Back on June 26, the National Hockey League held and ran the Draft Lottery for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The top three picks were up for the selection. As the cards were revealed, the New Jersey Devils fell one spot to seventh overall, San Jose won the third overall pick (which meant Ottawa would be picking third overall due to the Erik Karlsson deal), Los Angeles won the second overall pick, and a placeholder team the first overall pick. That last result meant that one of the eight teams to be eliminated from the Qualifying Round would get the first overall pick. This would be determined through a second phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, which will take place tonight. Seven out of the eight teams have been decided and the final team will be determined tonight. Ahead of tomorrow’s draw, this is a preview to get you prepared for what could happen. The Devils are not in it, but they will be impacted by it.
(Quick note: Thanks to a nasty storm in New Jersey, I was without electricity for most oft the past week. Everything is fine now. However, I had to postpone the EHM Experiment for this week. I apologize for the inconvenience. Instead, you are getting this, which is more relevant to what is happening in the NHL today and tomorrow.)
The Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery Information
The Time: 6:00 PM ET
The Locale: The NHL Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey
The Broadcast: TV - NBCSN, NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA
The Prize: Alexis Lafreniere is expected to be the first overall pick in 2020. There will be an interview with him during the broadcast.
The Odds: Every team that was eliminated has a 12.5% chance of winning Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery. It is that straight forward. Every team has a 1 out of 8 chance of getting the first overall pick.
The Approach: Per the league’s announcement, balls will be selected. The selected ball with the team logo wins the lottery.
The First Round Order: The seven teams that lose the lottery will pick ninth through fifteenth based on points percentage. The playoffs will determine spots #16 through #31, with the highest slot going to the team in the postseason with the worst points percentage. The Conference Finalists will be ordered by points percentage at 28th and 29th. The Stanley Cup Finalist will pick 30th. The Stanley Cup Winner will pick 31st. So the Devils are picking seventh overall - and their other two first rounders could still theoretically move.
Other two first rounders? Let us discuss that for a bit:
The Qualifying Round Results with Respect to the Devils
While the New Jersey Devils were one of seven teams to not be a part of the NHL’s Return to Play tourney, they did have direct stakes in some of the best-of-five series that took place over the last week. Conditional picks were involved and were decided upon in this past week.
- The Carolina Hurricanes swept Our Hated Rivals. The Devils did get something out of this one thanks to a league decision made prior to the games beginning last week. The NHL modified the conditional pick involved in the Sami Vatanen deal. Basically, if Vatanen played in at least two games for Carolina, then NJ would receive a fourth round pick at a minimum. Vatanen played in all three games (averaged over 19 minutes too) and Carolina advanced. This means the Devils own Carolina’s fourth round pick for 2020. Seeing Our Hated Rivals get swept and Our Favorite Team getting an asset out of it? You love to see it.
- The Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens upset the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins, respectively. In addition to many ‘LOL’s expressed online, these two results ended up moving the Vancouver and Arizona picks back.
- Vancouver eliminated Minnesota in four games. Thanks to Bo Horvat tying it up 4-4 in the third period on Friday night and Chris Tanev scoring eleven seconds into overtime, the Canucks made the playoffs. This meant that the conditional pick they sent to Tampa Bay in the J.T. Miller trade that New Jersey later acquired from the Blake Coleman trade is a first rounder for 2020. Given Vancouver’s position in the standings, this would place them at 20th overall.
- Arizona eliminated Nashville in four games. This result is more disappointing. From the Taylor Hall trade, the Devils had Arizona’s first round pick as long as they did not win any Draft Lottery. This meant if Arizona lost and also lost the lottery, then that pick would be ninth overall. Since Rick Tocchet and his squad beat John Hynes and his squad, the Devils have Arizona’s first rounder - but at 18th overall at best. (It can move up if, somehow, Chicago and/or Montreal go on a run to the conference finals.) I will admit I discounted the Hynes impact. Who should have known? Me. I definitely should have known. Especially when I was able to watch the games. Alas.
What happened is not the worst case scenario for the Devils. They do have three first round picks at their disposal for the 2020 NHL Draft. They could use all three. They could package one (or two) of them in a deal (or two) for a NHL player or even to move up (or down) in the draft. It would have been great if Arizona fell to Nashville and then lose the lottery given that Chicago and Montreal won their respective series. Alas, the Devils have potentially three picks in the top-twenty instead of two in the top-ten and one in the top-twenty. It could have been worse. And depending on what happens tomorrow, we could feel worse.
John’s Desirability Rankings for Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery
Since we knew since the end of June that one of the eight losing teams could get Alexis Lafreniere in October, there are certain teams that we, as Devils fans, just do not want to see win the lottery. However, I cannot speak for all Devils fans. I can only speak for myself. As part of this preview, I will give you my rankings in terms of who I would desire to see win tomorrow’s lottery. This is in order of who I would not mind seeing get the right to pick Lafreniere to who I absolutely do not want to see win tomorrow’s draw.
As of this writing, we do not know who the eighth participant in tomorrow’s lottery will be. That will be decided between Toronto and Columbus tonight at 8 PM ET (NBCSN). The Devils really do not have any stakes in the series between Toronto and Columbus. The fanbases of the team that loses will be crushed. Not only did they see their team lose this crucial game, but their team botched a 3-0 lead at one point of the series to lose a game earlier in the series that led to this result. A result that will not be easily forgotten. To that end, I included both teams in these rankings.
1. Minnesota - To me, Minnesota is the ideal place for Lafreniere with respect to my situation as being a Devils fan. Minnesota is in the Western Conference and so their improvement would not get in the Devils way in the standings. They are well outside of the area so no one has to endure any jawjacking about how they won. I do not have a lot of faith in their management to build the team up around him as the Wild are stuck with Parise’s and Suter’s stupendously long deals through out Lafreniere’s prime years, which will hamper any future success. Lastly, of all of the teams on this list, they would likely need him the most. They do not have an offensive force to get the Wild from being the doldrums of being a below-mediocre franchise. Lafreniere would a near-instant upgrade. And it would not harm the Devils. Of all eight lottery balls, I hope the winner has a Wild logo on it.
2. Winnipeg - Winnipeg checks a lot of boxes for desirability. They are in the Western Conference so their success (or lack thereof) does not impact the Devils. They are far from the area so there will not be any local trash talk about how they have Lafreniere and the Devils do not. There is a chance that Lafreniere helps them out but they will not take the league’s crown anytime soon. Although I like their chances better than, say, Minnesota’s. Could the Jets use Lafreniere? Sure. It would not be as big as it would be for Minnesota or some of the other teams on this list. But he would largely be out of the Devils’ proverbial hair. I would not mind the Jets winning the lottery at all.
3. Nashville - You can probably see a theme here. Western Conference teams that are not super-popular around the country would be teams I would rather have winning this lottery. Nashville has not had a potential game-changer of a forward prospect as long as I can remember. With John Hynes behind the bench, Lafreniere may need a few years to get going but I do not think Hynes will be there for long. I have them third mostly so Hynes is not “rewarded” with another first overall pick to work with to varying levels of success.
4. Edmonton - Edmonton is a veteran of the lottery process. In 2010 (Taylor Hall), 2011 (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), 2012 (Nail Yakupov), and 2015 (Connor McDavid), Edmonton had the first overall selection. They also had top-ten picks in 2013 (Darnell Nurse), 2014 (Leon Draisaitl), 2016 (Jesse Puljujarvi), 2018 (Evan Bouchard), and 2019 (Philip Broberg). A lot of people will be very annoyed if they get #1 again for the fifth time in the last eleven drafts and a top-ten pick for the tenth time in the last eleven drafts. That stated, Lafreniere in the Pacific Division does not harm the Devils. If anyone can continue to make the least out of a lot of potential, it is the Edmonton Oilers management team. Unlike many in the hockey world, I would not be mad about this happening to Edmonton yet again.
5. Florida - Florida is one of those teams that has plenty of intriguing talent that makes you wonder why they are not better than they actually are. It is also a team already undergoing a transition as it was reported shortly after losing Game 4 to the Islanders that GM and President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon is on the outs. Lafreniere could definitely help out a team expected to see Evgeny Dadonov and Mike Hoffman walk. A better Florida team could make future wild card races harder for a hopefully-better Devils team. However, would he really make them that much better? After all, they won the 2016 Draft Lottery to get Aaron Ekblad and as good as he is, the Panthers are still stuck in being not bad enough to be awful and not good enough to be even average. Even adding Lafreniere, the team will not likely overcome the monstrous anchor that is Sergey Bobrovsky (contract, season stats, Qualifying Round stats). If it has to be in the East, then I hope it is the Panthers.
6. Toronto* - The asterisk indicates that they may not even be in this lottery if they win tonight. If they do, ignore this and move on. Anyway, Toronto getting Lafreniere would be a big consolation prize for failing to win an important series in their own arena. He would add another dimension to an already loaded offense. So why do I have them higher up these desirability rankings than others? One: Toronto is already ahead of the Devils and even without Lafreniere, I do not see the Devils overtaking them anytime soon. I doubt Toronto will be concerning in any wild card races as I see them as a top three team in their division. Two: Toronto’s cap situation for the future is not exactly clean. Should Lafreniere play like he is expected to play, he will end up commanding a hefty second contract. That could open up the possibility of Toronto moving one of their expensive studs. Like Arizona, a flat salary cap greatly hinders them in the short term. Adding a max-level ELC player knowing he will demand and command millions in three seasons makes it more challenging. That could be to New Jersey’s benefit down the line.
7. Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh’s window is closing. Father Time remains undefeated and eventually Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Sideny Crosby will find that out. More than that, Pittsburgh’s run at battling for guaranteed playoff spots if not division titles came from having excellent complementary players and drafting well enough to keep other positions competitive. But in that Montreal series, I saw a lot of those players get outworked, players who were added that did not contribute a lot (Note: Who thought it was a good idea to pair Jack Johnson with Justin Schultz?) and Montreal doing a great job to keep Pittsburgh’s stars in check. This is a team that could be on the decline sooner than we think. Adding Alexis Lafreniere could rejuvenate the squad and give the organization someone new to build around. They may drop back a bit but possibly not for long. For the Devils to get better, it is in their best interest to see teams in their division get worse. Pittsburgh getting Lafreniere would not likely do that.
8. Columbus* - The asterisk indicates that they may not even be in this lottery if they win tonight. If they do, ignore this and move on. In my view, Alexis Lafreniere would be a perfect fit for Columbus - and a total nightmare for the Devils. The Devils have already struggled a lot against Columbus for the last several years. If they get to add a dynamic offensive winger who plays with a hard edge to that squad, they would become incredibly difficult to beat - much less pass in the standings. I can already foresee Lafreniere and Pierre-Luc DuBois making magic together up front. I can already see a team known for its defensive responsibility, work ethic, and neutral-zone clogging systems getting a big offensive boost from a young winger like Lafreniere. A fairly young team gets a bit younger and given that they do not have many long term deals, they could afford Lafreniere for a very long time. I felt deflated after seeing Toronto tie it up in the last minute of regulation in Game 4 and seeing Auston Matthews force a Game 5 in OT. I will feel even more deflated if they end up winning the lottery to add Lafreniere to their lineup. Not as much as the least desirable team on this list, but pretty deflated.
9. Our Hated Rivals - No. No. No. No. Do not want. Do not want at all. Bad bad not good. No. Do not put this evil on me. I can’t go for this. No can do. No.
OK, more seriously, this would be the worst possible winner of this lottery. Imagine the already tired smacktalk from fans of Our Hated Rivals getting smugger by adding a friend to play opposite of Kaapo Kakko. Imagine how high-minded they will sound about how they are going to run the league with Shestyorkin, Trouba, Foxy, Tony D, Mika Z, Kakko, Breadman, and Laf. Imagine how irritating it will be to hear them brag about how Panarin is going to help make Lafreniere so good, bro. Worst of all, they could very well be right. This was a team set on rebuilding and they utilized their advantages (namely, having lots of money to spend without James Dolan getting involved) well enough that their rebuild did not mean “Suck for a while and hope the prospects emerge.” Getting Lafreniere could mean that Our Hated Rivals could become an Actually Good team very soon. And if you thought fans of Our Hated Rivals are pains in general, then imagine them when the team is successful. I repeat: this would be the worst possible winner of this lottery. Therefore, they are the least desirable.
These are my desirability rankings. Feel free to agree or disagree with some or all of this list in the comments. Also feel free to share your own thoughts on who you do or do not want to win.
After the Lottery, Then Playoffs. What Then?
There are other stakes at hand for the Devils in the playoff rounds that will follow the second NHL Draft Lottery.
If Vatanen continues to dress for at least 70% of the Canes’ playoff games from here on out, then that fourth round pick will be upgraded to a third round pick in 2020. This would be a nice result as the Devils currently do not have a third round pick. Let us hope that Rod Brind’Amour keeps putting him in the lineup for Carolina’s remaining games.
If Arizona or Vancouver make the Western Conference Finals, then their picks will drop to near the end of the first round. That would be bad - but it is thankfully unlikely.
If Chicago, Montreal, and/or Calgary reach their Conference Finals, then the Arizona or Vancouver picks would improve a little bit. This would be good - but also unlikely.
If Arizona wins one playoff round, then the conditional third round pick in 2021 would be upgraded to a second round pick in 2021. It can become a first round pick if Hall re-signs with Arizona. This requires A) Arizona beating a legitimately Great team in Colorado, which is a huge long shot; B) Arizona making enough cap space to re-sign Hall among all of their other signings; and C) Hall wanting to stay in Arizona instead of going to see if a team that regularly makes the playoffs would be interested in him as a free agent. I would not hold my breath on this third rounder for next year’s draft being upgraded. But if you want a rooting interest beyond the lottery, there is this in addition that Vatanen keeps taking shifts for Carolina.
Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery will take place tomorrow night. We will finally know the first half of the first round at that point. We will know who will come away from the actual draft in October with Lafreniere. Who do you think will take it? Who do you want to take it? Who do you not want to take it? What are your expectations about the Devils’ remaining stakes in this postseason? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the second draft lottery and the Qualifying Round results in the comments. (By the way, if you want to discuss the Toronto and Columbus game, then please do so in the open thread for the games.) Thank you for reading.