The 2020 NHL Draft was originally to begin Friday night from Montreal, but the coronavirus pandemic has postponed that and the league has yet to say when the draft will occur. However, the draft lottery will take place Friday (8 p.m. from New Jersey) and the team that wins the top pick – which may not be decided Friday – earns the right to select consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.
Because of the coronavirus, the draft lottery is quite a bit different this season. If any of the seven teams that did not qualify for the 24-team playoff field win the lottery, then that team will get the first pick and the chance to take Lafreniere. The Detroit Red Wings had the NHL's worst record by far when the league shut down so they have the best chance, 18.5 percent, of winning the lottery. Detroit last picked first overall in 1986 and took Joe Murphy.
Except, the Wings technically don't have the best percentage of winning the lottery.
The Ottawa Senators finished with the second-worst record and have a 13.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, but they also own San Jose's first-round pick as part of the September 2018 trade that sent Sens legendary defenseman Erik Karlsson to the Sharks.
San Jose would have had an 11.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, so add that to the 13.5 percent for the Senators, and Ottawa now has a 25 percent shot of the top pick. The Sens last picked first in 1996 and took Chris Phillips.
Here are the odds of the other four teams not in the playoffs to win the lottery: Kings (9.5), Ducks (8.5), Devils (7.5) and Sabres (6.5). In addition, the eight teams that lose in the qualifying best-of-5 round of the playoffs also are in the lottery. So, essentially there are eight "placeholder" spots in the lottery for those eight losers.
The first three picks of the lottery will be drawn Friday. If the top three picks go to teams not in the playoffs, then it's set. However, if a team(s) that is in the qualifying round gets a top three pick, it triggers a Phase 2 of the lottery before the playoffs begin. Got all that?
Long story short: The team that holds the top pick may or may not be decided Friday. As for Lafreniere, the left wing is rated as the No. 1 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. The 18-year-old was named the MVP of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship when he led Canada to the title.
Lafreniere's club team was Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Lafreniere averaged a whopping 2.15 points per game. Over the past 20 years, only two players 18 years old or younger had a better points-per-game average: Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Drouin. The last Rimouski player selected No. 1 overall in the draft was Crosby in 2005. Lafreniere and Crosby are the only two players to ever win Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year in two seasons.
There's ZERO doubt that Lafreniere will go No. 1 whenever the draft occurs. In theory, Crosby's Penguins could win the lottery because they are playing in the qualifying round. They would have to lose their series to Montreal – Pittsburgh is a -210 favorite on the moneyline odds at William Hill sportsbook – and then have a non-playoff team NOT win the lottery on Friday to trigger Phase 2. The Pens would then have to win that. Not likely but possible.
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