NHL Draft Lottery Thread: Islanders history could be made...but likely not

Who will join this motley crew of players and their 5 goalies?

The NHL Draft Lottery Drawing is one of the loveliest, most absurd happenings each April. Thus, I love it. It's sort of made for TV, but not really (the "drawing" happens before they go live). Reps of NHL teams show up and sit uncomfortably on stage, but the likely outcome for all of them is one guy being extremely relieved and four or five guys thinking, "Well, that was an awkward waste of five minutes." Meanwhile, everyone's hoping to be rewarded for a losing season.

Live feed at 8 p.m. EDT: TSN (Canada) | Versus (U.S.) | NHL.com (U.S.)

The outcome is already determined before they do the pick-by-pick placard unveiling, so the team reps are left to sit there like game show contestants. Even with this filler, the event isn't really even ideal to fill a 10-minute slot -- and that's even after adding the terribly awkward live interviews with the one or two or three prospects who are expected to go #1 and #2 in the draft. (And this year, that field is wide open.)

Underlying it all is the bizarre subtext of a nation (two nations, really) of millions who channel their vicarious hopes for joy through a multi-billion-dollar industry and the whiskerless kids upon whom much of that industry rests. We are trained to hope, the same way states train citizens to hope that a dollar here and a dollar there will make them millionaires, and all our troubles will be gone.

Ironically, such awkward, surreal scenes make ... ideal television, if your humor is of a certain orientation. (Mine is.) So here is what's at stake:

 

The Islanders' chance of striking gold is worse than their chance of getting jobbed.

Here are the lottery odds. If you win, you can move up at most four slots:

Edmonton 25.0%
Colorado 18.8%
Florida  14.2%
NY Islanders  {oooh! oooh! Pick me! Pick me!}
10.7%
Ottawa 8.1%
Atlanta 6.2%
Columbus 4.7%
New Jersey 3.6%
Boston (from TOR) 2.7%
Minnesota 2.1%
Colorado (conditional/optional from STL) 1.5%
Carolina 1.1%
Calgary 0.8%
Dallas 0.5%

Add that all up and ... wait a minute! The Islanders have just a 10.7% chance of getting the #1 overall pick...but they have a better than 20% chance of one of the four teams below them winning the lottery and bumping them from #4 to #5. Suddenly I hate the lottery.

 

History

The 30th-placed team has won the lottery the last three years. Before that, in 2007, 26th-place Chicago won and went from #5 to #1. We due for another move? Here's the full history:

Year Selected Effect On Draft Order Player Selected
1995 Los Angeles Moved from 7th to 3rd D Aki Berg
1996 Ottawa Retained 1st selection D Chris Phillips
1997 Boston Retained 1st selection C Joe Thornton
1998 Tampa Bay Moved from 3rd to 1st via trades C Vincent Lecavalier
1999 Chicago Moved from 8th to 4th (*trade to NYR)
RW Pavel Brendl*
2000 NY Islanders Moved from 5th to 1st G Rick DiPietro
2001 Atlanta Moved from 3rd to 1st LW Ilya Kovalchuk
2002 Florida Moved from 3rd to 1st (*trade to CBS)
LW Rick Nash*
2003 Florida Moved from 4th to 1st (*traded)
G Marc-Andre Fleury*
2004 Washington Moved from 3rd to 1st LW Alex Ovechkin
2005 Pittsburgh [tinfoil conspiracy]
C Sidney Crosby
2006 St. Louis Retained 1st selection D Erik Johnson
2007 Chicago Moved from 5th to 1st RW Patrick Kane
2008 Tampa Bay Retained 1st selection C Steven Stamkos
2009 NY Islanders Retained 1st selection C John Tavares
2010 Edmonton Retained 1st selection LW Taylor Hall


The Players Involved are Talented, but Precocious and Uncertain

Ask yourself: What do the Islanders need next year? Well, defensemen (preferably healthy and better). Maybe a scoring winger. Josh Bailey to be the Bailey we'd hoped for.

Now ask yourself: What do the Islanders need three years from now? Because that's really what's at stake here. While a draftee could enter the lineup next year, everyone agrees in most cases that's hardly ideal. So what you have is maybe a player or two (Adam Larsson? Gabrial Landeskog?) who would be "NHL-ready" to play next year, although no one agrees that they're even the best picks right now, nor that playing kids at 18 is wise if you can afford to avoid it.

Meanwhile, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the latest #1 ranked guy in the pool, but his frame is featherweight and scares people off thinking he'd be NHL ready any time soon. If it fell to you, would you pass up talent like that because it's small? Because he's a center and you already have young centers? Because he can't help you next year while another guy can?

Larsson, by the way, is seen by some as better than Victor Hedman, who was a very real possibility to be picked first overall the year John Tavares was selected.

 

18-Year-Olds, Dude

All of that is assuming that the kids in the top five (because the Isles could still pick fifth) will pan out. In recent years, they usually do. But you never know. They've been playing against kids, mostly, and the impression of their potential changes monthly -- and will change again by December of next year.

So we don't know who's best, we don't know where the Isles will pick, and we don't know if where that pick is matters because we don't know who's best. (By the way, the Islanders have eight picks in the 2011 draft, which is more than all but nine other teams.)

But we'll tune in because we can hope. We can hope they win the lottery and pick ... whom, exactly? Aww hell, who knows. Just watch. And discuss.

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