Re-Ranking the 8 NHL Teams That Desperately Need to Win the 2022 Draft Lottery

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2022

Re-Ranking the 8 NHL Teams That Desperately Need to Win the 2022 Draft Lottery

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    In January we ranked the five NHL teams that desperately needed to win the 2022 draft lottery. With this year's trade deadline now history and the end of the regular season (April 29) on the horizon, it's a good time to revisit and expand our ranking.

    A lottery date has yet to be announced, but we have a clearer picture as to which teams won't make the postseason.

    Of the 16 clubs outside the playoff picture as of Tuesday, the Vegas Golden Knights, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets are still contenders for a wild-card spot. The rest have little or no realistic chance of clinching a berth. Some, such as the Arizona CoyotesMontreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers, have been eliminated.

    All of those teams out of contention would love to win the lottery and select a top prospect with the first overall pick. Shane Wright of the Ontario Hockey League's Kingston Frontenacs, Logan Cooley of the United States National Team Development Program and Joakim Kemell of JYP in Finland are among the most promising prospects, as per NHL Central Scouting's midseason rankings.

    Some of these clubs, however, have a more dire need to win the lottery than others. The Coyotes, for example, could use that pick to land a potential franchise player. The Flyers could use it as the cornerstone of a possible rebuild following two discouraging seasons.

    Here is our updated ranking of eight clubs that need to win this year's draft lottery more than their other non-playoff peers. The number of years absent from the playoffs and the status of ongoing roster rebuilds or the need to conduct one were among the factors that determined the rankings. 

    As with our previous ranking, we've limited our list to teams that haven't won the draft lottery in the past five years. Therefore, the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils are excluded.

8. Philadelphia Flyers

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    After seven seasons of missing the playoffs or getting eliminated in the opening round, the Philadelphia Flyers seemed to have turned the corner in 2019-20. Under general manager Chuck Fletcher, they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and reached the second round of the playoffs before falling to the New York Islanders in a hard-fought seven-game series.

    Since then, the Flyers have struggled to regain that promising form. A shortened schedule and a COVID-19 outbreak contributed to last season's disappointing 25-23-8 record. This season, they sagged toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, resulting in the firing of head coach Alain Vigneault and trading of long-time captain Claude Giroux to the Florida Panthers.

    It's been 46 years since the Flyers had the first pick, when they used it to select center Mel Bridgman.

    Fletcher could be facing pressure from ownership to get this club back on track. Winning this year's draft lottery could give him the opportunity to bolster his club's prospect pipeline while working on more immediate ways to improve his lineup through trades or free agency.

    The Flyers already have a pair of notable players under 25 on their roster in goaltender Carter Hart and forward Joel Farabee. Youngsters Morgan Frost and Cam York have shown potential in their first full NHL campaigns. Nevertheless, this franchise and fanbase could benefit from adding a potential future superstar with the first pick.

7. Anaheim Ducks

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    Hired in February as the Anaheim Ducks general manager, Pat Verbeek is wasting little time rebuilding the roster. He traded defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson and winger Rickard Rakell before the deadline rather than risk losing them for nothing this summer to free agency.

    Verbeek spent nearly three years as an assistant general manager with the Detroit Red Wings. That gave him plenty of firsthand experience with rebuilding. He's already done well stocking up on draft picks, netting a 2022 first-rounder from the Boston Bruins as part of the return for Lindholm and a second-rounder from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Rakell deal.

    Once a powerhouse in the Western Conference, the Ducks are about to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Rather than continue to retool like his predecessor, Bob Murray, Verbeek is going all-in on replacing older veterans with younger assets.

    He is fortunate to already have some 24-or-younger NHL talent in Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, Troy Terry and Maxime Comtois. He also has some promising prospects in the system in Mason McTavish, Jacob Perreault and Sasha Pastujov.

    The addition of a potential future superstar in this year's first overall pick could provide a considerable boost to Verbeek's rebuilding plans. It would also provide some excitement for Ducks fans grown weary of the club's lack of direction in recent years.

6. Chicago Blackhawks

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The Chicago Blackhawks are poised to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years. New general manager Kyle Davidson already signaled his intention to stage a long-overdue roster rebuild, shipping out goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and forwards Brandon Hagel and Ryan Carpenter before the trade deadline.

    Davidson's predecessor, Stan Bowman, traded the Blackhawks' 2022 first-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in last summer's acquisition of defenseman Seth Jones. However, that pick could be deferred to 2023 if it ends up among the top two.

    With the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup days well behind them, Davidson faces a difficult decision regarding the futures of long-time stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Both players will be eligible for unrestricted free-agent status in 2023, and the GM could explore the trade market for one or both this summer.

    The Blackhawks have a young star in 24-year-old winger Alex DeBrincat. They also have three promising forwards in Kirby Dach, Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk plus a potential top-six winger in prospect Lukas Reichel. Davidson will likely attempt to bolster their ranks this summer.

    Winning the draft lottery would ensure that pick remains with the Blackhawks. It could become an important building block for Davidson to use to bring in a potential foundation player for his rebuilding plans.

5. Ottawa Senators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Expectations were high entering this season for the Ottawa Senators. The club's promising performance over the second half of last season prompted general manager Pierre Dorion to claim his club's rebuild was over. With the Senators still mired near the bottom of the standings, it's clear more work needs to be done.

    While the Senators haven't had the first overall pick since 1996, they have done well at the draft table over the past five years. Leading scorers Brady Tkachuk (2018) and Tim Stutzle (2020) are first-round selections, while Drake Batherson was a fourth-round choice in 2017.

    The Senators also have more promising youth either on their roster or soon to join their ranks in Jake Sanderson, Shane Pinto and Erik Brannstrom. Landing the first pick in this year's draft would provide another substantial building block.

    Having been rebuilding since 2018, however, the Senators could use more immediate help. They could benefit from having a veteran star or two within their ranks. They have re-signed goaltender Anton Forsberg but might need to find a way to replace oft-injured starter Matt Murray with a more reliable option.

    That's not to suggest the Senators couldn't use the top selection in this year's draft. As we noted in our previous ranking, the player they select could become the final piece of the puzzle. However, Dorion could also use that pick to acquire an established star who can turn this club into a serious playoff contender.

4. Montreal Canadiens

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    When we conducted our previous ranking, the Montreal Canadiens were in a terrible place. Less than a year after reaching the Stanley Cup Final, they were at the bottom of the standings. Injuries to core players such as Carey Price and Shea Weber and the departure of Philip Danault via free agency were among the factors that sank their season.

    We noted the Canadiens' overdue need for a rebuild—even though they reached the playoffs in the past two seasons—in our previous ranking, as well as the fact that their last No. 1 overall pick came in 1980. Since January, they hired a new general manager in Kent Hughes and replaced head coach Dominique Ducharme with former player and Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis.

    The Canadiens are still near the bottom of the standings and should have excellent odds to win the lottery. However, there's been a notable improvement in their game in recent weeks despite the ongoing absences of key players to injuries and the departures of Tyler Toffoli, Ben Chiarot and Artturi Lehkonen in recent trades.

    Thanks to St. Louis, the Canadiens are playing a more entertaining, uptempo offensive style. Youngsters such as Nick Suzuki, Alexander Romanov and Cole Caufield are thriving under St. Louis' tutelage. After sporting a record of eight wins, 30 losses and seven overtime losses under Ducharme, the Canadiens are 10-8-4 under St. Louis.

    That recent improvement doesn't mean the Canadiens don't need to win the draft lottery. Hughes is already rebuilding the roster by loading up with draft picks and prospects. With more changes likely coming in the offseason, landing the top pick could give them a potential superstar capable of turning the Canadiens into a future Stanley Cup contender.

3. Detroit Red Wings

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Since taking over as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings in 2019, Steve Yzerman has been patiently rebuilding his roster with an eye on returning it to its championship glory. While the club showed signs of improvement this season, there's more work ahead.

    Despite being among the league's worst teams over the past three seasons, the Wings didn't see the draft lottery balls drop in their favor. They wound up with the sixth overall selections in 2019 and 2021 and fourth overall in 2020.

    Yzerman did quite well with those picks, landing rookie stars Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond along with up-and-coming Swedish prospect Simon Edvinsson. Nevertheless, the Wings seem overdue for a bit of draft lottery luck and a shot at selecting a possible future superstar with the first pick.

    It's also possible Yzerman uses that selection as trade bait to address more immediate needs. In addition to Seider and Raymond, he has established talent in Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, Alex Nedeljkovic and Filip Hronek. What they lack, however, is a veteran star with leadership skills who knows what it takes to win.

    Red Wings fans have been patient with Yzerman's rebuilding plans given his stature as one of the greatest players in franchise history. But with the club about to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year and the third straight under Yzerman, they need something to assure them their club is heading in the right direction.

2. Seattle Kraken

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Any hopes the Seattle Kraken and their fans may have had about replicating the inaugural success of the 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights were soon dashed. Rather than reach the Stanley Cup Final like the Golden Knights or at least qualify for the playoffs, the Kraken are near the bottom of the standings.

    As we observed in our previous ranking, general manager Ron Francis brought in several quality veterans such as Philipp Grubauer, Yanni Gourde and Jaden Schwartz before this season. While they'll remain part of the Kraken's leadership core, Francis must stock up his prospect cupboard as well as bolster his roster with trades and free-agent signings in the offseason.

    The Athletic's Scott Wheeler ranked the Kraken 32nd in his 2022 NHL prospect pool rankings. Francis has already prepared to add prospects in this year's draft by stockpiling multiple picks in the second and fourth rounds.

    Winning this year's draft lottery, however, would ensure the addition of a high-quality prospect who could become a cornerstone player for this young franchise. That player could even be ready to join the Kraken's roster as early as next season.

    They have done well drawing in fans during their first NHL season, sitting among the six clubs to enjoy full houses this year. However, they'll have to show signs of progress over the next several seasons to build upon the strong gate. Landing a potential future superstar by winning the draft lottery could ensure their fan support remains strong during these early years.

1. Arizona Coyotes

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    The Arizona Coyotes topped our previous ranking, and we see no reason to remove them from the top spot. Through Tuesday's play, they were at the bottom of the NHL overall standings.

    We've already documented several reasons the Coyotes need to win the draft lottery more than the others. In summary, they've only reached the playoffs nine times during their 25 years in Arizona, they've never held the first overall pick and have endured numerous ownership and management changes. Those factors contributed to years of losing that drove attendance toward the bottom of the league.

    To add insult to injury, the Coyotes' lease at Gila River Arena will be terminated after this season. Starting next season, they will skate in a 5,000-seat arena at Arizona State University for at least the next three years as they hope to get a new NHL-style venue built in Tempe.

    In the midst of these woes, general manager Bill Armstrong is busily reconstructing his roster with young talent. He has also loaded up on draft picks and has three selections in the first round of this year's draft and four in the second round.

    Landing the first overall selection would give the Coyotes a potential franchise player to build around. That player could mesh well with 24-and-under players already on the roster such as Clayton Keller, Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse and Conor Timmins.

    The Coyotes need a turn in their fortunes after so many years of hard luck and bad decisions. They also need something to generate buzz in the Arizona market and bring out the fans to their new arena in a few years' time.

                 

    Draft picks info via Puckpedia, attendance information via ESPN with additional information via Hockey Reference and HockeyDB.com.

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