The 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships are set to kick off in Ufa, Russia in only a matter of hours. We will be seeing some of the top young prospects out there, from USA's Alex Galchenyuk, obviously of the Canadiens, to soon-to-be household names like Finland's Joel Armia of the Sabres, Sweden's Hampus Lindholm of the Ducks, and Russia's Andrei Vasilevski of the Lightning. We will also be learning more about younger draft-eligible players like Finland's Sasha Barkov, Canada's Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, and the USA's Seth Jones, who together are expected to make up the top-4 draft picks this spring. With the season all-but cancelled (reverse jinx at its finest), why not take a look at how close to the stage Marc Bergevin and co. can expect to be sitting, and whether the team even has a sniff at any of these crazy talents.
Of course, until there's a new CBA, we have no idea how a draft order would be determined after a cancelled season, but it's not farfetched to think the method would greatly resemble that from 2005, which granted the Penguins the chance to take Sidney Crosby first overall. It was a fairly simple approach. Any team that had not made the playoffs in any of the 2001-2002, 2002-2003, and 2003-2004 seasons, and had not selected first overall in any of the 2002, 2003, or 2004 drafts, had three balls the lottery. Teams that either made the playoffs one of those years OR selected first overall once had two balls entered. Every other team had only one ball entered. In 2005, there were four teams that had achieved that first highest level of incompetence without reward (we'll call it the Columbus Catastrophe): Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Columbus (Hah!), and the New York Rangers. For a more detailed recap of how that draft lottery turned out, look here.
If the same method were followed for 2013, there would be seven such teams this time around: Toronto, Dallas, Calgary, Columbus (of course), Minnesota, Carolina, and Winnipeg. For a more extensive look, check out this post at dirtydangle.com, in which a much more optimistic blogger looked at this possibility last July, the same month in which we were all assured that the lack of meetings between the NHL and NHLPA was nothing to be worried about!
As far as the Canadiens are concerned, well I guess the drag that was the 2011-2012 season had some of us convinced the team was in worse shape the last few years than it was. The Canadiens, just like recent Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, would have only one ball in the "hat", meaning they would have only a 2% of winning the no. 1 overall selection.
But all hope is not lost. Last time around, after playoff upsets over the Bruins in '02 and '04, and with only one ball in the lottery, the Canadiens managed to luck out and select 5th overall. There's nothing to suggest this couldn't happen again. It does mean, however, that the chances of a top pick for the team might be significantly better should there be a season - as depressing as that may be.
The other caveat to this draft system is that it implements something fantasy sports fanatics are familiar with: a snake draft. This means that the order of selections for rounds 2, 4, and 6 are inverted from those in rounds 1, 3, 5, and 7. For the Canadiens, who have three first round picks - their own, plus those acquired from Calgary and Nashville in the Cammalleri and Gill trades - this could have serious implications. The Flames, as one of the teams with three balls in the lottery, are likely to have a high first round pick, meaning their second-rounder would be at the end of the round. Nashville, having only one ball in the lottery, might see its second-round pick higher than it would be with a season, but then again the Predators, who have lost Suter, Radulov, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Anders Lindback, might have had a down year, so who really knows?
All of this, of course, is speculation, because there could well still be a season, and even if not, the NHL could decide to scrap this system all together. But it might be important for Canadiens fans, fresh off the excitement of a top-3 pick, to realize that seeing one of these top draft-eligible prospects in a Canadiens jersey in the coming years is far from a certainty. Now that I've delivered that Grinch-like sack of reality, I'll be on my way to continue spreading the joy. Happy Holidays, Canadiens fans. You never know, maybe luck will shine on the Tricolore just like it did in '05.