The results of the 2023 NHL draft lottery are in and, big surprise, the Blue Jackets did not win the 1st overall pick. In ten draft lotteries, the ping pong balls have never fallen in favor of the Blue Jackets. While the Blue Jackets did not have the best odds to win the lottery, they had the second best odds overall (13.5% chance) and higher odds than the lottery winner (Chicago – 11.5% chance). The results of the lottery seemed like a punch to the gut after a long and trialing season.
To make matters worse, the snafu that slipped during the NHL Draft Lottery show confused everyone. The way that the show works is that all the teams and their draft positions are revealed via flipping cards up with a specific team logo on it during that draft position. The show begins with pick 16, followed by 15, and so on all the way to the 1st overall pick. The card for the San Jose Sharks was flipped up for the 4th overall selection.
Before announcing the top 3 picks, the show was going to commercial break. Right before the break, Kevin Weekes (the ESPN commentator) let it slip that Columbus had the 3rd overall pick and that Chicago or Anaheim would pick 1st. This was said before any of the cards for the top 3 picks were revealed. This led a frenzy of people to believe that the lottery is rigged in favor of certain teams. While the lottery is not rigged, it was not a good look for the NHL. The league has dealt with controversies of fairness in the past. This mistake did not aid in their quest to show transparency.
At the end of the day, the Blue Jackets will be picking a really good player. The organization has picked in the top 3 on three separate occasions:
1. 2002: Rick Nash – 1st overall
2. 2012: Ryan Murray – 2nd overall
3. 2016: Pierre-Luc Dubois – 3rd overall.
All three players were very effective for the organization. This year’s draft selection should be no different. The belief is that the organization will select a center due to the lack of center depth in the prospect pool. This year’s draft is deep with center icemen. With Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli projected to go 1st and 2nd overall, the likely candidates to be taken by the Blue Jackets are Leo Carlsson or Will Smith. Both are projected to be top line centers in the NHL.
Historically, a plethora of good players have been taken at 3rd overall: Leon Draisaitl, Jonathan Toews, Marian Gaborik, Olli Jokinen, just to name a few. Not to insinuate that Carlsson or Smith will become any of those players. But history has shown that very good (potential hall of fame) players can be drafted at 3rd overall. The pain from the 2023 NHL draft lottery results will linger for some time. But, 5 years from now, the rewards of drafting and developing a talented player will sooth that pain.