Whenever an NHL Draft has a name, you know it’s a big deal.
The last one that qualified was the Auston Matthews Draft in 2016, which came right on the heels of the Connor McDavid Draft a year prior.
And while there have been fantastic players picked first overall since then — and figures to be excellent selections this year in spots other than No. 1 — this is the first time in seven years that the event has a five-star headliner again. Hockey fans, welcome to the Connor Bedard Draft.
We’ll know who is going to land Bedard — realistically a two-year pursuit by some teams — by Monday night at the conclusion of the NHL Draft Lottery, airing on Sportsnet at 8:00 p.m. ET. The league has been tweaking the lottery format in recent years, so let’s go over a couple things to remember before we get into draft odds and try to figure out who deserves Bedard the most.
As of 2021, the NHL holds draws for both the first and second pick. Prior to that, the first three selections were determined by lottery balls. Also, no team can move up more than 10 slots, meaning the Vancouver Canucks — Bedard’s hometown team — are the final club with at least a slim hope (three per cent chance) of moving up to the top draft slot.
While we always talk about teams winning the lottery, don’t forget that by virtue of finishing 32nd in the league the Anaheim Ducks don’t actually have to win the lottery to draft Bedard. Should one of the teams ranked 12 to 16 have its sequence of numbers pulled, it would move up 10 slots while still not knocking Anaheim out of the top spot. So while Anaheim has an 18.5 per cent chance of actually winning the lottery, the Ducks do have a 25.5 per cent shot at staying in the one hole when you consider five other teams could win the lottery but not draft first. No team can drop more than two slots, so the Ducks know they’re not dipping below No. 3.
Here’s a table that lays out each team’s odds to win the lottery.
FIRST LOTTERY ODDS
18.5% (25.5% at getting first pick)
* indicates a team that can’t “win” the first overall pick
The lottery will be held at the NHL Network Studios in Secaucus, New Jersey. The draft itself will be a two-day affair in Nashville, with Wednesday, June 28 slated to be the day one GM with a gigantic grin will stroll to the table and select Bedard, the goal-scoring virtuoso who has torn up the Western Hockey League with the Regina Pats and won two gold medals with Canada at the World Junior Championship.
While Bedard — who could conceivably line up at centre or wing in the NHL — is the clear crown jewel, 31 more players will be selected during Round 1 that first night in Tennessee and the top of this draft is loaded with talent. Adam Fantilli, the projected No. 2 pick, would go first overall in most any other year; Sweden’s Leo Carlsson — like Fantilli — is a big centre with tantalizing talent; American pivot Will Smith is turning heads and the wild card is Russian scoring whiz Matvei Michkov, who is not big and is signed to play in the KHL for three more years, but is also billed as the best goal-scorer to emerge from that country since Alex Ovechkin 20 years ago.
The St. Louis Blues lead the way with three first-round picks, while Arizona, Detroit, Montreal, Chicago, Anaheim, Columbus, San Jose and Nashville are all sitting on two first-rounders.
We’ve all been staring at lottery odds long enough that it’s time to set math aside in favour of the wholly unscientific endeavour of asking, which team deserves the No. 1 pick the most? Here’s a quick power ranking based on recent and not-so-recent factors.
1. San Jose Sharks: The Sharks missed the playoffs just one spring from 2004 to 2019. Year after year, San Jose iced competitive teams that could not get over the hump. Finally, in the past few seasons, the Sharks went into the tank and are finally embarking on a serious re-tool. The Sharks haven’t drafted in the top five since taking Brad Stuart — a Regina Pat, like Bedard — third overall in 1998. (That said, they would have picked fifth in 2020 but handed their pick to Ottawa in the deal that landed Erik Karlsson.)
This was a model franchise for so many years and it would be great to see it get a huge boost while trying to build back up again.
2. Detroit Red Wings: This is a deep cut because eight teams have a better shot than Detroit to draft first, but the Wings have had such cruddy lottery luck in the past handful of seasons that it would almost seem like some measure of justice for them to land Bedard. From 2017 through 2021 Detroit was at best a bottom-six team and always treaded water or moved down the board after the lottery. In 2020 the Red Wings finished dead last and wound up drafting fourth overall. Naturally, GM Steve Yzerman has still found tremendous players like Moritz Seider, Simon Edvinsson and Lucas Raymond, but wouldn’t it be nice if one stud just fell in Detroit’s lap?
3. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Jackets were in the last-overall mix all year, just getting nudged by Anaheim in the final days of the season. Unlike the Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Sharks, it’s safe to say Columbus didn’t expect to be this bad this season, but awful injury luck put the team behind the eight ball and things sort of fell apart from there. There’s an underdog element to this franchise that would make for a nice story should it get a chance to draft a megastar. More than that, though, you have to love the brassy way GM Jarmo Kekalainen conducts business, going all the way back to the 2019 trade deadline when he went all in as a buyer despite Columbus being a playoff bubble team and wound up seeing his squad get its first series victory in franchise history.
The other intriguing thing about Columbus is the bounce-back potential should it land Bedard. With Zach Werenski coming back from injury, last year’s first-rounder, David Jiricek, looking awesome in the AHL and the potential for some other young players like Kent Johnson already on the roster to jump forward, the Jackets could become a very interesting squad in short order.
4. Anaheim Ducks: Hey, actually finishing last is always harder than it sounds and, bless their bumbling hearts, the Ducks actually did it and gave themselves the best shot at Bedard.
This would definitely be one of the most fun landing spots for Bedard as he’d immediately join his 2022 WJC linemate, Mason McTavish, as part of a young core that would suddenly look absolutely loaded. With the Ryan Getzlaf era ending just 12 months ago, it would be cool to officially start a new phase of Ducks hockey and, who’s kidding who, Bedard would likely adapt just fine to life in Southern California.
5. Montreal Canadiens: Really? The team that just drafted first overall? Yes, because if these McDavid/Matthews/Bedard drafts teach us anything, it’s that getting the first pick alone isn’t enough to change the trajectory of your franchise; you sort of need to get it when there’s a serious dude available at the top. Okay, it would probably be a bit much for the Habs to take Bedard one year after selecting Juraj Slafkovsky in the top spot, but it would still be just the third time since 1980 the Habs have picked at No. 1. Montreal has truly committed to a long-term rebuild for, really, the first time in franchise history and it would be fun to see them get a genuine centrepiece like Bedard.