Just one year ago, the Colorado Avalanche were celebrating a "win" at the NHL draft lottery. Today, they are preparing for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs as the Central Division's No. 1 seed.
The Florida Panthers will be hoping for a similar transition after earning the No. 1 overall pick Tuesday:
Last year, the Avs used their draft-lottery prize to select Nathan MacKinnon, who played in all 82 games of the 2013-14 season—tallying 63 points and finished with a plus/minus of plus-20—while sparking the immediate turnaround in Colorado at just 18 years of age.
Replicating that kind of success in the draft is undeniably difficult, but Peter Horachek, Dale Tallon and Co. now have their pick of the world's best prospects after defying the odds and pushing the Buffalo Sabres to the second overall pick.
With the lottery in the books, let's take a look at the complete order for the June 27 draft.
|Pick No.||Team||Percent Chance of Getting No. 1 Pick|
|5||New York Islanders||8.1|
|8||Toronto Maple Leafs||3.6|
|30||New Jersey Devils||1.5|
Aaron Ekblad, D, Barrie Colts (OHL)
At 6'3" and 215 pounds, Aaron Ekblad already looks like an NHL player despite being just 18 years old. His impressive amalgam of size and strength makes him a physical force on the blue line, as well as offensive threat with an extremely lethal shot.
In a recent OHL coaches poll, via NHL.com, Ekblad was voted "best offensive defenseman and best defensive defenseman."
ISS Hockey on Twitter summed up his immense—and immediate—defensive potential:
The dynamic two-way player tallied 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 58 games for the Barrie Colts this season, while also logging time for Canada's under-18 and under-20 teams.
In case the Panthers pass him up, Sabres general manager Tim Murray, via SabresHockeyCentral.com's Ryan Wolfe, recently gave his thoughts on Ekblad:
Murray: "If he (Ekblad) is the best player, not saying he is, but he is in the group, he will be in the discussion." #sabres— Ryan Wolfe (@wolfeshc) April 15, 2014
Murray says that hypothetically if #sabres draft Ekblad, he'd likely be back in juniors next year.— Ryan Wolfe (@wolfeshc) April 15, 2014
Opinions will vary on whether or not Ekblad is the top overall prospect, but there's no question this is the top draft-eligible defender.
Sam Reinhart, C, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
The decision for top pick will likely come down to Ekblad and Sam Reinhart, and with a higher premium often paid on top-line centers, there's a good chance the Kootenay Ice superstar hears his name called first on June 27.
A highly intelligent player, Reinhart may not blow you away with any one aspect of his game. But he has outstanding offensive skill, a nose for the goal and solid defensive ability. ISS Hockey summed it up:
Reinhart racked up an astounding 105 points (36 goals, 69 assists) in 60 games for the Ice, and as one of the younger players for Canada's under-20 team at the World Junior Championships, he impressed with two goals and three assists in five games.
If he somehow slips to No. 4 (Calgary Flames) or No. 5 (New York Islanders), he could join forces with brother Max or Griffin, but that's not likely.
Samuel Bennett, C/LW, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
While many believe Reinhart and Ekblad are Nos. 1 and 2 in whatever order, it would be a mistake to overlook Samuel Bennett.
In a recent mock draft by an anonymous NHL Eastern Conference scout, via NHL.com, Bennett was slated at No. 2 overall and ahead of Reinhart as the top center.
Who will the Panthers draft No. 1 overall?
"A skilled and gritty competitor," the scout called him.
Bennett scored 36 goals and handed out 55 assists in 57 games for Kingston this season. Although he isn't flashy, he is a talented playmaker, a tremendous stick-handler and presents the important willingness to give maximum effort at all times.
Ranked No. 1 overall on the NHL Central Scouting list, Bennett brings very little risk.