The NHL Playoff picture is in pure turmoil. However the top of the standings is not the only place to watch the race. The teams at the bottom of the standings are also jockeying for position in hopes of landing projected number one pick Jack Hughes.

Hughes is a visionary passer, skates like the wind, and has the tools to be a number one center in the NHL. Jack’s skill set could make an immediate impact for a team in a re-build. However not all of the teams in the lottery are good fits.

The bottom five right now breaks down like this. In descending order. Anaheim, New Jersey, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Ottawa.

Anaheim has the worst chance at landing the bottom spot with 69 points. Seeing as how they are a full 13 points ahead of Ottawa. New Jersey has 63 points, Detroit has 62 and LA with 58. This would lead you to believe the Senators have the best shot at getting that lucky bingo ball this spring. However that doesn’t make Ottawa the perfect fit.

Since the trade deadline Ottawa has traded away every asset that isn’t Craig Anderson and Brady Katchuck. They fired their coach and have officially announced a re-build. However if you are Jack Hughes you hope like hell they don’t get the number one pick. Ottawa has stockpiled draft picks. Which would allow them to build around Hughes with talent of a similar age. They have an elite winger in Brady Katchuck who can pair with Hughes immediately.

The reason I don’t think Ottawa is a good match is the lack of center depth. Jack could step into the number one center role and have it fit like an old glove. It just seems unlikely for a number of reasons. One his face off percentage. Winning a draw in the NHL is hard. Hughes is suspect in this very critical part of being a number one center. The proof is in the World Juniors. Hughes was often left out of the circle in big situations for team USA. Colin White would be the projected number two if Ottawa landed Hughes. He is only winning draws at 47 percent as a second line center. They say practice makes perfect, but taking draws on a  nightly basis against guys like Patrice Bergeron and Jon Tavares could prove to stunt his development.

LA is sitting in second. Hughes would slot in as a third line center if they don’t off load Jeff Carter in the off season. For that reason alone I think it’s best for Hughes if LA misses the number one pick. Not to mention that the Kings have a potential to get a lot worse before things get better. They have an aging core that are locked into some bad contracts. Hughes needs to be on a team that is ready to take that next step forward instead of taking a few steps back.

The Anaheim Ducks never seemed to click this season. So adding a number one overall pick could help this once dominant franchise find new life. Except an elite Center is not what the Ducks need. Anaheim had problems scoring, sure a center can help relieve that, but that would say that Adam Henrique and Ryan Getzlaf are not good enough. Which just isn’t true. Despite his age Getzlaf is still elite. He is a master in the circle, and when he has Corey Perry on his wing he can still produce. Henrique has 17 goals and 38 points. He will most likely hit twenty goals and score forty points before the end of the season. It’s hard for me to say he isn’t producing. So for the same reasons as LA, it would be best for Hughes to stay out of Cali.

That leaves us with Detroit and New Jersey. Both teams have number one center currently. Both teams have a load of wingers who could immediately pair with Hughes and produce. Both teams have aging second line center. Who have put up big numbers being paired with the young talented wingers on the roster. Either one of these teams would be great for Hughes. He can play behind elite talent like Larkin or Hischier. He can play a significant role but not be forced to produce immediately. This could be great for Hughes. Like we said at his best he could be a number one center, but in this league a dynamic one-two punch down the middle is a must. Behind Larkin or Hischier the Devils or Wings could have a younger version of Crosby Malkin or Matthew and Tavares.

Another reason these teams are a good match is it give Hughes time to grow physically. He has the height but he needs time to fully grow into his frame. If he plays in a second line role he can take time to build size while still getting NHL experience and playing big minutes. If he was forced into a number once center position to quickly it could be to his detriment. Those are tough minutes a number one center has to play. Playing every night against teams top defensive pairings, and matching against their number one centers. It could be too much for Hughes physically. The evidence is in Elias Pettersson in Vancouver. Sure the young center is scoring highlight reel goals, but he is also getting beat up. He has missed ten games due to injury and is getting waxed in the face off dot. So if Hughes could play behind an elite guy it would only help his development.

So those are the reasons I want Jack Hughes to go to Detroit or New Jersey. Do you agree? Do you think Hughes would be better somewhere else? Or does any of this even matter, because we all know Edmonton is going to win the draft lottery again any way.

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Written by Johnny Violence

The lead NHL/Hockey writer for Thoughts From The Bench.

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