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The Lasting Positive Effects of Tanking

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Why tanking for a potential lottery pick will have significant benefits for Anaheim for years to come.

NHL Draft Lottery Photo by Brad White/Getty Images

My good friend and fellow staffer here at Anaheim Calling, George Contreras, recently wrote an article explaining why the Ducks in his opinion will not be tanking for the rest of the season.

If this is the case, then it would be a huge mistake, in my opinion. It will very likely affect the long term outlook of the franchise.

The Ducks currently, per MoneyPuck, have a 0% chance of making the playoffs with nine games remaining. Yes, they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet, but for all intents and purposes their hope of making the playoffs has been eliminated. Given this fact, every point gained by the Ducks worsens their position for the upcoming draft.

How much, you might ask? At the time of this article, the Ducks have the 5th worst point total in the league with 69 (nice) points in 74 games. In this position, the Ducks would have an 8.5% chance of first overall, a 17.2% chance of being in the top two, and a 26.1% chance of being in the top three.

See the image below per Tankathon for the percentage chance of each draft position at the time of writing.

Draft Lottery Odds

As you can see, the odds change a fair amount as you go up and down the standings. If the Ducks were to move to the sixth worst record in the league, their odds of winning the first overall pick would drop by a full percentage point, two percentage points for ending up in the top two, and two and a half percentage points for ending up in the top three. The inverse of that happens if the Ducks were to move to the fourth worst record instead.

Nothing is guaranteed with the draft lottery, of course. The Senators’ pick, which is owned by the Avalanche because of the hilariously bad Matt Duchene trade, only has an 18.5% chance of ending up first overall. However, it has a 35% chance of being a top two pick, and nearly a 50% chance of being in the top three.

To give you a sense of the numbers, as of right now, the Ducks’ odds of ending up with one of the top two picks are almost the same as the odds of the Avalanche (via the Senators) ending up with the first overall pick.

So, with the odds now established, you might be wondering, “Why tank if the last place team has less than a 20% chance of winning first overall”?

Some have argued that it is better for the team to have success now in order to build a winning environment for moving forward. That it’s better for the kids to gain confidence and experience going into next year. While I will concede this end of the season stretch could help the team long term, will those effects be greater than getting a first or second pick? I would argue that it will not with the talent in this year’s draft, especially considering the potential impact either Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko might have.

At the end of the day, tanking is hedging your bets. It is providing the franchise with the best odds and opportunity to improve the team long term. Let’s take a look at the franchises and players picked in the lottery spots in the last few drafts:

2018 NHL Entry Draft

1st Overall: Rasmus Dahlin, D (Rookie Season: 71GP 8G 29A 37P)

2nd Overall: Andrei Svechnikov, RW (Rookie Season: 71GP 18G 15A 33P)

3rd Overall: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C (Rookie Season: 70GP 11G 21A 32P)

2017 NHL Entry Draft

1st Overall: Nico Hischier C (Rookie Season: 82GP 20G 32A 52P)

2nd Overall: Nolan Patrick C (Rookie Season: 73GP 13G 17A 30P)

3rd Overall: Miro Heiskanen D (Rookie Season: 71GP 10G 19A 29P, didn’t jump to the NHL right away)

2016 NHL Entry Draft

1st Overall: Auston Matthews C (Rookie Season: 82GP 40G 29A 69P)

2nd Overall: Patrick Laine RW (Rookie Season: 73GP 36G 28A 64P)

3rd Overall: Pierre-Luc Dubois C (Rookie Season: 82GP 20G 28A 48P, didn’t jump to the NHL right away)

2015 NHL Entry Draft

1st Overall: Connor McDavid C (Rookie Season: 45GP 16G 32A 48P)

2nd Overall: Jack Eichel C (Rookie Season: 81GP 24G 32A 56P)

3rd Overall: Dylan Strome C (Rookie Season: 21GP 4G 5A 9P, didn’t jump to the NHL right away)

From looking at this list of players, you will get a solid to great player with a top three pick. Obviously, not every pick at number one will be as good as Connor McDavid. But, on the other hand, not every third pick will be as disappointing as Dylan Strome, even with though he has quietly put it together and turned into a very productive player since being moved to Chicago.

Every top two pick in these recent drafts has instantly made the NHL, and the forwards from these picks have put up at least 30 points, with the higher impact players getting up into the 60s. As a frame of reference, the leading scorer on the Ducks this season has 44 points. A player producing 30 points would rank 5th on the team.

Historically the top two picks have made an instant impact, but that does not necessarily mean the players available for this year’s draft will have that same impact. At the end of the day the draft is still an unknown, with teams selecting players at 18 years old.

So how does this year’s draft stack up with prior ones? By all accounts, the top two picks will likely have a significant impact on their team. See below for some various descriptions on both players:

Jack Hughes

From our very own John Broadbent in his draft preview piece back in February:

Still rated the likely first overall pick, Hughes contains a dangerous combination of speed, skill, vision and hockey smarts. His elite level skating makes him a force when moving, and he is dynamic with the puck both from a stand-still or while on the rush. He has 56 points in 28 games for the USNTDP while playing as their first line center and captain; he also had four assists in four games for Team USA at the World Juniors. Potentially his one and only knock right now is size, which - with the ever changing nature of the new NHL- is not as much an issue as it used to be.

From Corey Pronman of the Athletic back in January:

Hughes is one of the best USA prospects to be a first-year draft-eligible prospect. He’s an elite skater who is so tough when he gets going with speed. He’s got a high skill level and great vision with the puck and, at a standstill, he can make highly skilled plays QBing a power play. But what makes Hughes stand out from your typical playmaker is how he makes those plays at a million miles an hour. He’ll put pucks through legs while skating full speed and hit a target across the ice. His speed is his biggest strength and at times his biggest weakness. He has a small, slight frame and, unlike your typical elite playmakers – like Johnny Gaudreau and Pavel Datsyuk, who made a living not getting hit – Hughes gets hit a little more than you’d like.

Kaapo Kakko

From Sam Consentino of Sportsnet this month:

Patrik Laine and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have paved the way with a similar career path. There is some thought Kakko could play centre, and if the team picking first believes that, he may very well bypass Hughes.

From John Broadbent:

From an American with heart to an American heart breaker - Kakko scored the game winning goal to give Finland the gold medal over Team USA at this year’s World Juniors. He has a size advantage over Hughes and has many observers starting to look his way as their choice for a first overall selection. His biggest strength is his vision, reading the play while it is still developing, and using his hockey smarts to create while using his size to shield the puck.

From Corey Pronman:

Kakko has had a fantastic season in Finland, playing significant minutes in the country’s top league. He’s got the high-end hands to make plays through defenders and the cute dangles that will make highlight reels. He’s incredibly smart offensively. Kakko can make the real tough passes and makes a lot of great decisions, but his creativity is what impressed me most. He’ll try stuff that most 17-year-olds can’t execute in junior, never mind versus pros. Kakko has good size, and he’s not afraid to lean on guys. His speed is just average for me. He’s not slow, but his skating is not the selling point of his game.

Also this recently happened with Kakko:

These two are the two players in this draft that can instantly make a huge impact on the roster, but there is still plenty of other talent in the draft. Hughes and Kakko, per Pronman, are considered special prospects, while players in the 3-6 range on his draft board are Elite NHL prospects. Players after the 6th spot fall mainly in the high-end prospect category.

Here are Pronman’s categories:

  • Special prospect: Projects to be one of the very best players in the league at their position.
  • Elite prospect: Projects to be top 10-15 percent of the league at their position.
  • High-end prospect: Projects as a legit top-line forward who can play on your PP1/top pairing defenseman.
  • Very good prospect: Projects as a top-six forward/top-four defenseman/starting goaltender.

Having said all of this, the top two players in this years draft are special players that could be franchise superstars for this Ducks franchise moving forward. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are past their prime and only have a few years left, and as much as we all like the prospects within the organization, none of them are likely to be franchise superstars for this team like Getzlaf and Perry have been for the past 10+ seasons given their previous results leading up until now.

The Ducks need to find that superstar to lead this team into it’s next iteration as a franchise. They have a rare, legitimate shot at getting Hughes or Kakko. This team will most likely be much better next season, leaving this year as the only year for the Ducks to take a run at getting first or second overall. But with every win down the stretch, the chances of that happening get worse and worse.

There are currently eight games left in the season, and I for one am willing to suffer through eight more losses for the potential long term gain that it could bring by increasing the odds of getting Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko into a Ducks jersey.