ANAHEIM, Calif. — The NHL Draft Lottery was held today in Secaucus, NJ. The Ducks had the best odds to win the draft lottery after finishing 32nd overall in the standings thanks to a 13-game losing streak that closed out the season.
The team with the best odds to win had won the draft lottery the previous two years, with Montreal selecting Juraj Slafkovsky last year and Buffalo selecting Owen Power in 2021. However, fate would not fall in the Ducks’ favor as they dropped to second overall, with the Chicago Blackhawks winning the draft lottery.
Anaheim will be picking second overall for the third time in franchise history after selecting Bobby Ryan in 2005 and Oleg Tverdovsky in 1994.
“If you would have told me probably three or four days before the season was coming to a close that we were going to get the No. 2 pick, I would have been extremely excited,” said general manager Pat Verbeek in a press conference following the draft lottery results.
“Obviously, it looks like Connor Bedard will go No. 1, but now we get to determine and pick the player we want. If we would have slid to No. 3, someone else would have dictated that. So, now we get to make the pick.”
Fantilli the favorite at No. 2
The pick here is likely Adam Fantilli, who’s coming off a fantastic freshman season at Michigan (30-35–65 in 36 games) where he won the Hobey Baker and helped lead the team to the Frozen Four. His 1.81 points per game were the most in college hockey since Michigan alum and current Winnipeg Jet Kyle Connor put up 1.87 points per game in 2017.
Fantilli became just the third freshman to win the Hobey Baker after Jack Eichel and Hall of Famer Paul Kariya. As impressive as his campaign was, Fantilli has not yet decided whether he will return to Michigan for his sophomore season or turn pro.
Fantilli was also a part of the gold-winning Canada team at World Juniors and showed he has many elements to his game aside from just his skill. He will be part of the Canadian team that competes at the World Championships.
Like Bedard, the same conundrum would be present with Fantilli, who’s a natural center. He spent time on the wing at World Juniors as well. Whether Anaheim decides to go three deep down the middle or beef up the top-6 by shifting one of their pivots to the wing will be a situation to keep an eye on.
In any other draft, it’s possible that Fantilli would have gone first overall. Thanks to Bedard, he falls to No. 2 and becomes a terrific “consolation prize” for the Ducks.
A return to Michigan would be a blow for fans that want to see their favorite team’s newest addition locally, but as we’ve seen in the past, sometimes another year of domination can be the best-case scenario for a player’s development.
What comes next?
Now that the Ducks know where they’re picking, the search for the next head coach ramps up. Verbeek said in his press conference availability that he “probably would have had more time if we would have won the lottery but now I’ve got some more work to do”.
Being able to coach Bedard surely would have interested many potential candidates. With that no longer a possibility, Verbeek can start narrowing down his shortlist. He said that he’s optimistic about having a new head coach in before the draft next month but he’s “not holding my breath to it”.