The 2019-20 season is officially over for the Toronto Maple Leafs and now the team will be pinning their hopes on winning a unique draft lottery for a silver lining.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have once again lost a post-season series in the first instance, suffering a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the decisive Game 5 of the play-in round.
It was the second time the Leafs were shut-out against Columbus, who relied on a stout and stifling defensive effort to keep the Toronto team’s offensive stars at bay.
For the Leafs, it is another bitter blow to their progression over the past few years, with the team technically not making the actual playoffs this year as a result of the unusual 24-team system the NHL imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Playing on home ice did nothing to help the Leafs build confidence or momentum and now, they have to go back to the drawing board and look ahead to the 2020-21 season, which is set to begin in December.
All is not completely lost, though it certainly might feel that way, as the Leafs find themselves in the truly unique position of losing a post-season series and now having a chance at landing the first-overall selection in the draft.
Thanks to ‘Placeholder Team’ winning the lottery in the first round of selecting, every team knocked out of the play-in round has an equal (12.5% to be exact) chance to win the coveted top pick in the draft, effectively handing a generational talent to the winning franchise in the process.
Alexis Lafreniere is the consensus top prospect available in the draft and is expected to make the jump up to the NHL immediately, given his clear dominance during his junior career with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL.
In 173 regular-season games in the Q, Lafreniere has scored 114 goals and racked up 297 total points – good for a 1.72 points-per-game average.
He is a clear star in the making and is entering the league with the same kind of hype and attention as the Leafs’ very own Auston Matthews, who also went first-overall in his draft class.
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To have two generational-level talents on the same team would be huge for the Leafs, who have been one of the best offensively productive teams in the NHL over the past couple of years.
It would present general manager Kyle Dubas with some interesting decisions surrounding the make-up of his team, with the addition of a sub-$1 million superstar making some players on the bottom end that have a higher cap hit somewhat more expendable.
The only way Leafs fans will be able to reluctantly accept the poor end result from this unique post-season, is if the team lands the first-overall pick and gets to add Lafreniere to the roster.
If the Leafs don’t win the draft lottery, they lose their first-round pick altogether, thanks to the Patrick Marleau trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, something that will leave a more bitter taste in the mouths of the fan base.
The ‘second’ draft lottery is set to take place on Monday at 6 p.m. ET and each team will be represented by one ball that commissioner Gary Bettman will draw live on television, putting to bed an interesting story-line people have debated about for the past few weeks.
Hopefully at the end of it, the Leafs walk away with a silver lining they desperately need at this moment in time and feel safe knowing they can add a top young talent to a roster that is already one of the stronger offensive sides in the league.