A little over a month from now the NHL will hold their annual draft lottery, on April 30th. We all know who the number one overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft will be. However, what is important to consider is how Auston Matthews will change the NHL landscape.
Matthews turns 19 in September and is from Scottsdale, Arizona (crazy how the game has grown, right?). This past year he played in the Swiss league for Zurich. In 36 games, Matthews had 24 goals and 46 points with a plus-16. The future franchise player is ready to take the NHL by storm come opening night next season. However, whoever lands the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft will set off other dominoes.
As expected projected #1 pick, Auston Matthews will play in the World Championships. Barring injury this was always a slam dunk. #USA
— sportsology (@sportsology) March 24, 2016
There has been a lot of chatter going on that if the Arizona Coyotes do not win the grand prize in the lottery, they will be all in via a blockbuster trade to bring Matthews home to the desert. The Coyotes lost out last year on Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Arizona seems to be a team on a mission not to miss out on another future franchise player. The talk is Arizona will dangle Oliver Ekman-Larsson and their 2016 1st round pick to land Matthews. It’s quite possibly the Yotes could even offer another significant asset to get a deal done and bring the hometown kid home to Arizona and be the face of the franchise for the next 15 years.
Pierre McGuire says if he was Arizona, he would do an Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the first overall pick (Auston Matthews)
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) March 25, 2016
Let me start off by saying this is not an anti-Edmonton viewpoint. Having said that, if the Oilers win the lottery yet again, there will be a ground swell for the NHL to adjust their draft rules moving forward regarding the #1 overall pick. A tweak to the lottery system would be almost unavoidable. Could a team no longer pick first overall in back to back years? Maybe the league explores possibilities further and the team that wins the lottery can only pick first overall once every three years.
Keep in mind the Oilers are defying the odds, as a team only has a small probability of landing the #1 overall pick through the lottery system. For instance last year, Edmonton only had a 11.5% chance to win the lottery. But somehow, someway the ping pong balls have bounced in their favor. Having said that, if the Oilers do the unthinkable and win the lottery again, changes should follow.
The future of an NHL franchise being in Carolina could be riding on this year’s ping pong balls. The Carolina Hurricanes have been one of the pleasant surprises on the ice this season, racking up 79 points (32-28-15), currently six back of the second wild card spot. Having said that, an NHL team being successful in the Carolina market for much longer could be a tall order. Going through a rebuild at this point and time is not an ideal situation for the Canes, who have not made noise in the Playoffs since going on a miracle run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2009. Landing a future franchise player could move the needle in keeping the Hurricanes in Carolina. At the very least, it could buy them a little bit more time to show if the market can succeed as it did in the past.
I do, however, think Quebec City could become a relocation option for an East team looking to sell/move. Hurricanes the obvious candidate.
— Larry Fisher (@LarryFisher_KDC) March 16, 2016
Buffalo & Columbus:
Currently constituted the Buffalo Sabres and the Columbus Blue Jackets have a lot to be excited about in terms of their futures. Both organizations are not far away from going from a lottery team to a club that makes the playoffs and maybe a step beyond that. They should feel optimistic about being a playoff team as early as next season, barring injuries of course (Columbus knows about that). Adding Auston Matthews to the fold could turn them into an Eastern Conference contender over the next few years.
Colorado & Montreal:
If either the Colorado Avalanche or the Montreal Canadiens land the #1 overall pick it could trigger a major trade. In Colorado’s case, Matt Duchene could be a name to float around. While in Montreal, it could mean names like Pacioretty or the resurgent Alex Galchenyuk are in play.
If the Detroit Red Wings miss this year it will be the first time since the 1989-90 season. That’s a streak of 24 straight playoff seasons that would come to an end. If by chance they landed Matthews in this year’s draft, who’s to say him with the many young guns in the system couldn’t start another long-term playoff streak?
If the Maple Leafs wind up landing the first pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, I predict that April 30th will become a national holiday in the city of Toronto. The only question is will it be called Auston’s Day or Matthews Day? Either way, the Leafs would strike gold with Matthews. They already have the best team in the AHL. Add a franchise player on top of guys like Morgan Rielly, Nikita Soshnikov, and William Nylander along with others, and you’re going to be dangerous for quite a while with Babcock at the helm.