Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Canucks’ bad luck in lottery continues

Linden thoughtful as New Jersey grabs right to pick first

- MIKE ZEISBERGER mzeisberge­

On the outside, a gracious Trevor Linden wore the sincerest of grins as he extended his hand in congratula­tions to general manager Ray Shero, whose New Jersey Devils had just won the NHL draft lottery Saturday in Toronto. On the inside, you had to figure the result of the league’s annual ping-pong ball sweepstake­s was eating him up.

A year ago, the Vancouver Canucks team president came into the lottery with the thirdbest odds to snap up the No. 1 pick only to drop two spots to fifth.

This time, the Canucks, with the second-best odds behind only the Colorado Avalanche, looked like a sure bet to at least pick in the top three. Instead, they plummeted three slots and will select No. 5 again for a second consecutiv­e year, barring a trade.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of movement every year with this lottery where a lot of teams are going to be shuffling around,” Linden said. “It shows you how fortunate (the Toronto Maple Leafs) were to win it last year.”

Indeed, finishing dead last in the final NHL standings guarantees a team very little when it comes to the opportunit­y to select No. 1. Only once in seven drafts — including the upcoming one this June in Chicago — has the league’s basement dweller earned the right to pick first overall, that coming last year when the Maple Leafs were given the chance to select potential franchise player Auston Matthews.

“We had a better chance to move down than up, and that’s what happened,” Linden said, adding that he’s enthused about the new youth-focused era the Canucks are entering under recently hired coach Travis Green.

Meanwhile, Shero and the Devils figured Christmas came early when NHL deputy commission­er Bill Daly held up the card with the Devils logo when announcing who won the right to pick first.

Tweeted Devils star forward Taylor Hall: “Officially adding ‘NHL lottery ball specialist’ to my hockey resume.”

“I really didn’t expect this,” Shero said. “We haven’t even discussed this. Our scouting meetings are coming up, so this should spice things up. I’m just happy for our fans.”

The Devils came into the lottery with an 8.5 per cent chance of moving up to pick first. The biggest movers were the Philadelph­ia Flyers, who went from No. 13 to No. 2. The Dallas Stars will pick third while the expansion Vegas Golden Knights dropped from No. 3 to No. 6.

The two prospects most widely expected to be picked in that 2017 No. 1 slot: Brandon Wheat Kings centre Nolan Patrick and Swiss centre Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads.

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Trevor Linden
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