The New York Rangers are still alive in the competition for the top overall draft pick.
Phase One of the NHL draft lottery was held tonight. One of eight teams that will compete in the best-of-five qualifying series has a shot at the top overall pick in the draft. That means that the New York Rangers are still in the hunt for Alexis Lafreniere, two-time CHL player of the year and the top consensus pick in the draft.
Here’s how the top picks ended up (pre-lottery position in parentheses):
- Qualifying round team (8-15)
- Los Angeles Kings (4)
- Ottawa Senators via San Jose (3)
- Detroit Red Wings (1)
- Ottawa Senators (2)
- Anaheim Ducks (5)
- New Jersey Devils (6)
- Buffalo Sabres (7)
Now we have to wait until Phase Two of the lottery when the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round will have an equal shot at the top overall pick. That means a 12.5% shot for each team in the second phase.
There was a long shot that the Rangers could win in the qualifying round and still get the top pick, but they would have needed two “unassigned” teams to sneak into the top three. Now, the only way for the Rangers to get the top pick would be if they lose to the Carolina Hurricanes in the play-in round and then win the eight-team lottery.
Ranger fans will have to debate whether a one-in-eight shot at Lafreniere is worth losing in the qualifying round. Probably not, right?
The Ottawa Senators ended up top three, but have to be disappointed. They had a 25% shot at the top pick and ended up with the third and fifth picks. Their pre-lottery positions were second and third.
The Detroit Red Wings were probably the biggest losers, dropping from the first overall pre-lottery position to get the fourth overall pick. They will still be getting a fine prospect, but not one of the top three.
Buffalo, New Jersey and Anaheim all slipped one position and Blueshirts fans had to be relieved when the Devils moved into seventh overall.
The only bottom seven team that actually moved up was the Los Angeles Kings, moving from fourth pre-lottery to snatch the second overall pick.
All of the teams that are still in the running for Lafreniere have to be seen as winners. A 12.5% chance of getting him will be decent consolation for losing in the qualifying round.
Now, for Ranger fans and the NHL, the nightmare would be if the Penguins lose to Montreal in the qualifying round and end up with the top overall pick. The possibility that Pittsburgh, with the seventh best record in the NHL, could walk away with a generational player is nauseating to contemplate. Of course, when it comes to the draft, the Penguins always win whether it be Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
A conundrum for the Rangers
The idea that Alexis Lafreniere could end up in a Rangers jersey is incredibly exciting. The question is how far can the current edition of the Blueshirts go if they make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they beat Carolina, but are swept in the first round by one of the powerhouse teams, would a chance at Lafreniere be a better option?
It’s an interesting question. You know what the team and coaches want to do and that is to win. At this point, we should just let the picks land where they may and not sweat the details.
What if they don’t finish the season?
No one has raised this issue since the NHL’s position is that they are finishing the season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, with the vagaries of COVID-19 and labor issues facing the league, there is a possibility that the playoffs won’t happen.
If that happens, does that mean that the eight teams with the worst points percentage would qualify in phase two of the lottery? In that case, the Rangers would be in it since their points percentage of .564 is seventh from the bottom. Let’s hope that is the case. .