Prior to March 12, 2020, the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils were a failure and a disappointment. They were not the worst Devils team within the last ten years, never mind in New Jersey history. However, they were still very bad. An incredible 2019 offseason gave way to crushing losses, a faceplant to start the season, the trading away of the only Hart Trophy winner in franchise history (Taylor Hall), the firing of head coach John Hynes, the firing of Ray Shero about a month later, and the dealings that sent the captain (Andy Greene), a well-appreciated toolsy winger (Blake Coleman), a winger who was not used quite right (Wayne Simmonds), and a defenseman that was not as bad as he seemed but also not as good (Sami Vatanen). The 2019-20 Devils went into the season hoping to be on the right side of the playoff bubble and they were near the bottom of the NHL by the time January 1, 2020 hit. The Devils had little to play for in March 2020.
Then the Coronavirus pandemic began to hit North America and the NHL went on pause. After months of deliberation and monitoring the situation, the league and player’s union agreed on a Return to Play format wherein 24 teams would return to the ice. The Devils, who were sixth from last by the time of the pause, are not one of those 24 teams. Along with six other teams, their season went from having little to play for to nothing at all.
This makes tonight’s event, the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, the only event the Devils will be involved in for several months. It remains to be determined when (or if) exactly the Qualifying Rounds and Stanley Cup Playoffs will take place. It remains to be determined when exactly the 2020 NHL Draft will even be held. It remains to be determined when (or if) the 2020-21 season will take place. This is it for the Devils and six (technically five) other teams and it is not about actual hockey. It is all about lottery balls. Depending on tonight’s results, there may be a second lottery - but that is also to be determined.
So live it up. There may not be much of anything involving the Devils for quite some time after tonight.
The Time: 8:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: TV - NBCSN, NHL Network, Sportsnet, and TVA Sports
The Location: The NHL Network Studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.
The Song for the Night: When you think of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal of the 1980s, you think of Iron Maiden. If you were really into it (and/or you’re from the UK), then you also think of Saxon. They are still going strong and Buff Byford has a rockin’ set of pipes. This is the bonus track from their 2013 album, Sacrifice, and it is appropriate for the lottery: “Luck of the Draw.”
The 2020 Lottery Process: Tonight is Phase One of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery. This will be run like the lotteries in recent years. There will be three lotteries for each of the top three selections in the 2020 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.
The twist this year is that the lottery will be held for the seven worst teams in terms of points percentage that are not a part of the Return to Play format and eight placeholder teams, which will be defined by letter (Teams A through G). The eight placeholders are for the losers of the Qualifying Round. Those who do not win their Qualifying Round series are not in the playoffs and therefore would have their first round pick in order of points percentage just as normal. For example, if Pittsburgh gets stunned by Montreal, then they would likely be picking 15th.
However, if one of the placeholder teams win one of the three lotteries, then there will be a Phase Two of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery. This would be held after the Qualifying Round and before the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All eight losing teams will have equal odds - 1 out of 8 or 12.5% - to claim the placeholder spot that won the lottery. This will be run for as many placeholder teams win the lottery. If no placeholder spot wins a lottery tonight, then there is no Phase Two and the lottery concludes this evening. Going back to the example, if Pittsburgh gets stunned by Montreal and a placeholder team won a lottery tonight, then they have a 12.5% chance of being that placeholder team. Otherwise, they’ll select based on points percentage.
As usual in the draft lottery, whoever does not win the lottery will pick from worst to best point percentage of the non-playoff teams. This means if a placeholder team wins, the teams below them would move back - just as they would during a regular draft lottery.
One final point of clarification from hockey broadcasting legend Bob McKenzie of TSN:
If none of the 8 alpha-designated unknown teams (those which lose the 2020 play-in qualifier) win a top-three overall pick, Bill Daly’s countdown/flipping of cards will start at No. 7.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 25, 2020
If one of the 8 unknown teams gets a top-three pick, the countdown/flip starts at 8.
We will know very quickly in the lottery process tonight however many placeholder teams won. If you see a Buffalo Sabre card first, then feel free to relax a little.
The Odds: From Tom Gulitti’s article about the lottery at NHL.com, the Devils have a 7.5% chance of winning the first lottery. Due to a worse regulation/overtime record, they are ahead of Buffalo. Under normal circumstances, these would have been the lottery odds for the Devils per Tankathon:
- First overall: 7.5%
- Second overall: 7.8%
- Third overall: 8.0%
- Sixth overall (current position): 16.3%
- Seventh overall: 38.9%
- Eighth overall: 19.4%
- Ninth overall: 2.1%
With the possibility of a placeholder team winning a lottery, please take the above with a grain of salt. The real message here is that tonight we will know where the Devils’ first round pick will be. It can either be first, second, third, sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth overall. It is a top-ten pick; although it is better to have it as high as possible.
The Conditional First Round Picks: The Devils own Arizona’s and Vancouver’s first round picks for 2020 if certain conditions are met.
- Arizona’s first rounder is top-three protected. If their 2020 pick ends up as a top-three pick, then the Devils will get their 2021 first round pick.
- Vancouver’s first rounder is conditional on making the playoffs. If they do not make it, then the Devils will get their 2021 first round pick.
Both Arizona and Vancouver are in the Qualifying Round. If you want Vancouver’s first this year, then you want them to beat Minnesota. It is that simple. For Arizona, it is a little more complicated. If they win their Qualifying Round series against Nashville, then the Devils will definitely get their pick but it will be in the middle of the first round at best. If they do not win their Qualifying Round series, then there is a risk the Devils could lose the pick if a placeholder team wins a lottery because Arizona could win the second lottery. However, if they lose that second lottery, then that pick could be eighth at best or tenth at worst. What happens tonight will impact any rooting interests you may have when (or if) the Qualifying Rounds begin.
The Lottery Prospects: What makes the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery more tantalizing is that the 2020 NHL Draft class is loaded with talent at the top. Alexis Lafreniere is the heavy favorite to go first overall. He is a winger who can instantly jump into the NHL if only because he has steamrolled major junior hockey for two straight seasons. Quinton Byfield is likely to go second overall and he is a massive player whose play style resembles Evgeni Malkin or Rick Nash when he is on. And he is still 17 as of this writing. The third overall selection can go in a lot of different directions depending on what the team may value. Potential options include the dynamic and electric winger, Tim Stutzle; the skilled with gamebreaking potential forward, Lucas Raymond; the dynamite do-it-all center, Marco Rossi; the sniper and shot machine, Alexander Holtz; the standout offensive defender, Jamie Drysdale; and the offensive force, Cole Perfetti. Names like Jake Sanderson, Anton Lundell, Jack Quinn, and Yaroslav Askarov could very well end up rounding out the top ten. While these are all still prospects, this is a great year to have multiple top-ten picks in the first round. I would think all three lottery winners will be thrilled; and I think whoever owns second and third overall will have a lot of time to debate who to take after Lafreniere goes first overall.
The History: The Devils have won three lotteries in their time in New Jersey. They won in 2011, which moved them up four spots and allowed them to take Adam Larsson. They won in 2017, which led to the first overall pick that was used to take Nico Hischier. They won in 2019, which led to another first overall pick that was used to take Jack Hughes. It is all very recent and has no bearing on tonight’s draws.
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 for tonight’s lotteries.
The Potential Scenarios for Tonight’s Lottery as Ordered by How I Feel About Them: From most optimal to least optimal for just this night.
- Devils win the first overall pick lottery and no placeholder team wins the other two lotteries.
- Devils win the first overall pick lottery and a placeholder team wins one of the other two lotteries.
- Devils win the second or third overall pick lotteries and no placeholder team wins the other two.
- No placeholder teams win any draft lottery and Buffalo does not win any either. Devils’ first round pick stays at 6th overall.
- Devils win the second or third overall pick lotteries and a placeholder team wins one of the other two.
- No placeholder teams win a draft lottery but Buffalo does win one of them. Devils’ first round pick moves down to 7th overall.
- One placeholder team wins a draft lottery and Buffalo wins one of the other two. Devils’ first round pick moves down to 8th overall.
- Two placeholder teams win a draft lottery and Buffalo does not win the remaining one. Devils’ first round pick moves down to 8th overall.
- All three placeholder teams win the draft lottery or two placeholder teams win a lottery and Buffalo wins the remaining one. Devils’ first round pick moves down to 9th overall.
In situations #4, 6, 7, and 8, the Devils could end up losing the Arizona pick in addition to being bumped further back in the draft. That could is a big question mark, but it is a possibility. It is a risk. As much as I would like to see the Devils win second or third overall, I do not want to risk seeing Arizona’s name come up in Phase Two. I would prefer the Devils to have two high first round picks in 2020 (and ideally three as picks this year are more valuable than picks in 2021) so I would rather see the Devils stay at 6th and see that one guaranteed. I personally will take seeing only one phase of the draft lottery this year instead of two. Otherwise, a lot of us will be wishing, hoping, and holding our breath we do not see a Coyote logo in Phase Two of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, yet to be determined. This is how I feel about them. Your mileage may vary on the potential scenarios.
The Rules: Site rules apply as usual. This is an open post for the day, so feel free to discuss the Devils, the draft, and your lottery hopes in the run up to the actual event tonight at 8 PM ET. 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 drawing!