Battle for Bedard: Sharks, Blue Jackets, Ducks among teams battling for No. 1 pick in 2023 NHL Draft

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As we hit the home stretch of the 2022-23 NHL season, some fans are looking forward to the postseason, while others are looking forward to the draft lottery.

Connor Bedard, the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft, is a terrific prize for whichever team ends up with the top pick. That makes the battle for the best prospects in the draft lottery even more interesting than usual this season.

As has been the case for much of the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets are in the driver’s seat to land the No. 1 pick. However, some of the other teams in the NHL basement sold key pieces before the trade deadline, and that will give Columbus some competition over the next six weeks.

Let’s take a look at what the Battle for Bedard will look like after the NHL trade deadline.

Columbus Blue Jackets | 20-37-7| 47 points

The Blue Jackets have been the favorite to land the No. 1 pick for some time now, and I wouldn’t expect that to change between now and the end of the regular season. Columbus traded away its only regular goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo, and one of its top four defensemen, Vladislav Gavrikov. Getting goals against the Blue Jackets before the trade deadline wasn’t a tall order, but they should be even more difficult on the back end moving forward.

The only issue the Jackets may have when it comes to ending up with the best draft picks in the lottery is that other teams near the bottom of the standings sold more important pieces. Korpisalo and Gavrikov played key roles, but the team will not be much worse without them. In fact, on Tuesday night, Columbus jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins before going in and losing in overtime, 5-4. Crisis is averted.

San Jose Sharks | 19-34-12 | 50 points

The Sharks were top sellers at the trade deadline, and are aiming to finish the 2022-23 season in last place. San Jose has won two of its last 11 games, and eight of the nine losses have come by regulation. They are avoiding points like the plague at the moment.

Things shouldn’t get any worse (or better) for the Sharks without Timo Meier, Nick Bonino, and Jaycob Megana, all of whom were traded before the deadline. San Jose was unable to move defenseman Erik Karlsson, however, and he is playing at a Norris Trophy level this season. Karlsson may be a crack in the Sharks tank side if he continues to put up points and keep them in games.

Chicago Blackhawks | 22-36-5| 49 points

If you’re looking for a team that might just completely screw up between now and the end of the regular season, it might be the Blackhawks. After trading away Patrick Kane, Max Domi, Sam Lafferty, and Jake McCabe, they have the most barren roster in the NHL.

Caleb Jones, Jarred Tinordi, and Connor Murphy all play in the four main roles on the blue line. Taylor Raddysh, Cole Guttman, and Tyler Johnson are the second line forwards. Chicago should have a lot of trouble finding wins in its last 19 games, but a couple of things could add to a full tank.

First year head coach Luke Richardson seems to have done a good job getting as much as he can out of the schedule. In addition, Alex Stalock played surprisingly well in goal. However, even with Richardson and Stalock trying to keep the Blackhawks afloat, that No. 1 pick is definitely on the table in Chicago.

Anaheim Ducks | 21-35-8| 50 points

Anaheim traded for John Klingberg and Dmitry Kulikov before the trade deadline, but I’m not sure how much damage that could do to a club that was already one of the worst defensive teams around recent memory.

The Ducks won a game over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night, which hurt their chances, and their talented young forwards give them a higher ceiling than some of the other teams on this list. That could make it more difficult for Anaheim to win this race to the bottom in the last 20% of the season.

Don’t get me wrong. When the ducks lose, they lose big. The minus-99 goal differential is the worst in the league by 17 goals, but having the worst goal differential doesn’t get you an extra ping pong ball in the draft lottery.

Arizona Coyotes | 22-32-10 | 54 points

Coming into the season, the Coyotes seemed safe to finish with the worst record in the league, but the magic of Mullett Arena has given them a few more wins than expected.

Arizona eventually traded Jakob Chychrun, but he hadn’t played for the team in a while anyway. Nick Bjugstad and Shayne Gostisbehere were also on the move, but Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Lawson Crouse and Karel Vejmelka make the Coyotes a competitive team from time to time. While that hurts their chances of drafting Connor Bedard, it is good for the franchise to see progress from all of these players.

It’s also hard to see the Yotes falling apart at home when they have players like Shea Weber and Jakub Voracek in the group. Let’s see if those two can get Arizona back in the playoff race.

Montreal Canadians | 26-33-5 | 57 points

The Canadians are another team that I could easily see sinking to the bottom of the standings before the regular season is over. Nick Suzuki is a lonely man in the top six because he doesn’t have much help around him. Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Raphael Harvey-Pinard, and Jesse Ylonen are some of the players around Suzuki up front.

Montreal may have some trouble scoring later, and goalies Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault have also had their share of struggles. With games against the Rangers, Devils, Avalanche, Penguins, Panthers, Lightning, and Bruins coming up, the Canadians could dive quickly in the standings.

They are already ahead in that regard with four consecutive defeats.

Vancouver Canucks | 26-32-5| 57 points

As for the Canucks’ pursuit of the No. 1 overall pick, the trade deadline was not a particularly successful one. Neither Brock Boeser nor JT Miller got traded, and Vancouver even made a move now by acquiring former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek.

Even if the Canucks moved those players, it cannot be denied that there is some talent on this roster. Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Andrei Kuzmenko are all good players, and Vancouver can be tough when it gets decent goaltending.

In the end, the Canucks are in a good position here. They already have some foundational pieces, and it’s plausible they’ll have the No. 1 overall pick as well.

Philadelphia Flyers | 24-29-11 | 59 points

Much to the dismay of their fans, the Flyers were not very active at the trade deadline, and James van Riemsdyk will remain on the team until he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

As a result, Philadelphia might not be bad enough to have the best chances of landing the No. 1 overall pick, but something tells me John Tortorella wouldn’t be interested in that anyway. Add in strong seasons from Travis Konecny ​​and Carter Hart, and the Flyers have been more competitive than expected in 2022-23.

For those hoping to see the Flyers slide a few spots in the standings before the end of the regular season, the good news is that they are playing with a tough schedule over the next few weeks.

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