Never mind “Lose For Hughes.” Perhaps “Sigh For Five” is more like it.
With the second-best odds of winning the top pick in June’s draft, the Kings fell to No. 5 when the selection order was revealed on national television Tuesday. That was the worst-case scenario given that the Kings were guaranteed a top-five pick as the NHL’s second-worst team, and it means they won’t have an opportunity to select consensus top pick Jack Hughes.
Kings President Luc Robitaille was hopeful but prepared for all possibilities.
“The system is one that is fair and keeps teams honest,” Robitaille said through a team official. “We knew all along we would get a good player picking in the top five.”
The New Jersey Devils landed the top pick, followed by the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche. The Ducks will pick ninth.
New Jersey finished as the third-worst team and had 11.5% odds at No. 1. Colorado, which acquired its pick from the last-place Ottawa Senators, held an 18.5% chance. The big jump was made by Chicago, which vaulted to the No. 3 pick as the league’s 12th-worst team (2.5%).
Landing the fifth pick was actually the second-highest probability for the Kings, at 27.9%, according to tankathon.com. But it came as a big disappointment, especially given how badly the franchise needed a potential cornerstone piece.
General manager Rob Blake said Monday that he wouldn’t be inclined to trade his top pick if the pingpong balls didn’t fall in the Kings’ favor. The Kings have two first-round picks because of the trade of Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Doubtful, very doubtful,” Blake said. “But again, until we know exactly where we’re picking — I’ll rely a lot on [director of amateur scouting] Mark Yannetti and his staff on the top guys in the draft and understand where they are.”
Hughes is considered an NHL-ready center despite his size, listed at 5 feet 10 and 170 pounds. He turns 18 next month. Kaapo Kakko, a bigger winger from Finland, is also considered a potential generational-type player.
The Kings will otherwise have a top-five pick for the first time since they chose Brayden Schenn fifth in 2009.
The Ducks will have a top-10 pick for the first time since they chose Nick Ritchie 10th in 2014. They have three of the top 39 picks for the June 21-22 draft in Vancouver, Canada.