Connor McDavid won't have to wait until the NHL draft to learn of his future. By the time he goes on stage and puts on a sweater, it'll be a fait accompli where he's going.
McDavid's big night is Saturday, when ping-pong balls will determine the first pick and the franchise fortunate enough to get a player considered a generational talent in the vein of Sidney Crosby.
"I haven't really thought about it too much, but it'll be an interesting time," McDavid said in Erie, Pa., recently. "I'll be watching it, for sure."
McDavid will be in Toronto for the lottery, easily the biggest since 2005 when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the right to select Crosby. The last-place Buffalo Sabres have the highest chance at 20 per cent, but any of the 14 teams that missed the playoffs could get him, with the odds balanced more than ever before.
That allows general managers to dream big. Don Maloney of the Arizona Coyotes (13.5 per cent chance) said winning the lottery would be a "home run," while Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers wondered aloud: "Wouldn't that be sweet?"
As the Toronto Maple Leafs (9.5 per cent) go into a rebuild, president Brendan Shanahan after talking about his long-term plan acknowledged winning the lottery "would certainly speed things up." He went off script but couldn't help it.
"Sorry, I'm still smiling at that last one," Shanahan said. "Can I smile?"
One team's owners, executives, coaches, players and fans will be smiling when the NHL reveals the winner just after 8 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. So will Erie Otters owner Sherry Bassin, whose admiration for the 18-year-old McDavid knows no bounds.
"I'm glad he's so special, that everyone wants him that has a chance to get him," Bassin said. "I want the best for Connor McDavid.
"I want him to go to a team that he really wants to be there and loves to be there and they love to have him. I'd think it would be any team."
It is. Imagine the Edmonton Oilers (11.5 per cent) being able to have No. 97 McDavid follow No. 99 Wayne Gretzky in leading a potential dynasty? How about Toronto drafting the star from nearby Newmarket, Ont. or McDavid going up against Crosby as a member of the rival Flyers?
McDavid could be the centrepiece for Arizona, Carolina (8.5 per cent) or Columbus (six per cent) and bring brand new fans to hockey in so-called non-traditional markets. Maybe an even bigger longshot comes in and McDavid is playing with Tyler Seguin on the Dallas Stars (2.5 per cent) or joins the two-time Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings (two per cent).
Everyone can dare to dream.
"I'm glad they're dreaming of him because he's a special package," Bassin said. "Where he goes is of no consequence to us because we know he's going to be a franchise player."
By finishing last, Buffalo is guaranteed one of the two franchise players available in the draft. If the Sabres don't win the lottery, they'll pick second and can take Boston University centre Jack Eichel.
Considered one of the best draft crops in recent history, the consolation prizes for lottery losers also include Ontario Hockey League scoring leader (and McDavid teammate) Dylan Strome, Boston College defenceman Noah Hanifin, Kingston Frontenancs winger Lawson Crouse and London Knights winger Mitchell Marner.
Maloney said at a season-ending news conference in Arizona there were many "terrific players" available. But this is undoubtedly the McDavid lottery and his moment.
"I'm going to relish in the fact he's going to see this moment come that he dreamed of happening," Bassin said. "I'm going to feel and believe in my heart this is so deserved."
Full lottery odds:
1. Buffalo Sabres: 20.0 per cent; 2. Arizona Coyotes: 13.5 per cent; 3. Edmonton Oilers: 11.5 per cent; 4. Toronto Maple Leafs: 9.5 per cent; 5. Carolina Hurricanes: 8.5 per cent; 6. New Jersey Devils: 7.5 per cent; 7. Philadelphia Flyers: 6.5 per cent.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets: six per cent; 9. San Jose Sharks: five per cent; 10. Colorado Avalanche: 3.5 per cent; 11. Florida Panthers: three per cent; 12. Dallas Stars: 2.5 per cent; 13. Los Angeles Kings: two per cent; 14. Boston Bruins: one per cent.
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