While we typically, around this time, would be watching the annual NHL Entry Draft, instead tonight, we settle for less in the first of three phases that will end with those picks.
While the NHL opts to keep distanced due to the spread of COVID-19, the NHL Draft Lottery was held on Friday evening in Secaucus, New Jersey. While many had set expectations for how exactly the teams involved would all fair, the results were overwhelmingly different in that several teams fell from prior projections.
Starting from pick No. 8, announced from Bill Daly, the league’s deputy commissioner, the Sabres would be awarded that pick, this less of a shock than No. 6 to No. 1. Just one draft pick ahead was the New Jersey Devils at seventh overall. Holding the sixth overall pick is GM Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks.
With one of two top picks, the Senators, led by Eugene Melnyk, will be selecting at fifth overall. That said, picking at fourth overall is GM Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings. As such, with their second top pick, the Ottawa Senators will select third overall.
Knowing from Bill Daly beforehand that the Los Angeles Kings would be picking top three, the Kings, led by GM Rob Blake, would thus be move up, picking second overall. With the coronavirus halting play in a global pandemic back on March 21st, this left many questions unanswered in a shortened season as to flatten the curve.
Given that in parts of Canada, those numbers have dropped and stayed low for some time, the NHL has started exploring potential hub cities for a return to play. Knowing as of Thursday morning that both Vancouver and Pittsburgh are out, that leaves with much to consider, the cities of Edmonton as well as Toronto.
Given that the timing was poor, seeing many games cancelled as infections rose up, this meant for the 31 teams they would not have it fair to make a run for the playoffs. That said, as preparations begin, this means that a play-in-round will commence to give at least eight teams a final chance to compete.
With that thought in mind, Daly announced that the first overall pick will go to a team booted out of contention. As such, phase two of the lottery will be to determine who gets picks No.1. According to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, all eight teams eliminated from the qualifying round will have an equal shot at drafting first overall. The rest left unnamed by the league will be position based on points from the regular season.
While there is speculation as to who will be picking at No.1, Jared Book reports that the Montreal Canadiens will also be picking at nine, sixteen and 28th. Their last pick, however, is looming with potential at 30, if not, 31.
This leaves the door wide open for debate to take place as to who could draft first. With that being said and Lafreniere’s future in the air a little longer, Dom Luszczyszyn projects the Toronto Maple Leafs the most likely landing spot at 4.5 percent. Behind them are the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames.
Going down the list a little longer, you find Carolina, the New York Islanders and Edmonton. Keeping things out west further back is the Vancouver Canucks who are followed by Minnesota. Stretching out the odds even further, you then find the Chicago Blackhawks, the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers.
The Rangers are then followed by Winnipeg with Arizona and Montreal right behind them. Finally, the least likely landing spot for Alexis Lafreniere is the Columbus Blue Jackets. If, for whatever reason, the play-in cannot be completed, the remaining eight teams at the bottom will have a one-in-eight shot at the first overall pick. That of course is with courtesy of Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca.
Following a tad further in his footsteps as described by Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, the New York Rangers can’t get No. 1 from the Carolina Hurricanes if they beat them in the play-in-round. This is because in that event, it would transfer Toronto’s pick from the Patrick Marleau trade.
Should Toronto fall to Columbus in the qualifying round and win the NHL Draft Lottery, the Leafs will send to Carolina their first-round pick in 2021. Again, this would be the pick that ultimately compensates for Patrick Marleau. Should that stay the course, Carolina’s first-round pick for this year’s NHL Draft will then go to New York. As cited by David Pagnotta, New York can’t win the Stanley Cup Championship, thus nor can they pick first overall.
With that being said, Quinton Byfield is likely to land at the NHL Draft with the Los Angeles Kings. As David Pagnotta reports, this is the fourth time in franchise history the Los Angeles Kings will draft second overall. The last time was in 2008 when Drew Doughty was selected after playing with Guelph. Historically, it’s only happened twice more, both in 1986 as well as 1981.
While many feel the Senators were snubbed, Pagnotta adds that Ottawa has drafted with the third overall pick only one time prior. That was in 1994 when the team selected centreman Radek Bonk. With their second pick at No. 5, Pagnotta goes on to note that it’s Ottawa’s first time selecting fifth overall. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also the first time since 2000 that a team owns two picks they can use in the top-five.
On the other end of the spectrum, if the Coyotes don’t land the first overall pick, their first then goes to New Jersey. As Pagnotta continues, should the Canucks make the playoffs, the New Jersey Devils also get their first pick. All that to be said, five of the 16 qualifying teams have never selected with the first overall pick. This includes the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, Nashville, Calgary and Vancouver. Those who have only done so once include the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Winnipeg Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks.