Connor Bedard is putting on a show at the IIHF World Junior Championship, and it's easy to see why so many fan bases are hoping their team lands the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
In Monday night's quarterfinal game against Slovakia, Bedard led team Canada to an overtime win with one of the goals of the year at any level. With a talent like this at the top of the draft board, tanking is hard to resist.
The 2022-23 NHL season is nearing its halfway point, and the draft lottery picture is becoming much clearer. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks are in a heated sprint to the bottom, but a few more are lurking just north of them with hopes of landing Bedard.
Here is the NHL's updated battle for last place and the best chances at the No. 1 overall pick.
1. Chicago Blackhawks | 8-24-4 | 20 points
This was always the plan for the Blackhawks, and it is coming together spectacularly. They have won four games in the last two months and sit alone in last place. Being four points behind the Anaheim Ducks is almost impressive, given how bad they've been this season, but that is where the Blackhawks are these days.
Chicago is last in goals scored (79) and 26th in goals allowed (137). That adds up to a minus-58 goal differential. To put it plainly, the Blackhawks are bad at everything, and it may only get worse. Patrick Kane and several other players could be on their way out ahead of the NHL trade deadline, and that would only accelerate the tank.
2. Anaheim Ducks | 10-24-4 | 24 points
The Ducks have to be a little frustrated at this point. They have done everything they can to be in last place, but they are still just ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings. Anaheim is dead last in goals allowed (158) and goal differential (-70). The Ducks have been getting outplayed on a regular basis, and they have controlled just 40.12% of the expected goals at five-on-five.
Despite all their best efforts, the Ducks still do not have the best chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick. That's because they might have just enough talent, including budding stars Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras, to pull out a few more wins than Chicago. Still, if the NHL Draft Lottery was held today, Anaheim would have a decent shot at the top pick and Connor Bedard.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets | 11-22-2 | 24 points
Between injuries and poor goaltending, the wheels have come off in a hurry for the Blue Jackets. As a result, they are now in the thick of the race for the No. 1 overall pick. At this point, it may be in the Blue Jackets' best interest to keep the losses coming instead of trying to right the ship and push for a highly unlikely playoff berth.
I'm not sure if tanking right after signing Johnny Gaudreau to a long-term deal was the original plan for the Blue Jackets, but if it was, it was pretty brilliant. Even with Gaudreau on the roster, Columbus was not going to be a contender, but adding a player like Bedard to the mix could change that in a hurry.
4. San Jose Sharks | 12-20-7 | 31 points
The Sharks' 2022-23 season has gone as expected so far. They are one of the worst teams in the NHL, but they aren't quite bad enough to finish last in the NHL, at least not yet. What wasn't expected was a resurgent season from defenseman Erik Karlsson, who looks like a Norris Trophy contender again.
Because of Karlsson's sudden bounce-back, there is a chance the Sharks might be able to unload his massive contract in a trade. Between Karlsson and Timo Meier, who is in the final year of his contract, San Jose has a couple of very talented players it could trade for a gigantic haul in return. If the Sharks do move both of those players, they would be truly putrid.
5. Arizona Coyotes | 13-17-5 | 31 points
Things have gone horribly wrong for the Arizona Coyotes. They have been winning games against some of the best teams in the NHL. In the last couple of weeks, the Coyotes have beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, and the New York Islanders. That was not part of the team's plan coming into the 2022-23 season.
In all seriousness, it has been good to see the Coyotes going toe-to-toe with some of the league's best, especially at home. However, this recent run of success has not helped their chances of drafting Connor Bedard, unless he somehow falls several spots in the 2023 draft. There is still plenty of time for Arizona to go ice cold and sink like a stone.
6. Montreal Canadiens | 15-19-3 | 33 points
The Canadiens are really in a good spot here. Some of their young talent has shown progress with players like Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield coming into their own. At the same time, Montreal is quickly slipping in the standings with two wins in its last 10 games.
If the ping pong balls do bounce Montreal's way, that would put the team in an excellent position moving forward. In Suzuki and Caufield, the Canadiens already have a couple of cornerstone players in place, and they have a good amount of money coming off the books after this season. If Montreal can flip a couple players for future assets at the trade deadline, it will be sitting pretty in June.
7. Philadelphia Flyers | 14-17-7 | 35 points
The Flyers got off to a decent start under John Tortorella in his first year in , but that has quickly evaporated, despite the team's current three-game winning streak. As Philadelphia has drifted toward the bottom of the standings, its hopes of calling Connor Bedard's name next summer have risen.
This is a rebuilding year for the Flyers, and a high-draft pick would give some optimism to an organization that desperately needs it. Philadelphia isn't brimming with elite young talent, and it is up against the salary cap, so landing a phenom like Bedard would solve some of those problems.
8. Vancouver Canucks | 16-17-3 | 35 points
The Canucks haven't been able to dig themselves out of an early hole, and they are in no man's land. With each passing day, rebuilding looks more and more like the best path forward for Vancouver. The team could start by trading away players on expiring deals like Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn, and Ethan Bear.
If the Canucks are going to tear it all down, they need to make that decision sooner rather than later. Right now, Vancouver might be a little too good to land one of the premier selections in the 2023 draft, but that could change with a few major personnel moves.