The NHL held the first phase of its draft lottery on June 26, 2020, and in keeping with the “hold my beer” spirit of the year 2020, the unexpected happened. Instead of teams with the highest odds for the first overall pick actually winning that pick, the lottery was won by one of the eight placeholder spots reserved for teams eliminated in the play-in round of the NHL’s Return to Play format, which includes the Winnipeg Jets.
Here are three thoughts on what this means to the Jets.
The Jets have a chance to draft an elite talent player
I honestly did not give a second of fantasy time to picturing Alexis Lafreniere in a Jets jersey. Now, it’s replaced me being able to go the Albertville Outlet Mall again as my number one fantasy (I lead a dull life). There will be eight teams as part of the next lottery phase, all equally weighted, meaning the Jets would have a 12.5% chance of landing a player that scouts are saying is going to land somewhere between Nathan MacKinnon and Jack Eichel on the talent scale. If you really like math, you can check out the excellent work of Scott Wheeler and Dom Luszczyszyn at the Athletic. Using Dom’s projections on who he thinks will win the first round, plus the equal weighting for all eight teams, he projects that the Jets have the fourth best odds at landing the first pick overall! Let that sink in.
Alexis Lafreniere is really good.
I have not seen a draft expert or scout deviate from the take that he is undoubtedly the first overall pick and will be an elite level NHL player. He’s been a dominant player in the QMJHL and was excellent for Canada in junior international play. Scouts say he has elite skill, vision, competes hard and is physical. If you want to nitpick, he’s a left wing versus a center. But, he’s looking like he could be the best left wing in the NHL in very short order.
Million dollar question – Would you rather the Jets make it into the playoffs, lose round one, or, not make the playoffs, and draft Lafreniere?
I’m not suggesting tanking. And pro athletes never intentionally tank. They are not wired that way. They are at the highest level of sport because their compete level is much higher than the average person. However, I am suggesting that pro teams’ management at times makes decisions based on the big picture versus the short term. And, I do think every NHL GM who now has a chance at Lafreniere is at least “evaluating all options”. You’d be a fool not to. Maybe you reconsider rushing a player back from injury who is still recovering. Perhaps you don’t force things if a contributing player on your team is reluctant to return to play for health or family reasons. Or maybe you take a realistic look at your team and conclude that even if you win the play-in round, you’re likely to lose round one of the playoffs.
Again, I’m not suggesting intentionally tanking on any level. And, given the chaos of 2020, of course I hope the Jets go all the way. However, the prospect of getting bounced in five games by the Colorado Avalanche in playoff round one is way less appealing to me than watching Alexis Lafreniere in a Jets jersey for the next five seasons on an entry level contract!
Please share your thoughts and take our poll.
Which would you prefer?
This poll is closed
The Jets make it into the playoffs, but lose in the first round.
The Jets do not make it into the playoffs, but get the first overall pick in the NHL entry draft (Alexis Lafreniere!)?