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Winners and Losers in the NHL Draft Lottery

NHL Logo. ANP XTRA LEX VAN LIESHOUT / AFP

Although the top spot in the draft is still up in the air, we do know the teams drafting 2-8 and how those positions can have ramifications in the years to come.

2020 NHL Draft Lottery Formula

Ask a quantum mechanics engineer if advanced calculus is difficult, and he or she is likely to tell you that it’s as easy as your ABC’s. But for us mere mortals it’s tedious, time-consuming, and exasperating all at the same time. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for this year’s NHL Draft Lottery. Yet, I am certain that those who designed it find it perfectly reasonable, logical, and easy to digest.

Okay, so here it is in a nutshell. There will be seven teams not competing in this year’s NHL playoffs and they are the Sabres, Senators, Red Wings, Devils, Ducks, Kings, and Sharks. Those teams get an automatic bid into the NHL Lottery along with the eight teams that get knocked out of the qualifying round of the playoffs. But because we don’t know which teams will be eliminated in what is essentially the opening round of the playoffs, the NHL has decided to list them as teams A through H.

The NHL recently spun the metaphorical lottery wheel in which there were 15 teams (the seven we know and the eight we don’t, labeled A-H) for the No. 1 overall pick. The odds of a team getting the top selection is based on their records. The team with the worst overall record, the Detroit Red Wings, had the greatest chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick while teams A through H were the least likely to get the top pick.

In the unlikely event, the qualifying group (A-H) gets the top pick then there will be a second lottery after the qualifying round is played. Those eight teams recently bounced from postseason contention will be in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick with each getting a 12.5 percent chance at the top pick in the draft.

Here’s what it looked like before the lottery was held on June 26th with the teams listed in order of their regular-season records (worst to best) and their chances were of landing the No. 1 overall pick in parentheses.

  1. Detroit Red Wings (18.5%)
  2. Ottawa Senators (13.5%)
  3. Ottawa Senators – via SJS – (11.5%)
  4. Los Angeles Kings (9.5%)
  5. Anaheim Ducks (8.5%)
  6. New Jersey Devils (7.5%)
  7. Buffalo Sabres (6.5%)
  8. Team A (6.0%)
  9. Team B (5.0%)
  10. Team C (3.5%)
  11. Team D (3.0%)
  12. Team E (2.5%)
  13. Team F (2.0%)
  14. Team G (1.5%)
  15. Team H (1.0%)

Detroit’s Wings Get Clipped

There comes a point in the season where a team is so bad that even its fans are rooting against them so that their beloved club will have the best chance at getting the top pick in the draft by virtue of its horrendous record.

Such was the case this season with the Detroit Red Wings and if we take a look at their NHL odds on getting what appears to be a sure-fire All-Star in the making, Alexis Lafreniere, we see Detroit had the most advantageous chance of procuring his services at 18.5 percent.

However, not only did the Wings slip from No. 1 to No. 4 when it all shook out, another bombshell dropped when we found out that one of the 16 teams playing in the qualifying round will get the best consolation prize ever when they are knocked out of the playoffs and into the top spot in the NHL Draft.

Alexis Lafreniere #11 of Team White. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images/AFP

Lottery Winners

Before we discuss the winners, let’s take a look at the results of the NHL Draft Lottery and how it could affect our NHL picks next season.

  1. Team A-H
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. Ottawa Senators via San Jose
  4. Detroit Red Wings
  5. Ottawa Senators
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Buffalo Sabres

Let’s face it, the biggest winner in all of this is the NHL. They got exactly what they wanted when the No. 1 pick went to a team to be named later. It allows the excitement to build for those teams in the qualifying round and the anticipation of an additional lottery to be held. The league hit a home run and hockey fans from all over are the beneficiaries – except those in Detroit.

Obviously, the team that ultimately gets knocked out in the qualifying round and gets lucky enough to claim the top spot in the draft will immediately look no further than Rimouski Oceanic and Hockey Canada star, Alexis Lafreniere. He’s the NHL’s version of the NFL’s No. 1 pick in April’s draft, Joe Burrow. There’s no debate, and no club will be able to tender an offer big enough for Team X to trade away the opportunity to sign Lafreniere.

Imagine if the Pittsburgh Penguins, the top team in the qualifying round with 86 points, get shocked in their opening-round matchup, only to get a fortuitous bounce of a lottery ball and wind up with the No. 1 overall pick? Only winning the Stanley Cup would be preferable to that outcome for the Steel City franchise.

The LA Kings can be considered another winner in the lottery as they moved up to the No. 2 spot and will likely select a big, rugged, power center named Quinton Byfield. Although not as much of a lock to be named No.2 as Lafreniere is to be No.1, he would be hard to pass up for the offensively bereft Kings.

Lastly, the man himself, Alexis Lafreniere, can be considered a big winner in all of this because unlike most top picks, he will not be earmarked to a barren wasteland and tasked with turning it into a hockey oasis. The 18-year-old wunderkind will be headed to a team that is quite likely an average squad desperately in need of a stellar playmaker to take them to the next level. Not a bad way to start for the most talented amateur hockey player in the world today.