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The NHL Draft Lottery is an annual mix of emotions for fans as percentages turn to realities and franchise futures are altered — this year, one of those franchises is yet to be determined.
The NHL opted for a different route than the typical lottery drawing of 15 non-playoff teams. With the expanded playoff format stemming from COVID-19 manipulation, the seven non-playoff teams were joined by eight placeholders.
As luck would have it, a placeholder won the lottery and will be drafting No. 1 overall on the night of the draft. But first, 16 teams will have to battle it out in the best-of-five expanded playoff format. That is, the eight losing teams of the first round will re-enter another lottery and each have an equal chance at the No. 1 pick.
That pick will go to one of Arizona, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Vancouver, or Winnipeg.
Who’s getting the 1st overall pick? ? pic.twitter.com/0Wss6cFsnC— BarDown (@BarDown) June 27, 2020
No. 1 The Placeholder
The Placeholder, i.e. one of the eight first-round losers of the expanded playoff format, has claimed the top spot and consensus No. 1 pick Alexis Lafrenière. Mentioned above, The Placeholder will be one of eight losing teams in Phase II of the Draft Lottery.
In Phase II, all eight teams will receive the same chance at the No. 1 selection, which equates to a 12.5 percent chance for each contending team. Due to previous trades the aforementioned clubs of Arizona, Carolina, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh, and Vancouver could be out of the running in Phase II as their respective picks are moved due to current incomplete conditions of previous trades.
The only guarantee is Lafrenière, a franchise-altering left winger ready to make an immediate impact for his drafting team in 2020-21.
Prediction: Alex Lafrenière
No. 2 Los Angeles Kings
The second-biggest winner of the lottery, the Kings jumped up two spots for a shot at any player not named Lafrenière. The Stanley Cup champs of 2012 and 2014 are in for a top prospect to be added to an already-impressive farm system as they retool for the future.
A center would help alleviate the duties of 32-year-old Anze Kopitar in several years and give them an eventual one-two punch with 2019’s No. 5 selection Alex Turcotte. A winger with offensive punch could create a dynamic duo alongside Turcotte, heralded for his two-way play.
In the unlikely scenario of taking a defenseman, which is needed, but would be off the board at No. 2, they would land a solid blue-liner capable of taking over for Drew Doughty down the road.
Prediction: Quinton Byfield
No. 3 Ottawa Senators
One of the losers of the lottery, the Ottawa Senators held a mathematical chance of 25 percent at the No. 1 pick due to owning San Jose’s first-round pick along with their own. With two guaranteed spots in the top six, slipping to three and five is undoubtedly a frustrating turn of events for general manager Pierre Dorion.
Still, with a loaded draft class and two selections in the top five, the Senators have a chance to load up and add young talent to an already young and talented team with a bright outlook.
A defense that will eventually feature Thomas Chabot, Erik Brännström, and Jacob Bernard-Docker is promising and will likely lead to a pair of forwards in 2020. At No. 3, the Senators will have their choice of forwards; likely to take one of Tim Stützle, Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, Lucas Raymond, or Alex Holtz.
Prediction: Tim Stützle
No. 4 Detroit Red Wings
The lottery odds have once again failed the Red Wings, who have slipped nine spots over the past four drafts, ultimately extending a long rebuild process. The Red Wings held a .275 winning percentage and showed on most nights they are in need of a lot of talent.
General Manager Steve Yzerman does hold a number of encouraging young prospects, but to slip the maximum three spots and into the arguable second tier of this year’s prospect list is certainly disappointing.
He will still land a great player at No. 4 and showed in 2019 that he’s not opposed to taking who he believes is the best player, regardless of outside opinion. Should none of the above players be available, Marco Rossi is probably his guy.
The only thing standing in the way is Yzerman’s positional interest. With Dylan Larkin the clear cut top-line center currently and a dedication to developing prospects Joe Veleno and Michael Rasmussen at center, a center doesn’t appear necessary.
That would leave Yzerman peering down at one of the best three wingers, behind Lafrenière. In no order, that leaves Cole Perfetti, Lucas Raymond, and Alex Holtz. But a guy like Rossi appears to have the highest upside and is FloHockey’s top-ranked center.
Prediction: Marco Rossi
No. 5 Ottawa Senators
Taking a center at No. 3 would ideally mean taking a winger at No. 5. The Senators have had their share of great Swedes over the years and could opt for one of Raymond or Holtz.
But Perfetti is closer to home and finished second only to Rossi in the OHL scoring race in 2019-20. The sharpshooting winger would be a massive addition with blossoming Brady Tkachuk.
Regardless of choice, the Senators will be adding another key piece of their future at No. 5 and will have a lot of young talent growing together over the next few years.
Prediction: Cole Perfetti
Rounding out the top eight teams are the Anaheim Ducks (No. 6), New Jersey Devils (No. 7), and Buffalo Sabres (No. 8). The rest of the first round will shake out as various playoff series conclude until that last team stands.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.