The First Phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery was held on Friday evening, as the NHL staged its first major public appearance since NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced return-to-play plans.
Due to the pause, the league re-designed the lottery procedures, which had the potential for major drama.
Per the NHL:
The draft lottery will determine the first 15 picks in the 2020 NHL Draft based on 3-6 drawings over one or two phases. It will include the seven teams that did not make the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, plus eight teams that are eliminated in the qualifiers.
In short, the First Phase existed to give closure to the seven teams (really six, with due apologies to San Jose, who failed to qualify and also traded their first-round pick) not competing in the qualifying round. But if a team not in the bottom seven wins any of the first three drawings, a Second Phase would be conducted, among the eight teams eliminated in the qualifying round.
The Detroit Red Wings, who had one of the worst seasons in recent NHL history, fell from the first pick to fourth, the lowest they could possibly fall. The Ottawa Senators, who were projected to pick second and third overall, fell to third and fifth. The Los Angeles Kings moved up two slots to the second overall slot. But the real drama fell when Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly flipped over the first overall card that displayed the generic NHL logo, which indicated that one of the eight teams that will lose in the upcoming qualifying round will draft first overall.
The draw for the first overall selection will be held during Phase 2 of the #NHLDraft Lottery among only the eight teams that fail to advance from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. All participants will have the same odds (12.5%).— NHL (@NHL) June 27, 2020
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Each of those teams is given a 12.5% chance at securing the pick that many presume to be Alexis Lafreniere, the Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) star winger who projects as a top-line winger.
The NHL primarily held the draft lottery to generate buzz for the teams/markets that weren't continuing to play. A consolation prize, of sorts. Instead, the only buzz generated means that Phase 2, which will be held following the qualifying round and before the "first round" of the playoffs.
At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I'll let TSN's Frank Seravalli ask the dirty question many are wondering:
How many fan bases will be rooting for their team to lose in the play-in round now? You'd have to finish in 30th place in a full 82-game season to have nearly these same odds for losing a five-game series.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) June 27, 2020
The Blue Jackets have had notoriously/hilariously bad entry draft luck, dating all the way back to their first year of existence. Nobody would go as far as to say that the Blue Jackets losing in the qualifying round to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 12.5% chance at the first overall pick is worth the risk.
Per the NHL, picks No. 9-15 will be assigned to the other teams that lose the eight qualifier series, in inverse order of their points percentage. Picks 16-31 will be determined by the results of the playoffs.
Eight teams will lose in the qualifying round, and while their seasons will each come to a disappointing end, this new-found carrot adds major intrigue and will make the pill easier to swallow for one lucky franchise.