Top 6: Ranking Connor McDavid’s Potential Draft Destinations

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

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All respect to Jack Eichel, maybe Noah Hanifin. To Oliver Kylington or Lawson Crouse or Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Matthew Barzal, and the 300 or so others who will have the happiest day of their lives on June 26, 2015.

Because it will be Connor McDavid’s draft.

It will be Connor McDavid’s draft to Connor McDavid, to TSN, and to all of us who are either watching or reading the recaps at home. And it’s certainly Connor McDavid’s draft to any team – fans, general managers, all hangers-on included – that’s trending toward Twenty-Fifteen’s tank. If you’re near the bottom right now, you’re not making the playoffs. So you’re either looking at McDavid or at the several potentially stud teens ranked after him – the guys above, or others.

This just happens sometimes. Evgeni Malkin’s a fine player, an MVP of both the regular season and the playoffs and probably a Hall of Famer. But 2004 was Alex Ovechkin’s year. Bobby Ryan’s a very good player, the best offensive one on the Ottawa Senators. But 2005 was Sidney Crosby’s year.

Read: ‘The Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel sweepstakes’ by Mike Brehm, USA Today (January 18, 2015)

So in June, Connor McDavid will be chosen first overall. He won’t have a choice of where he’ll live for (at least) the next three years; he won’t get to pick who employs him or who he plays for. Because of his immense talent, he won’t even have the option of university. And if he did choose to bail on camp this fall in exchange for a college campus – normally, that’s the practical thing – we’d all hate him, wouldn’t we?

1. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres are tied with Edmonton, dead-last in the NHL with 31 points. But with an 11-game losing streak, we’ll have to give Buffalo the bottom spot.

I’d love to see McDavid go to Buffalo; this could be a rousing success. Not only is Buffalo close enough to McDavid’s universe – he was born and raised in Newmarket (in greater Toronto) and plays his junior hockey in Pennsylvania – but the kid would jump to a team that’s conscious of its recent awfulness and has been actively trying to right the ship, not for right now but for tomorrow.

All the best No. 1’s had that, to go to a franchise devoid of a winning record but full of hope and, even better, the expertise on-board to turn it around – Crosby had it with Mario’s Penguins, Ovechkin with the Capitals. Patrick Kane joined a young Blackhawks team already in mid-stride, and Jonathan Toews was taking resumes for a running mate.

Read: ‘NHL Draft: Has the Connor McDavid Show Already Jumped the Shark?‘ by White Cover Magazine (October 16, 2014)

Plus, how great would it be to see the Sabres with McDavid and Sam Reinhart as their one-two at centre for years to come? It wasn’t that long ago that Buffalo was contending for a Cup, with a Presidents’ Trophy to brag about. They might not be far away from another run.

*The only flyer here is Ted Nolan, and whether he’s the right man for a team hopefully on the comeback…

2. Edmonton Oilers

God. Please help Connor McDavid.

Don’t let him go to this swirling black hole of dysfunction, where management swallows and spits out the bones of players once considered generational talents. McDavid would be the best of them – above No. 1 picks like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov – but he’d also but just another one of them.

God. Don’t let the talent of Connor McDavid be sucked into this pit of northern Albertan ancient resin. It would be like that part in Oliver Twist where Fagin takes Oliver hostage, makes him steal and rewards him with hole-pocked gloves and crappy tins of food.

God. I don’t even believe you’re up there, nevermind listening to this. I just… really… don’t want this to happen.

3. Arizona Coyotes

I’m sort of neutral on this one – I haven’t given it much thought.

So far, all we’ve heard of are Buffalo, Edmonton, and Carolina. But the Coyotes have been slumping all the way through the season, their goaltending has been patchy and normally just awful, and the team seems to have all but given up on their season, even if they haven’t given up on next season or whatever may come after that.

Their best players are the subject of never-ending trade rumours – Keith Yandle, Antoine Vermette, and Shane Doan, then others – and talk of the team being sold and shipped somewhere else won’t end until either or both happens multiple times.

That said, McDavid would join a team with a collection of talented prospects – Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson, Ryan McInnis, and Brendan Perlini at forward, Brandon Gormley on defence – and some talented vets. If Doan hangs around, it’d be great for him to mentor (or at least captain) McDavid, and both Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson can hit the kid tape-to-tape from 200 feet.

The Coyotes also have some speed and size in Martin Hanzal and Micheal Boedker, and goalie Mike Smith has the history to show he can rebound when the team does.

*Again, the wild card here may be Dave Tippett. A master coach, but is he the guy to get McDavid playing and producing right away? Even if McDavid’s not ready for the NHL next season, you can bet the Coyotes’ management won’t be patient with him.

Read: ‘Coyotes enter tank mode, save it for McDavid’ by Luke Fox, Sportsnet Canada (January 15, 2015)

4. Carolina Hurricanes

It’s sort of funny – for all the talk McDavid gets in comparison to Sidney Crosby, simply because Sid was the NHL’s last can’t miss phenom 10 years ago, the guy Connor reminds me most of as a player is Eric Staal, the top line centre and captain of the Hurricanes.

They’ve got lanky bodies they use to their advantage, they can fly, and they’re dominant players with the puck down low… probably because they can fly and use their lanky bodies (aka reach) to their advantage.

Personally, I think Carolina’s another great fit for McDavid, maybe above Buffalo.

Putting him in Edmonton – a Canadian market that’s angrily, desperately frothing for contention – would be a circus and, maybe, a disaster. But letting McDavid settle, grow, and mature in Raleigh, where nobody would care about his failures until he’s the superstar everyone thinks he’ll become, would be great for kid – and for the NHL.

5. New Jersey Devils

The Devils have the most important position on the ice figured out – Cory Schneider is the institution in Tony Soprano’s backyard, and now New Jersey just has to built from the net forward.

The problem with the Devils is, even though they’ve been a tough opponent this year, they don’t have the firepower – or the balance of age and youth – to score consistently.

It’s no coincidence they’re fifth-last in the NHL in goals scored, and fifth-last in the NHL in the standings.

Vets like Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, Dainius Zubrus, Michael Ryder, Martin Havlat, Tuomo Ruutu, and Steve Bernier have been nice fills, but they’re glue to suture a festering wound.

Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique are in the middle of their development or careers, but they need a dynamo or two to copy and paste with. And Mike Cammalleri may be 32 already, but he’s got a lot of plug-and-play scoring hockey left in him.

Has anybody considered the Devils as the home for McDavid? Probably not, but the more I write about it, the more it sort of fits. (Then again, is there anywhere – besides Edmonton – you wouldn’t expect this kid to fit?)

6. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers insist they’re not going to be happy if they’re in the race for McDavid, still believing two forwards (Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux) make a team.

But even if they say they’ll be bummed to ‘win’ the draft lottery, those are lemons a lot of teams would gladly turn into lemonade.

The Flyers have scored 127 goals this season – four more than our Vancouver Canucks – but they’re floating along with an 18-22-7 record, not really treading water but swallowing it.

Philly is an obviously attractive destination for any young player, with their history and their roster’s talent – they were the East’s fourth seed in 2014, and they remind me of the Tampa team that drafted Jonathan Drouin third overall two years ago, even though the Lightning on-paper should have been picking up around 20 or so.

The Flyers picked an agreeable year to not give it the old college try. If they get McDavid, they might just add the stable centreman they’ve needed to buoy talents like Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier.

If they get McDavid, they’ll be contending again as soon as next season.