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Coyotes curse: 10 franchise top picks that got away in NHL Draft Lottery

Craig Morgan Avatar
May 5, 2023

Coyotes captain Connor Bedard. It has a nice ring to it, in an alliteration kind of way. Just don’t hold your breath on ever being able to utter that phrase, unless you run a certain Twitter account.

We all know that the Coyotes’ lottery luck has not been good. We all know that Mullett magic ruined the probabilities of adding far more important magic to this prospect pool this spring. Seventeen existing teams have won the NHL Draft Lottery (some more than once) since its inception in 1995. The Coyotes have never even had a top-two pick; one of four teams that has existed more than six seasons that can say that, per NHL Stats.

The Tankathon odds tells us that this won’t be the year that the Coyotes’ luck finally changes, but as Joe Ducko noted (also on Elon’s decaying app) the law of averages is skewed heavily in the Coyotes’ favor.

Will this finally be the year? Will the Coyotes add a Bedard or Adam Fantilli booster shot to the rebuild? While we wait for the lottery to begin at 5 p.m. on Monday, here’s a look at 10 guys who got away in the lottery, any one of whom would have altered the franchise’s course.

Coyotes draft lottery
Alex Ovechkin has had great moments against the Coyotes. Imagine if he had been doing those things for the Coyotes. (Getty Images)

2004
Finish: 5th worst
Odds: 8.1 percent
Actual draft spot: 5th
Pick: Blake Wheeler
Winning team: Washington Capitals
Top overall pick: Alex Ovechkin
Thoughts: Obviously, landing Ovechkin (or even Evgeni Malkin, who went No. 2) could have altered the course of the franchise. Imagine how either’s presence might have aided the playoff teams from 2010-2012. Landing Wheeler at No. 5 was an in-the-moment stroke of genius. Nobody expected the pick but he turned into the third-most productive player in the draft. There was only one problem. He wouldn’t sign here. After frustrating and sometimes contentious talks with then-GM Don Maloney, Wheeler became a free agent in 2008 and signed with Boston. The Coyotes got a compensatory pick for him; the fifth pick in the second round of the 2008 draft. They traded it to Anaheim along with a second-round pick in 2008 (39th overall) in a deal that sent Dallas’ first-round pick in 2008 (28th overall) to Phoenix. That 28th pick became Viktor Tikhonov. Sigh.

2005
Finish: Season canceled due to lockout
Odds: 4.2 percent
Actual draft spot: 17th
Pick: Martin Hanzal
Winning team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Top overall pick: Sidney Crosby
Thoughts: Because the 2005 draft followed a season-long lockout, the lottery worked differently than years past. Teams were allotted one, two or three balls based on playoff appearances and first overall draft picks from the previous three years. Every team had a chance to win Sidney Crosby. The four teams with three balls and the greatest chances of winning were the Blue Jackets, Rangers, Sabres and Penguins. The Coyotes were in a 10-team group with two balls. The Penguins were having their own arena and ownership issues at the time. Miraculously, one year after drafting Evgeni Malkin at No. 2, they landed Crosby and the core of their future as a Cup contender was built. Cue those conspiracy theories.

Coyotes draft lottery luck.
Patrick Kane won the Stanley Cup three times with the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Hart Trophy in 2016. (Getty Images)

2007
Finish: 2nd worst
Odds: 18.8 percent
Actual draft spot: 3rd
Pick: Kyle Turris
Winning team: Chicago Blackhawks
Top overall pick: Patrick Kane
Thoughts: This one stings as much as any. Only the worst five teams were eligible for the top overall pick. The Blackhawks had the fifth-worst record. To the surprise of nobody, especially conspiracy theorists, they jumped to No. 1 and landed the guy who ended a 49-year Cup drought with the game-winning goal in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. The Coyotes got Kyle Turris who rubbed teammates and coaches the wrong way, held out in an absurd contract dispute, and was eventually traded. Turris became a productive player, but he never lived up to his draft status as a top center. Six picks later, the Sharks chose Logan Couture.

2009
Finish: tie for 5th worst
Odds: None at No. 1
Actual draft spot: 6th
Pick: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Winning team: New York Islanders
Top overall pick: John Tavares
Thoughts: The Coyotes finished tied with Los Angeles for the league’s fifth-worst record but the Kings got the fifth slot and the Coyotes got the sixth based on having more wins. The only teams with the opportunity to receive the first overall selection were the five teams with the lowest regular-season point totals. Tavares turned into a No. 1 center, but it’s hard to argue with the OEL selection. He turned into one of the best picks in franchise history.

2013
Finish: 12th worst
Odds: 1.1 percent
Actual draft spot: 12th
Pick: Max Domi
Winning team: Colorado Avalanche
Top overall pick: Nathan MacKinnon
Thoughts: It’s easy to look at the big name at the top and think, wow, the Coyotes could have had Nathan MacKinnon. The reality is that their odds were next to negligible. Arizona barely missed the playoffs after a three-year postseason run under Dave Tippett. Nobody was focused on the lottery. The IceArizona group had just taken ownership, an arena-lease deal had been struck with the City of Glendale and there was still a belief that the much maligned Coyotes had finally turned the corner toward better days. Psyche.

Coyotes draft lottery
Did you know that Auston Matthews is from Arizona? Of course you did. (Getty Images)

2015
Finish: 2nd worst
Odds: 13.5 percent
Actual draft spot: 3rd
Pick: Dylan Strome
Winning team: Edmonton Oilers
Top overall pick: Connor McDavid
Thoughts: This one was absurdly unfair. The Oilers jumped two posts to land the No. 1 overall pick for the fourth time in six years. That injustice led the league to change its rules for the 2021 lottery so that teams could not win the lottery more than twice in a five-year period. It didn’t help the Coyotes. While the Oilers got one of the top 10 players of all time, and the Sabres landed Jack Eichel, the Coyotes got Dylan Strome. Strome had a nice season in Washington last year, but he is not a No. 1 center, which is what the Coyotes have needed for 20-plus years.

2016
Finish: 7th worst
Odds: 6.5 percent
Actual draft spot: 7th overall
Pick: Clayton Keller
Winning team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Top overall pick: Auston Matthews
Thoughts: Matthews was born two days too late to be eligible for the 2015 NHL draft. Had he been born two days earlier, he would have been a Buffalo Sabre, Jack Eichel would have been a Coyote and the Maple Leafs would probably still be trying to figure out how to get out of the first round (a disease that has now transferred to the second round). It would have been such a perfect story for the Coyotes to win this lottery and bring home the hometown boy, but keep hope alive. While Matthews may not come to Arizona after his contract expires in 2024, he could still find his way home at some point in the future. He genuinely loves it here.

2018
Finish: 3rd worst
Odds: 11.5 percent
Actual draft spot: 5th
Pick: Barrett Hayton
Winning team: Buffalo Sabres
Top overall pick: Rasmus Dahlin
Thoughts: This one was annoying. Not because the Sabres landed Dahlin. Buffalo had the league’s worst record. Their propensity for winning lotteries wouldn’t become annoying until two years later. This one was annoying because Carolina jumped from the 11th worst record to No. 1 and nabbed pure scorer Andrei Svechnikov. Then Montréal jumped into the third spot and took Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Had one of those teams stayed in place, the Coyotes would have had a shot at drafting Brady Tkachuk, who went to Ottawa at No. 4. Or would they have? There were reports that then-GM John Chayka still would have taken Hayton ahead of Tkachuk. Had that played out, the fan base would have lost its collective mind.

Jack Hughes is blossoming into an NHL superstar in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Getty Images)

2019
Finish: 14th worst
Odds: 1.5 percent
Actual draft spot: 14th
Pick: Victor Söderström
Winning team: New Jersey Devils
Top overall pick: Jack Hughes
Thoughts: The Coyotes traded the 14th pick and a second-round pick (No. 45) to the Philadelphia Flyers to move up and draft Söderström, a move and pick that were widely panned at the time and look no better in hindsight. Meanwhile, Hughes is emerging as a superstar.

2021
Finish: 10th worst
Odds: None
Actual draft spot: No first round pick
Pick: None
Winning team: Buffalo Sabres
Top overall pick: Owen Power
Thoughts: The Coyotes were stripped of their No. 1 pick for illegally fitness testing  
prospects ahead of the NHL Draft Combine under Chayka. New GM Bill Armstrong made wine out of water, however, by trading Oliver-Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland to Vancouver and acquiring the No. 9 overall pick (along with veterans Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel). The Coyotes used that pick to select Dylan Guenther. Power is a finalist for the Calder Trophy. He looks like a mainstay, top-pair defenseman for a long time; something the Coyotes do not have in their ever deepening prospect pool.

Top photo of Connor McDavid via Getty Images

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