When the lottery rolls around in April the Vegas Golden Knights will have an equal opportunity to win the first overall pick as the third worst team in the NHL this season. If that doesn’t happen, they’ll have the chance to move up to second or third with a little ping pong luck. (We’ve got a huge piece coming on all of the odds and probabilities of the lottery, it’ll all make sense before the day comes, trust me.)
But even if the balls don’t bounce in the Golden Knights favor the worst they can select their first player in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft will be sixth. Early picks in the NHL are obviously massive pieces in the building of a winning franchise, but the GM in Vegas believe the simple knowledge of having that pick might be as valuable as the pick itself.
The real nice thing is when you know what area you are picking in it it really helps I think it’s an advantage. We’ve known since September that we are picking in the top 6. So when you put your list together you can really concentrate on that one area. -George McPhee, GM
He makes an interesting point. On June 22nd, four months before the NHL season even began, Vegas knew it would be selecting somewhere between first and sixth. By the time the NHL season got underway, Vegas had it’s general manager and a scouting staff nearly 20 deep.
They’ve been hard at work scouting players all over the world with that lottery in mind. They’ve known all along that when it comes to the elite players, there can only be a maximum of five that are unavailable to them.
Just look at the standings today. The Avalanche and Coyotes are just about where the Golden Knights are now, but even they weren’t 100% sure this is where they’d be four months ago. After that, there’s a huge cluster. 17 teams have between 59-52 points. The Lightning bring up the rear with 52 and are currently the team “tied” with the Golden Knights in the lottery, but they are also 7 points, out of 12th place in the NHL, and a playoff berth at that.
Imagine being a amateur scout sitting at the Ivan Hlinka last August or the World Juniors in December. If you are employed by the Golden Knights, you know where you are picking in every round of the draft. There’s a little bit of wiggle room in the first round, but there’s also a guarantee that two of the top 35 players will be available to your team. If your scouting for the Lightning, you could be looking for the top pick, could be scouting the mid teens, or maybe the big league squad gets hot and you’re scouting for the late 20’s.
There’s a clear advantage there and hopefully the head start gives McPhee and his staff the leg up come June.