But for now, there are 16 teams competing, which means things can get a lot more chaotic. As such, I decided to classify the levels of chaos (low, medium, high) for each possible outcome. Which teams to choose first would be somewhat surprising but, overall, pretty good? And, more importantly, which teams would send the world of hockey into a full match?
Let’s check out the chaos counter.
Low level chaos
Montreal Canadiens: Lafreniere in Montreal seems like it would be a natural choice. I mean, just look at his last name … can’t you already see him on the back of a Canadiens shirt? The Canadians could desperately use an offensive superstar talent on their roster and if they do not go past Pittsburgh in the game round (they probably will not) then they will have a chance to spot a Quebec born hope that matches what law Project. It’s too perfect.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild has been stuck in No Man’s Land for quite some time – not good enough to be taken seriously as a competitor, not bad enough to start a full rebuild and maximize their chances of finding a superior talent that can help them change things . That could change this year and, honestly, winning the lottery would seem late for the Wild at this point. The team is far too irrelevant for a franchise located in one of the largest hockey homes in the United States.
Columbus Blue Jackets: After losing most of their high-end free agency talent last season, we pretty much expected the Blue Jackets to be involved in this year’s draw… just not like that. They had a surprisingly solid year and, as such, CBJ is expecting a play-in game with the Leafs. But if they were to lose and finish first in the draft, I don’t think anyone would end up being too shocked or dismayed. They could use a new cornerstone.
Medium level chaos
New York Rangers: After having been lucky in the lottery and choosing second place last year, the Rangers have gained a lot of momentum and appear to be in an accelerated reconstruction, so first place in the overall standings this year would be another big step forward in this process. It would be a surprising turn of fate, but not necessarily unpleasant.
Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks already have a solid young core with people like Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, etc. Adding Lafreniere would be a very fun addition to this young group.
Nashville Predators: The Predators find themselves in the lottery discussion due to a largely disappointing and frustrating season, but they did manage to find their pace a bit during the stretch before the break. They have a talented team and Lafreniere could provide an immediate attacking boost that will help them reach the top.
Flames de Calgary: After finishing as the best team in the West last year, the Flames have taken a step back this season and will have a tough game against the Winnipeg Jets. If they don’t make it out alive, they will at least have a chance of adding another weapon to an offense that can be really explosive.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers are one of the most frustrating organizations in the entire league. Aside from their difficulties in filling their own building, they have also been a bit messy in management and still haven’t managed to get anything substantial from a good grassroots group in South Florida . Lafrenière should be a little worried if the Panthers were at the top of the table.
New York Islanders: The Islanders winning the lottery would be a major coup. Since losing John Tavares, they have been anemic offensively. Sure, they have great talents up front in guys like Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, but they’ve largely gone over to a defensive identity just out of necessity, and it has worked for the most part. But to embark on a leading offensive talent as the franchise enters a new era on Long Island? It could be a gamechanger.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have firepower up front and really need defensive help in front of Connor Hellebuyck, but winning the lottery could still help them get there in some way. This would make some of their other talents on the wing a little more consumable, and maybe they would be ready to leave Patrik Laine if it meant replacing him with Lafrenière.
Caroline’s Hurricanes: This grazes a high level threat. The Hurricanes are building something special and they already have a bunch of exciting young talent. They participated in a Cinderella race at the Eastern Conference final last spring. Throwing Lafreniere into the mix could help put them on top and turn them into a serious competitor immediately.
High level chaos
Pittsburgh penguins: Despite a plethora of injuries to key players this season, the Penguins are one of the best teams in the NHL. They had the seventh best point percentage in the regular season in the league, but because the East was very competitive, they finished fifth in the conference and participated in the game / lottery round. It would be amazing if the Pens failed to face the Canadiens game, but it would be even more amazing if the seventh best team in the league this season (and a team that won back-back Cups a few years ago) picked up a potential cornerstone of the franchise to play alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the back half of their careers.
Maple Leafs de Toronto: Their lineup is stacked with an impressive attacking core that includes Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, but Toronto is still quite used to disappointment in the playoffs. The current group has not yet been able to do so. Another disappointing season and an anticipated exit from the playoffs this year would be much easier to swallow if it ended up at Lafrenière. Adding another elite offensive talent to their current group at minimal cost would allow the Leafs to move a newly consumable piece to fill some holes on the defensive side. Such a spell would likely implode the rest of the hockey world as Toronto became more dangerous.
Oilers d’Edmonton: Not long ago, the Oilers were formidable perennial threats – not on the ice, but in the lottery. They won three consecutive lotteries and won the first overall choice four times in six years from 2010 to 2015. This final lottery victory helped them win Connor McDavid, who is arguably the best hockey player today. Despite this incredible chance with the ping pong balls, the Oilers are still waiting to turn the corner. They were second in the Pacific before the closure, so they could regain some momentum. If the balls bounce their way and have the chance to be in the best overall selection again this year, it will be a hilarious twist that will solidify their status as LEGENDARY lottery competitors. Also, place Lafreniere on the wing next to McDavid or Leon Draisaitl? This is exactly the kind of secondary support the Oilers desperately need.
Blackhawks de Chicago: The Blackhawks are the second worst team of the 24 playoff teams, so you think they would be more likely to win first place overall than many other teams on this list. And you would be right, given their struggles in recent years. But they still fall into the category of high-level chaos threats, as the entire hockey world would shout “RIGGED!” If Chicago ended up winning this thing. We all know that the NHL loves when Chicago is relevant and the market is booming – as evidenced by the 9,000 outdoor games and prime time television matches they have landed in the past decade. For this reason, the Blackhawks heading up the board would seem rather practical. Letting Lafreniere play alongside Patrick Kane would help make the Hawks more interesting and / or competitive, and many people would be rather upset about it.
Arizona Coyotes: The most chaotic thing about Arizona’s lottery win would be the fact that “lottery specialist” Taylor Hall is on their list. Hall, who himself was a top overall pick, has been on the list of four lottery winning teams (Edmonton twice and New Jersey twice) since entering the league in 2010. If he does again in Arizona after being traded earlier this season? This plot is written everywhere.