The Big Winners are the Maple Leafs

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Well it started out ho-hum but the NHL lottery ended with a lot of drama. Start spreading the news, the big winners are the Maple Leafs. For the first time since 1985 the Leafs will have the first overall pick in the NHL draft. That’s of course assuming Toronto does not trade the pick. Realistically though, that is not happening. The center of the hockey universe now owns the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. The other big winners of the night were the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Winnipeg Jets.

Auston Matthews

The next NHL franchise player is heading to Toronto and his name is Auston Matthews. The consensus top pick in this year’s draft comes from Scottsdale, Arizona. This past year, the American phenom played for Zurich in the Swiss League. Matthews had 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games this past season. All indications are Matthews is ready to start his NHL career come opening night of the 2016-17 season.

Toronto was going to add a top player from this draft, as their worst case scenario was the Leafs would fall to the fourth overall selection. But landing the top prize could shorten the rebuilding program for Toronto. Having Matthews join top prospects Mitch Marner and William Nylander should have Leafs fans very excited. Imagine if Toronto could add Steven Stamkos this summer as well.

Finland is Coming to Columbus & Winnipeg

The Blue Jackets and the Jets did not win the ultimate prize at the lottery, but needless to say it was a good Saturday night for both clubs. Both franchises moved up in the draft thanks to the new lottery system. Columbus went from the fourth overall position to third and Winnipeg made a big jump going from the sixth position to second overall.

There is no doubt who these two franchises will be selecting. Unless something very unusual happens both organizations will be selecting Finnish forwards. It would be shocking if Winnipeg did not select Patrik Laine second overall and Jesse Puljujarvi did not wind up in Columbus.  While these two players may not be ranked as high as Matthews, make no mistake these are game changing players for Columbus and Winnipeg.

Edmonton, Calgary & Vancouver Fall

There were three teams to slide backwards in the 2016 NHL draft because of the lottery. The Calgary Flames fell from the fifth overall slot to sixth, the Vancouver Canucks slide from the third position to fifth and the Edmonton Oilers for a change moves backwards from the second spot to fourth overall.

In terms of the Flames sliding back one spot from the fifth position to sixth is not that big of a deal. The players are very closely ranked between five and ten and Calgary will still have flexibility if they want to go forward or defensemen.

For Edmonton while they will miss out on what most hockey insiders will call the top three prospects in this draft, falling to the four spot still enables them to land one of the elite players in Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Dubois.  The Oilers could also choose to fill a need getting their pick of the three contenders for the position of top defenceman in the draft in Olli Juolevi, Jakob Chychrun and Mikael Sergachev.  I am sure there will be a lot of trade buzz regarding the Oilers at this spot and the Arizona Coyotes who currently reside at the seventh slot. In a perfect world Edmonton would like to add a premiere defensemen with their top pick. Trading with Arizona would allow them to do that and from a Coyotes perspective it would give them another high-end elite forward prospect who happens to be the son of one of the franchise’s most popular players. Of course I am talking about Keith Tkachuk. Let the trade rumors begin.

The team that had the toughest night was the Vancouver Canucks. Not only do the Canucks fall backwards but they slide out of the premiere position in this years draft, (the top 4) into the next wave of players (between 5-10). Vancouver will land an exciting prospect to their organization but given where this team currently stands falling backwards is a setback.

 

 

Main Photo: PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – SEPTEMBER 22: Auston Matthews #34 of the ZSC Lions Zurich skates during the Champions Hockey League round of thirty-two game between Sparta Prague and ZSC Lions Zurich at o2 Arena Prague on September 22, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Sparta Prague/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

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