The Blackhawks’ offseason is here far sooner than in years past, but fans still have at least one more thing to look forward to this month: the 2018 NHL Draft Lottery. The Hawks finished the 2017-18 regular season with the seventh-worst record in the league, and therefore will have the seventh-best odds to win the No. 1 overall pick.
The draft is a crucial opportunity for teams to acquire foundational talent, particularly with those picks at the top of the first round. This is guaranteed to be the Blackhawks’ highest selection since landing Patrick Kane first overall in 2007, so GM Stan Bowman and the team’s scouting staff will want to hit big on someone who can make an impact quickly.
It’s going to be a long offseason for the Blackhawks, but the draft lottery represents an opportunity to move up in the order and land a game-changing piece. Here’s everything you need to know.
When is the lottery?
Saturday, April 28 in Toronto. The draft will be held June 22-23 in Dallas.
How does the lottery work?
The lottery determines the first three picks in the draft order. Teams that missed the playoffs are assigned odds based on the reverse order of the regular season standings.
The league uses a system where 14 balls numbered 1-14 are placed into a chamber. Balls are drawn one at a time to create a four-digit sequence that corresponds to a board where 1,001 possible combinations have been divvied up at random among the 15 teams based on the lottery odds. The team with the matching combination wins the pick. Here’s a look at the numerical table used for the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.
Last year the Devils won the No. 1 pick and the chance to draft Nico Hischier with the combination 1-5-6-11.
This process is repeated twice more for the second and third overall picks, with the combinations for the teams that already won picks being ineligible to win again. The fourth through 15th picks are then ordered by worst records.
What are the Blackhawks’ odds?
As a result of finishing with the seventh-worst record in the league, the Blackhawks have a 6.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick and a 20.4 percent chance of advancing into the top three. The Sabres have the highest odds to win the top selection at 18.5 percent.
The Blackhawks cannot fall any lower than No. 10 depending on what happens in the lottery. Their most likely landing spot is the No. 7 or No. 8 pick.
Here’s a full breakdown of the odds.
|Team||No. 1 odds||Top 3 odds|
|Islanders (via Flames)||2.5%||8.2%|
Who are the top prospects?
The consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2018 draft is Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who looks like a potential franchise blue liner. Whichever team wins the lottery will almost certainly pick him, leaving everyone else to figure how the rest of the draft will go.
The next wave of prospects includes wingers Filip Zadina, Andrei Svechnikov, Brady Tkachuk and Oliver Wahlstrom, and defensemen Quinn Hughes, Adam Boqvist and Evan Bouchard. The most notable thing missing from this draft is a surefire franchise center like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, as prospects like Barrett Hayton, Joe Veleno, Isac Lundestrom and Rasmus Kupari aren’t being talked about on that level.
If the Blackhawks can jump into the second or third pick, then a player like Zadina, Svechnikov or Tkachuk becomes difficult to pass up. Any of those three could potentially step into an NHL lineup immediately and become a top-six forward in short order. Even for a club with greater needs on defense, picking the best player available should be the highest priority.
In the 8-10 range, where the highest-rated wingers may not be on the board, it becomes more likely that the Hawks target whoever might be available from that group of top defensemen. Hughes, a flashy blue liner out of Michigan whose brother Jack will likely be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, would be an exciting addition.
Regardless of where they land, a guaranteed top-10 pick means the Blackhawks will have a chance at a major talent in June. And if by some remarkable stroke of luck they jump to No. 1, the addition of Dahlin could be a transformative moment just like the selections of Toews and Kane were over a decade ago.