After winning just a single point in their last six games the Thrashers have dropped down into the basement of the NHL standings. If the season ended today the Thrashers would pick 6th or 7th (they are tied with FLA in Win %). However, the teams at the bottom are very tightly bunched and if the Thrashers tailspin continues they could easily end up with the 3rd overall draft pick. Carolina has been red hot and the Thrashers play them twice more, Atlanta could easily "catch" the Hurricanes for the 3rd worst position by the end of the season.
- EDM 49
- TOR 58
- CAR 64
- NYI 65
- CBJ 65
- FLA 66
- ATL 67
- TBL 68
Now, I realize that most fans are probably thinking "enough with the high draft picks!" But consider this for a moment. They key to building a contender is assembling a foundation of young talent that will continue to grow and improvement over a 5-6 period as they enter their peak performance years. The Chicago Blackhawks and LA Kings have done exactly that and should be powerhouses for the next few years as a result. The Thrasher have had a handful of young and talented stars but they have never had more than a handful at any one point in time.
If the Thrashers were to sneak into the top three picks they would have a shot at drafting one of the top scoring talents in the 2010 NHL Draft: Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall or a solid top six prospect like Nino Niederreiter. Each of these prospects might be able to step into the NHL at age 18 and play next season. The Thrashers prospect pool is deep in several positions, but scoring forwards are always in short supply. Jeremy Morin probably needs another season in juniors to work on his skating and Eric O'Dell might need a year or two in the AHL
If the Thrashers were lucky enough to land either Seguin, Hall or Niederriter those players would be comparatively cheap during their 3 year entry level contract. They could fill out a top six spot and leave the team money to go add a free agent scorer in the off season.
What are the odds of picking in the top three? Here are the Club Sports Odds of Atlanta finished in each draft slot at the end of the year.
- 01% chance
- 10% chance
- 16% chance
- 21% chance
- 22% chance
- 17% chance
If you add up the probabilities there is a 27% chance (better than 1 in 4) of the Atlanta finishing in the bottom three. Of course finished 3rd worse doesn't guaranteee the 3rd pick because of the draft lottery. The Thrashers could move down one slot (if a team behind them won) or up to the #1 pick if they won the lottery. The winner can move up a maximum of 4 spots in the draft order so the 4th and 5th place slot teams have a small chance of picking in the top three--but it is only a small chance. (4th place as an 11% of winning the lottery and 5th place an 8% chance of winning). The odds of the Thrashers finishing in the bottom five are 70% right now. So there is a very good chance that we will be waiting on pins and needles on lottery day.
As painful as it is to fall out of the playoff race this late in the season, adding another elite talent could add another young building block to the foundation of the team. There are only two phases in pro sports. If you're not contending you're rebuilding.