crazy good. Lafreniere would take Dubois to a new level.
Then the trickle effect down the lineup would result in crazy good depth. Emil Bemstrom. Alex Texier. Liam Foudy. That’s a small tip of the iceberg. Landing Lafreniere would be a game changer for any team but especially in Columbus. They haven’t replaced Artemi Panarin. Lafreniere would do that and then some for the next several years.
Hey, you never know.
Liam Foudy’s Chance
When John Tortorella says he misses you, that’s a noteworthy thing. He said that about Liam Foudy after he had to return to London. When the play-in series begins, expect Foudy to draw in the lineup.
It’s easy to see why. He has speed. He can kill penalties. He can contribute offense. He has the things that can make a difference in a short series. GM Jarmo Kekalainen recently said Foudy would get a chance. Despite starting the season injured, Foudy was named London’s representative for the Red Tilson Award for the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player. It says a lot about the improvement made under coach Dale Hunter. Expect Foudy to draw into game one and we’ll see where it goes from there.
We barely knew thee. This past week Jakob Lilja agreed to a one-year deal in the KHL with Barys Nur-Sultan. Given the numbers on the roster, this is not a surprise. Someone was going to explore other options.
As for his time in Columbus, Lilja did impress in the preseason making the roster out of camp. He had a couple of nice moments and got some chances while the injury situation was out of control. But given his role on the team had he stayed, he decided to look to the KHL for more playing time. The Blue Jackets have enough candidates to fill out the bottom-six and it was likely Lilja would have been a scratch.
With Foudy likely drawing in, Lilja’s chances to play was already slim. In the grand scheme, it’s not a huge loss for the team.
More Good Health News
We’ll end on a positive note. According to Jeff Svoboda of the Blue Jackets, Alex Texier is healthy and ready to go.
Texier was out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his back. He told Svoboda that he got back on the ice in France. He also said he’s in good shape right now and feels good with everything.
If there’s one thing you can count on when the play-in series begins, it’s that the Blue Jackets will be healthy. That will make them a very tough out even if they have to play the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Several reports including from Elliotte Friedman have suggested Toronto might have a leg up as a hub city. But we’ll see. It’s not done as of this writing.
Texier will provide much needed depth and could play a big part in a short series. Regardless, it’s great to see him back and healthy from that kind of injury.
Phase 2 continues to roll and the Blue Jackets are ready for the Maple Leafs. When the puck drops, expect the healthiest lineup we’ve seen all season.
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.