How Much Would Wіnnіng the Drаft Lottery Chаnge the Wіld’ѕ Outlook?

ESPN Did Not Leak The 2024 NHL Draft Order - The Hockey News San Jose  Sharks News, Analysis and More
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The theme for the Minnesota Wild since their inception has been being stuck in the middle of the NHL standings. They’ve flirted with being one of the top teams in the league some years, and in others, they’ve stumbled. This is reflected in their historic draft slots. Since winning a coin flip gave them the No. 3 overall pick (used on Marian Gaborik) as an expansion team, the Wild have never been slotted higher than fourth or lower than 24th in the draft order.

So it would truly be the most Minnesota Wild thing ever for this to be the year the NHL Draft Lottery breaks in their favor. They have a 2.0% (one-in-50) chance to have their name called tonight, which would move them all the way up… to third overall in the draft.

You can thank the New York Rangers for this. Or rather, all the general managers who cried to the NHL after one of the league’s marquee franchises won Draft Lotteries in 2019 to select Kaapo Kakko at No. 2 overall and in 2020 to land the No. 1 overall pick and Alexis Lafreniere. After this, the NHL changed its draft lottery rules, with one stipulation being a team could only move up a maximum of 10 slots in the draft via a lottery win.

So, there you go, the Wild are eliminated from the Macklin Celebrini Sweepstakes because Pierre Dorion (or some other probably-fired-by-now GM) had to settle for picking Tim Stützle over Lafreniere in 2020. As the ad campaign goes, not weird. Wild.

Does this mean a lottery win will turn into ashes in the mouths of the State of Hockey? Could it drastically improve the position of their franchise for years to come? Or should Wild fans be more than content with sticking at No. 13 overall? Let’s take a look.

This won’t come as a shock to anyone, but picking No. 3 should have a higher return on investment than Pick 13. But how much of a game-changer has that gap been in practice? Fortunately, we can stack up the career Wins Above Replacement for the No. 3 versus the No. 13 pick in each draft since 2007, so we’re gonna do that now.

2007: Kyle Turris (No. 3), 5.4 WAR vs. Lars Eller (No. 13), 9.1 WAR
2008: Zach Bogosian (No. 3), -1.2 WAR vs. Colten Teubert (No. 13), -0.5 WAR
2009: Matt Duchene (No. 3), 27.7 WAR vs. Matt Kassian (No. 13), 0.3 WAR
2010: Erik Gudbranson (No. 3), -5.3 WAR vs. Brandon Gormley (No. 13), 0.7 WAR
2011: Jonathan Huberdeau (No. 3), 20.5 WAR vs. Sven Baertschi (No. 13), 4.6 WAR
2012: Alex Galchenyuk (No. 3), 2.8 WAR vs. Radek Faksa (No. 13), 2.1 WAR
2013: Jonathan Drouin (No. 3), 3.0 WAR vs. Josh Morrissey (No. 13), 10.2 WAR
2014: Leon Draisaitl (No. 3), 24.3 WAR vs. Jakub Vrana (No. 13), 5.0 WAR
2015: Dylan Strome (No. 3), 8.3 WAR vs. Jakub Zboril (No. 13), -0.4 WAR
2016: Pierre-Luc Dubois (No. 3), 11.1 WAR vs. Jake Bean (No. 13), -0.5 WAR
2017: Miro Heiskanen (No. 3), 10.7 WAR vs. Nick Suzuki (No. 13), 7.6 WAR
2018: Jesperi Kotkaniemi (No. 3), 1.9 WAR vs. Ty Dellandrea (No. 13), 1.8 WAR

Of these 12 drafts, the team that picked No. 3 overall got more value from their pick eight times, with No. 13 getting the edge four times. But perhaps it’s more useful to look at a more nuanced breakdown. From the No. 3 team’s perspective, I’d classify these as being:

  • Four Huge Wins (Duchene, Huberdeau, Draisaitl, Dubois)
  • Two Moderate Wins (Strome, Heiskanen)
  • Two Relative Washes (Galchenyuk, Kotkaniemi)
  • Two Losses (Turris, Drouin)
  • Two Where Everyone Loses (Bogosian, Gudbranson)

There are some nice players in that No. 13 group. Getting a Suzuki, Morrissey, or Vrana out of the draft would no doubt help the Wild. But that one-in-three or so shot of hitting a home run is the big difference-maker here, and that’s what Minnesota would be getting. It’s still a lottery ticket, sure, but it’s a way better one.

Of course, not all drafts are created equal. Sometimes Draisaitl is sitting there for the taking at pick 3. Sometimes it’s Galchenyuk. Which caliber of player are the Wild looking at between No. 3 and No. 13?

TSN’s Bob McKenzie posted his Draft Rankings for the lottery portion of the 2024 Draft on Monday. McKenzie’s rankings serve as a consensus draft board not for public-facing scouts but for his many contacts within the industry. As such, they tend to be the most predictive of where a player will go in the draft.

The caveat here is that McKenzie believes this year will be unpredictable. “I’ve been doing draft rankings for more than 35 years, and I don’t recall a year where the Top 10 is such a hodgepodge of opinion,” he writes. But let’s give him some well-earned trust and look at the Nos. 3-5 and 13-15 players in his rankings, and examine deeper.

No. 3 Options
Anton Silayev, Left Defenseman
Artyom Levshunov, Right Defenseman
Cayden Lindstrom, Center

These are the likely home run candidates Minnesota could target at No. 3 — unless (another) Russian superstar in consensus No. 2 pick Ivan Demidov falls. One common thread these players have in common: They’re all big boys. If the Wild want to go for size in this slot, they’ll be able to while arguably still taking the best player available.

Silayev is 6-foot-7 and playing in the KHL right now. His three goals and 11 points in 63 games might not seem impressive, but as a 17-year-old defenseman in the KHL, it’s basically unheard of. Levshunov is a Belarusian-born defenseman playing for Michigan State, and it’s safe to say he’s adjusted to North American hockey. He scored nine goals and 35 points in 38 games as a freshman. Then there’s Cayden Lindstrom, whom our own Kalisha Turnipseed profiled in detail last week.

Corey Pronman’s draft rankings are, by design, very conservative on player comparisons. So it’s pretty significant that Pronman compares Silayev, Levshunov, and Lindstrom to Zdeno Chara (though that’s partly due to the lack of defensemen that size), Noah Dobson, and Chris Kreider, respectively. Chara is Chara, a (for now) singular talent in NHL history and Hall of Famer. Dobson is quietly one of the best defensemen in the league. Kreider has scored 39, 36, and 52 goals in his last three seasons.

Now let’s look at…

No. 13 Options
Cole Eiserman, Left Wing
Beckett Sennecke, Right Wing
Trevor Connelly, Left Wing

The theme of this being the year of Bill Guerin’s Big Boy Draft continues throughout the top-15. These Big Boys aren’t quite as big at this point of the rankings, but 12 of McKenzie’s top-15 players are 6-foot-0 or taller, making them Official Big Boys. These three players are no exception.

But let’s look past the height chart and into these players. Eiserman was once thought to be the No. 2 player in this class but has seen his stock fall over the season. This is despite him scoring a goal per game at each level of the U.S. Development Program teams he played on this year. He just scored nine goals in seven games at the Under-18 World Junior Championships. If he hits, he’s a star. If not, per Pronman, he’s more of an Owen Tippett-type.

Sennecke’s scouting reports read like he’s got the Matt Boldy toolkit. He loves to carry the puck, and his ability to pass and shoot, combined with his 6-foot-2 frame, intrigues. Connelly skates well and is a very gifted, smart passer, though there are some real “Big Yikes” incidents in his past that might lead a team like the Wild, who put a lot of stock in character, to pass.

But overall, the potential bump from No. 3 to No. 13 might not be as big as we’d expect. If we average out Hockey Prospecting’s Star and NHLer probabilities for Silayev, Levshunov, and Lindstrom, these No. 3 pick candidates have an average of a 41% chance of getting a star and a 64% chance of becoming an NHLer. That’s pretty good.

Still, if we throw Eiserman, Sennecke, and Connelly into that same blender, the average probabilities come out as… a 37% chance of stardom and a 59% chance of landing an NHL player.

If almost sure-fire stars in Celebrini or Demidov were on the line for the Wild, things would be different. It would be worth watching the Draft Lottery through their endless commercials for that one-in-50 chance that the Wild’s fortunes would change forever. That’s not the world we occupy, though. It would still be exciting if Minnesota lands that No. 3 overall pick and gets their exact choice of these top prospects. But as for whether you need to watch the Draft Lottery or not? Meh. You don’t need to be glued to your screen, you’ll find out soon enough.

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