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Ivey: NHL teams tanking for ‘McEichel’

| Tuesday, March 31, 2015

During this time of the year, hockey fans are usually swept up in the race toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They check scores on a daily basis to see if their favorite team will get in and, if they do get in, who will they play. But this year presents a unique situation. While all the playoff talk is going on, another type of contest is receiving attention — the contest of who can finish with the worst record in the NHL standings. The winner of this contest will win a very valuable prize, one that could change the course and outlook of their team for years to come.

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft will take place June 26 and 27, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida, and this year’s class is considered to be one of the best in recent memory. The two players that headline this year’s draft class are Connor McDavid, who plays for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Jack Eichel, who is a Boston University freshman. Both are considered to be generational talents who can immediately play with and contribute to an NHL team.

McDavid is an 18-year old from Richmond Hill, Ontario. He is one of the most hyped hockey prospects of all time, with many comparing his style of play to those of Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby. He is a fast, two-way center who can score goals and create scoring opportunities from almost out of nowhere. His highlight-reel goals and statistics he’s put up this season would have to be seen to believe. This season, in 47 games played with the Erie Otters, he has scored 44 goals and recorded 76 assists. In 166 career regular season games with the Otters, he has registered a grand total of 285 points and is widely considered to be the consensus first overall pick in the upcoming draft. However, he’s not the only franchise-changing player in this draft.

Eichel is an 18-year old from North Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Many hockey analysts praise him as one of the best American hockey prospects ever, comparing his style of play to that of Patrick Kane. In his freshman season at Boston University, Eichel has scored 24 goals and 43 assists for a total of 67 points in only 37 games played. He leads the nation in points and is considered to be the frontrunner for the Hobey Baker Award — hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy — given annually to the best college hockey player in the country. He is widely considered to be the consensus second overall pick in the upcoming draft and many analysts say he would be the first overall selection this year if it weren’t for McDavid.

With players like these available, the teams that currently sit at the bottom of the overall standing are fighting each other to finish with the worst record as the team that does is guaranteed either the first or second pick. The two teams that currently sit at the bottom of the overall NHL standings are the Buffalo Sabres, who have 48 points, and the Arizona Coyotes, who have 54. Perhaps the fans of these two teams are the ones most engaged in the race for the first pick; the two teams played each other Thursday in Buffalo, New York, and when the Coyotes scored the overtime winner, Sabres fans cheered the goal.

The act of a sports team trying to lose in order to gain a better draft position is generally referred to as “tanking,” and the question has been posed whether or not doing so is alright. I know it might sound crazy, but I believe that a team should feel free to tank if they think that is what’s best for them in the long run, though they should be careful; the NHL Draft Lottery takes place April 14, where teams like the Sabres and Coyotes will learn if their efforts paid off or if they were all for naught.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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