The NHL will hold its draft lottery Friday and it’s expected to be a doozy. A simple scan of the headlines has this as the “most unusual draft in NHL history.”
So what makes this so weird?
Obviously, the way COVID-19 has turned the world upside down has a lot to do with it, but the NHL’s complicated rollout isn’t helping.
While the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was intended to go down in Montreal, that’s not happening. And while it was typically held in April at the conclusion of the regular season, that’s also not happening – understandably.
But that’s not what makes this complicated.
Instead, what we have is a difficult-to-unpack scenario involving placeholder teams and draft odds that should make for some bizarre outcomes.
The seven teams that are not part of the NHL’s 24-team playoff are confirmed parts of the draft lottery and they will have the best odds of securing the top pick, as you know.
But the eight teams that did not qualify for the play-in tournament round will receive the final eight draft lottery spots. That means eight teams are still in competition, which in turn means the NHL will use placeholders when the first three draft lottery picks are chosen on Friday. If any of those teams wins one of the top three draft lottery picks, a so-called Phase 2 will be triggered.
Phase 2 will not take place until after the play-in round of the playoffs, as it requires the aforementioned eight teams to have the exact same odds in order to secure the pick the placeholder team secured on Friday. We obviously don’t know who these eight clubs will be, hence the placeholder scenario, so that means we’ll need a second lottery in the event one of the wins a top-three pick.
So the eight teams that did not qualify for the play-in round will be playing in a five-game tournament to make up the NHL’s playoff qualifying round. The losers in that tournament will make up the placeholders.
If none of the placeholder teams secures a top three pick Friday, we won’t have to worry about it. The rest of the draft picks will be determined based on regular season points percentage.
The league will go ahead with its 20202 NHL Entry Draft at the end of the playoffs. Whenever that is.