The Montreal Canadiens will technically not take part in the draft lottery but they still have a very slim chance of winning the first overall pick.
The Montreal Canadiens are in a unique position right now. Obviously teams want to be Stanley Cup contenders in the National Hockey League. If you can’t be a Cup contender, the best spot to be might be the bottom of the standings. Then, you can find a franchise player at the top of the NHL Draft to build a Stanley Cup contender around.
The Canadiens aren’t really in either position right now. They have not been good enough to qualify for the postseason by being a top eight team in the Eastern Conference for three straight seasons. However, they picked 15th overall last season after just missing the playoffs and were sitting 24th in the NHL standings this year which would have given them the 8th overall selection.
You can get good players at 15th and 8th, but you get franchise players at 1st and 2nd. This year, we still have no idea where the Habs will pick.
With the NHL putting together a return to play scenario that includes the Canadiens, they could make the playoffs by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best of five series that should begin in late July. This would make for some exciting games, but with a microscopic chance of going deep into the playoffs, some fans would just rather they hold on to their draft position.
That draft position is going to be hard to decipher in the next few weeks. As we inch closer to hockey games, the league has decided to host the draft lottery this Friday, which is weeks before we know what teams actually make the playoffs. Things would be a lot easier to follow if they just held the lottery after the play-in round, but the league decided to go a different route.
To ensure the teams that lose the play-in series still have a chance of drafting first overall, the league has come up with a solution. It is convoluted and confusing and could potentially lead to the winner of the first overall pick being up for grabs among teams that lose the play-in round.
– Incl. bottom 7 teams + “placeholders” for 8 losers of play-in round.
– Phase One is on June 26. Normal lottery. If a placeholder team wins a draft pick then…
– Phase Two after play-in, all 8 losers have 12.5% odds to get that pick.
– Draft is after playoffs pic.twitter.com/WkWQ9jUVNd
— NHL News (@puck_report2) May 26, 2020
The league is going to hold the draft lottery before they know which teams are actually in the draft lottery. The bottom seven teams will be in their position but the next eight teams to select in the draft will be the teams that lose the play-in series. We don’t know who those eight teams are, so the league has decided to call them “Team A” through “Team H.”
If one of these “ghost teams” win the lottery for the top three picks, there will be another lottery held among the eight teams that lose the play-in series to determine which one gets a top three pick. Did I already mention this would be so much easier if the league just held the lottery after the play-in round?
In a regular draft lottery, the Habs would have the 8th best chance of winning and moving up to the top three picks. In this scenario, the 8th through 15th picks will be decided after the play-in series. So, instead of the Montreal Canadiens holding the 8th best odds, we have “Team A” taking their place.
Even if “Team A” wins the lottery, and the Habs are swept by the Pens, it doesn’t mean that the Canadiens would get that pick. All eight teams that lose the play-in round would enter a second lottery, with each of them having an equal chance at that top three pick.
Though I often try not to consider worst case scenarios until they happen, this odd draft lottery sets up a potential heart breaking scenario for Habs fans.
We could see “Team A” win the first overall selection on Friday night. That team has a 6% chance of getting the first overall pick since they are holding the spot that should be occupied by the Canadiens right now. Then, the Habs could lose the play-in series to the Penguins. However, instead of getting their pick back and selecting first, they would enter a lottery for it and have just a 12.5% chance of ending up with that pick.
So basically, the Habs could lose out on the first overall pick because they are in the play-in round which they could of course lose in just three games.
It would be fantastic if the Habs end up with the first overall pick in the draft. However, it will be heart breaking if “Team A” wins the lottery as the Canadiens placeholder, only to see the pick go to the Toronto Maple Leafs or Edmonton Oilers because they win the second lottery that includes the eight teams that lose in the play-in series.
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So, we should be hoping for placeholders to win the lottery because it would give the Habs a chance of ending up with those picks. Just not “Team A” because if the pick eventually went to someone else, the “what-if” scenarios for the next two decades would be impossible to stomach.
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