After months of no NHL events and building anticipation, the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery is approaching. Well, potentially half of it. In these extremely uncertain times, the NHL will have a “Phase 1” lottery on June 26 that will include the seven teams that finished at the bottom of league standings, but then placeholders named “Team A – H”.
So we know that the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres will be anxiously waiting to see how the balls drop on Friday evening.
But, another eight teams will be joining in those chances. We don’t know who they are yet, but we can assume all 16 of the teams playing in the play-in round will be on the edge of their seats as well as they might have some big changes in their draft preparation very soon.
Related: FREE 2020 NHL Draft Guide
For a full breakdown of how this new lottery system works, you can read about that here.
As we know, getting a top-three selection in the draft can make a big impact on a team. Landing the first-overall pick can drastically change a team’s outlook. In this post, we’ll take a look at which teams need a win in the lottery the most. The first few may be obvious, but the other two may not be. One thing is for sure, these teams – and more importantly, their fanbases – could really use the win.
Detroit Red Wings
Chance of Winning: 18.5%
Alright, this one might be a little obvious, but the Red Wings need this. They are coming off of a 17-41-5 record with a minus-122 goal differential. If that’s not enough to warrant a team needing a win, I don’t know what is. But then, to make matters worse, they haven’t qualified for the playoffs in four straight years. That comes after three straight seasons of first-round exits, for a total of seven disappointing years.
The Red Wings prospect pool isn’t looking too great right now either. After 2019 draftee Moritz Seider and 2018 first-rounder Joe Veleno, there’s not much to be excited about in Motor City. In this, I’m considering Filip Zadina very much an NHLer and not a prospect.
We’re one season into the Steve Yzerman reign as general manager, and if his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning is any indication of what’s to come you’ll be just fine, Wings’ fans. But, let’s be honest. Landing projected top-pick Alexis Lafrenière and seeing him on the ice next to Dylan Larkin next season would definitely excel that timeline and make you feel a whole lot better.
Chance of Winning: 13.5% (their own pick) + 11.5% (San Jose Sharks pick) = 25%
Despite not finishing in last place (OK, they finished second last), the Senators find themselves with the best odds of winning the first-overall pick and the Lafrenière sweepstakes. They have those odds thanks to the San Jose Sharks and the Erik Karlsson trade, which gave them the Sharks 2020 first-rounder (third-highest odds) on top of their own (second-highest odds).
The Senators need a win in a big way, and honestly, they’ll get that even if they don’t win the lottery. The worst they can pick is fifth and sixth, which still lands them two excellent prospects. But, imagine if they landed No. 1 and 2? Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield? Even if they hold their current position and grab two of Byfield, Tim Stützle, Lucas Raymond, or Jamie Drysdale, that’s a massive improvement to the team and its future. This would add to an already promising young core the team has, from Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk to Drake Batherson and Erik Brännström.
Senators fans have spent season after season feeling disappointment, starting back with the departure of longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson, the ongoing headlines involving Eugene Melnyk on what seems like a daily basis, the revolving door of front office staff, and the recent exodus of talent. They’re odds of winning the first-overall pick are the highest, and they might very well be the team that needs it most.
Chance of Winning: 6.5%
Speaking of ownership issues, what is going on with the Sabres? The organization recently fired general manager Jason Botterill, among over 20 others in the organization, including a large portion of their scouting staff. They were on such a firing spree, that they fired their Head of Hockey Department IT, only after realizing it was a mistake and having to hire him back. Oh boy.
The Sabres fanbase is a patient one, I’ll give them that. It’s only fair that they get a win, sooner or later. Including the 2019-20 season, the team has missed the playoffs for nine straight seasons. To put that into context, when the Sabres were last in the playoffs, the Atlanta Thrashers were still in the NHL. This streak gives them the longest active drought in the league. Despite having a potential MVP in Jack Eichel leading the team.
In the 2019 NHL Draft, they drafted highly-touted centreman Dylan Cozens, who could one day be a 1C (or 2C behind Eichel). On the team, Victor Olafsson just took a big step forward, Rasmus Dahlin is going to be a star (if he’s not already), and let’s not forget that Sam Reinhart is still just 24 years old. But they are on the team. For the prospect pool, after Cozens, yikes. There’s not much excitement. Lafrenière, or even a top-three pick, would certainly go a long way to help that
Chance of Winning: 1-6% (Play-in Team)
The final two teams on this list aren’t in the Phase 1 Lottery, but I think they’re in need of a win. The Minnesota Wild will be facing off against the Vancouver Canucks in the play-in series with the hopes of getting into the playoffs. Frankly, I think they’d be better served to lose to the Canucks and get a higher selection in the draft.
The Wild are in a perpetual state of mediocrity. They are constantly a bubble team, never truly a contender for the Stanley Cup but not bad enough for a high draft pick. It’s time to pick a lane, Minny. With general manager Bill Guerin now having one full season to see where the team is at, expect that decision to be made this summer. If they lose the play-in, the team might just blow it up – as they should.
They need a prospect pool boost. That being said, they have a few extremely talented players waiting in the ranks including Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Boldy, Adam Beckman, and Alexander Khovanov. Adding an elite prospect to that bunch would improve the outlook drastically. In the past four seasons, they were booted from the first round three times and didn’t make the playoffs once (2018-19). I think it’s time to call it and start over. The fanbase needs it.
Chance of Winning: 1-6% (Play-in Team)
The last team on this list might come as a bit of a surprise over a team like the Los Angeles Kings (they have tons of prospects and recent Stanley Cups – they don’t need this). However, I think the Florida Panthers need this. The team could very well be right on the brink of something great and the fanbase has waited long enough. They are in the play-in round for now though and will be facing off against the New York Islanders.
Related: 5 Panthers First-Round Draft Targets
It has been 24 years since the Panthers made it past the first round of the playoffs. Even worse, in those 24 years, they’ve only made it to the postseason three times, losing each of those in the first round. If you look at that roster, it’s a team that has potential but is always just lacking something.
Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad make a solid core, but the group around them hasn’t been able to lift them over the edge. Players like Mike Hoffman and Keith Yandle have helped, but they could use a bit more of an elite offensive presence. Their prospect pool has some solid players coming up, including Owen Tippett, Grigori Denisenko, and Aleksi Heponiemi, but the organization needs an extra push. Lafrenière on Barkov’s wing? Sign me up.
A 2020 NHL Draft Lottery Win Could Go a Long Way
Of course, any of those other Phase 1 lottery teams could use a top-three pick as well. But, the Kings, the Ducks, and the Devils aren’t that far removed from years of playoff success and their prospect pools aren’t looking too bad right now (well, the Kings’ looks wonderful). But these five teams from above have seen their fanbases go through a world of hurt – and not just this season. They need a win however it comes. One (or two if you’re the Senators) of Lafrenière, Byfield, Stützle, Raymond or Drysdale could be that win.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.