a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Friday, 25 March 2011

03/25/11 5.3 Draft Primer Part Four: The Other Lottery Teams

So the Oilers have pretty much locked up 30th place now, with a lackluster loss to St. Louis last night. Just to catch Colorado’s current point total, the Oilers would have to go 4-4-0 in their last eight games, and even then the Avs would have more wins, giving the Oilers last place. Anyone see this team going 4-3-1 down the stretch? Me either. Of course the bright spot is the draft pick that the team will receive, but just finishing last doesn’t guarantee the first overall pick. The Oilers have a 25% chance of hitting the draft lottery. In addition, if any team outside the top five hits the lottery, the Oilers will retain the first overall pick. Add the totals together, and they have a 48.2% chance of picking first in June.

But what if the unthinkable happens and a team inside the top five hits the lottery and bumps the Oilers’ pick back to second overall? Here is a look at what it would mean if one of the other teams in the bottom five (or a team with a shot at finishing in the bottom five) hit the jackpot. Who would they take, and who would be left on the board for Edmonton?

Colorado: Almost certainly wouldn’t take a center with the first overall pick. The Avs have Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly down the middle, so they’re pretty much set at that position. Their top two prospects are centers as well. Their defense leaves much to be desired, and I’m hearing that they have scouts watching Adam Larsson closely. He is most likely their player of choice.

Ottawa: With Karlsson, Phillips and Gonchar on the team, and David Rundblad and Jared Cowen as their top prospects, the Senators are not likely to select a defenseman. Larsson is out. The Mike Fisher trade leaves this team thin down the middle, but they are almost as weak on the wing. Their top scoring wingers are Nick Foligno and the injured Daniel Alfredsson, each with 31 points apiece. They could conceivably take Gabriel Landeskog first overall if they feel he is the best player available, but Nugent-Hopkins is also a strong option for them. Much will depend on how the CHL playoffs pan out.

Florida: Recent graduates Dmitri Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby are already on the team’s defense, and the Panthers selected defenseman Erik Gudbranson third overall last year. The defense is still a work in progress, but the team needs help up front in a bad way. There really isn’t an area of strength in their top six, so the Panthers would take whichever forward they deem to be the best with the first pick overall. Teams are built around centers though, which leads me to believe they’d go with Nugent-Hopkins.

New York Islanders: Have your cake and eat it too. Two years ago the Islanders had to choose between John Tavares and big Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman. Now would be their chance to essentially have both by drafting Larsson. This team could use another center to play behind Tavares and give them a solid 1-2 punch, but Larsson could really solidify their backend. It would be somewhat a tight decision, but I think the Islanders would draft him if they had the first pick.

New Jersey Devils: Not currently in a position to hit the lottery and move up to first overall, but could slide into fifth or worse before season’s end. This organization needs to restock the shelves. They are strong on the wing with Parise, Kovalchuk, Elias and Rolston. Their defense gets a resounding MEH from me. They could really use what Larsson brings, though a top line center wouldn’t hurt either. 2 of their top five prospects are defensemen, and 2 are centers. Jacob Josefson is the top rated guy who’s coming, and he plays center. I know the organization likes him a lot, so they may lean toward Larsson.

Atlanta: Currently in seventh-last, four points ahead of the fifth-worst Islanders. Could possibly drop and hit the lottery. Pretty much a no-brainer with the first overall pick: a center, a center, a center. They probably feel that their defense is reasonably buttoned up, especially if they can somehow sign Bogosian. Nik Antropov and Rob Schremp as your top two centers simply isn’t good enough. Nugent-Hopkins would be pulling on a Thrashers jersey if Atlanta had the first overall pick.

All told, that’s two teams – Atlanta and Florida – who I feel would almost certainly take Nugent-Hopkins first overall, 3 teams that may take him but may also have other players in mind. I really believe Larsson would be Colorado’s choice. Luckily for the Oilers, so far Colorado has the second-best shot at winning the lottery at 18.8%. Even if that happened, it means there’s a 67% chance that the Oilers will end up with the center they (hopefully) crave.

I like them odds.

Note to all: watch the Edmonton Oil Kings take on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' Red Deer Rebels on shaw at 7:30 (channel ten).

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