After weeks of waiting, wishing, speculating, hoping, and dreading, the first phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery was completed this evening. The Devils, along with six other teams, are not going to hit the ice as part of the NHL’s Return to Play format. Tonight was their one event that directly involving them until whenever the draft will be held. The results were quick and tough to swallow. The New Jersey Devils fell one spot to seventh overall and the first overall pick will go to a placeholder team that did not win their qualifying round matchup.
The Devils were originally slotted to go sixth overall, so moving down a spot by itself is not a concern. What is more of a concern is the placeholder team. Not only does a team that finished between fifth and twelfth overall in their conference get the first overall pick and will draft Alexis Lafreniere; it could deny the Devils an additional first round pick in the NHL Draft. Worse, we have to wait until we find out who this placeholder team will be. The second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery will be held after the Qualifying Round and before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. That may be in August. That may be in September. Who knows exactly when it will be.
Let me reiterate the Devils’ picks from their trades in the 2019-20 season. They own Vancouver’s first round pick, which has a condition. The condition is that they make the playoffs. If Vancouver does not win their Qualifying Round matchup against Minnesota, then it does not matter to the Devils if they win or lose the second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft. They will not have Vancouver’s pick in 2020; it will move to 2021. Same as before, if you want the Devils to have multiple first round picks in 2020, then you are a Canucks fan whenever the Qualifying Round games begin.
The bigger concern is with Arizona. The Devils own their first round pick from the Taylor Hall trade - which has a lottery protection. If Arizona ends up winning the second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft, then they will keep their first rounder in 2020 and pick Lafreniere. The Devils will then get their first rounder in 2021. Who knows where that pick would be. And the odds of Arizona winning that phase is 12.5% or 1 out of 8. It is not minute - assuming they lose their Qualifying Round matchup. You may want to consider cheering on the Coyotes in their Qualifying Round matchup against Nashville. However, if they do that, then their first rounder would be New Jersey’s - and deeper in the first round of the draft. If you were hoping for two top ten picks for the Devils in 2020, then you need the Coyotes to lose and hope and pray that Hall’s lottery magic does not strike again (and you need Montreal and Chicago to not lose either and either to not win the second lottery, they would bump Arizona to 11th overall). This not a gimmie for Nashville; Rantta and Kuemper are talented and the Preds are coached by John Hynes after all.
There are other disappointing possibilities. What if Pittsburgh crashes out to Montreal and wins big for Lafreniere? Their window for contending gets wider and the Devils have another tough opponent in their division. What if Columbus loses out and come back in 2020-21 with full health, a lot of motivation, and an agrressive and talented winger who is ready to play in the NHL right now in Lafreniere? Forgive me for giving you thoughts of this heinous situation, but what if Our Hated Rivals gets that pick after losing to Carolina? We may have to - no, I cannot type it. I will not. You cannot make me.
Ultimately, the 30 minute broadcast that stretched out about two minutes of actual work for Bill Daly flipping cards came and went like a balloon being deflated. I am not so much bothered by the Devils dropping to seventh overall alone. Again, in this year’s draft class, the Devils would have to try to not take a top-end talent at seventh overall given that there are ten to twelve prospects that are very tantalizing. If you were hoping for the likes of Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz, Marco Rossi, or Cole Perfetti, then that is still a possibility. Taking the “left over” of those four is a very, very fine left over. The disappointment comes with the possibility of seeing a Coyote logo or a logo of Our Hated Rivals later this Summer whenever the second phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery takes place. The former would mean the Devils would have one fewer pick in the first round; and the latter means Our Hated Rivals get the best player in the draft class.
We will have more thoughts about what to do at seventh overall in the coming days. Dan and I will certainly discuss it when we record the next Garden State of Hockey. We will have a roundtable among the writers for initial takes. And when the Qualifying Round games are coming soon, then I will ask you, the People Who Matter, how we should approach it. Whether you care about it or not, the Devils now have a vested interest in the results of those games. In my view: Go Nucks and, uh, please do not win a lottery later, Arizona.
In the interim, I would like your take on tonight’s lottery results. How did you react to seeing the Devils at seventh overall? Who do you want them to take? Who are you cheering for now in the Qualifying Round games? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the draw in the comments. Thank you for reading.