How many Canadiens fans Thursday night were torn between their desire to see their team win and the fear that the team is about to go on some kind of winning streak and totally screw up qualifying for their best draft pick in the last 32 years which would be the only reward for a season-long disaster?  My guess?  The vast majority.

If the Canadiens were to hold their current postion as third worst team in the league,  through the Draft Lottery, they could draft as high as first and no worse than fourth overall.  The last time they drafted that high was 1980 when they took Doug Wickenheiser from the WHL’s Regina Pats ahead of Dave Babych (Winnipeg) and Denis Savard (Chicago).  (Below – The rules for the draft lottery and odds of gaining or losing draft postion).

10-Nail Yakupov - Sarnia Sting

By far, the most talented player in this year’s draft is Sarnia Stings right winger Nail (pronounced Nah-eel) Yakupov.  He’ll go number one no matter which team eventually wins the lottery process.   Odds are very good (42.5%) that the last place Columbus Blue Jackets will retain the pick.  In the sixteen years of the lottery, the league’s worst team has retained first overall pick nine times.  After Yakupov is gone, subsequent choices in the top five will be influenced by a combination of not only talent but organizational team needs.

Anyone who watched Thursday’s Oilers/Canadiens knows the last thing Edmonton needs is another top forward.  Wherever they draft in the top five, they are likely to take the best of a bumper crop of defencemen, either Ryan Murray of Everett or Matthew Dumba of Red Deer of the WHL.

Conversely, the Canadiens have done well drafting defencemen the last two years (Jarred Tinordi & Nathan Beaulieu) and will be turning attention to improving their up front talent.

After Yakupov, the top forwards in the draft, and the only ones in the top ten, are Mikhail Grigorenko, of the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, Filip Forsberg (no relation) of Leksands of the Swedish 2nd division  and the Milwaukee-born Alexander Galchenyuk also of the Sarnia Sting.  Grigorenko and Galchenyuk are both big centremen and the Canadiens have been unsuccessfully looking for one of those for 20 years now.

Mikhail Grigorenko - Quebec Remparts

The smallest of the group is Yakupov at 5″10″ – 170 lbs.  Grigorenko, on most scouting lists is ranked second.  At the age of 19, he is already 6’3” and 200 pounds.  Forsberg ranked 4th or 5th  is 6’2” 181 lbs.  Galchenyuk,  is  6’1” and 197 lbs.  Because of his injury and lack of presence his ranking is around eighth.

If still available Grigorenko is the obvious choice after Yakupov..  But in recent weeks there have been questions asked about his desire and competitiveness.  Too many teams have been burned after drafting Russians who lack desire.  That’s going to weigh heavily in discussions at the Canadiens scouting meetings in May and June.  Grigorenko  also plays in a league that is diluted by over expansion and thus,  statistics are often inflated compared to Ontario and Western Leagues.

Forsberg is a righthand shot is often listed as a centre although he’s been playing left wing at Leksands.   At first glance his stats aren’t great, but there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind, he’s a top talent.  Some say, a Daniel Alfredsson clone.  Whoever drafts him may have to wait a bit because he has no North American experience.  Still, he has had the benefit of  playing with, and against mature players in a senior league over the last two years.

Alexander Galchenyuk - Sarnia Sting

The fascinating one among the forward group is Galchenyuk.  In the 2010-2011 season at the age of 16 he scored 31 goals and 52 assists for Sarnia  in 68 games.  In that season he showed all of the skill you would want out of an elite prospect.  But, in a September exhibition game against Windsor he tore up his MCL and after October surgery has not played a game this season.  There are some that think, had he not been hurt, he might have moved ahead of Yakupov in the rankings.  Galchenyuk might make it back for the OHL playoffs which will give scouts some current perspective.  Right now he’s a risk, one the Canadiens, with their history of dealing with  knee injuries, might not be willing to take.

The pressure is on for Trevor Timmins and the Canadiens scouting staff.   The way second-guessing goes in Montreal, a mistake would lead to no end of grief for years to come.  Thirty-two years later, they still haven’t stopped griping about Wickenheiser.

How The Draft Lottery Works

The draft lottery was instituted in 1995 after the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators ownership talked about intentionally losing games in order to assure themselves of drafting Alexander Daigle.

Filip Forsberg - Sweden Junior Nationals

Under the draft lottery, simply put, the fourteen non-playoff teams participate.  It’s possible for the 14th team on that list could win the lottery but no team can gain more than four spots, so the 14th place team may draft ninth but no higher, and that would leave the worst team in the group retaining it’s first overall status.  No team can lose more than one position from their final position in the standings,  but, because a team can move up only four positions, only the top five teams have a shot at the number one pick.

As this is being written, Columbus goes to the draft lottery number one, followed by the Oilers, Canadiens, Islanders and Hurricanes.   Columbus would have a 25.0% chance of winning the draft lottery outright, but considering there are 9 teams outside the top five who cannot take first choice, the reality is they have a 48.2% chance of winning it all.

If the season were over today, the third place Canadiens would have a 14.2% chance of getting first  pick overall,  70.3% that they would retain third overall and 29.7% chance that would drop down to fourth.

 

2012-DRAFT DRAWING PROBABILITY CHART
(standings through games of Thursday, Mar. 8,2012)

Current ————-   PERCENTAGES OF ————-
Non-Playoff Club * Draft Pos. Pts If Selected Winning Getting 1st Dropping Not Dropping
Columbus 1 49 Retain 1st pick 25.0% 48.2% 51.8% 48.2%
Edmonton 2 58 2nd to 1st 18.8% 18.8% 39.2% 60.8%
Montreal 3 60 3rd to 1st 14.2% 14.2% 29.7% 70.3%
NY Islanders 4 65 4th to 1st 10.7% 10.7% 22.6% 77.4%
Carolina 5 65 5th to 1st   8.1%   8.1% 17.2% 82.8%

 

Winning – percentage chance of winning the Draft Drawing (see above, ‘If Selected’)
Getting 1st – percentage chance of being awarded the first overall pick as a result of the Draft Drawing
Dropping – percentage chance of moving down in the draft order as a result of the Draft Drawing
Not Dropping – percentage chance of not moving down in the draft order as a result of the Draft Drawing