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Draft Lottery Odds: Who has the best shot at Jack Hughes?

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When you don’t even have a first-round pick, you’re still allowed to pop the popcorn and watch the awards ceremony for being bad.

United States v Slovakia - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

The NHL draft lottery is Tuesday night this season, and that means all the teams will know where they’re picking before the rest of the NHL starts the playoffs.

We have all the information we need to forecast which bad team gets which player at the draft in June, so let’s assemble the tools.

Bob McKenzie’s latest draft rankings which cover the top 15:

The draft lottery odds from last season, which are unchanged for this year:

And the order of the lottery teams, which are:

  1. Ottawa - pick owned by Colorado
  2. Los Angeles
  3. New Jersey
  4. Detroit
  5. Buffalo
  6. New York Rangers
  7. Edmonton
  8. Anaheim
  9. Vancouver
  10. Philadelphia
  11. Minnesota
  12. Chicago
  13. Florida
  14. Arizona
  15. Montréal

To refresh your memory on how the lottery works, the worst team can finish no worse than fourth, so to judge the Colorado chances of picking first overall, we can look at the HockeyViz table:

HockeyViz

And we see that their chances at Hughes are 18.5%. That’s a lot easier to take when you didn’t actually have to be bad (in this season) to get the pick. Their chances at Kappo Kakko, the consensus number two pick, is 16.5%. And the likely third overall, Vasili Podkolzin, could be in Colorado with a probability of 14.4%. But the biggest chance for Colorado is that they get the fourth overall pick and are looking at Kirby Dach. All of those players are forwards.

Los Angeles, who had a deeply terrible season mostly by accident, might not like getting stung with the NHL’s anti-tanking lottery. They have a greater chance of picking fourth or fifth (Dach or Dylan Cozens) than they do getting one of the top three. It’s not like they don’t have need of just about any young talent you could name, but it has to be annoying.

Team number three really didn’t set out to be bad either. New Jersey slid back from last year’s finish for sure, but they are slowly and painfully rebuilding. They have the greatest chance of choosing at spot five (Cozens on McKenzie’s list).

Detroit quietly tried very hard to tank like the Leafs did in 2016. They kept a good structure to the team, kept some quality veteran players, made some trades for picks, and tried to develop their small number of young players. They did a good job, but you need luck and bad goalies to come last, and they had Jimmy Howard. They’re likely to pick fifth or sixth, but they can also strike it rich. Fifth is Cozens, and sixth is the first defender on McKenzie’s list, Bowen Byram.

Buffalo got so lucky early on, and won so many close games, they played themselves up into what looked like a playoff spot and then they fell right back to their familiar surroundings deep in the standings. They are looking at Byram or the seventh player on the ranking list, Alex Turcotte, who is another centre. Wait, I thought they had a whole stable of hot centres?

The Rangers tanked in a way not dissimilar to the Red Wings, but their underlying team structure is more youth and less quality veteran. In the end, they’ll likely rebound faster because of that. They’re looking at seventh, or Turcotte, as the most likely outcome.

The Oilers managed again to be bad. With a 50-goal scorer, no less. There should be a special award for that. The contraction prize for ineptitude, perhaps? Anyway, they are most likely to pick eighth, so someone break the news to Trevor Zegras.

Anaheim put on a clinic on how to be bad, and still only managed to come eighth last. That spot is the first one that actually has a greater chance of picking at their actual location than worse than where they finished, so they might just be the future home of Zegras.

Vancouver at ninth worst is likely looking at Matthew Boldy, and Philadelphia at tenth is currently matched up to Philip Broberg, the second defender on the list. I can see that being a fit for them.

Once you get out of the top ten, the draft rankings diverge wildly, and it’s impossible to say who is getting picked when, not that top ten is carved in stone either. One thing is for sure, the Habs really need to work their scouts to find a pick as good as Ryan Poehling in the draft again. Because their chance of picking better than 15th overall is 3.3%.