While the Wings are three weeks into their offseason, the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers are among the franchises which, after adding players added via the draft lottery over the previous five years, are still competing for the Stanley Cup. Other playoff teams, of course, got lottery help before then, but 2017 was the year the Wings entered the lottery for the first time in franchise history after missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons.
In their six times in the lottery, the Wings have either been pushed back or held onto their spot. They did the latter in the 2022 lottery, leaving them with the No. 8 pick entering the draft, scheduled for July 7-8 in Montreal.
In 2018, the Wings were pushed back from fifth to sixth. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, made the leap of the lottery, going from 11th to second, and used the pick to add Andrei Svechnikov, an elite forward who scored 30 goals this season. The Rangers had two years of incredible fortune: In 2019, they moved from sixth to second and selected Kaapo Kakko; in 2020, they went from the “play-in round” to the No. 1 pick, selecting Alexis Lafreniere.
(Among the other teams still active, the Edmonton Oilers struck gold when they won the 2015 lottery and added Connor McDavid and the Panthers won the 2014 lottery and selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who capped his rookie season with the Calder Trophy.)
From 2017-2021, the Wings have picked ninth, sixth, sixth, fourth and sixth. Based on who the No. 1 pick was, let’s rank which year they would have been best served to win the lottery relative to who they drafted. In other words: We’re looking at whether the Wings would have been better off with the player who went No. 1, or with the player they drafted.
5. 2019: Jack Hughes
The prize of the 2019 draft was center Jack Hughes, the much-hyped middle Hughes brother. (Older brother Quinn, a Michigan defenseman, went No. 7 in 2018; Younger brother Luke, also a defenseman, went No. 4 in 2021 before heading to Ann Arbor as well.) Hughes, at 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, is an agile skater with world-class vision and smarts. His numbers two years into his NHL career aren’t overwhelming — 44 goals, 64 assists in 166 games — but he has been hampered by injuries; 26 of those goals came in 49 games this season. The Wings need a superstar center, and that’s Hughes’ projection. However, the reason Hughes comes in last in the rankings is because elite defensemen are even harder to find than elite centers, and Yzerman’s pick at No. 6, Moritz Seider, looks like a rising superstar. He posted 50 points as a rookie, and is a finalist (and favorite) for the Calder Trophy.
4. 2020: Alexis Lafrenière
The Wings finished the abbreviated 2019-20 season last, by 23 points, in the standings, but were pushed back all the way to No. 4. At that point, general manager Steve Yzerman said he hoped the Wings “will get a great prospect, and hopefully that prospect can move the needle on the rebuild.” The Rangers had the luck, and selected Lafrenière. He has five points in nine games in the 2022 playoffs, but his career regular-season numbers (52 points in 135 games) trail Lucas Raymond’s 57 points in 82 games this season alone. It’s still early in their careers, but Raymond’s performance has more than made up for the Wings not making the first choice in 2020.
3. 2017: Nico Hischier
Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar is the standout of the 2017 draft, and a proper consolation prize for the Colorado Avalanche after being pushed back from No. 1 to No. 4. But the New Jersey Devils won the lottery and selected Hischier, a 6-1 center out of Switzerland. He’s a skilled two-way player with two 20-goal seasons among 206 points in 300 games. Hischier is starring this month at the World Championship in Finland; Saturday, he had a goal and an assist to lead the Swiss past Canada, 6-3. (Hischier’s teammate, Wings forward Pius Suter, also had a goal and an assist.) Hischier would have given the Wings a skilled, top-line center. Comparatively, they drafted forward Michael Rasmussen after falling two spots to No. 9. Rasmussen (57 points in 182 games) showed progress last season, but he projects as a bottom-six forward.
2. 2018: Rasmus Dahlin
Dahlin (6-3, 207) is coming off a breakout season with Buffalo — 53 points in 80 games — upping his career totals to 160 points in 277 games. He’s a smart two-way defenseman, combining elite skating and vision, who is coming into his own. He plays in all situations, including against top opponents. He had 44 points as a rookie in 2018-19, meaning he would have come in and been the Wings’ best defenseman right away. Comparatively, the Wings’ pick after being knocked back from fifth to sixth, forward Filip Zadina, has struggled to establish himself. Zadina posted 10 goals in 74 games this season despite getting ample opportunity in the top six and on power plays. He has 25 goals and 61 points in 160 career games.
1. 2021: Defenseman Owen Power
It has been a memorable 12 months for Power. As an 18-year-old, he represented Canada at the World Championship in Latvia in May 2021, then celebrated being the No. 1 pick in the draft two months later, after Buffalo again won the . Power returned to Michigan for his sophomore season, then went to the World Juniors and became the first Team Canada defenseman to record a hat trick in the tournament before it was shut down by COVID. He represented Canada again at the Beijing Olympics after the NHL pulled out, then went back to the Wolverines, whose championship hopes were dashed with an overtime loss in the Frozen Four semifinals. That’s an impressive résumé for a guy who won’t turn 20 till November. Power has it all: He’s a nimble skater who is 6-foot-6, 213 pounds, with the hands and hockey smarts to match. Just imagine Power and Seider pairing up for the Wings for the coming decade. The Wings’ choice at No. 6, 6-foot-5 defenseman Simon Edvinsson, certainly looks like a good pick, but Power would have turbocharged the rebuild.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.