The thing about the NHL Draft Lottery is that if you're in it, you have a chance to win it. The Ducks enter Friday's lottery with the fifth-best odds at 8.5% and a chance to pick first overall for the first time in franchise history. A lottery win would certainly do a lot of good for the franchise, but regardless of where the Ducks end up - they could pick first, second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth - Assistant General Manager Martin Madden says they'll be getting an impact player.
Ducks Draft Lottery Central
Madden was named to his current role yesterday after spending the past 12 seasons with the Ducks, most recently serving as the club's director of amateur scouting. In his new role, Madden will oversee all of the club's scouting efforts (professional and amateur) and assume an expanded role in a majority of hockey operations directives and initiatives. He will continue to play a key role in producing the final prospect list leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft.
In these most unprecedented of times, Madden is readying himself and his staff for an important date in the franchise's history. Keep in mind that if the Ducks pick in the top five, it'll mark their highest draft pick in 15 years (Bobby Ryan, second overall in 2005).
Earlier this week, Madden shared his thoughts on the draft lottery, the impact of selecting first overall and the ways in which he and his staff adjusted on the fly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the feeling amongst your staff heading into the draft lottery this Friday?
We're excited, but we would've liked to have been drafting right now. This is an opportunity to narrow down even more the group of players we'll be looking at with our pick. We know wherever we end up in the top-eight, we're going to get a very good player that will have an impact for us in the future. The closer you are to the top pick, the closer the player is to having an impact next year. That's what would be most exciting about winning this, there's no doubt about that.
Is it a bit nerve-wracking knowing the fate of the team's final lottery position is out of your control?
I haven't really paid much attention to it in the past for that very reason. I have no control over it. Let the balls fall where they may and let's deal with the reality of our situation afterwards. There's nothing we can do. Let's react. Either way, we're going to get a good player.
What's the plan for you and your staff on Friday?
We'll be at our homes with our fingers crossed. We'll talk after we see the results because then we'll have an even better indication of which two or three players we need to concentrate on even more over the next few months. We'll probably do the same as we see where Boston ends up after the playoffs have been played.
Regardless of where the Ducks end up picking, it seems like there's a strong group of players in that range. How does this crop compare to previous drafts?
The top group, however big that group is, it changes from year to year. I can make a case that there are 12 players that are potential impact players - relatively soon - in this draft. To pinpoint exactly how it compares to other drafts, I think that's an exercise you go through in retrospect. You could say some drafts have obvious generational talent. Connor McDavid's draft, Sidney Crosby's draft. Those types of players don't come along very often, so they stand out well ahead of time. I don't think there's anybody in that class this year, but there are a number of outstanding players that are close to having an impact and will probably have an impact next year. You're going to get your pick of some really good scoring wingers, some impactful defensemen and some top-end centers, as well, in that grouping. There's a nice mix in there.
From a scouting perspective, what were some of the challenges you faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
You plan scouting season in basically the same way every year because you know you're going to end up with some top-end players playing each other in the playoffs or at the Under-18 World Championships. Those are great opportunities to make direct comparisons amongst players that usually don't get to play each other. To not get that part of it certainly changes the dynamic of how we go about making that final evaluation. I would say that's the thing that stands out the most in terms of it being different than previous years. For some leagues that go deeper into the spring, like the USHL, we needed to supplement with a lot more video viewings than we would have otherwise. For the CHL, or junior and European leagues, they were nearing the playoffs anyways. We were pretty much through the process of evaluating those guys. We got most of our viewings in, but I would've liked that extra weekend. I had important viewings planned for that particular week when things were shut down. That extra weekend would've been nice to get a last live look at two players in particular, but it didn't happen. We went back and everybody on the amateur staff started to dig in with more video. We've been through our meeting process with our list in basically the same way and same timeframe. At that point, we expected the draft to be around the same dates. We tried to keep it as similar to what we've done in the past.
How were your video conferencing skills talking with these prospects?
We went with WebEx, so for some of these kids that hadn't used it yet, we had to explain how to connect. [Laughs]. Just the logistics of it. Somebody on staff has already talked to all these prospects. We either connect through email, in person or on the phone at various times throughout the season. But as a staff, to get that face-to-face, to connect with their personalities, that's the only thing you can do in a 15-20 minute interview at the draft combine. We definitely miss that, but for most players - not every player - by the time it gets to around 5-10 minutes into these interviews, they were comfortable. They were open. We got to see their personality. A few of them I hope I can get to see live before we pick. Who knows if that's going to be possible. I'd like to be able to get a live vibe about them. There's probably a handful of those guys I'd like to do that with, but other than that I think we got a good handle on them through the video conferencing.
What does it mean for a franchise to select first overall?
You get to choose the player you love the most and the player you think will have the biggest, quickest impact. A player that will be a face to sell a team and move forward the most rapidly. That's probably what the No. 1 pick gives you, the chance to move in the right direction as a team in the quickest way possible. But, having said that, there are 8-12 really good players in this draft that will have an impact at some point in the future. We're going to get a good player out of this draft wherever we end up.