Rangers win first overall pick in NHL Draft Lottery

National Hockey League logo. Courtesy NHL.com.

The most convoluted draft lottery in the history of the National Hockey League is now complete.

The NHL completed the second phase of the 2020 Draft Lottery Monday evening, and when it was all over, the New York Rangers won the first-overall pick. With this pick, the Rangers will likely draft the class of 2020’s top player, forward Alexis Lafreniere.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who were eliminated by the Columbus Blue Jackets in their qualifying series, were awarded the 13th overall pick — but that pick will be awarded to the Carolina Hurricanes as part of a trade with Toronto in June 2019 trade that sent forward Patrick Marleau to the Hurricanes.

The complicated two-phase lottery was a necessity this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The eight teams that participated in the first phase of the draft had the eight worst point totals in the league at the time league play was paused in mid-March, including the Detroit Red Wings and the Ottawa Senators. These teams were not included in the NHL’s reboot plan.

The second phase consisted of teams that participated in the NHL Qualifying Series but lost their matchups, and thus will not advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“The teams that are participating tonight didn’t succeed in the qualifying round for the playoffs, which under a normal year would have been the equivalent of not making the playoffs, they would have been eligible for the lottery,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “Our competitive balance is so extraordinary the differences between and among our clubs aren’t all that great. So under these unusual circumstances, this made the most sense and was fair, despite who you root for and what result ultimately obtains.”

The Rangers finished 18th overall in the standings this season, thus becoming the first team to conclude a season that high and land a number-one pick since the Florida Panthers in 1994. Also, the Rangers are the first playoff team to land a top pick since the Minnesota North Stars in 1983.

The Los Angeles Kings landed the number-two pick after Monday’s lottery.

The Senators picked up the number-three pick via a trade with the San Jose Sharks. The Red Wings, who had the worst record in the league and had the highest odds to land the first-overall choice, fell to fourth overall after the first phase of the lottery.

The remainder of the draft order will, as usual, be determined by the outcome of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is scheduled for October 9.