Since the Hurricanes are now out of the playoffs, all that’s left to worry about is their draft position. Even with only three games remaining, the Canes draft position can change dramatically because of how cluttered things are at the bottom of the standings.
The Jackets and Oilers have their spots in the lottery all sewn up but the difference between 21st and 27th place is only five points. The Hurricanes can finish the year in 21st or 28th place depending on how they do in these next three games and the other teams’ performance will have some impact on that, as well. It’s a little odd to think that only two points separate Carolina from a lottery pick right now but things could definitely turn out that way depending on what happens.
Here are the possible scenarios:
If the Hurricanes win out:
The Hurricanes will have 84 points if they win their last three games, the highest they can pick is 6th or 7th depending on how the tie-breaker is decided with the Minnesota Wild should they win out, too. Now, the odds of everyone else also winning out is unlikely (especially with some of these teams having games against each other), so the more realistic result is the Canes picking around 8-10th if they win their last three games. That would put them in a position to take an impact player, but their chances of grabbing one of the top forwards in the draft would decrease if they pick outside the top 5.
If the Hurricanes lose out:
The Hurricanes losing their final three games would mean that they would end up picking in the top five if the Habs win out, the Wild acquire three points and the Islanders, Leafs and Ducks acquire at least two points. If the Hurricanes turn in the kind of effort they had on Saturday, this could very well happen but I honestly hope that doesn’t happen. Yes, I would like to see the Hurricanes get a high draft pick but I also want to see this team put forth some effort in their last two games. I didn’t see any of that on Saturday and I know Muller is probably thinking the same thing. Either way, if Carolina does drop their remaining three games without securing any points, they will have a good chance of picking in the top five but a lot of it may depend on ohwo the Wild, Islanders, Ducks & Leafs perform in their last fwe games, too. The Ducks have one game in hand so they have a better chance at moving up in the standings.
What will likely happen
Carolina has two games remaining against playoff teams (Ottawa & Florida), one of which has already clinched and they have a game against Montreal on Wednesday. The game against Ottawa could go either way since they already clinched and can’t get any higher than 7th place right now. Montreal is getting a lottery pick no matter what, so that game could be a toss-up and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Peter Budaj in net. The Panthers, however, still have not clinched the division or a playoff spot and may still need to by Saturday when they play Carolina on the last game of the season. For their sake, I hope they clinch before then but it could very well come down to the last game of the season, which will make game 82 very interesting for both the Panthers and the Hurricanes.
Things could really go either way with the last three games but I see Carolina finishing in the realm of 7-9th place at the end of the season.