Maple Leafs win NHL Draft Lottery
Toronto gets No. 1 pick; Winnipeg up to No. 2, Columbus climbs to No. 3by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said now is the time to start putting the frame on the foundation coach Mike Babcock helped build this season.
The first major step in doing that occurred Saturday when the Maple Leafs won the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.
The Winnipeg Jets were awarded the No. 2 pick, and the Columbus Blue Jackets won the No. 3 selection.
The Maple Leafs had a 20 percent chance, the best odds, to win the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, which will be held June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
Shanahan would not reveal who the Maple Leafs would select, but he certainly didn't hold back when asked to provide some analysis of the projected top choice, center Auston Matthews of Zurich in the National League A, the top professional league in Switzerland.
"He's obviously a player who has played a lead role his whole life," Shanahan said. "He has good size, plays center, and I feel like he can score from the perimeter. But he also has a knack for going to the net and banging in some garbage goals home as well. He's definitely someone who has earned the right to be where he is today."
Video: Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan on Lottery
Matthews (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters eligible for the draft. The 18-year-old won the NLA Rising Star award and was second in voting for most valuable player after scoring 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games.
Matthews would be the first American-born player since Patrick Kane in 2007 to be selected first.
"It was nerve-racking watching it," Matthews told Sportsnet.ca. "I have a lot of mixed emotions but am excited to be part of it. I'm excited and relieved and it's nice to have clarity. But the draft is still a ways away."
The Maple Leafs haven't picked first since the 1985 NHL Draft, when they chose defenseman/left wing Wendel Clark of Saskatoon in the Western Hockey League.
"This is a great piece, but I wouldn't put too much pressure on any one player; this is a team game and we play a team style and the more players you can get of a high caliber that's a good thing," Shanahan said. "I think we have a good idea who the player is (that we will select). We'll discuss and confirm some of the things we already know, but I don't think there's any real need for us to reveal [the selection] now.
"I can say our scouts were very pleased with this result."
Video: Bettman draws the lottery for this years NHL Draft
The 14 teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs participated in the lottery. For the first time, the lottery assigned the top three picks in the first round. As a result of this change, the team with the fewest points during the regular season was no longer guaranteed, at worst, the second pick.
The Jets moved up from sixth to second, and the Blue Jackets moved from fourth to third. The Edmonton Oilers fell from second to fourth, the Vancouver Canucks dropped from third to fifth, and the Calgary Flames went from fifth to sixth.
"It's a very important day in the franchise history; certainly the opportunity to move to No. 2 is kind of still something that hasn't set in yet," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "It's an exciting time. The new format gave an opportunity for three teams to get a shot in the top three, and this is an exciting moment for us."
Three draws were held: the first drawing determined the team selecting first, the second drawing determined the team selecting second, and the third drawing determined the team selecting third.
Two other players high on most draft boards are forwards Patrik Laine of Tappara and Jesse Puljujarvi of Karpat in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland.
Laine (6-4, 206), No. 2 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters, had 17 goals and 33 points in 46 games. He was named most valuable player of the Liiga playoffs after scoring 10 goals and 15 points in 18 games for league champion Tappara.
Puljujarvi (6-3, 203), No. 3 in NHL Central Scouting's final international ranking, led the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with 17 points and was named the best forward and most valuable player of the tournament. He had 13 goals and 28 points in 50 games for Karpat.
Cape Breton forward Pierre-Luc Dubois of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. Dubois (6-2, 202) was third in the QMJHL with 99 points, fifth with 42 goals, and sixth with 57 assists in 62 games.
The remaining top five North American skaters in Central Scouting's final ranking were left wing Matthew Tkachuk of London (Ontario Hockey League), wing Alexander Nylander of Mississauga (OHL), defenseman Jakob Chychrun of Sarnia (OHL), and defenseman Olli Juolevi of London (OHL).
Video: Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff on getting the #2 pick
Selections 4 through 14 are in inverse order of regular-season points. Selections 15 through 30 will be determined by the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Maple Leafs (29-42-11) finished last in the NHL standings. Babcock said there would be pain in his first season after coaching the Detroit Red Wings the past 10 seasons. To draft a player as talented as Matthews would fast-track the rebuild Shanahan has in front of him.
Toronto is the first Original Six franchise to have the No. 1 pick since 2007, when the Blackhawks selected Kane.
Shanahan said he hopes the result Saturday offered some excitement and even more hope for Leafs Nation.
"I think there will be a good [Maple Leafs] presence in Buffalo at the draft," Shanahan said. "Our Leaf fans have been so supportive of what we've set out and told them we would do. They've showed up enthusiastically and to all the games, and even when I see them on the street they are behind us. They needed some good news, and while there's still work to be done, this was good news for them and they deserve it. I hope they're on the streets of Toronto right now feeling a little bit better."
2016 NHL Draft order:
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Winnipeg Jets
3. Columbus Blue Jackets
4. Edmonton Oilers
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. Calgary Flames
7. Arizona Coyotes
8. Buffalo Sabres
9. Montreal Canadiens
10. Colorado Avalanche
11. New Jersey Devils
12. Ottawa Senators
13. Carolina Hurricanes
14. Boston Bruins