After a successful 2017-18 season where the New Jersey Devils made the playoffs, the Devils missed the playoffs in 2018-19 by a rather wide large margin. The Devils did not just not make it, they secured a bottom-five finish as they were effectively done by the start of the 2019 calendar year. The reasons for this are many: bad goaltending, insufficient talent, insufficient offensive talent, injuries to key and depth players, a defense that defended high-danger scoring chances well and not much else, poor 5-on-5 performances, and even some poor luck. The hope for plenty of fans is that one of the top prospects in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft will make things more correct in 2019-20. Tonight is the night where we will know whether the RNG in the Devils’ favor as to whether they will have a top three draft pick for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
The Time: 8:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - NBCSN, Sportsnet, and TVA Sports
The Song for the Night: Fitting for tonight’s events, this is “E.R.N.I.E.” by Madness from their second album, Absolutely. It stands for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment.
The Lottery Process: There will be three lotteries for each of the top three selections in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The first drawing will be for the first overall selection, the second drawing will be for the second overall selection, and third drawing will be for the third overall selection. This lottery will be supervised by a third-party to ensure the credibility of the drawings. The drawing itself is a combination of four numbers. Each team is assigned a set of four numbers. Whatever comes out of the lottery is checked against that chart to determine who owns the set of numbers. They are the winners of that lottery.
If a team that wins a lottery but they also won on a previous drawing, then that drawing will be re-done. A team cannot win more than one selection; three separate teams shall the three lottery drawings. The twelve teams that did not win a drawing will be drafting in the first round in reverse order of their standings. This means the worst team that did not win a lottery drawing will draft at fourth overall, the second worst that did not win a drawing will draft at fifth overall, and so forth.
The broadcast will announce the teams in reverse order. This is important. If you see a team that is not in the order of the standings, then you know they won one of the three lotteries. Therefore, you do not want to see the Devils logo until towards the end of the announcements.
The Odds: The Devils finished 29th overall in the NHL this season. According to Tankathon, here are their potential selections and their odds:
- First overall - 11.5%
- Second overall - 11.3%
- Third overall - 11.1% - These are the odds of staying in the same position they finished in.
- Fourth overall - 13.2%
- Fifth overall - 37.7%
- Sixth overall - 15.2%
The reason why the top three selections sum up to just 33.9% is because all of the non-playoff teams have odds of winning them. There is a possibility that, say, rivals win lotteries while the Devils, who have leaned hard into finishing near the bottom, do not. On pure percentages alone, the Devils have a better chance of not picking in the top three. Only 31st place has a higher than 50% chance of a top three pick.
Yes, even with all of the selling at the trade deadline, all of the poor play, and all of the hopes of Sherman Abrams’ followers that the Devils lose as much as possible, it may be all for naught. The lotteries are all random drawings of a set of four numbers. They do not care about how bad or not-bad the winners are, or who needs the top prospects more. They just select numbers. It does not seem fair. It is not. Life and hockey is not fair.
The Lottery Prospects: Some seem to believe that winning first or second overall is the only goal. In the 2019 NHL Draft Class, there are two total standouts in the draft class. Jack Hughes has been a point machine for the United Stated Men’s National Developmental Program while displaying amazing skill, vision, and tenacity. He’s the consensus #1. Kaapo Kakko is the consensus #2. He is already one of the best under-18 players in Finnish Liiga history. He has been effective on and off the puck in a men’s professional league while still being a minor. The winger has a great shot and great instincts on and off the puck. It remains to be seen whether either are truly generational players or set to be instant successes. It is likely that they will be players right away, and it is reasonable to think they could be significant contributors early in their careers. That said, it would be definitely fantastic if either become Devils.
However, this is not a draft of just two players. Anyone who feels otherwise does not know anything about this draft class. After Hughes and Kakko, there are at least five excellent prospects that any team should be excited to have. Defenseman Bowen Byram has been producing at an incredible rate in the WHL - more than Ty Smith. If you want that top-tier defenseman, then he may be the best bet for it. Centers Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras have been standout players on the USNTDP and have demonstrated their offensive talents even while playing away or behind Hughes. They are not just riding the Hughes train to success. Winger Vasili Podkolzin has performed quite well in the KHL. He has shown he can hang with already developed men and do so with skill. Center Dylan Cozens has been a big force in both ends of the rink for Lethbridge in the WHL. And there are other prospects who could get into the top seven like Matt Boldy, Peyton Krebs, Kirby Dach, or someone else who has an amazing playoff run, World U-18 tournament (which is soon), or something similar. It is still a wide open race as to who will go #3 this year and even if the public consensus settles on someone, the team may feel otherwise. Such as Columbus picked Pierre-Luc Dubois over Jesse Puljujarvi in 2016. This is to say that any team picking in the top seven or so should be really pleased with who they can select. Hughes and Kakko may be the top tier guys but these others are far from consolation prizes or scrubs.
The History: The Devils have won two lotteries within the last decade. They won the 2011 NHL Draft Lottery, but back then the lottery only allowed a team to move up a maximum of four spots until first overall. So the Devils went from the eighth overall to fourth and selected Adam Larsson. In 2017, the Devils finished fifth from last - and won the lottery drawing for first overall. They selected Nico Hischier. You can see the reactions from then here. You can also see the post-lottery post where most of the readers then wanted Nolan over Nico. Thankfully, that did not happen.
Prior to 2017, the New Jersey Devils have never had a first overall selection. The Colorado Rockies did in 1979; they picked Rob Ramage. But that’s just within the franchise. In terms of top-three selections, the Devils have been there a little more frequently. The Kansas City Scouts did it twice: 1974 (Wilf Paiement) and 1975 (Barry Dean). The Rockies had #2 in 1977 (Barry Beck). The Devils had second overall twice, both in the 1980s: 1984 (Kirk Muller) and 1987 (Brendan Shanahan). In terms of third overall picks, the Devils have had three: 1985 (Craig Wolanin), 1986 (Neil Brady), and 1991 (Scott Niedermayer). The success of these selections ranges from absolutely wonderful (Niedermayer, Shanahan, Muller) to very good to not-so-good given the position.
The Simulator: Tankathon allows you to simulate the NHL Lottery here. It’s quick, it’s functional, and it helpfully shows who moved and by how much. That said, it is just for fun. It has no real bearing or meaning on the actual lottery.
The Re-Reckoning: Sherman Abrams was proven right in 2017. Once again, he has wanted and demanded as many losses and failures as possible this season. Tonight will determine whether he and his followers were right and that Devils’ futility was justified. That is the inherent problem with tanking in a lottery system. You can fall as much as possible and still not get what you want.
The Rules: Site rules apply as usual. Expect to see a recap of sorts after the lottery is completed. Everyone please play nice with each other. Keep all comments clean, stream-less, and respectful. Go lottery!