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Maple Leafs finish last, have best draft lottery odds

Steve Russell / Toronto Star / Getty

Pain may turn out to be pleasure for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

By losing 5-1 to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, the Maple Leafs guaranteed themselves a last-place finish in the standings, their 69 points and 23 regulation and overtime wins the fewest among the 30 NHL teams. Toronto finishes 29-42-11.

The Maple Leafs now officially have the best odds - 20 percent - of winning the April 30 draft lottery. American 18-year-old Auston Matthews, who spent the 2015-16 season playing in Switzerland, is the presumptive No. 1 pick. Matthews had 24 goals and 22 assists in 36 regular-season games, and added three assists in four playoff games.

Toronto has a total of 12 picks in the coming draft. The last time the Maple Leafs selected first overall, they drafted Wendel Clark in 1985.

The Edmonton Oilers finish 29th and have the second-best lottery odds, at 13.5 percent.

Goaltender Garret Sparks was integral in Toronto's 30th-place finish. He lost his last five games, including Saturday's finale. Sparks was given a share of the crease after the Maple Leafs traded James Reimer, who was having one of the best seasons of his career, to the San Jose Sharks.

Reimer was one of numerous Maple Leafs to be traded in head coach Mike Babcock's first season behind the Toronto bench. General manager Lou Lamoriello dealt captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators, veteran Roman Polak to the Sharks, Shawn Matthias to the Colorado Avalanche, and Daniel Winnik to the Washington Capitals.

In the process, countless young players thought to be the future of the rebuilding Maple Leafs made their NHL debuts in the second half of the season, including William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, and Frederik Gauthier.

Babcock set the bar as low as he could when he arrived in Toronto. He predicted pain. Whether Toronto selects first overall or not, that pain will turn out to be another key piece of what appears to be, for now, a bright future.

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