NHL Draft Lottery primer

April 09, 2019 - 3:22 pm
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The 2019 NHL Draft Lottery is set to get underway on Tuesday night as 15 teams around the National Hockey League will hope that the lottery balls fall in their favor for a top-three pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

The top prize in this year's draft class is likely 17-year-old center Jack Hughes out of the United States National Team Development Program. Hughes has shredded the record for scoring with the USDP, registering 202 points (63+139) in 101 career games in Plymouth, Michigan. The 5' 10" and 168-pound center may not boast size and physicality, but he certainly makes up for it with his incredible skating, speed, and offensive skill set that is projected to make him a top-line forward for years to come in the NHL.

He is the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, who was drafted seventh overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Right behind is a Finnish winger who is challenging Hughes to go as the first overall pick in this year's draft. Kaapo Kakko has quickly risen up the rankings after a stellar first full professional season in the Finnish Liiga playing with TPS. In 45 games this season, Kakko broke a Liiga record for goals by a player under the age of 18 with 22, which was previously held by, now, Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov. The 6' 2" and 190-pound winger is a confident, puck-playing forward with great playmaking abilities and a nice shot to boot. He is primarily a winger heading into the draft, but he has the versatility to play some center.

Both players met earlier this year at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver, and ended up finding themselves in a battle for the gold medal. In the end, it was Kakko who played hero for Finland as he scored the golden goal late in the third period in a 3-2 win over the United States. However, both players exemplified why they are the top of their draft class throughout the tournament.

The team with the best odds to win the NHL Draft Lottery this year happens to be the Colorado Avalanche, who hold on to the Ottawa Senators' first round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft after the Matt Duchene trade last season. The Senators finished with the NHL's worst record this season at 29-47-6, earning just 64 points and finishing seven points behind the 30th place team in the league. Colorado's current odds to win first pick in the NHL Draft Lottery sits at 18.5%.

The Avalanche have picked first overall in recent years, winning the draft lottery in 2013 for the right to draft forward Nathan MacKinnon first overall. Colorado also has history with the second and third overall picks in recent memory, selecting forward Gabriel Landeskog second overall in the 2011 NHL Draft and Duchene with the third overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.

The Los Angeles Kings hold on to the second-best odds to win the first pick in the draft, sitting at 13.5% after finishing with the second-worst point total in the NHL this past season. Rounding out the top-three sits the New Jersey Devils, who just won the draft lottery two years ago for the right to take forward Nico Hischier with the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

As for the Buffalo Sabres, they sit in the fifth overall spot before Tuesday's draft lottery with a 8.5% chance at winning the first pick in the NHL Draft. It was last year that the Sabres won the draft lottery in the first overall spot for the right to select defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first pick.

Here is how the current draft order looks, along with the lottery odds for each team:

Photo: Tankathon.com

The top-three picks will be up for grabs in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery, with the first team drawn winning the first overall pick, the second team drawn winning the second overall pick and the third team drawn winning the third overall pick. If a team wins a pick and then it later drawn for another pick, then there will be a re-draw for that pick.

In the three years of the current NHL Draft Lottery format, the team holding the highest odds has won the lottery twice. In 2016, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the draft lottery from the first overall spot and was able to draft forward Auston Matthews with the first pick. The Winnipeg Jets jumped from the sixth overall spot to the second overall pick to draft forward Patrik Laine, while the Columbus Blue Jackets jumped up from four to three to pick forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. In 2018, the Sabres won the draft lottery to take Dahlin, while the Carolina Hurricanes jumped from the 10th spot to the second overall pick to draft forward Andrei Svechnikov, and the Montreal Canadiens jumped from fourth to third overall to take forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

In the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, New Jersey won from the five spot, jumping four picks to the No. 1 overall pick. The No. 2 overall pick belonged to the Philadelphia Flyers, who were originally slotted in at the 13th overall selection with just a 2.4% chance at winning the second pick. Finally, the Dallas Stars jumped up from the eighth overall selection to pick third in order to take defenseman Miro Heiskanen.

After the top-two of the draft, the prospect pool gets a little more interesting with a number of players who can slot in to the third pick.

The most likely prospect to go third overall will be Russian winger Vasili Podkolzin, who is a skilled and powerful forward that is very solid with the puck on his stick. The 17-year-old also took part in the 2019 World Junior Championship, registering three assists in seven games en route to a bronze medal in Vancouver.

Other prospects to pay attention to in the top-10 of the 2019 NHL Draft includes forwards Dylan Cozens, Kirby Dach, Alex Turcotte, Matthew Boldy, Trevor Zegras, Peyton Krebs and Cole Caufield, defensemen Bowen Byram and Philip Broberg, and goalie Spencer Knight.

For teams that do not win the lottery, the furthest they can slide down the draft order is by three picks, depending on how many teams won a top-three pick behind them. For the Sabres, the farthest they can fall in the draft is to the eighth overall pick, and the only pick they cannot land in the 2019 NHL Draft is the fourth overall pick.

You can play around with the NHL Draft Lottery simulator while you still can available at Tankathon.com.

The NHL Draft Lottery is set to take place at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. You can hear coverage of the lottery live on WGR with Joe DiBiase during The Nightcap.

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