It was the first NHL event in over 100 days and the result of the first phase of the Draft Lottery brought immense chaos.
No, we don’t yet know who will pick first overall.
That won’t be determined until after the play-in round, when a second lottery will take place for all those teams eliminated. Ultimately, that means we don’t know exactly who the biggest winner is tonight, but there are a number of exciting possibilities.
Some team will be lucky enough to pick Lafreniere in a few months, while a few bottom-feeders who had high hopes to lock up the top pick on Friday night leave the lottery a little discouraged. Here are our biggest winners and losers from the first phase of the draft lottery.
Detroit Red Wings
Remember how bad the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche were? The Sabres have had a few poor seasons themselves in recent times. Well, this year’s Red Wings finished 71 games with a .275 points percentage, which stands as the lowest mark in the salary cap era.
But not only will the Red Wings not pick first overall, they don’t even get into the top three.
No organization could have used Alexis Lafreniere more than Detroit. Heck, they could really have used a big-bodied centre in Quinton Byfield, or a smaller Tim Stutzle who projects as a centre in the NHL after playing wing in Germany this season.
As Yzerman notes, though, realistically the bottom eight teams combined had a better shot at first overall than Detroit, so this shouldn’t be the biggest surprise. That the last-placed team fell out of the top three has to sting a little though.
If Wings fans are looking for solace in this result, remember this: the last time Detroit picked fourth overall in a draft they ended up with Yzerman in 1983, and he went on to have a Hall of Fame 22-season career with the organization, winning multiple Cups, a Conn Smythe, Selke and Lester B. Pearson Award. So, fingers crossed for a similar outcome in 2020.
Look, relatively speaking, the Senators are still in a pretty nice spot at the draft. They exit the lottery with the third and fifth overall picks, which should bring the organization a couple of solid players. Byfield? Stutzle? Defenceman Jamie Drysdale? Ottawa will take a big step forward at the draft.
But, man, it could have been better.
The worst possible outcome for the Senators this evening was that three placeholder teams would win in the lottery and they would fall to picks five and six. But they also had a 25 per cent chance to win the first overall pick and were the only team with a shot to land both of the top two picks. Sens fans were eagerly awaiting the possibility, which would have launched them forward.
“We know we’re going to get someone who has a chance to play for us as soon as next year,” Sens GM Pierre Dorion said after learning his team’s lottery fate. “I think our fans will be excited about whoever we get at three.”
Now we wonder what comes next, and what the Sens might do.
Dorion noted that “it would be very difficult” to trade out of the third and fifth positions, but also didn’t completely shoot down the idea of trying to move up to No. 1 anyway.
That may depend on which team does ultimately end up with the first overall pick. It could have been better for the Sens, so that’s why tonight is a little bit of a letdown. But, again, Ottawa is still in a pretty nice position.
Hip hip hooray, go Play-In Team!
So, we leave the Draft Lottery’s first phase not knowing which team specifically will pick first overall in the draft. If the play-in round is completed, the eight losing teams (and only them) will be entered into a second lottery. Each will have an equal 12.5 per cent chance (one in eight) of winning that lottery and the right to pick first overall.
That means teams like Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Toronto who in a normal season would never have sniffed the lottery now have a silver lining if they’re upset by a lower-seeded team. Imagine Lafreniere ending up next to Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, or Auston Matthews. Yikes.
This result is a bit anti-climactic for now, but boy does it set the table for some exciting outcomes and scenarios following play-in results.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings entered the lottery with the fourth-best odds at No. 1 and in the end, moved up two spots to second overall. Aside from Detroit, the Kings may be the next team most in need of an offensive stud up front, and they should get that, whether they go with Byfield or Stutzle.
Los Angeles has finished second-last in goal scoring the past two seasons and their top goal scorer in that time topped out at 22. The Kings probably could have ended up with some offensive pop at four anyway with the likes of Marco Rossi or Lucas Raymond (among other possibilities), but moving into the two hole is certainly a step up.
The Kings have done well rebuilding their prospect base in recent years, and this draft will push them forward that much more. The last time the Kings picked second they drafted Drew Doughty.
Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens
Neither of these teams had more than a two per cent chance of making the playoffs prior to the season pause and seemed destined to be in the lottery. Neither seem a particularly good bet to make a series of upsets to go on a long playoff run and have work to do before they become Cup contenders again. Fans of these teams may have preferred to just be in the lottery and hope to hit a homerun, rather than face long odds in an extended playoff.
But now that a placeholder team has won the No. 1 pick these two still have a shot to get a franchise-defining player. The Hawks play Edmonton in their play-in series while the Canadiens will meet the Penguins. Will there be a section of the fan base rooting on a loss now?
Lafreniere could accelerate both clubs.
If No. 1 ends up going to Chicago, Lafreniere could join a line with Jonathan Toews at centre, or perhaps Kirby Dach, the third overall pick in 2019, who had a quietly strong rookie campaign (23 points in 64 games) that was overshadowed by some other first-year performances.
And if it’s Montreal, man, can you imagine the excitement if Quebec-born Lafreniere ended up in a Habs jersey? Montreal may not have an elite No. 1 centre yet, but they have done well to build up their depth at the position recently. Putting winger Lafreniere in the mix may even give GM Marc Bergevin trade options because suddenly it would become a little crowded there in the top six.