A lot of people are wondering who will rank No. 1 in the 2009 NHL Draft.
I don't think that question can be answered until the lottery is finished. Different teams need different players at different times. With John Tavares and Victor Hedman leading the way, who goes first depends on what team picks first.
The five teams in the running for the first overall pick as of today come from the Eastern Conference—the New York Islanders, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Ottawa Senators, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I feel that the Islanders will end up last overall and have the best chance at landing the No. 1 spot. If this were to happen, there is no doubt in my mind that they will take Tavares with the first pick overall. The Isles are hungry for scoring and a future.
With their top scorer being a young All-Star defenseman in Mark Streit, selecting Hedman makes no sense considering their top two forwards are Doug Weight and Bill Guerin. Both of these players are aging and not getting any better. Because of this, I think Tavares would be the spark this team badly needs to have in order to even think about the playoffs again.
If Atlanta wins the lottery, I feel that they would select Hedman. Odds are that Mathieu Schneider will be shipped out at the deadline, leaving the back end in trouble. With players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryan Little, and Vyacheslav Kozlov up front, the Thrashers can have a solid line-up with Hedman on the blue line.
The Senators would select Tavares if they won the lottery. Although I feel they would be better off trading their pick for a solid No. 1 goalie in Ryan Miller or Marty Turco, the Sens should not select Tavares, even though it would be a nice to have another superstar forward. The only thing that I think can save Ottawa is a true No. 1 goalie.
Tampa Bay completely ruined the rookie season of Steve Stamkos this year. Even before he was drafted, the city was buzzing with anticipation. If they do get lucky enough to select first again, the Bolts would be wise to select Hedman. They have more than enough playmakers up front, but hardly much of a defense corps. I don't think this team will select first or second. Look for a guy like Evander Kane or Brayden Schenn to get chosen.
Last, but not least, we have the Toronto Maple Leafs. It seems that they are destined to screw themselves out of the lottery just like last season.
Let's humour ourselves and pretend that they actually do get the No. 1 pick.
This would be a no brainer—Tavares would be home. For starters, the Leafs need a superstar in the lineup. Secondly, Tavares was born in Mississauga, an extension of Toronto. Thirdly, just ask the kid.
Who do you think he would pick to play for if he had a choice?
Another crazy look for the Leafs would be similar to Ottawa's dilemma if they would trade for a goalie. Vesa Toskala is not playing well and Justin Pogge has done nothing to prove he is ready for the NHL.
My overall thought is that the Thrashers will finish dead last, win the lottery and select Victor Hedman first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal.