2020 NHL Draft lottery: Sharks avoid nightmare scenario in wild event

Brian Witt
NBC Sports BayArea

For a while there, the 2020 NHL Draft lottery was going about as terribly as possible for the Sharks.

Though they learned from the start that a placeholding team currently involved in the league's return-to-play format landed one of the top three picks, the next phase of developments painted a disaster scenario for San Jose.

The top eight picks in the draft were determined in reverse order, with the first big surprise occurring at No. 5 overall. The Ottawa Senators' first-round selection had the second-best odds of landing No. 1 overall, but instead they received the fifth pick.

That was followed by another major surprise, as the Detroit Red Wings -- who had the best odds in the entire league of landing the No. 1 overall pick -- came in at No. 4. That meant that the selections belonging to the Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and the mystery team -- in some order -- would be the first three picks in the draft.

Normally, that would have been a great thing for San Jose. But with its first-round pick already belonging to Ottawa as part of the Erik Karlsson trade, the Sharks surely were hoping their selection landed as far back in the draft order as possible, so as to lessen the value they ultimately gave up in the trade. Additionally, they definitely didn't want the division rival Kings to land the top pick.

But with the top three selections still to be revealed, there was a solid chance the Sharks' and Kings' selections would have ended up first and second overall. If that played out, regardless of the order, it would have been a terrible result for San Jose.

Alas, in what has truly been a year of ridiculously bad luck for the Sharks, something finally bounced their way. 

First, San Jose's own selection landed at No. 3 overall. Though it belongs to the Senators, that wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. In fact, the best possible scenario would have seen their pick land at No. 6. Had it landed No. 1 -- where consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere is expected to be picked -- it would have left the door open for the Sharks to wonder, 'What if?'

San Jose's good news didn't end there. With only the top two selections left to be determined, the league revealed the No. 1 overall pick belonged to the placeholder team that is involved in the return-to-play qualifying round. That meant that the Kings' first-round pick landed at No. 2 overall.

That's a mighty fine asset for Los Angeles, but the consensus is that there's a large drop-off in talent after Lafreniere, and assuming he goes No. 1 overall, that likely means he won't be in the Sharks' division.

Likely, but not certain. That's because the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round will be included in Phase 2 of the draft lottery, with the No. 1 overall pick belonging to its winner. That surely wasn't the result the NHL had hoped for when establishing the draft lottery format, but then again, not much has gone the way the league expected it would this season.

Among the eight Western Conference teams involved in the qualifying round are the Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. Should any of them be eliminated in the qualifying round, they would then be in play to receive the No. 1 pick. All of those teams are in San Jose's division, so from the Sharks' perspective, they each ideally would advance past the qualifying round, thereby ruling out any chance of a Pacific Division team landing the top overall selection.

So, San Jose isn't out of the woods yet. But for a draft lottery that started out about as poorly as possible for the Sharks, it could have ended much, much worse.

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Furthermore, the 2020 draft lottery offered further vindication for San Jose general manager Doug Wilson in making the decision to trade the haul for Karlsson prior to the start of last season. The Sharks already had won that trade. That was never in question. But Friday's result further cements it.

You rightfully make that trade 100 times out of 100. Especially now, knowing the true value of the first-round pick.

2020 NHL Draft lottery: Sharks avoid nightmare scenario in wild event originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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