The NHL Entry Draft in the Time of COVID-19
Late last evening, Jackie Spiegel of The Sporting News broke down the odds of the teams at the bottom rankings of the NHL of winning the 2020 NHL Entry Draft Lottery and having the right to choose the presumptive favorite – young Alexis Lafreniere. He certainly seems to be the projected first choice of this year’s Draft.
Usually, the NHL’s Entry Draft is held after the Stanley Cup Finals have awarded the Cup to the winner. However, with the 2019-20 NHL regular season being suspended on March 12, the date for both the 2020 NHL Draft and Draft Lottery suddenly started to float away like a helium balloon let go by a sad 3-year-old whose birthday party suddenly went south. [I know – too heavy-handed with the metaphor.]
However, of course, because the 2019-20 NHL regular season wasn’t completed, the final order of draft picks was also up-in-the-air.
The NHL’s brain trust (and I don’t blame them at all) decided that even without finishing the Stanley Cup finals, having the 2020 Draft and Lottery would give fans of the seven teams who didn’t make the play-in Stanley Cup Tournament something to look forward to – the chance that they might win the draft and join the Lafreniere sweepstakes.
As NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters earlier today (Tuesday, May 26) in a conference call, “One of the things that went into the decision to create a new lottery system was for the advantage of the seven clubs who aren’t resuming play…that they have the ability to engage with their fan base on something during that long pause between games. We thought the draft lottery was a way to create excitement, create a way for those teams to engage with their fan base, get some certainty early on and not going into kind of a long slumber of creating waves and buzz over the summertime.”
I say, good call. [no pun intended]
How Will the Draft Lottery Be Targeting?
Today, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced both date and format for the lottery. It was a crazy season, given the suspension, and the draft lottery was also a bit crazy – if you’re an NHL traditionalist.
Here are the facts: the Detroit Red Wings have the best chance of winning the top pick; and, as I noted, that draft pick is expected to be Lafreniere.
For those who don’t know Lafreniere, he’s a young star who played with the Rimouski Oceanic (shades of the great Sidney Crosby). To tell how prolific a scorer this 18-year-old is, this season with the QMJHL’s Oceanic, in 52 games he scored 35 goals and added 77 assists. Add those totals and you’ll find he’s not just a point-a-game player, but he’s more than a two-points-a-game player.
That’s a scorer. He’s been the consensus first pick for years (it seems) and there’s a good chance he’ll drop right onto an NHL line-up for the 2020-21 season and take a full-shift from the beginning of the season. We just aren’t sure it’s going to be the Red Wings. Actually, the Ottawa Senators actually have a great chance to win.
How Will the Draft Lottery Play Out?
The Draft Lottery is picky. Obviously, the NHL wants to give the best chance to win the lottery to the teams with the worst regular-season records, which has always been the case. To offer that possibility, the NHL announced on Tuesday that the lottery would happen in two phases – possibly. It depends on how Phase 1 goes.
In Phase 1, there will be three draws involving 15 teams. The seven teams that haven’t made the Round Robin or Qualifying Round are automatically entered into the lottery. For the last eight-team, because no Stanley Cup playoff games will be played, these teams will be listed A-H.
There will be three draws. First, for the first-overall pick; then the second-overall pick; and then the third-overall pick. If any of the Teams A-H are drawn, Phase 2 will be conducted. If the top three picks all come from the seven teams not in the play-in tournament, there won’t be a Phase 2.
If in Phase 1, three of the seven bottom teams pull the top three picks, the four teams left in the seven-team group will be placed from four to seven based on points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause. Then, teams 8-15 will be given to the eight teams that do not advance from the Qualifying Round, in inverse order of their points percentage at the time of the regular-season pause.
Phase 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery will be held on June 26.
What Are the Ottawa Senators’ Chances of Drafting First?
The odds to win the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery’s Phase 1 are as follows.
|1. Detroit Red Wings||.275||18.5%|
|2. Ottawa Senators||.437||13.5|
|3. Ottawa Senators (via SJS)||.437||11.5|
|4. Los Angeles Kings||.457||9.5|
Note that, taken together, the Ottawa Senators actually have a 25% chance of winning the lottery with either their own first pick of the pick the team gained from the San Jose Sharks.
That’s all we know for now. We will keep you more appraised as we learn more.
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