FILE - In this Jan. 1, 2020, file photo, Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere shoots during the team’s practice at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Lafrenière has nothing to do but wait now that his Canadian junior hockey season is over, and uncertainty over when the NHL draft will take place as a result of the new coronavirus. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

FILE - In this Jan. 1, 2020, file photo, Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere shoots during the team’s practice at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Lafrenière has nothing to do but wait now that his Canadian junior hockey season is over, and uncertainty over when the NHL draft will take place as a result of the new coronavirus. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Placeholder team wins NHL draft lottery, earns shot to pick Alexis Lafreniere

Chaos was the word that came to mind at the NHL draft lottery Friday

Alexis Lafreniere will have to wait a little longer to find out where he’ll start his NHL career.

And a massive wrinkle has just been added to the league’s return-to-play plan for its pandemic-hit season.

Chaos was the word that came to mind at the NHL draft lottery Friday as one of eight placeholder spots beat the odds to secure the No. 1 pick, meaning a second draw is now required later this summer following the qualifying round and before the usual 16-team playoffs.

“We’ll still have to wait a little bit,” Lafreniere, the presumptive top selection, said on the live television broadcast after the draft order was unveiled.

The placeholders, who represented the eight clubs that will eventually lose out in the NHL’s qualifying round, had a combined 24.5 per cent chance of selecting first.

“There was a process to this,” Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. “We all knew this could happen.”

The placeholder team that actually won the lottery — designated as Team E — had a 2.5 per cent chance, making the biggest jump in history for the top pick from the No. 12.

The eliminated clubs from eight separate best-of-five play-in series will each have a 12.5 per cent chance of securing the top choice in the second phase of the lottery.

That means Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins, Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers or Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs could conceivably pick first overall and select Lafreniere if they lose in the qualifying round of the 24-team plan to resume the 2019-20 campaign.

As things stand in late June in what has been a year like no other in memory, 16 franchises still have an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup or pick first overall.

“It definitely has been a different 2020 compared to every other year that I’ve been on the face of this earth,” Dorion said. ”We’re living through something totally different. But at the same time, there was a process to this draft.

“We all knew this could happen.”

The Los Angeles Kings moved up from fourth to pick second, while the Senators, who had the best combined odds of picking first at 25 per cent because they also owned the San Jose Sharks’ selection, will choose third and fifth.

“It’s an interesting night when you’re coming into this, because you know all the odds and the different scenarios,” Kings GM Rob Blake said. “Everything has kind of taken a different path since the pause and you manoeuvre your way around it.”

The Detroit Red Wings, who had the best singular odds to pick first at 18.5, fell to No. 4 after losing a trio lotteries for the top-3 picks.

“Realistically, I’m prepared to be sitting here not talking about the first pick,” Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said. “I’m not really surprised.”

The league was originally scheduled to hold the first round of the 2020 draft Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal, not far from Lafreniere’s hometown of St-Eustache, Que., before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a pause to the season in March.

Lafreniere — a winger for the Rimouski Oceanic and NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater — is expected to go first overall when the draft is eventually held at a later date.

The Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres round out the top-8 in what is the most complicated lottery in NHL history.

Apart from its own pick, 30th-ranked Ottawa also possesses San Jose’s selection thanks to the blockbuster trade for star defenceman Erik Karlsson in September 2018. San Jose was 29th in the overall standings when the league went on hiatus.

Despite the disappointment of seeing their own pick drop three spots from No. 2, the Senators are the first team in 20 years to own a pair of selections in the top-5.

“It’s just continue on with the plan,” Dorion said of Ottawa’s rebuild. “We know that it’s such a deep draft, especially in the top-5, that we’re going to get two impactful players.”

After the draw for the No. 1 pick later this summer, selections nine through 15 will be determined by regular-season points percentage of the other seven losers in the qualifying round at the time of the league’s pause on March 12.

ALSO READ: NHL no longer considering Vancouver as hub city

Despite the drama in the first live NHL event in 106 days, there’s still no guarantee the league will be able to resume its season.

The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association continue to negotiate details related to the plan to resume — among them health and safety concerns, and where the two hub cities will be located — all while attempting to tie everything together with a possible extension to the current collective bargaining agreement.

“It’s been a very collaborative effort and I’m hopeful it all comes together very, very quickly,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in a TV interview before Friday’s lottery. ”The goal is get everybody back, get everybody tested, make sure the right protocols are in place because health and safety is paramount.

“And then hopefully as a group we can hold off COVID-19, get everybody together in the hub cities and then finish the season.”

Lafreniere, the two-time Canadian Hockey League player of the year, had 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games before the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season was cancelled because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The 18-year-old was also named MVP of the 2020 world junior hockey championship after helping lead Canada to gold.

“He’s shown himself at every level, every event that he’s capable to be the difference maker,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting. ”He knows what needs to be done, and he can go out and make that happen. There’s not too many players that can take control of a game, take control of a situation.

“He has the talent, the skills, the speed, the smarts, the compete, the battle, the perseverance, the will to be the best, and the will to win.”

Quinton Byfield, a centre for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves, is ranked No. 2 behind Lafreniere on the North American list, while German winger Tim Stutzle slots in as the No. 1 European skater.

“This is a hell of a draft, especially at the top,” said Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving, whose team is preparing to meet the Winnipeg Jets in the qualifying round. ”There’s some big-time players.”

And now Treliving, along with 15 other managers, could be in line for quite a consolation prize in the event their clubs get bounced early this summer.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

NHL

Just Posted

An Island Health graph showing COVID-19 cases in the central Island by local health area between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23. (Island Health image)
Central Island’s COVID-19 case spike shifting, says Island Health

Cowichan Valley has seen the highest number of cases, but Nanaimo and south Island seeing upticks

(Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
The Pachena Bay shoreline in 2013. (Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
This week in history: 9.0 magnitude quake struck under what is now called Vancouver Island

According to First Nations elders, the 9.0-magnitude quake in 1700 CE kick-started a tsunami

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
UPDATE: No sign of small plane that went down in Juan de Fuca Strait

Searchers out on both sides of border between Victoria and Port Angeles

Keygan Power, pictured at B.C. Children's Hospital,  plays chess five to seven times a day during his recovery care. Keygan suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2.
(Photo Allison Power)
Vancouver Island teen ‘locked inside,’ battling to regain speech after severe brain bleed

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Snow is sticking to the ground on Malahat Drive at Shawnigan Lake Road. (Drive BC)
Snowfall warning issued for Malahat

10 centimetres of snow expected between Goldstream and Mill Bay

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Worker at Swartz Bay terminal on Monday, January 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Former BC Ferries employee alleges he was fired because of his race

Imraan Goondiwala has been granted a BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple who travelled to Yukon for COVID vaccine ineligible for 2nd dose until summer

The province is ensuring those eligible to receive the vaccine get the second shot within 42 days

(File)
Mask dispute in court leaves Vancouver cop with broken leg

Man allegedly refused to put on a mask and resisted arrest

(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

Cash and drugs allegedly found in a suspect’s possession following an arrest earlier this month in downtown Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
Accused drug dealer arrested in Nanaimo carrying $20K, fentanyl, crack and meth

Terrance Virus, 39, being held in custody, scheduled to appear in court Feb. 1

A tip from the public helped Victoria police located and arrest wanted men Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Tips lead police to arrest convicted killer, robber near downtown Victoria

Two men were at large after failing to return to community facility

Most Read