Tuesday night, the fortunes of three NHL franchises will change for the better when the results of the draft lottery unfold. Fifteen teams who failed to reach the postseason will anxiously await their fate as deputy commissioner Bill Daly goes one-by-one, inversely revealing the order of claim for the 2019 NHL draft.
The Red Wings are very much in the mix to move up. Holding the fourth highest odds to win the lottery, it’s not unrealistic to imagine the Winged Wheel landing one of the top three selections. On the flip side, the odds are very much against them, having a 71.2% chance of not picking in the top three. The optimist in me says the odds are against everyone, but it would be foolish to view moving up an expectation, rather than a luxury.
The uncertainty that surrounds the process emphasizes the importance of exploring all other options even more so.
No team can fall back more than three spots from their finish in the standings. Because Detroit was the fourth worst team in the league, the lowest they can pick is 7th overall. The likelihood of them falling back is greater than most clubs because there are more teams behind them vying to move up. For them to stay in the four spot, the three teams with the highest odds —
Ottawa Senators Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, and New Jersey Devils — would have to make up the lottery winners — something that has never happened before.
Each three outcomes will all have significant implications on the Red Wings future. Here is how each scenario could play out:
Detroit has come close to winning it all before. They were just one digit off from picking first in the 2017 draft. Will the hockey gods reward them this time around for not hitting the golf course a little early?
If so, hope for pick one or two. This is very much a 1A-1B draft, with American center Jack Hughes and Finnish winger Kappo Kakko leading the pack. The gap between those two and everyone else is quite noticeable.
Hughes is a dynamic center who has enjoyed a record-breaking career with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. The speedy pivot may take some more time to fulfill his potential but would give Detroit the extra firepower down the middle to compete with the rest of the Atlantic Division.
Kakko, on the other hand, will provided a quicker impact. He plays a complete game, combining high-end skill with the dirty work that most top prospects aren’t willing to commit to. He could give Detroit the bonafide star they’ve been missing to flank the top-six.
If Detroit finds themselves in third, they could go a multitude of ways. The clear top-two prospects will be gone by then, but they can still get first dibs and target their guy from the second tier of players, rather than pick from the leftovers.
Staying in the top five
This is when the draft board really opens up. The talent level from picks 3-7 are very interchangeable from a broad standpoint that a good eight or nine players will have a chance to go in the top five. In the Red Wings case, staying in the same domain of draft slots gives them a better opportunity to select one of their main targets.
Players that could be had in this range include Matthew Boldy, Bowen Byram, Dylan Cozens, Vasili Podkolzin, and Alex Turcotte, among others.
No matter who it is, the Wings would be acquiring another piece of the puzzle. A player who down the road can play a significant role in building a contending roster. I don’t anticipate any of the aforementioned names to match the ceilings of Hughes and Kakko, which may be the only downside. They’d be missing out on the elite of the elite talent that have propelled good teams into legit contenders.
The absence of a superstar presence has severely handicapped the Wings chances of speeding up the rebuild. Missing out on that kind of talent certainly would extend their time in the dull-drums.
It is important to emphasize they get this pick right. While again, all these players should develop into quality NHLers, but if the one they pass on becomes something special, that can set the franchise back for several years. These aren’t sure things like Hughes and Kakko, so the risk is greater. Even more so, since the top five will allow Detroit to make their own decision, not take what is left on the board. It’s on them.
If a trade up/back is on the table for Ken Holland & co. the higher the pick the better. Remaining in the top five can garner real value, in large part due to the likelihood that most teams will be eyeing a certain player, rather than a collection of them. If the opportunity to trade into the top two presents itself, a higher pick is more enticing.
Falling back is less than ideal, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Seeing as the core group of players from this draft just about ends in the mid-top-ten range, there is no excuse to whiff on the pick. Elite talent in recent memory have slipped to this point in the draft, including the likes of Zach Werenski, Mikko Rantanen, and Quinn Hughes.
I’d be somewhat surprised to see Byram fall this low, so a forward is most likely in the cards. Once again, seems most likely they will have to let the board fall their way and choose from whats there. Yet, as we’ve seen in the past, Detroit managed to snag their main target in Filip Zadina without doing anything on draft day.
Can they rely on that same strategy again? Maybe. Maybe not. You just don’t know, which becomes the biggest disadvantage to slipping.
The trading up/down factor also takes a hit. With the value of the pick dropping, the mid-top-ten range typically is not where teams are eyeing. It can be very difficult for a trade partner to get the value they are looking for, as every other general manager is looking to outsmart each other at this point in the draft.
Each outcome for the most part has its pros and cons. Moral of the story is — Detroit will be picking somewhere in the top seven. They should and will get a very good player with that selection. The question is how much value do they maximize.
So, get your last tankathons in and lets hope the ping pong balls fall the Wings way!