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As I'm sure you've heard by now, Friday night's NHL Draft Lottery ended in the most dramatic possible fashion.
One of the 16 "Placeholder" teams that are set to participate in the qualifying round will end up with the first-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft — whenever that happens — and the presumptive right to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.
I see this as a win/win outcome for the Vancouver Canucks (with a tiny possibility of losing still on the board — I'll get to that in a minute).
Assuming the NHL does get the playoffs happening and get the qualifying round complete, the Canucks will get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup and gain some valuable experience for their young players if they beat Minnesota. If they lose, they'll get a one-in-eight chance to earn the right to select Lafreniere.
I wondered if those odds are better than what they had in their cellar-dwelling years, when they were lottery losers.
2015-16: Canucks finished 28th/30, odds of first pick 11.5%
- Canucks fell to fifth, selected Olli Juolevi
- Toronto finished 30th, had 20% odds of first pick, won the lottery and selected Auston Matthews
- Winnipeg finished 25th, moved up to Pick #2 (Laine); Columbus finished 27th, moved up to pick #3 (Dubois)
2016-17: Canucks finished 29th/30, odds of first pick 12.124%
- a stranger number than usual because Vegas was added to the mix for the lottery
- Canucks fell to fifth, selected Elias Pettersson
- Colorado finished 30th with 48 points in 82 games, a points percentage of .293; only a hair better than Detroit's .275 this year. Like the Wings, the Avs got bumped down three spots due to three lottery winners moving up. Considering they took Cale Makar, they did all right!
- New Jersey finished 28th, moved up to Pick #1 (Hischier); Philadelphia finished 19th, moved up to Pick #2 (Patrick); Dallas finished 24th, moved up to Pick #3 (Heiskanen)
2017-18: Canucks finished 26th/31, odds of first pick 7.5%
- Canucks bumped back just one spot to seventh, selected Quinn Hughes
- Buffalo finished 31st with a .378 points percentage and retained the first overall pick (Dahlin)
- Carolina finished 21st, moved up to Pick #2 (Svechnikov); Montreal finished 28th, moved up one spot to Pick #3 (Kotkaniemi)
So yes — if they lose to Minnesota, the Canucks' chances of picking first overall will be better this year than they were in their darkest seasons.
And yes — if Pittsburgh loses to Montreal in their qualifier, the team with the seventh-best record in the league when the season was paused (which would have prorated to 102 points over 82 games) could also have a 12.5% chance at Lafreniere.
I don't have a problem with this — for two reasons.
1) Teams like Pittsburgh, that had very legitimately qualified for the playoffs, deserve some sort of potential compensation for agreeing to let the lower-ranked contenders into the qualifying round. If the Pens lose to the Habs and don't even get a chance to take part in the 16-team tournament, that's not an especially fair outcome given where they were when the season was paused. As the seventh-best team in the league, they could even argue that they should have had one of the byes — they would have gotten one easily if they'd been in the West, with their record.
2) I like the chaos. I love the fact that Twitter blew up on Friday night, and that we probably won't know which team gets the right to Lafreniere for another six weeks. Way to keep 16 fanbases invested!
The general feeling seems to be that Lafreniere will be ready to step straight into the NHL next season. I wonder if that road gets tougher if he joins a better, more stacked team? But I also wonder if it doesn't set him up for a better chance of success if he joins a deeper team? I was going to say "with a winning culture," but it'll still be a team that's bitterly disappointed about not having made it out of the qualifying round.
Now — about the Canucks possibly not getting a crack at Lafreniere. That'll happen if the qualifying round doesn't get completed.
If the eight teams in Phase 2 of the lottery can't be determined as the qualifying round losers, then the second order of selection will be by points percentage — in each conference.
That means the bottom four teams in the East that weren't in Phase 1 were Montreal, the Rangers, Florida and Columbus. (Columbus and Toronto are tied at .579, but Toronto holds the tiebreaker with more regulation wins).
In the West, it'll be Chicago, Arizona, Minnesota and Winnipeg. The Jets have a .563 points percentage, just a hair below Calgary at .564 and Vancouver at .565.
Bottom line: the Canucks have a chance to make some good things happen if the NHL can execute its return-to-play plan. These next few days should be crucial.
Elliotte Friedman is now taking a break from his "31 Thoughts" column until play resumes, but he dropped one final post-lottery edition
One nugget he included is that the league and the players had approved Vegas and Vancouver, and the announcement was supposed to happen last Thursday, before the hub city "snag" popped up on Tuesday.
He says the issues were twofold:
"...how many positive tests would delay/end the return; and flow of people in and out of the bubble...British Columbia has done an excellent job of containing COVID-19, and didn’t want someone being exposed, leaving the area and infecting others."
Friedman says he still gets the feeling that the league thinks it can keep its bubble in Vegas tight, but now says he can imagine the possibility that we might end up with two Canadian cities. "As we’ve learned, nothing is done until it is done," he concluded.
Friedman also says he expects the new CBA extension to be put to a vote sometime this week — but the results won't be known before the normal "year end" on June 30. The latest details that have leaked out are in my last blog, so I won't go over that again.
But I will conclude with some positive signs that the Canucks are starting to get ready to get back on the ice in Vancouver.
Not sure if Tyler Toffoli is bringing Dodger with him, but he's definitely on his way to Vancouver...
Jordie Benn is also en route — though it sounds like he's expecting to head back to Dallas very soon to witness the birth of his first child.
Seems like there's a bit of a coordinated effort to have players returning on similar schedules — perhaps so they can "quarantine together" as they start their Phase 2 workouts?
I imagine we'll start to see more clarity on that in the days to come as well.