Here we are again, folks. The NHL Draft Lottery is again upon us, and yet again a representative from the Florida Panthers organization will be sitting at a desk (or standing at a podium) waiting for a plastic ball to decide their fate. Last year, the Panthers finished last in the NHL for the first time in their history and had the best chance to select high-impact forward Nathan MacKinnon with the first overall selection. Alas, it was not to be, as the Colorado Avalanche managed to win the lottery and selected the talented MacKinnon first overall, while the Cats passed over the hyped Seth Jones in favor of European centerman Aleksander Barkov with the second overall pick. It's too early to tell who got the best player out of the three, but MacKinnon would go on to score 24 goals and 63 points for Colorado in his rookie season, Jones would play 77 games and finish -23 on a sub-par Predators team, and Barkov picked up 24 points in 54 games before ending the season on injured reserve due to a knee ailment sustained during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The Panthers enter tonight's lottery second to last in the league, giving them an 18.8% chance at winning the lottery. Here's the breakdown of percentages for each team eligible:
|Buffalo Sabres - 25.0%||Toronto Maple Leafs - 3.6%|
|Florida Panthers - 18.8%||Winnipeg Jets - 2.7%|
|Edmonton Oilers - 14.2%||Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa) - 2.1%|
|Calgary Flames - 10.7%||New Jersey Devils - Ineligible to win|
|New York Islanders - 8.1%||Nashville Predators - 1.1%|
|Vancouver Canucks - 6.2%||Phoenix Coyotes - 0.8%|
|Carolina Hurricanes - 4.7%||
Washington Capitals - 0.5%
Can the Panthers see fortune smile upon them this year? This isn't the deepest draft in recent memory, but there are a few very high quality players at the top of everyone's draft boards, including defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Sam Reinhart, both players who could walk into Florida and likely contribute right out of training camp. The Panthers are already loaded with quality young players, and the current administration is pushing the youth movement through necessity, so it wouldn't be a shock to see whoever the Panthers select show their face on the BB&T ice sooner rather than later. It also wouldn't be shocking to see the Cats trade down in an attempt to bring in proven, quality veterans, which are sorely needed on this Florida club. Either way, it should make for an exciting offseason yet again, one that hopefully marks the long-awaited turning point for this franchise.
Fire away with your hopes for the Cats in the comments below, and let us know who you'd draft and why, or if you'd trade the pick. Rise up, armchair GM's, let's wheel and deal!