On Saturday, April 18th at 8PM EST the fortunes of one of fourteen NHL franchises will change dramatically. The 2015 NHL Draft lottery will be held, and one team will get a chance to draft Connor McDavid. The Sabres are assured either McDavid or Jack Eichel, but it’s possible for every other team to see a scenario where they don’t get the chance to draft either.
For some teams, McDavid fills the void they’ve been plagued with for years. For others, their needs at other positions are more pressing. However, there is no question that you take McDavid #1, regardless of organizational need.
Here are the 14 possible destinations, their chance of winning the lottery, and how McDavid fits onto their roster.
1. Buffalo Sabres (20%)
Sabres fans have had to endure years of futility in the recent past, but the team is starting to approach the light at the end of the tunnel. Building through the middle, they’ve amassed an impressive group of young players at center and defense.
They still need a goalie, but McDavid would fill the massive void of the franchise forward the team is lacking. He would force one of Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, or Mikhail Grigorenko to wing at the NHL level, but would give Buffalo a devastating 1-2-3 punch for years to come.
2. Arizona Coyotes (13.5%)
To understand how starved the Coyotes have been for offense over the years, consider that their leading scorer over the last five years has been a defenseman, Keith Yandle. Getting Connor McDavid would give the franchise the jolt that it needs, and could possibly bring a packed audience and profitability to the Gila River Arena.
McDavid could team up with Max Domi on a loaded top line, or serve as the #1 center with Domi at #2, as Domi is capable of playing both center and left wing. That would put Martin Hanzal at 3rd line center, where his strong two-way play would thrive.
3. Edmonton Oilers (11.5%)
The heads of every non-Edmonton NHL fan would likely explode if the Oilers won the lottery. Gifted with three #1 overall pick and two more top 7 selections over the past five drafts, the Oilers have somehow remained in the NHL’s basement.
The Oilers have plenty of young studs at forward between Hall, Hugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Draisaitl, and Yakupov. The real weaknesses that are holding them back are a porous defense and some of the worst goaltending in the league.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (9.5%)
It’s the kind of stuff you see in movies. McDavid grew up a die-hard Maple Leafs fan in Richmond Hill, Ontario 30 minutes outside of Toronto, and said it would be “a dream come true” to be drafted by the Leafs. For a franchise in a 40+ year Stanley Cup drought, McDavid would literally be McJesus.
The Leafs have lacked a franchise player since Mats Sundin’s retirement. Phil Kessel had the talent to be one, but at first Leafs fans resented him because it meant they lost out on Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Then, in recent times, he’s become a lazy, inconsistent floater.
If the NHL could pick McDavid’s destination, you would have to think it would be Toronto.
5. Carolina Hurricanes (8.5%)
Similar to the Oilers, top six forwards are not the biggest need for the Carolina Hurricanes. The Staal Brothers, Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, and Alexander Semin, from a talent perspective, are a top 5 that are hard to beat. The Hurricanes need defense and goaltending much more.
6. NJ Devils (7.5%)
The Devils had the third worst offense in the league in 2014-15, and there isn’t much help on the way. The average age of their top six point scorers last year was 34, and Reid Boucher is the only forward in their pipeline who has a good chance of becoming a top six forward.
The Devils need offensive talent, and badly. If they continue to play strong defensively and get great goaltending from Corey Schneider, Connor McDavid could really put this team back on the map.
7. Philadelphia Flyers (6.5%)
While the Flyers’ boast a dynamic top line, the rest of the forward corps struggled to generate adequate secondary scoring this year. The Flyers have strong center depth, but it remains to be seen whether Sean Couturier will produce the offense expected of a second line center.
Defense is the real problem for this team, but with a number of promising blue chip prospects on the way, it’s not as big a need as it appears.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets (6%)
Were it not for a sizzling end of the season where the Jackets went 9-0-1, they would have a much better shot at McDavid. They need defense more than forwards, but McDavid would be the perfect complement to the forward corps they’ve already built.
Their current forwards are loaded with toughness and two-way play, but somewhat lacking in offensive punch outside of Ryan Johansen (I’m not buying that 2014-15 Nick Foligno was the real Foligno).
9. San Jose Sharks (5%)
Out of the teams profiled so far, the Sharks need McDavid by far the least. They have four forwards that are arguably #1 centers themselves in Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau. Two have already been forced to the wing, and McDavid would force yet another to change positions.
The Sharks are hurting much more for defense, and a long term starting goalie.
10. Colorado Avalanche (3.5%)
Similar to the Sharks, the Avalanche have no shortage of young talent at center. Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly, and Matt Duchene are all top end centers under 25 years old, not to mention Gabriel Landeskog at wing.
The Avalanche are hurting at defense where there isn’t much behind Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie. Semyon Varlamov, despite a dip in all his numbers compared to last year, is still a solid #1 goalie.
11. Florida Panthers (3%)
Thanks to their recent futility, the Panthers have built up arguably the best young center depth in the league. Barkov, Bjugstad, Pirri, Trocheck, and Grimaldi all have the potential to be, or are, top six centers. A few will already need to move to wing, and McDavid would force yet another to change or lead to a trade.
The Panthers need a starting goalie of the future, and some wingers to complement their strong center depth. They have a treasure trove of young defensemen to build with.
12. Dallas Stars (2.5%)
The Stars boast the best top line duo in the league with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and a very strong #2 center in Jason Spezza. Behind them is Cody Eakin, whose skillset is perfect for a 3rd liner. Seguin won’t be moved, and Spezza just signed a 4 year extension (and his game wouldn’t translate to wing) so it’s tough to see where McDavid would fit in Dallas.
Defense is a much bigger need in Big D.
13. LA Kings (2%)
These last two teams get into the territory of it being just unfair if they got McDavid. Despite missing the playoffs this year, the Kings are still seen as a very dangerous team moving forward. They have an elite goalie, strong defensive corps, and strong scoring depth.
LA winning the lottery would be like Bill Gates winning the biggest Powerball in history.
14. Boston Bruins (1%)
Similarly, the Bruins really don’t need McDavid. They have strong center depth already, but are an aging team whose window appears to be closing. McDavid could be the piece that gives the team life again, and allows them to make one more run at the Stanley Cup.
However, it’s the defense of the Bruins that needs rebuilding more than the forwards. With Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg in decline, the team is relying a lot on Dougie Hamilton to step into his shoes as the minute munching #1 defenseman.