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NHL Draft Lottery: Now That We've All Calmed Down

By Gregg Kennedy | The Sens Report


OK, I have given it more than 24 hours and now have some thoughts on the NHL Draft Lottery...

After Lafreniere, the "Best of the Rest?" Stuetzle, Byfield, Rossi (photo credit NHL.com)

Firstly, yes, it was possible for the New York Rangers to win both the lottery and The Stanley Cup. Please sit down, clear your head, empty the room of any distractions and I will walk you through step by step how it could have happened...


1  On June 22, 2019, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded (disposed of?) Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes and were so desperate to lose salary they included their first-round draft pick in the deal.  BUT, they did protect the pick and not just a top 3 protect; it was top 10 protected.  In other words, if the Leafs ended up with a top ten pick, they would keep it and Carolina would/will get the Leafs 2021 first-round pick.


2  On February 24, 2020, the Carolina Hurricanes traded a conditional first-round pick to the New York Rangers for Brady Skjei; the condition being, the pick would be the lower of either their own pick or Toronto's.

3  Phase One of the NHL draft lottery was actually three lotteries.  The first was a draw of 15 teams (the seven non-play-in teams and the eight play-in round losers labelled Placeholder Team A through H) for the first overall pick.  A placeholder team did, in fact, win.  

4  The second draw of phase one of the lottery consisted of the remaining 14 teams from above for the second overall pick. The Los Angeles Kings won.

5  The third draw of phase one of the lottery consisted of the remaining 13 teams from above for the third overall pick.  The Senators won.


6  Phase Two of the NHL Draft Lottery was always only optional and would only take place if a placeholder won any of the three lotteries in Phase One.


Now come the IFs...


7  IF two or even three placeholder teams won any of the three draws in phase one and IF Toronto and Carolina both lost in the play-in round they would each have a 12.5% chance at those picks.

8  IF everything in point seven happened, the Leafs would keep their top-three pick no matter where it ended up due to it being top ten protected and therefore Carolina's pick would automatically go to the Rangers.


IF Carolina won phase two of the lottery and the first overall pick, it would go to the Rangers.


Clear as mud?


In the end, much to the (phew!) NHL's delight, this did not come to pass, but we do need to clear up a few other things.


The Ottawa Senators did indeed have a plethora of potential outcomes ranging from ending up with picks one and two to ending up with picks five and six.  Five and six was the worst possible outcome, right?  Wrong!  The worst possible outcome was ending up with picks five and six and seeing four Atlantic Division rivals getting picks one through four! Could you imagine a top six of Montreal at one, Detriot at two, Buffalo at three, Florida at four and the Sens at five and six?  If you understood anything of what you read above, you can see how it was possible.  The Senators could have ended up with picks five and six but been the fifth team in their own division to make a selection!

Now, as to the conspiracy crap floating around out there...


Teams 8-15 had a COMBINED 24.5% chance to win the lottery - the same odds they have always had.  Last season, Chicago was Team E or 20th overall and had the same 2.5% chance to win the lottery. They didn't.  The year before it was the Islanders via Calgary who owned that slot.  They didn`t win either.  

The only difference between this lottery and any other one was we didn't know who those 8-15 lottery teams were.  The season isn't over so we have no clue who finished 17-24 so the league went with the placeholder plan.  Unfortunately, once the league committed to holding the lottery as close to on-schedule as possible they were locked in, but the placeholder system does make sense as a way of still holding the lottery with the 15 non-playoff teams.  As David Poile, GM of the Nashville Predators said, "I either wanted to be a playoff team or a lottery team, but I didn't want to be both and I didn't want anyone else to be both".   So, all you twitidiots complaining about anything being unfair need to come back from lunch; there was no conspiracy and this lottery was pretty much the same as any other year.  The obvious question remains though;


 Why did the NHL feel compelled to hold the lottery now and not after the play-in round was completed when we would know all 15 teams involved??

​The simple answer?  Who the hell knows?  But here are some theories nonetheless.

1  The league wanted to hold the lottery sooner rather than later as a way of providing some sort of normalcy especially for the non play-in round teams who really don't have a lot to do these days.  Unfortunately, we ended up with this confusing placeholder team system which really destroyed any hope of "normalcy".

2  The league owes content to it's television rights holders because of the shutdown and giving them two nights of draft lotteries will mitigate some of that debt.  As an aside, this is why I believe there will still be some sort of NHL Awards broadcast as opposed to simple announcements made over the course of a week or so a la MLB.

3  The non-play-in teams demanded a lottery be held as soon as possible so they could drum up some PR and maybe even some season ticket sales.  Could you imagine the hoopla in Ottawa right now had the Sens won?  Alexis fever would be running rampant.  The kid would have been brought to town for media tours.  Jerseys would be flying off the shelves. Jim Watson could have given him a key to the city.  I'm not sure of the rules, but maybe the Senators could have even signed him already.  

But, alas, it's picks three and five.


Sens GM Pierre Dorion put on the happy face and said "We're going to get a tremendous player at number three, we'll let Detroit take number four and we know we're going to get another special player at number five.  We know we're going to get two impactful players."  Okay, but who will those players be? 


We start by trying to figure out who will be available in those slots.  


The Placeholders will take Lafreniere.  Yes, that's obvious but needed to be said to end any talk of the pick being traded.  An offer of pick five and the Islander pick or even pick three and the  Islander pick would most assuredly be impolitely declined.  Best case scenario for you dreamers is a polite no for an offer of picks three, five and the Islander pick.  Will Dorion offer that package?  Of course he will, but the Placeholders will still decline.  Rest assured, the Sens will try all sorts of things but will probably end up picking three and five.

The LA Kings, picking second, have the best prospect pool in the league especially down the middle but both Tim Stutzle and Quintin Byfield are better than what they already have.  This still leaves me thinking the Kings are a candidate to move down to grab one of the defencemen (Jamie Drysdale or Jake Sanderson) at say four or five to fill an organizational need.  


The fourth pick belongs to Detroit, but I am led to believe they are quite high on Cole Perfetti, a "magician in the offensive zone" according to Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino.  Could Detroit offer LA a package including the fourth overall pick and move up to two?  Sure, but GM Steve Yzerman cannot afford to be trading away any assets, be they current prospects or future draft picks so the package would have to  include a roster player or two and I'm not sure they really have the depth to be doing that or enough talent to be tempting to the Kings.  


Maybe they are willing to part with one of their three second-round picks as they have their own plus Edmonton's and Washington's?  Or, maybe the Senators offer up pick five and the Islander pick for LA's and take both Stutzle and Byfield?  That may be interesting but would certainly spell the end of Logan Brown and would also leave the Sens with a difficult to trade Colin White contract (4X4.75M to go)

Whatever happens with picks two and four probably doesn't affect the Senators as I believe they most likely end up with picks three and five and will a pair of players for each spot with both picks pretty much being decided for them by other teams.  At three, I see the Senators' choice being between Stutzle and Byfield; whichever is still on the board.  The big, skilled centre or the speedy, skilled centre.  I think I prefer Stutzle whose skating and speed excite me.  That and the fact an anonymous NHL scout told Bob McKenzie "if there is someone in this draft who could go by Lafreniere in the years to come, it's this kid".   That's a true blue NHL scout talking; not one of those clowns calling himself a scout while working on his website in his parents' basement.  


At pick five, I think the Senators' choice will be between defencemen Drysdale and Sanderson, again, depending on which one is still on the board.  Sorry, Marco Rossi fans.  I see him as one of those risk/reward picks and I'm not convinced he is quick enough especially when one considers he is undersized.  It's tough enough to make it at 5'9" but even tougher at 5'9" and possibly a half step slower.  I just don't like the risk involved.  Let another team take that risk and either they can look like geniuses or you can say "I told you so".  The other options at pick five are Cole Perfetti,if he is still there, Lucas Raymond or possibly goaltender Yaroslav Askarov.  If Perfetti is there, I would take him in a heartbeat.  I think five is too high for Raymond but I am more than willing to be proven wrong and definitely too high for Askarov even if he has been described as a can't miss.  It's possibly too early for Sanderson as well, so Drysdale would be my preference and even with Brannstrom, Bernard-Docker, Thomson, and Jaros in the pipeline and Zaitsev, Zub and possibly Hainsey on the roster, you can never have too many right shot defencemen.  If Drysdale isn't available then I think the best pick for the Senators here is the left shot Sanderson. 


No matter how it all plays out whenever this draft comes, I have to agree with Pierre Dorion; the Senators are "going to draft two players who are going to be impactful players for many years to come".   Add them into the mix of 12 other picks in the first three rounds of this draft and the 2021 draft, plus goaltenders Daccord, Gustavsson, Hogberg, Mandolese, Sogaard, defencemen Brannstrom, JBD, Chabot, Thomson, Wolanin and forwards Abramov, Balcers, Batherson, Brown, Formenton, Norris, Paul, Tkachuk and White and you have one hell of a lot of 25 and under-talented assets to play with.  Keep some, trade some.  


Either way, the future looks real good.

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