Toronto Maple Leafs’ rebuilding plans received a boost on Saturday when they won the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery at the CBC building in Toronto.
The Leafs now have the right to the first overall selection in the 2016 Entry Draft, which will take place on June 24 and 25 in Buffalo, New York.
The Winnipeg Jets were drawn as the winners of the second overall pick, with the Columbus Blue Jackets taking the third pick.
Top ranked prospect Auston Matthews is likely to be the Maple Leafs’ selection, while Winnipeg and Columbus will probably each take one of the Finnish prospects ranked second and third, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.
Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan refused to confirm who they would pick, but he did praise Matthews’ abilities.
“I’ll just say that our scouts were very pleased with tonight’s results,” he said. “He (Matthews) is definitely somebody that has earned the right to be where he is today.
“I wouldn’t put too much pressure on any one player,” he said. “The more players you can get of a high calibre, obviously that’s a good thing.
“But we also recognize that at this stage whoever’s coming in here is going to be a young person, a rookie, and not going to have the weight of the world thrust on their shoulders.
“This is not going to be a savior. That’s not the way the game is played these days. You need to have a full team.”
With William Nylander, Mitchell Marner and Morgan Rielly amongst many promising players on the Maple Leafs’ books, Matthews would be a notable addition to the ranks.
The 18-year-old, who is set to represent the United States at the upcoming World Championship, played last season in Switzerland scoring 22 goals with 24 assists in 36 games.
Other promising players in this year’s draft class include Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi, a smooth-skating puck mover who starred at the world juniors and Pierre-Luc Dubois, a free-scoring forward who has been likened to James Neal.
Russian defenseman Mikhail Sergachyov will be on the radar of many teams after an impressive season with Windsow Spitfires in the OHL, while Russian U18 team forward German Rubtsov could be seen by the Detroit Red Wings as the natural replacement for the departing Pavel Datsyuk.
2016 NHL Draft Order:
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Winnipeg Jets
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Edmonton Oilers
- Vancouver Canucks
- Calgary Flames
- Arizona Coyotes
- Buffalo Sabres
- Montreal Canadiens
- Colorado Avalanche
- New Jersey Devils
- Ottawa Senators
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Boston Bruins