What If Ovechkin Were A Penguin?
Alexander Ovechkin is one of the most dynamic players in the NHL. He scores highlight reel goals, plays with a great deal of physicality and has an exciting personality that translates into his on-ice game. In 2004 the Washington Capitals won the NHL Draft Lottery and the right to draft Ovechkin.
What if they hadn’t?
The Pittsburgh Penguins were the worst team in the league during the 2003-2004 season. They had the best chance to win the draft lottery. However, Washington, the team with the third-worst record that season, won the lottery instead. In doing so they leap-frogged the Penguins and the 29th place Chicago Blackhawks and picked first.
They chose Ovechkin.
However, what if the Penguins had won the lottery instead?
If the Pens had won, the Blackhawks would have chosen second and the Capitals would have chosen third. The Penguins would have likely selected Ovechkin. The Blackhawks would then likely have picked Evgeni Malkin. Who would the Capitals have chosen with the third pick? In reality, the Chicago Blackhawks chose defenseman Cam Barker. Would the Capitals have done the same or would they have chosen Andrew Ladd or Blake Wheeler (who ended up being chosen fourth and fifth respectively) instead? Regardless of what their choice would have been, the player selected would not have been the game breaker that Ovechkin has become.
But the Penguins winning the lottery instead of the Capitals would not have changed just the 2004 draft. Because their was no 2004-2005 season a league-wide lottery was held in order to determine who would choose first in 2005. Since, in reality, the Penguins had not won a first overall pick recently, they had one of the best chances in the lottery. However, if they had won the first pick in 2004 and selected Ovechkin their chances in the 2005 draft would have decreased and the Capitals chances would have increased. The Caps would not have the chances of winning that the Penguins had in reality though. Because the Capitals made the playoffs in 2003 they would have been docked a ball in the lottery.
That means that Sidney Crosby would have likely gone to one of the teams that had a maximum three lottery balls: the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets or New York Rangers.
It’s impossible to know who would have won the lottery in this fictional scenario, but selecting Crosby would have changed the makeup of whatever team drafted him.
In this scenario the Penguin have Ovechkin, the Blackhawks have Malkin, someone else has Crosby and the Capitals do not have any of those players. The Penguins would likely be able to build build a competitive team around Ovechkin and the Blackhawks would be competitive with Malkin. The Capitals, without a true superstar, could possibly continue to struggle.
Those struggles would mean that they probably would have selected first overall in a future draft and someone like Erik Johnson, Patrick Kane or Steven Stamkos would be wearing a Capitals jersey today. All three of those players are very talented, but none of them rival Ovechkin.
While the makeup of the Penguins, Blackhawks and whoever won the 2005 lottery would have changed in this scenario, it is the Capitals that would have struggled the most. They would not have a big time player in their roster and would possibly still be outside of the playoff picture today. At best they, like the current Chicago Blackhawks, would be playing their first season of competitive hockey this season.
Obviously, this is all hypothetical. It is impossible to determine exact would have happened in this fictional situation, but it does display a possible alternative scenario.