The New York Islanders didn't have a chance to win Monday's night NHL Draft Lottery but ended up winners in their own way, nevertheless. A generational talent will not be in their division for the next decade or more.
Connor Bedard, the most highly touted prospect since Connor McDavid, is almost certainly headed to Chicago after the Blackhawks won the draft lottery, moving from third to first for the right to draft the projected phenom. The Anaheim Ducks will select second overall, with Adam Fantilli, the 18-year-old University of Michigan forward with star potential, the expected pick. Both players will start their NHL careers in the Western Conference, and that's a win for the Islanders.
The Metropolitan Division had three teams in the Draft Lottery that had an opportunity to win the top overall pick. The Philadelphia Flyers had the seventh-best odds (6.5%), while the Washington Capitals had the eighth-best (6%).
Meanwhile, the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets, after a miserable season that fell far short of expectations, had the second-best odds at a 13.5% chance to secure the first overall pick but dropped to third.
That was good news for the Islanders, very good news.
Back in 2004, the Washington Capitals won the lottery, moving up from 3rd to 1st, and selected Alexander Ovechkin with the first overall selection. After 18 seasons, 1,347 games, and 822 goals later, Ovi is still playing at a high level. The Caps had made the playoffs 14 of the previous 15 seasons before missing the postseason for the first time since 2013-14.
After a lockout ended the 2004-05 season before it began, the Pittsburgh Penguins, as a team that hadn't qualified for the playoffs the past three seasons, had three ping-pong balls in a revised lottery format. Sidney Crosby was the generational prize that season, and he went on to lead the Pens in scoring as an 18-year-old with 102 points in his rookie season. Pittsburgh missed the playoffs that season but then qualified 16 seasons in a row before that remarkable streak ended this season to the benefit of the Islanders and Florida Panthers.
Drafting Bedard doesn't guarantee the Blackhawks will return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs next season. The odds are probably against it, but his presence will accelerate their rebuild in a major way and will turn Chicago into a perennial playoff team in due time. The Edmonton Oilers had initial struggles even with the brilliance of McDavid, but now have turned the corner, making the postseason four consecutive seasons, and reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2021-22.
Bedard is a special talent and it will be a joy to watch him in the central time zone most nights as opposed to in the Metropolitan Division for the next 15+ years. After having to deal with Ovechkin and Crosby for nearly two decades, Islanders fans and fans of other teams in the Metro breathed a sign of relief knowing they don't have another superstar deal with for the foreseeable future.