The 2017 NHL Draft Lottery takes place Saturday evening with the 14 non-playoff teams plus expansion Vegas Golden Knights in line to potentially snag the first-overall pick in June’s draft.
Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs what winning the lottery can do to help turn a franchise around.
The Maple Leafs were the lucky team to have their name called in 2016 and they predictably used the top pick to select Auston Matthews.
As you can see from the video above, it has worked out as well as could have been imagined thus far for the Maple Leafs.
Matthews was considered a blue-chip prospect when he was in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and looked every bit a future franchise centre during his time with Zurich SC.
It didn’t take the American long to make an impact as a pro, scoring four goals in the first 40 minutes of his NHL career. He continued to impress throughout his entire rookie campaign, leading all first-year players in goals with 40 and points with 69.
In fact, Sidney Crosby was the only player to score more goals than Matthews this past season and it resulted in Matthews being a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Matthews also added four goals in six playoff games against the Washington Capitals.
When Mike Babcock joined the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 20, 2015, he left behind one of the league’s greatest puck thieves. Pavel Datsyuk’s takeaway numbers were out of this world during Babcock’s tenure in Detroit, and he could steal the puck away from an opponent on demand. He was the NHL’s best puck thief between 2007 and 2015, and it was not even close.
When looking at takeaways, we can focus solely on road statistics to avoid scorer bias. The league leaders in takeaways per minute tend to be highly skilled players, and usually boast impressive numbers in terms of both shot attempt differential and goal differential. Evidently, parting ways with Datsyuk must have been a tough pill to swallow.