On Monday night, the hockey world will know who is likely to draft Alexis Lafreniere first overall when the results of the draft lottery are announced.
Wait — didn’t we already have 2020 draft lottery results?
Yes! But like everything else this year, the path to first overall is a little unorthodox. We had a Phase 1 lottery in June that could have determined the top three picks if only non-playoff teams were drawn, but since a “Placeholder” team won that initial lottery, we have to do a second one now.
Confused? You’re probably not alone. And so that’s why we’re getting you caught up with everything you need to know about Monday’s lottery… and why there’s a second draw at all.
And you can watch the drama unfold on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW, beginning at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.
OK, SO WHY ARE THERE TWO LOTTERIES THIS YEAR?
When the NHL paused its season in March, we were in the midst of a tight playoff race, with only a handful of teams that really were out of it. A couple others — notably Montreal and Chicago — had an extremely long shot of getting in.
So the NHL had a dilemma when trying to formulate a return-to-play plan: where would the cut-off line be for who’s in and who’s out? What was fair, given some teams had played more games than others, and the season wasn’t complete?
Ultimately the league returned with 24 teams getting “in” — eight would get a bye into Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the remaining 16 would play a best-of-five qualifying round series to advance. The losers of those series would then fall back into lottery contention.
When the first lottery was drawn, we only knew seven of the teams involved: Detroit, Ottawa, Buffalo, Los Angeles, Anaheim, New Jersey and San Jose (though Ottawa held their pick). The other eight teams were represented by a “placeholder” tag to stand in for the qualifying round losers who would be determined at a later date. If the placeholder team was drawn for any of the top three draft positions, a second lottery needed to be held for the eight teams eliminated in qualifying.
So, of course, one of these placeholders “won” the first overall pick, which is why we need a second draw now.
HOW WILL THE SECOND LOTTERY WORK?
This is only involving the eight teams that were eliminated from the qualifying round: Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Minnesota, Florida and the NY Rangers. One of those teams will pick first overall at this year’s draft. All of the others in this lottery will be slotted in reverse order of points percentage finish in the regular season, starting at the ninth overall pick. By the end of Monday night, we’ll know the order of the first 15 picks of the 2020 NHL Draft.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had the best points percentage of any eliminated team in the regular season, so if they do not win the first overall pick, they’ll lock in at 15th overall. Edmonton had the next-highest points percentage, so if neither the Penguins or Oilers win the first pick, Edmonton will end up 14th overall. And so on.
The Wild had the lowest points percentage in this group, so if they don’t win the first pick, they’ll slot in at ninth overall.
The interesting thing here is that, unlike how the draft lottery usually works, this one will not be weighted by regular season success. The Wild will have no better odds to wind up with the first overall pick than the Penguins, Oilers or Maple Leafs.
Each of the eight teams in Monday’s lottery have an even 12.5 per cent chance of winning.
The reveal and how the team is picked will also work a little differently.
In a normal NHL draft lottery, it’s not one “ping pong ball” that gets pulled out, but rather a sequence of four numbers. Each team is assigned a certain number of combinations — the lower in the standings you finished, the more you get. And whichever team holds that winning collection of four numbers wins the lottery.
But on Monday night it’s much simpler than that. One ping pong ball will be pulled and the winning team’s logo revealed.
There is no dramatic card countdown reveal from Bill Daly this time.
WHAT WOULD THE MOST CHAOTIC OUTCOME BE?
If the Edmonton Oilers win the lottery and pick first overall again, the hockey world outside of the city will go mad. The Oilers picked first overall four times in six years between 2010 and 2015 and since then there have been calls to put a limit on how many times a team can pick first over a certain time period. No changes have been made yet, so Edmonton is again mixed up in all of this.
Can you imagine the playmaking Alexis Lafreniere on Connor McDavid’s or Leon Draisaitl’s wing? And on an entry-level contract? The lottery result would be an eye-roll, but the pressure to win would get ramped up to new high levels in Edmonton.
How about Pittsburgh? They’ve won just one of their last eight playoff games and have quickly been dispatched two playoffs in a row. Perhaps they’re more in need of this than we think, but then again, they were seventh in the NHL by points percentage this season and have star power of their own. Lafreniere next to Evgeni Malkin? Or how about next to Sidney Crosby, who came out of the same Rimouski Oceanic program? Lafreniere also became the second player ever to win CHL Player of the Year honours twice, joining Crosby.
Aurons-nous un nouveau partenariat majeur à annoncer dès lundi? pic.twitter.com/4VTuDHvwHS
— L'Océanic de Rimouski (@oceanicrimouski) August 7, 2020
And now, of course, we have the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will be facing many off-season questions about the roster’s make up. If they were to land Lafreniere to add to the wing, does it make it any more likely that William Nylander or even Mitch Marner could be dealt?
The wild thing about how this ended up shaking out is that Lafreniere will likely land on a pretty good team. There’s a 50 per cent chance he’ll go to Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Toronto or Winnipeg.
In Winnipeg, there are visions of him joining Mark Scheifele, or playing opposite Patrik Laine. In Nashville, he would join a top-six that looks good on paper, but was generally disappointing this season. Still, with the Preds’ strong defence and overall team depth, a player like Lafreniere could quickly get them back on track. Even the New York Rangers seem primed to break out in a big way before long. Put Lafreniere there and it could happen as soon as 2020-21.
DOES EVERY TEAM HOLD ITS OWN FIRST-ROUND PICK?
Whoever wins the draft lottery will choose first overall, but there are other conditions on some of these picks if they end up slotting elsewhere.
Pittsburgh: As part of the Jason Zucker trade this season, the Penguins conditionally moved their 2020 first-rounder to Minnesota. If the pick ends up 1-15 (which it will now), the Penguins will have seven days after the lottery to decide whether or not to give it up to the Wild. If they choose to keep it, Minnesota will get Pittsburgh’s 2021 first-round pick regardless of finish.
Toronto: As a result of the Patrick Marleau trade to Carolina (who then bought him out) the Leafs have to give up their 2020 first-round pick unless it winds up in the top 10. The only way that can happen is if they win the lottery. So if the Leafs’ lottery ball is not pulled on Monday, Carolina will get their pick.
WHO ARE THIS YEAR’S TOP PROSPECTS?
From pre-season to now, the No. 1 prospect has been Lafreniere. Known for his smarts and his complete skillset, he’ll be a game-changer for any team lucky enough to draft him.
Fellow forwards Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle also have franchise-player potential themselves, while this class’s strongest skater, Jamie Drysdale, looks likely to be the first defender off the board.
If Monday night’s lottery winner does not pick Lafreniere — after a 35-goal, 112-point season in 52 games — it would be a shock.
WHEN IS THE DRAFT?
If all goes smoothly and according to plan, the draft is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9-10 and will be a virtual event.