In the wake of the recent NHL draft lottery, there’s been some headlines suggesting the teams that failed to get a pick in the top-three “lost” the lottery. That’s a load of rubbish.
First of all, the teams that were eligible for the draft lottery were already losers because they sucked on toast this season. They were in line for a somewhat dubious honor that usually ends up going to the worst team in the league. Unless you’re the Buffalo Sabres, because the NHL hates you. Well, no, the NHL doesn’t hate the Sabres, but the draft-lottery gods certainly seem to. I digress.
Last time I checked, NHL teams that wound up with draft picks between fourth and fourteenth overall usually wound up with some pretty good players. Sometimes, they struck pay dirt and got a superstar out of it.
I’m not going to go all the way back through the history of the NHL draft to provide examples. I only need to go back to the turn of this century. So, here’s a brief look at the players selected between fourth and fourteenth overall since 2000 (stick tap to HockeyDB).
Fourth: Andrew Ladd (2004), Nicklas Backstrom (2006), Alex Pietrangelo (2008), Ryan Johansen (2010) and Seth Jones (2013).
Fifth: Thomas Vanek (2003), Blake Wheeler (2004), Carey Price (2005), Phil Kessel (2006), Brayden Schenn (2009), Morgan Rielly (2012) and Noah Hanifin (2015).
Sixth: Scott Hartnell (2000), Mikko Koivu (2001), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2009), Hampus Lindholm (2012) and Sean Monahan (2013).
Seventh: Ryan Suter (2003), Kyle Okposo (2006), Jakub Voracek (2007), Jeff Skinner (2010) and Mark Scheifele (2011).
Eighth: Sean Couturier (2011), Mikkel Boedker (2008) and Rasmus Ristolainen (2013).
Ninth: Logan Couture (2007), Dougie Hamilton (2011) and Jacob Trouba (2012).
Tenth: Jonas Brodin (2011).
Eleventh: Jeff Carter (2003), Anze Kopitar (2005) and Filip Forsberg (2012).
Twelfth: Dan Hamhuis (2001), Ryan McDonagh (2007), Tyler Myers (2008), Cam Fowler (2010) and Max Domi (2013).
Thirteenth: Ales Hemsky (2001), Alexander Semin (2002) and Dustin Brown (2003).
Fourteenth: Brent Seabrook (2003), Kevin Shattenkirk (2007) and Jaden Schwartz (2010).
Let’s be honest, folks, the draft is pretty much a crap shoot. Even finishing with the top overall pick is no guarantee you’re getting a superstar who will lift your club from worst to first. Yes, the odds are better, but it’s not a certainty.
Since 2000, we’ve seen superstars selected in the lower rounds (Jonathan Quick,Jamie Benn and Henrik Lundquist, to name but a recent few) and top-five picks become total busts (hello,there, Rick DiPietro, Alex Svitov, Cam Barker and Stanislav Chistov). In each of the draft years indicated above, there were players selected lower in the opening round who went on to become top stars. Notables include Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zach Parise, Tuukka Rask, Claude Giroux, Max Pacioretty and Erik Karlsson.
So enough of the faux boo-hooing over your club “losing” the draft lottery. Assuming those teams selecting between fourth and fourteenth overall has at least a decent management and scouting department, they’re probably going to do all right in the opening round. If not, then they’ll have to get lucky.