The NHL draft lottery took place on Friday with the chance to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere on the line and the winner was...a team to be named later.
The NHL changed its lottery process for the 2020 season and opened it up to the seven teams that missed the 24-team cutoff for the postseason plus the eight losers of the qualifying round. As luck would have it, one of the qualifying-round teams won the No. 1 overall pick.
The Detroit Red Wings had an 18.5-percent chance of getting the top pick after a disastrous season. The Ottawa Senators, who had two lottery picks with their own plus San Jose's, had a combined chance of 25-percent. And yet, neither team walked away with either of the top two picks. Here is the order of the top eight picks as determined by the lottery:
Qualifying round loser
Ottawa Senators (from San Jose)
Detroit Red Wings
So what does this mean? It means we will not know who has the No. 1 overall pick until Phase 2 of the draft lottery which will take place after the qualifying round. All eight teams that lose in the qualifying round will have a 12.5-percent chance of winning the top pick.
As one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals have a bye past the qualifying round and are not eligible for the top pick, but here is why Phase 2 of the draft lottery still matters. Among the teams in the qualifying round are several Metropolitan Division teams: the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. If any of those teams lose, they will have a 12.5-percent chance of getting the top pick which would mean bringing Lafreniere into the Metro Division.
When the NHL paused its season, the Penguins were in third place in the Metropolitan Division and had a six-point cushion over the Islanders who were the first team out of playoff position. Had the season finished out, Pittsburgh would have made the playoffs and would not have had a lottery pick. Now it is conceivable they could get walk away with the top pick.
The NHL draft lottery is set up to reward bad teams. Bad teams get the chance to win the best players because those are the teams in need of the most help. Thanks to the NHL's tweaked system for 2020, chances are that a pretty decent team is going to get the top pick. Instead of helping a team like Detroit turn things around, Lafreniere will instead be plopped into a much better roster like an up-and-coming Carolina or even a Penguins team that still features Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Lafreniere is a left wing who scored 112 points in 52 QMJHL games in 2019-20 for Rimouski Oceanic. His combined numbers in three seasons in the QMJHL are 294 points in 173 games. As good as he is, the impact he could have on teams like Detroit or Ottawa would have been initially limited considering their respective rosters. But adding a player like that to a roster like the Rangers with Artemi Panarin, the Islanders in desperate need of offense, the Penguins who are getting older, that is a big boost to a team that does not need it nearly as much as the seven teams who are already out of the postseason and who were hoping their name would be called on Friday.
This now begs a very difficult question for Caps fans in terms of what they want to see happen in the qualifying round.
So Caps fans, what are you cheering for? Do you want the Penguins to lose in the play-in round and possibly draft Alexis Lafreniere or do you hope they win the play-in round?
— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) June 27, 2020
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