The 2021 NHL draft is scheduled for July 23-24 and will be held virtually for the second straight year. The order of the draft for teams that fail to qualify for the playoffs will be determined via lottery on June 2.
Starting this year, the drawings for the lottery were changed from three to two to reduce the possibility of the team with the worst record dropping too far in the order. Other changes, such as restricting teams from moving up more than 10 spots if it wins one of the drawings and restrictions on clubs winning the lottery more than twice within five years, go into effect next year.
The reduction in the lottery drawings could prove beneficial to this year's worst clubs. The Buffalo Sabres, for example, are enduring one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Other teams, like the Anaheim Ducks, could use the lottery to kickstart an overdue roster rebuild.
Several promising youngsters stand out as potential stars in this year's draft.
The University of Michigan's Owen Power, Luke Hughes of USA Hockey Under-18 National Team Development Program and Simon Edvinsson of Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League are the top defensemen. Notable forwards include Dylan Guenther of the Western Hockey League's Edmonton Oil Kings, Kent Johnson of the University of Michigan and William Eklund of Djurgardens in the SHL.
All of this season's bottom-feeding teams in each division could make good use of this year's first overall pick. Some, however, need more help than others. Here's our ranking of the clubs that need to hit the jackpot in this year's lottery.
5. Seattle Kraken
As an expansion team, the Seattle Kraken will have the third-best odds at winning the draft lottery. Doing so would provide a big boost for this new club heading into its first NHL season.
Two days before the draft, the Kraken will build their roster through an expansion draft. They will follow the same rules as the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft in 2017, selecting one player from each club, excluding the Knights. The 30 teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender or eight skaters and a goalie.
Most of the players Vegas selected went on to form the roster that stunned the hockey world by marching to the Stanley Cup Final in its first season. While the Kraken should end up with a good selection of players, it's probably asking too much to expect them to repeat the Golden Knights' inaugural success.
Seattle has a long history as a hockey town. The 1916-17 Seattle Metropolitans were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. The city is also the longtime home of the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds, whose alumni include such notable current NHL players as the New York Islanders' Mathew Barzal, the Vegas Golden Knights' Shea Theodore and the San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau.
Still, winning the draft lottery could help the Kraken generate additional buzz entering their first season. It would also give them a future star, perhaps even a franchise player, to build around going forward.
The Kraken don't have any prospects in their system yet. Unlike the other clubs on this list, they don't have to worry about filling a specific need but can instead simply take the best available player. It's also possible general manager Ron Francis springs a surprise by selecting a player with the first overall pick who isn't among the top three prospects.
4. Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings can make a good case as the most deserving to win this year's draft lottery. They had the league's worst record last season. However, they slid to fourth overall in the draft because of the unique way the 2020 lottery was conducted because of the derailment of the regular season by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite that disappointment, the Wings used their pick to select promising left wing Lucas Raymond from the Swedish Hockey League. They could make good use of the first overall pick in this year's draft to continue their rebuild.
Signs of improvement are visible from the Wings this season. While sitting second-to-last in the Central Division with 43 points in 52 games, they're 24th in the overall standings.
Scoring remains an issue for the Red Wings, sitting 30th with 2.21 goals per game. They could also use more skilled depth on their blue line.
If the Wings win the draft lottery, they could target Michigan defenseman Owen Power. At 6'6" and 213 pounds, the 18-year-old is a gifted all-around defenseman with the potential to become a first-pairing NHL blueliner.