NHL: Draft Lottery has Teams Planning for Next Season

Al Dannity | Updated Apr 10, 2012

We don’t know who is going to win the Stanley Cup but one winner will be crowned tonight. The NHL Draft Lottery will see one of five teams emerge with the brightest hope for tomorrow. Al Dannity explains what we can expect at tonight’s event.

A quick primer Unlike its NBA equivalent, the NHL Draft Lottery does not give every non-playoff team a shot at the #1 overall pick. League rules mean a team can only move up a maximum of four places from its rank going into tonight’s event. Last year the Devils saw their ball emerge first but that rule meant they only moved from #8 to #4 in the order. Instead it was the Edmonton Oilers who won the #1 pick and they used that to select Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Despite missing 20 games, Nugent-Hopkins turned in a big season for the Oilers and showed just how valuable landing a top pick can be.

Your contenders The five teams vying to win the pick tonight are the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Islanders, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. While hardly an honor most teams would aim for, Edmonton could land the top pick for the third straight year. The Blue Jackets have the best shot at landing top pick with a 48.2 percent chance of coming out first. Then it’s Edmonton (18.8 percent), Montreal (14.2 percent), the Islanders (10.7 percent), and the Leafs (8.1 percent).

The prize While the prospects for the NHL Draft don’t get the hype or attention of their brethren in the NBA and NFL versions, there’s still a big battle to land the man at the top of NHL Central Scouting’s board. NHL betting fans are likely to become familiar with the name Nail Yakupov over the next few seasons. The Russian has played in the Ontario Hockey League this past season with Sarnia Sting. Yakupov was named at the top of Central Scouting’s rankings for North American based skaters yesterday, to the surprise of no-one. The 18 year-old, who was rated as the top OHL prospect back in November, broke Steven Stamkos’ record for goals and points with the Sting last season and has been compared to Pavel Bure.

Time to think While Yakupov is more than likely to go first in the NHL Entry Draft, there are some big decisions ahead for the teams that don’t win tonight’s lottery. The draft won’t take place until June 22 and 23 in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins’ Consol Energy Center will play host, and that will give pause for thought to the other rebuilding franchises. There will be a lot of pressure on front offices to make winning calls come draft night, or else fans will face more dark days ahead.

Follow Sports Interaction on Twitter.

SportsInteraction