The Edmonton Oilers are focused on winning their Stanley Cup Qualifier series, not the possibility of getting the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft for the fifth time since 2010, general manager Ken Holland said Saturday.
“I don’t think anybody’s thinking of the No. 1 selection now,” Holland told the Edmonton Sun. “The eight losers will readjust after that. I want our team to make some noise, go on a playoff run.”
The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft was assigned to a placeholder team, one of the eight that will be eliminated from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, in the First Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery on Friday. The winning entry had a 2.5 percent chance to wind up as the top pick.
“On odds, you were expecting one of the teams that aren’t in the tournament to get the chance at the first pick,” Holland said. “You’re maybe thinking you’ll have a chance at [the] No. 2 or No. 3 pick in the draft after the lottery, but you’re never expecting No. 1.”
The Oilers, the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference Qualifiers, will play the No. 12 seed Chicago Blackhawks, in a best-of-5 series, with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A start date and location have not been announced.
The loser would have a 12.5 percent chance, equal to the other seven eliminated teams, to win the No. 1 pick in the Second Phase lottery drawing to be held before the playoffs begin.
“Anytime you’re playing hockey, you’re playing to win … we want the Edmonton Oilers to be the last team standing, and if not, we want the playoff experience as far as we go,” Holland said. “End of the day, only one [qualifier series] loser gets the No. 1 pick, the others are picking later.”
The top pick is likely to be forward Alexis Lafreniere, a two-time Canadian Hockey League player of the year who was No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.
Picks 9-15 will be assigned to the eliminated teams in reverse order of regular-season points percentage. Picks 16-31 will be determined by the playoff results.
The NHL instituted a weighted lottery prior to the 1995 NHL Draft, and altered the system starting in 2012. Since 2016, it has determined the top three picks from teams that did not make the playoffs.
Edmonton kept the No. 1 pick in lotteries for the 2010 and 2011 NHL Drafts (forward Taylor Hall, forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins), moved up from No. 2 to No. 1 in the 2012 NHL Draft (forward Nail Yakupov), and moved up from No. 3 to No. 1 in the 2015 NHL Draft (forward Connor McDavid).
The 2020 lottery included the seven teams that are not part of the 24-team NHL Return to Play Plan, plus the eight placeholder positions for the eliminated qualifiers. A separate drawing was held for each of the top three picks.
The Los Angeles Kings moved up to No. 2, and the Ottawa Senators held the No. 3 pick (acquired in a trade with the San Jose Sharks).
The Oilers and Blackhawks are among the 16 teams that will play in the qualifier series and have a chance to get the No. 1 pick, including the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
The 2020 draft will be held after the playoffs, which do not have a start date. It was originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal but was postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.