The 2019 NHL Draft is just over a month away, and the teams which failed to qualify for the playoffs have been preparing for the offseason for months now. Here is a look at the biggest offseason questions for every NHL Lottery team as we inch closer to the draft.
15. Montreal Canadiens: Improving the Defense in Front of Carey Price.
The Montreal Canadiens just missed out on the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and only came close because of the stellar play of their goalie Carey Price. The defense in front of him took a big hit with captain Shea Weber missing 24 games last season, and their defensive depth was less than average. With surprisingly good production from their offense, the Canadiens will need to address their defensive core this off-season.
14. Arizona Coyotes: Is Darcy Kuemper the Starting Goalie?
The Arizona Coyotes are another team that just missed out on the postseason this year. They shocked the hockey world by even being in the conversation to make the playoffs down the stretch, mostly because of their question mark in net. They have three goalies who have the potential to be a starting goalie in Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta, and Calvin Pickard. Raanta was seen as the starter heading into last season, but injuries forced him to miss a good chunk of the season and gave Kuemper the opportunity to prove his worth. They also have Pickard who could potentially challenge for the crease. Arizona needs to identify who their starting goalie is and fill in the holes in front of him going forward.
13. Florida Panthers: Is Their Goaltending Tandem Good Enough?
The Florida Panthers ran with two starters in net last season with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, who each played over 35 games. It is hard for a team to be competitive when they don't have a definitive No. 1 goaltender. For the Panthers, they will either need to improve their defensive game as a whole in order to mask their question mark in net, or go out and make a splash in the offseason and make a play for Sergei Bobrovsky, who reportedly wanted to play in Florida when trade rumors were surfacing near the Trade Deadline.
12. Minnesota Wild: Are Their Veteran Players Holding Them Back?
The Minnesota Wild have a solid group of young players to build around for the future, and they also have a bonafide starting goalie in Devon Dubnyk. Their real worries come from their older players, who all take up good amounts of the salary cap, making it harder for the Minnesota to bring in help for their younger core. The three captains of the Wild--Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter--combine for almost $21 million of their cap, with Parise and Suter on contract for another six years at $7.5 million per year.
11. Philadelphia Flyers: How to Give Their Young Players Time to Develop
The Philadelphia Flyers may have one of the most promising futures in the NHL, with deep prospects at every position, and their goalie of the future in Carter Hart. The most important thing for the Flyers and their fans from this point forward is patience, let their young guns develop and learn the adjustments to the NHL, and they can't try to speed up the process by sacrificing parts of their future for a playoff push that could end in the first round. If the Flyers let their forward prospects grow and give their defensive prospects more experience, they may have already answered all of their questions moving forward.
10. Vancouver Canucks: Is Their Prospect Pool Deep Enough?
The Vancouver Canucks have some good young players on their roster, namely Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, along with promising prospects yet to crack the roster. Their goaltending seems to be set for the future with Thatcher Demko and Michael DiPietro in their system, and their defense will be highlighted by Hughes and Jet Woo. Their offense, however, doesn't have the largest selection of prospects. Obviously the 10th overall pick will help that if they decide to go with a forward, but in the midst of a rebuild, their biggest question should be their forward prospects.
9. Anaheim Ducks: How Can They Improve Their Scoring?
The Anaheim Ducks have their franchise goalie in John Gibson, and have built a solid defensive core in front of him. The Ducks let up 3.02 goals per game, which is not even among the Top-10 worst goals against per game. However, they only scored 2.39 goals per game, which was dead last in the NHL. Their leading scorer was Ryan Getzlaf at 48 points and only had three players how had a positive plus/minus rating. They NEED to draft a forward with the ninth overall selection in the draft, and NEED to prioritize offense going forward to even begin to think about qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
8. Edmonton Oilers: How Can They Get Connor McDavid to the Playoffs
The Edmonton Oilers have arguably the best player in the NHL in Connor McDavid, and he hasn't even entered his prime yet. With that being said, he has been to the playoffs just once, as the Oilers have failed to build a contending team around him. There are so many question marks surrounding Edmonton. Is their goalie, Mikko Koskinen, good enough to backstop a contending team? Can their Top-2 defensive pair keep up with the best players from the opposing teams on a nightly basis? Do the Oilers have the necessary depth to qualify for the playoffs, much less succeed in them? The questions are endless, but the Oilers need to find a way to get McDavid a contending team sooner rather than later.
7. Buffalo Sabres: When Will Buffalo Complete Their Rebuild?
It seems as if the Buffalo Sabres have been rebuilding since they lost to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They have yet to develop players into a complete, contending unit, and have not qualified for the playoffs in eight years, which is the longest active playoff drought in the NHL. Buffalo has compiled a solid amount of talent in all aspects of their lineup, but have yet to find the best compliments to their young players and have little to no depth throughout their roster. The Sabres have another Top-10 draft pick this year and will add another prospect to their pool which seems to never develop. The Sabres need to find a way to complete the rebuild, it has lasted for far too long.
6. Detroit Red Wings: Is it Time to Fully Rebuild in HockeyTown?
The Detroit Red Wings are one of those teams who are stuck in the middle of their division, and have yet to decide whether to add players and make a push for a wild card spot, or to tear it down and embrace a rebuild. The Red Wings have a handful of very promising young players in Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Filip Zadina, and Evgeni Svechnikov. With a solid prospect pool and a good farm system, is it time to rebuild the Red Wings in order to return to their glory? Or is it possible to do a minor retool and compete with this group?
5. Los Angeles Kings: How to Get Younger as Soon as Possible
The Los Angeles Kings are far removed from their two cups in three years, and finished dead last in the Western Conference this past season, and second to last in the NHL. They have a lot of players who are not getting any younger, such as Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Jeff Carter. However, they do have one of the best defenseman in the NHL in Drew Doughty, who is still in the middle of the prime. The Kings biggest question should be moving on from some of these older players, and building a younger core in order to make them competitive while Doughty is still at the top of his game.
4. Ottawa Senators: Where Will They Get More Prospects?
For a team as bad as the Ottawa Senators have been, they don't have the deepest of prospect pools. Although it is highlighted by one of the best prospects in the NHL, Eric Brannstrom, they have very few prospects who could alter this franchise. With Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk already on the roster, and trading away their first round pick this season (4th overall) it will be hard to bolster their farm system immediately. Going forward, the Senators need to unload practically all of their veterans and acquire as many draft picks possible and build up for their future through the draft.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Can the 3rd Overall Pick Get Them Back in the Playoffs?
The Chicago Blackhawks did not miss the playoffs by much, and got extremely lucky in moving up nine draft picks thanks to the NHL Draft Lottery. They have a solid core with experienced veterans and an offense led by Patrick Kane and Johnathon Toews, is it possible that whoever they select with the third pick could lift them back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs? With Corey Crawford and Cam Ward sharing time in the net and playing relatively well, can the defensive core improve their play, and can the offense continue their 3.26 goals per game next season and return to the post season?
2. New York Rangers: What is Henrik Lundqvist's Future in the Big Apple?
With the emergence of Alexandar Georgiev and the signing of their top goalie prospect and top goalie in the KHL Igor Shesterkin, where does this take the Rangers goaltending situation going forward? Henrik Lundqvist failed to reach the 20-win mark for the first time in his 14 year career as a Ranger, and registering career lows in goals against average at 3.07 and save percentage at .907%. Lundqvist will most likely be the starting goalie for this upcoming season, at least to kick things off, but down the stretch will we see something Rangers fans haven't experienced since the 2004-05 season? When will the King have to give up his thrown of Madison Square Garden?
1. New Jersey Devils: How Long Will it Take for This Young Team to Become a Contender?
The New Jersey Devils won the 2019 Draft Lottery and earned the right to pick first overall in the upcoming draft. With an already solid young roster, they will only add to a hopeful future come June 21st. With their goalie of the future seeming to be ready to take the reigns, Mackenzie Blackwood showed great promise in his 23 games last season. With former Hart Trophy winner returning from injury to play alongside Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri, adding the best prospect in the draft to the lineup will only make this team better as a whole. Could we see the Devils make a run at the playoffs next season?