It is safe to say that the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery was the most important in the history of the league. With two generational centers available in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the destinies of several franchises were indelibly affected by the random drawing of a series of numbers.
Almost accidentally, the Oilers have accumulated a wealth of young talent. McDavid outshines them all, and it’s not even close. He has the talent to be a star center as early as next season, and immediately makes the Oilers a playoff threat for the first time in years.
Eichel had a 20% chance of going to Arizona and an 80% of winding up surrounded by the best young talent base in the league with one of the best fan-bases in the league in Buffalo. Which do you think he preferred? His marketing value doubled as soon as it was determined Eichel would be making his new home in upstate New York, and likely his chances of one day winning a Stanley Cup along with it.
Hey, cry me a river Sabres fans: you wanted Sidney Crosby and got stuck with Jonathan Toews. Let’s just say the talent differential between McDavid and Eichel is thinner than the differential between Eichel and every other first overall pick since John Tavares went to the New York Islanders over half a decade ago in 2009. The Sabres are big winners with Eichel donning the blue and gold for the foreseeably bright future.
No team has ever needed a marquee star like McDavid or Eichel quite like Arizona. Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney did everything in his power to tank away the season for a better shot at one of the prodigal pair. Now, they get neither. To make matters worse, the consensus third-best player in the draft is defenseman Noah Hanifin, who plays at the only position the Coyotes do not need help in.
They will either have to trade further down at the draft or take a player who is not the best available when their turn arrives, a lamentable third instead of the first or second they so desperately coveted.
Well, I would not exactly call him a loser. The kid has all the tools to be a full-fledged NHL superstar — but Arizona falling to third in the draft was the only possible contingency which could have moved Hanifin down to fourth in the draft.
All that work to make his mistake of engineering the Winnipeg Jets’ move to the desert in 1996, all the NHL money spent on a bankrupt franchise with a lukewarm fan base which blatantly defies the local weather. All of the time, energy and cash reserves Bettman has spent making Arizona a viable hockey market would have paid off if the Coyotes finally landed a generational, marquee star like McDavid or Eichel. Now, all the Coyotes’ sparse fans have to hope for is a victory in the 2016 draft lottery.