After being mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs and only having ten games left in the season; the focus for the Toronto Maple Leafs now turns to the summer and the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Leafs currently sit dead last in the NHL with 63 points, which is great news if you’re looking forward to the Leafs getting the chance to draft Auston Matthews.
For those that are unaware, Auston Matthews is this year’s consensus number one pick. He is considered to be the next great American generational talent with many expecting him to be better than Jack Eichel. Matthews was almost eligible in last year’s draft, but was two days past the cut-off age. So for this year Matthews decided to play overseas for Zurich in Switzerland’s professional league. Matthews ended the season with 46 points in 36 games as an 18-year-old.
The Leafs currently have the best chance of getting the first overall pick in the draft, but that doesn’t mean fans should get their hopes up. There is a good chance the Leafs lose the draft lottery and end up picking fourth overall instead.
The Leafs Almost Got McDavid
Yes that’s right. The Toronto Maple Leafs almost drafted Connor McDavid last year.
After 5-14-6 were picked, the #leafs had the highest chance of getting McDavid heading to last ball: TOR (4x), BUF (3x), EDM (2x) CAR, CBJ.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) April 19, 2015
Last season the Leafs finished 4th last in the NHL and yet had the best chance at getting McDavid heading into the last ball of the draft lottery.
At least Toronto was lucky enough to keep their spot at 4th overall, while the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes were all bumped down after the Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery. Edmonton finished the season 3rd last in the NHL and yet won the first overall pick. To put that in perspective Edmonton went into the lottery with 14.2% chance of picking first overall while Buffalo had a 25% chance.
Finishing last with those odds this year would mean that the Leafs would have the best chance compared to the other teams, but when looking at the odds as the Leafs versus the rest of the NHL teams then 25% doesn’t look like good odds. Luckily for Buffalo they only dropped to picking second overall last year.
The 2016 NHL Entry Draft and Auston Matthews
This year the odds are even worse for the bottom finishing team after the NHL changed the odds and the format for the draft. If you compare the differences between finishing last in the NHL last year to this year, then it doesn’t look good for Toronto. Not only has the lottery draft odds changed to give teams outside of the bottom four a better chance, but it has also changed how far a bottom finishing team can fall in the picking order.
The four last placed teams in the league now have lower lottery odds, while teams in the 5th to 14th place have improved odds. So last year Buffalo had a 25% chance of picking first overall after finishing last in the NHL. This year if Toronto finishes last they will only have a 20% chance. What these changes do is give teams outside of the bottom of the league a chance to get the top draft pick and it also reduces the incentive for teams to purposely finish lower in the standings to get a better draft pick.
So, not only does Toronto have worse odds than last year, but they could also drop from picking first overall all the way to fourth. In previous drafts, teams could only move back one spot since the lottery was just for the first pick. But now that there is a lottery for the first, second, and third pick it means that Toronto could lose each of those draws and fall to picking fourth.
Keep your expectations low this year because Toronto probably won’t get the first overall pick and Auston Matthews.
Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers.
I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was a kid and have always had an interest in writing. At The Hockey Writers, I get to enjoy both of my passions as well as writing about small convoluted details in player contracts and stats.