Connor Bedard race heats up for NHL’s Sharks, Blackhawks, Ducks

Connor Bedard race heats up for NHL's Sharks, Blackhawks, Ducks

The San Jose Sharks beat both the Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights this week, providing a badly needed boost in morale after they stumbled through a nine-game losing streak.

But it’s impossible to ignore that the wins also put a dent in the Sharks’ chances of drafting superstar-in-waiting Connor Bedard, at least for the moment.

Within three days, San Jose moved from 32nd – and last – in the NHL’s overall standings to 29th, meaning the Sharks’ chances of winning the NHL Draft Lottery in May are now at 9.5 percent, down from 25.5 percent at the start of the week.

Still, going into Saturday, and with two weeks left in the regular season, just three points separate the league’s bottom four teams — Columbus, Chicago, Anaheim, and San Jose. Whichever team finishes with the league’s fewest points will have the best chance of winning the lottery and giving Bedard, 17, their team’s jersey at the NHL Draft on June 28 in Nashville.

“You get rewarded for doing the right thing, and we’re going to keep playing our (backsides) off and we want to win hockey games,” Sharks coach David Quinn said after his team’s 4-3 overtime win over Vegas. “I get the narrative and the big picture, but you get rewarded for doing the right thing.”

“It’s a lot better coming to the rink when you win,” said Sharks captain Logan Couture, who scored the overtime winner. “We’re going to try and win as many games as we can here down the stretch.”

Bedard, a center, is a prodigious offensive talent with a devastatingly quick release and laser-like shot. Prior to Friday, he had 71 goals and 143 points in just 57 games for the Regina Pats, a point-per-game average not seen in the WHL since 1990-91 when former Shark Ray Whitney had 185 points in 72 games.

The draft lottery odds drop to 13.5 percent for the team with the second-worst record, and 11.5 percent for the third-worst team. The near consensus No. 2 player available is Adam Fantilli, who, as a freshman center at Michigan, has 64 points in 35 games and is also seen as someone who can play in the NHL next season.

Not a bad consolation prize. But the Sharks, Blue Jackets, Blackhawks, and Ducks all want to be, ahem, No. 1.

Here’s where things stand going into the weekend, in order of predicted finish (as of now).

29. San Jose Sharks (21-39-15, 57 points, 7 GR)

Home (3): vs. Colorado (twice), Edmonton.

Road (4): vs. Arizona, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton.

Outlook: The Sharks’ most winnable remaining game is Saturday on the road against the Coyotes, as San Jose has already beaten Arizona twice this season. Otherwise, the Sharks have two games left against both the prolific Avalanche and Oilers and are also auditioning some rookies in the home stretch. The Flames and Jets will like be battling for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot until the season ends, but the Sharks are 2-0-0 against Winnipeg this season.

Predicted record in their remaining games: 1-4-2.

Predicted final record: 22-43-17, 61 points.

30. Anaheim Ducks (23-42-10, 56 points, 7 GR)

Home (4): vs. Edmonton, Colorado, Vancouver, Los Angeles.

Road (3): vs. Edmonton, Calgary, Arizona.

Outlook: The Ducks are another team in a complete tailspin, as an impressive 6-2-3 stretch has magically been followed by an 0-6-0 streak. Anaheim has scored nine goals in that time, but every losing streak has to end sometime, right? The Ducks are still capable of upsets and perhaps earning two or three points in their remaining home games, and will still want to beat Arizona, a team they hate.

Predicted record in their remaining games: 1-4-2.

Predicted final record: 24-46-12, 60 points.

31. Columbus Blue Jackets (23-43-8, 54 points, 8 GR)

Home (5): vs. Florida, Ottawa, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Buffalo.

Road (3): vs. Toronto, New Jersey, Philadelphia.

Outlook: The Blue Jackets can be dangerous at home and are 20th in the NHL in average goals scored per game in March, so the potential is there for them to earn points against Ottawa, Buffalo, and Philadelphia. Columbus, though, is also facing some highly motivated teams like the Panthers, Rangers, Penguins, and Devils, who are still fighting for position, if not their playoff lives.

Predicted record in their remaining games: 2-5-1.

Predicted final record: 25-48-9, 59 points.

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