An NHL Placeholder Team Wins Draft Lottery

The NHL held their draft lottery on Friday and while it was expected one of either the Ottawa Senators or Detroit Red Wings would win the top-overall selection and the right to draft Alexis Lafreniere, neither of those things happened. Instead, a placeholder team won the first spot and a Phase 2 Draft Lottery will be required.

The 30-minute draft lottery broadcast got interesting within the first few minutes as Bill Daley revealed that he was holding eight cards instead of seven. That meant one of the play-in teams of the 24-team playoffs would be in the top three.

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As Ottawa fell, Detroit fell and Los Angeles moved up, it became clear it was either LA or the play-in team. When Daly flipped over an NHL logo and revealed that the No. 1 overall pick would go to a team that also now has a chance to win the Stanley Cup, it made it extremely clear there would be a lot of conversations — good and bad — about the lottery process.

It turned out that the draft slots fell in the following order:

  1. Play-In Team (TBD)
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. Ottawa Senators
  4. Detroit Red Wings
  5. Ottawa Senators
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Buffalo Sabres

What Happens Next?

Outside of media and insiders looking at a number of trade conditions to see if a team like the New York Rangers could actually win the Stanley Cup and draft first overall, the key here is that only the eight teams who are eliminated from the play-in rounds will have a shot. All of those teams will have a 12.5% chance to win.

If, for some reason, the playoffs don’t take place for health reasons and the COVID-19 pandemic, the bottom-eight teams will have an equal chance to win the top pick.

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Could This Change the Play-In Games?

Theoretically, yes. If a play-in team goes down 0-2 to another team and it looks like they aren’t going to win the series, they could phone in the final game to give themselves a chance to win the right to enter the Phase 2 draft. One would hope that doesn’t happen.

Rimouski Oceanic Alexis Lafreniere
BOISBRIAND, QC – NOVEMBER 23: Alexis Lafrenière in action in a QMJHL game between the Rimouski Océanics and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on November 23, 2019, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by Vincent Ethier/CHL)

Outside of that, the question becomes, ‘Would a team rather win the league’s biggest prize or would they rather the chance to draft the best player?’. Any competitive player and GM would likely choose the former. The NHL is banking that teams don’t tank on purpose. It wouldn’t have been a second thought in any other scenario. Skeptics will say, now it might be.

Total Chaos

For the most part, the most chaotic possible result is what took place. As fans and media complained that a team could have the chance to win the big prize but also a chance to win the biggest consolation prize, there was a ton of criticism suggesting the process was flawed.

Even Lafreniere refused to join Sportsnet for his scheduled interview since he had no idea where he was going now.

Of course it turned out to be, the thing few figured would happen, happened. Now fans wait. If the play-ins happen, who loses will set the stage for Phase 2.

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