There is no doubt Alexis Lafrenière will be the number one draft pick and plying his trade in the NHL next season. We just aren’t exactly sure where that will be yet despite the draft lottery taking place on Friday night. The number one pick went to one of the eight losing play-in teams in this year’s expanded playoff format which for Lafrenière means waiting another two months to find out exactly where his new home will be.
In a season full of obstacles it was no surprise when Ottawa Senators, who had two chances to win the number one pick, ended up with third and fifth place instead. The Senators had their own pick after finishing as the second-worst team in the league as well as the San Jose Sharks pick from the Erik Karlsson trade last year yet ended up missing out on Lafrenière. The positive for Sens fans is they will still pick within the top three which means possibly picking up Quinton Byfield to compliment the youth of Chabot and Brady Tkachuk. General Manager Pierre Dorion also didn’t rule out trying to move up for Alexis Lafrenière but admitted it would be difficult.
The worst team in the league, the Detroit Red Wings, also dropped to fourth despite holding the best single odds of winning. After the lottery, Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman said he was “not surprised.” Yzerman took the diplomatic response telling media “We had an 18.5% chance of winning the first pick. The eight playoff teams had a 24.5% chance combined of getting the pick, so the odds were better than the first pick went to the bottom eight than to us.” Coincidentally the last time the Red Wings drafted fourth in a draft they ended up with Yzerman who went on to have a hall of fame career.
The biggest winners of the draft, apart from whatever eliminated team ends up at first, were the Los Angeles Kings who ended up with the number two pick. The Kings will now have to choose between the above mentioned Byfield and Tim Stützle. Both are centers with Byfield currently plying his trade in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves while Tim Stützle has been playing professionally in Germany with Adler Mannheim. Byfield, at 6’5” and 215 lbs, is probably a better fit for the Southern California team with his big-bodied offense, although if the Kings are looking to change their playing style Stützle could hold the advantage with his hands, Hockey IQ and puck control.
Buffalo Sabres ended up with the number 8 pick while the Anaheim Ducks and the New Jersey Devils got the 6th and 7th pick respectively. After the completion of the play-in round, all eight eliminated teams will be entered into the lottery and have the exact same odds (12.5 percent) of winning the No. 1 overall pick. After the top three picks are finalized, the order for the remaining teams will be decided by the team’s points percentage at the end of the shortened season.