On Monday night, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will draw a lottery ball on live television to determine which team will pick first in the 2020 NHL Draft. That team will earn the right to select Alexis Lafreniere, the 18-year-old winger who is considered the consensus top overall pick (and potential generational talent).
Lafreniere projects to be a highly skilled, dynamic offensive force at the NHL level, and he's expected to be ready to make an immediate impact for whatever team he goes to. Not only does he have exceptional hands, creativity and vision, he's also capable of making plays in the blue-collar areas as well.
Landing him could be a defining moment for one lucky franchise, but eight teams are still in the running, and each of them has a 12.5 percent chance of getting that top pick. During Phase 1 of the NHL Draft Lottery, "Team E" won the First Draw -- meaning the top overall pick would eventually go to one of the eight teams that were eliminated in the NHL's postseason play-in stage.
With that play-in stage now complete, we know the eight teams that are hoping to have their name called at Stage 2 of the lottery Monday night. Here's how adding Lafreniere might affect each of those eight teams.
|If it wasn't obvious in Edmonton's play-in series against the Blackhawks, the Oilers desperately need a few things: More depth offensively and more structure defensively (or much better goaltending). Winning yet another draft lottery would help the Oilers partly accomplish one of those things, assuming they would pick Lafreniere to give Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisaitl additional help on the wing. Seeing Lafreniere play next to a couple of the most talented and dynamic playmakers in the league would be a treat, and it would probably go a long ways toward improving the depth issue in Edmonton, where it feels like they continue to waste prime years of two generational talents.|
|There's probably going to be significant changes within the Panthers organization in the near future. The team decided to part ways with Dale Tallon after yet another disappointing and fruitless season despite a solid core in South Florida. Offense wasn't the issue for the Panthers this year (they finished sixth-best in the league) but lucking into Lafreniere would be a big addition as well as a clear opportunity for a middling team to usher in a fresh start/new era. At the very least, this organization needs more stable direction, and Lafreniere would provide another pillar.|
|The Wild have been in desperate need of an elite, exciting offensive playmaker for a while now. They also need more direction, as they've been stuck in hockey purgatory for years -- not good enough to be taken seriously as a contender, not bad enough to enter into a full rebuild and maximize their chances at a top talent that can help them turn things around. Thanks to this year's weird lottery format, they could find some overdue luck and get just the player they need to help them finally break the mold as one of the league's more boring, irrelevant franchises. Lafreniere would be a near-perfect fit for this club.|
|After being one of the Western Conference's most fearsome threats for a few years -- including a Presidents' Trophy in 2018 -- Nashville is dangerously trending in the wrong direction. Winning the lottery and adding Lafreniere to their lineup might do them a lot of good in terms of stopping that skid toward irrelevance. They could use the help up front, especially on the wing, and they've got enough talent there already to suggest that he could be plugged in and thrive immediately.|
|Despite a rough showing in the playoffs, the Rangers have a lot of momentum in their expedited rebuild. They have a number of young, exciting pieces that they're building around (plus a few strong vets as well), and adding Lafreniere would just make their outlook even brighter. Ideally, they would like to get stronger down the middle rather than on the wing, but beggars can't be choosers if you're stumbling into incredible lottery luck two years in a row.|
|Fresh off an embarrassing play-in meltdown against the Canadiens (and a second straight early exit from the postseason), the Penguins may soon have to come to grips with the reality that their current window is closing. However, this is a golden opportunity to wreak havoc on the rest of the league by winning the Lafreniere sweepstakes. Doing so would extend the Penguins' window and give Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin an incredible shiny new toy to play with on the back end of their careers. Just as Crosby took over as the face of the franchise at the tail end of the previous era, Lafreniere could serve as the bridge to the next era in Pittsburgh.|
|Their roster is already stacked with an awesome offensive core that includes Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander but it hasn't led to any postseason success in Toronto. Frustrations are building and it seems like big changes might be coming one way or another, but adding another elite offensive talent at minimal cost would give the cap-strapped Leafs some additional flexibility to tweak their roster and remain competitive. Lafreniere would make one of their current big pieces expendable and they could potentially swing a deal in order to address some holes on the defensive side. Plus, adding an 18-year-old phenom to that already-explosive offense would be something to behold.|
|The Jets already have firepower up front and really need defensive help in front of Connor Hellebuyck more than anything. But winning the lottery could still help them accomplish that, as it would make some of their other talent on the wing a little more expendable. Maybe they'd be willing to move on from someone like Patrik Laine and get some defensive reinforcements if Lafreniere could immediately be plugged in. At the very least, he's another piece to add to a team that showed it doesn't have enough depth to survive some key injuries in the postseason.|