The 2016 NHL Draft is just over a week away. And, despite how it may sound at the moment, Toronto actually isn’t the only organization that will be picking players this year. In fact, 25 of the 30 teams are lined up to make at least one selection in the first round.
Five of those clubs — the Coyotes, Hurricanes, Jets, Bruins and Maple Leafs — are slotted to pick twice on the first day of the draft. Which, of course, means five other teams don’t currently hold any first round selections at all.
Each of them dealt away their trip to the podium for an asset they hoped would help them right away, and it worked out in some cases. But at least one of those teams could sorely use that opportunity to scoop up a prospect with first round talent next Friday. And their only shot at doing so would require another trade.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the five clubs that don’t get to make a selection until at least Round 2, why they have to wait and how badly they need that pick…
Would Have Picked: No. 30
The Penguins are obviously in a pretty good spot right now, and they figure to bring most of the pieces from this year’s run back for the 2016-17 campaign. Sure, you’d always love to have your first round pick, but it’s a lot easier to let that pick go when it would have been the last one in the round anyway. Especially when you receive Phil Kessel in return, and he promptly helps you win the Stanley Cup while nearly taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy in his first year with the team.
The Leafs hold this pick now, meaning they’ll bookend the first day of the draft with the first and 30th picks. That could really help jump-start their rebuild, but I’m guessing Pittsburgh is just fine with how the deal worked out — even if Toronto finds a future All-Star at No. 30.
San Jose Sharks
Would Have Picked: No. 29
Much like the Penguins, the Sharks aren’t going to miss this one very much. Why? Because they dealt it to the Bruins for Martin Jones, and he looked flat out sensational while backstopping them to their first ever Stanley Cup appearance.
Not only did that trade help trigger the best season in franchise history, it appears to have landed them the bona fide No. 1 netminder they’ve been searching for.
Would Have Picked: No. 22
Could the ‘Hawks use a selection in the top 30 this year? Sure, why not?
But they’re probably not going to lose sleep over it. After all, they didn’t pick in the first round last summer, and they likely have the 2016 Calder Trophy winner on the roster anyway. You can trade away high picks if you’re just going to find undrafted rookies like Artemi Panarin floating around.
Despite the early exit this spring, Chicago is still pretty well loaded at the NHL level. And while the large, long-term contracts that they’ve handed out may come back to haunt them someday, that won’t be for awhile — if ever. Until then, expect them to be a top contender again, with or without a pick on the first night of the draft.
Meanwhile, the Jets now get to pick 22nd, in addition to grabbing Patrik Laine (oh wait, sorry — Laine or Auston Matthews) at No. 2. Keep an eye on them.
Los Angeles Kings
Would Have Picked: No. 21
This is where we start to hit the teams that might actually miss those picks they dealt away. The Kings have claimed two of the last five Cups, so no one’s going to feel bad for them.
But they’ve won just one total playoff game over the last two seasons combined. And in their matchup with San Jose this April, they just didn’t seem to have enough skill to match their rivals from the Bay Area.
The first round can be a good spot to add some of that skill, but their pick now belongs to the Hurricanes — thanks to a 2015 deal that brought Andrej Sekera to Los Angeles. Sekera is now in Edmonton though, and the Kings’ once-loaded prospect pool is suddenly running a little thin.
New York Rangers
Would Have Picked: No. 20
If they can figure out a way to move up in this draft, the Rangers might need to do it. Not only do the Coyotes own New York’s first round pick, the Hurricanes took their second. As it stands, New York doesn’t pick until No. 81 overall.
Making matters worse, the Rangers were never able to convert the pieces they got in these trades into a Stanley Cup appearance. They received Keith Yandle from Arizona, and now he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. And they got Eric Staal from Carolina, who — you guessed it — is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
See the pattern here?
They also sent Anthony Duclair to the Coyotes in that Yandle deal, and now have the lowest-rated farm system in the league, according to The Hockey News. Other than that though, everything’s great.