The NHL Draft is always a bit weird. Going into the playoffs, after the Leafs lost in the first round again (sigh), their first round draft pick sat at 28th overall, but it had the chance to move up to as high as 25th. Here’s how!

Because this is how the NHL determines the draft order. It is NOT determined by just looking at the league’s regular season standings, sorted by points. No no no, it of course has to be more complicated than that.

Okay it isn’t actually that complicated. It is mostly determined from most to least points, but it also bumps you down if you are a division winner. So even though the Calgary Flames had fewer points in the regular season than the Leafs, the fact that they won the division meant they had a lower pick than the Leafs.

Next, the NHL will determine the final four spots in the draft according to who makes the Conference Finals. So even if you barely make the playoffs, the fact that you make the semi-finals means you get one of those last spots. That’s why Montreal, who were the worst team to qualify for the playoffs last year, picked 2nd last in the first round. As the Stanley Cup Finals loser, they got the 2nd worst pick in each round.

Clear as mud?

Clear as mud.

So, after the first round, the Maple Leafs’ first round pick sat at 28th, but it could move up as many as four spots. They just needed four teams who finished below them in the regular season standings — not counting division winners — to make the Conference Finals.

So far, two such teams have managed it. Tampa Bay beating the Florida Panthers means they will now pick after Toronto. Edmonton beating Calgary bumps them up a second spot, so now the Leafs are set to pick no worse than 26th.

There are two more teams who could improve the Leafs’ pick another two spots: If St. Louis stages the comeback against Colorado and eliminate the Avs, and if the New York Rangers comeback against Carolina to upset the Hurricanes.

Here’s some examples of past picks at each of the possible positions of the Leafs’ first rounder:

  • 26th = Jake Oettinger, Take Thompson, Shea Theodore, Philip Danault, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Kyle Palmieri, Tyler Ennis, David Perron, Cory Schneider, Brian Boyle, Martin Havlat
  • 25th = Jack Roslovic, David Pastrnak, Stuart Percy (sigh...), Patrik Berglund, Andrew Cogliano, Steve Ott, Brenden Morrow
  • 24th = Travis Konecny, Jared McCann, Kevin Hayes, Marcus Johansson, Mikael Backlund, TJ Oshie, Mike Richards, Brad Boyes, Daniel Briere/

And literally as I was writing this, Colorado scored with 5 seconds left in the game to take a 3-2 lead and eliminate St. Louis. So pin our hopes on the Rangers then!

The bad news is this means the Leafs won’t get a slightly better pick. The good news is that this means we get a Colorado vs Edmonton Conference Final. MacKinnon vs McDavid, two high powered offenses. This will be hype!

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Have a great weekend, everyone!