TORONTO – The Coyotes slipped from second to third at the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday night, but team President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc left the proceedings excited about what lies ahead at the NHL Draft itself in June.
"While I know Coyote Nation is somewhat dejected tonight, they shouldn't be," LeBlanc said. "We're going to add a significant talent."
The Edmonton Oilers won the lottery, jumping the Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres, who slipped from No. 1 to No. 2. The Oilers are expected to draft center Connor McDavid with the first pick, and Buffalo is expected to select center Jack Eichel with the second.
Whom the Coyotes, who had only a 13.5 percent chance to win the lottery, will take with the third pick is not quite as clear, LeBlanc said.
"We're disappointed but you immediately have to turn your focus to the fact that we have a tremendous pick (at No. 3)," LeBlanc said. "Don Maloney will obviously be working aggressively over the next couple of months as we prepare for the draft in Florida (on June 26-27)."
LeBlanc watched as the draft lottery unfolded from a sequestered room. He said the Coyotes came very close to winning.
"As we watched the results and frantically went through the papers to determine what number it was (that was selected), we missed it by one number," LeBlanc said. "So it was a tremendous kick to the stomach when we realized that, but we’re quickly regrouping and look, we’re not picking 10th and we’re not picking 15th, we’re picking third. That’s exciting."
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Defenseman Noah Hanifin (Boston College, NCAA), center Dylan Strome (Erie, OHL) and winger Mitch Marner (London, OHL) are projected top-five picks.
“I’ve been out a lot over the last month and there’s half a dozen guys that could be candidates for that (No. 3 draft) position," said Maloney, who did not attend the Draft Lottery because he's on a scouting trip in Europe. "I don’t think it’s locked in stone, that third position, which gives us flexibility because there are one or two of those that we like more than the other. So, maybe if we get what we want, maybe we trade down a slot or two. So, we have to look at those options, but there’s some good players that can help us. Maybe not next year, but not that long thereafter.”
Hanifin and Strome attended the Draft Lottery. Both discussed possibly being drafted by Arizona.
"It would be a tremendous honor," Strome said. "There's certain things that you want to do when you're a little kid - and obviously one of those is being drafted... If that's to happen by Arizona, I'd be extremely happy."
"It would be an honor to be selected by any NHL team," Hanifin said. "That's always been my dream - to play in the NHL. If it's with the Coyotes that would be an unbelivable honor."
WATCH: Q & A with Noah Hanifin
WATCH: Q & A with Dylan Strome