VANCOUVER – Shaken mercilessly by the NHL Draft Lottery for the past five years, the Vancouver Canucks were finally allowed to keep their lunch money Wednesday.
Ninth in this year’s lottery, the Canucks will pick ninth in the first round of the entry draft on July 23.
In Vancouver, not losing feels like winning.
Actually, winning the lottery draw? On the west coast, that’s like dreaming of world peace or global cooling or free sushi.
“Well the good news is we didn’t go down,” Benning told Sportsnet after Wednesday’s televised lottery. “I think that is positive.
“It would have been good to win. Even to go to No. 2, it would have been nice. But with our luck with the lottery, I’m not surprised. “
The lottery, which was eventually reformed slightly after it became a spectacle for fans to build buzz rather than an anti-tank mechanism for teams needing the most help in the draft, hit the Canucks for four years in a row before Benning will end his losing streak in 2020 by trading his first-round pick for JT Miller.
The Canucks certainly don’t want that transaction to be repeated, nor would they give up most of the best players they’ve drafted: Elias Pettersson, fifth in 2017; Quinn Hughes, seventh in 2018; Vasily Podkolzin, 10th in 2019.
But in a four-year span beginning in 2016, which coincided with the rebuilding orchestrated by Benning and former Canucks president Trevor Linden, the NHL Draft Lottery pushed Vancouver back seven spots in the draft order. Those first two years, the Canucks dropped to fifth from third and fifth from second.
Last-place Buffalo Sabers won this year’s first overall pick on Wednesday despite having just a 16.6 percent chance of doing so. The Seattle Kraken expansion won the second pick, moving up just one spot. The Anaheim Ducks were the only losers, pushed to third from second in the draft order.
The NHL drew just two lottery winners this season, compared to three in previous years, and also limited advancement to no more than 10 spots.
No. 9 was an important threshold for the Canucks because Benning said his organization’s top tier of draft prospects includes nine players, so it was important that Vancouver not back down by having a team behind them win one of the Wednesday drawings.
“We have nine guys that we really like,” Benning said. “Some teams may pick a guy that’s lower on our list, but at least we know we’re going to have one of the nine guys that we really like.
“It was a COVID year but I have the firm conviction that through all the different ways we have to get to know the players, I feel like we know the players. You have to discover the guys you really want and maybe get some luck that maybe the guy you really want falls in love with you. I am happy that we did not fall more.
“We are going to add another really good player to our group of young players.”
At the end of a disastrous season for them, the Canucks damaged their draft order by going 2-1-1 in their last four games. But there is some positive karma for the organization at No. 9.
Former general manager Mike Gillis slightly polished his terrible draft record by selecting captain Bo Horvat ninth overall in 2013 after acquiring the pick from the New Jersey Devils in a trade for goalie Cory Schneider.
Last time, the Canucks selected ninth, back in 1983, general manager Harry Neale chose local power forward Cam Neely. But sadly, and typical of much of the team’s history, Neal’s successor, Jack Gordon, traded the eventual Hall of Famer and a first-round pick to the Boston Bruins for Barry Pederson.
With this season’s regression, there’s a lot to criticize about Benning amid the Canucks’ tedious build pace. But the writing and development of the players during his seven-year tenure is easily the best of any managerial era in franchise history.
Given the punitive nature of recent lottery draws and past history when there were years when the Canucks consumed entire draws without harvesting a single NHL player, Benning’s reaction on Wednesday felt like a mantra: “The good news. news is that we do not abandon “.