- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
The Montreal Canadiens secured the first overall pick in the NHL draft lottery on Tuesday, becoming the first team since 1985 to host the draft and own the top pick.
It marks the first time in 42 years that the Canadiens, who made the Stanley Cup Final last season, will select first overall, having last selected forward Doug Wickenheiser with the top pick in 1980.
“It’s a very exciting outcome for us. Our fans I’m sure will be thrilled, especially with the draft being held in Montreal, to have all of that anticipation and excitement leading into it,” Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said.
The NHL draft is scheduled for July 7-8 in Montreal.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils won the second lottery drawing, earning the second overall pick. It marks the third time in the past six years the Devils will have selected first or second overall.
The NHL’s 16 non-playoff teams were ranked by worst points percentage in the standings to the highest. Here’s how the draft lottery played out, including each team’s odds to secure the first overall pick before the draft:
1. Montreal Canadiens (18.5%); 2. New Jersey Devils (8.5%); 3. Arizona Coyotes (13.5%); 4. Seattle Kraken (11.5%); 5. Philadelphia Flyers (9.5%); 6. Columbus Blue Jackets (7.5%, transferred from Chicago); 7. Ottawa Senators (6.5%); 8. Detroit Red Wings (6.0%); 9. Buffalo Sabres (5.0%); 10. Anaheim Ducks (3.5%); 11. San Jose Sharks (3.0%); 12. Columbus Blue Jackets (2.5%); 13. New York Islanders (2.0%); 14. Winnipeg Jets (1.5%); 15. Vancouver Canucks (0.5%); 16. Buffalo Sabres (0.5%, transferred from the Vegas Golden Knights).
The Sabres acquired the Golden Knights’ first-round pick in the Jack Eichel trade. The Blue Jackets acquired the Blackhawks’ first-round pick in the Seth Jones trade. Both picks were lottery protected, and the conditions were met for the picks to be transferred this season rather than in 2023.
This year’s NHL draft is widely considered not to have a “generational talent” at the top of the board.
“You don’t have a [Connor] McDavid or [Auston] Matthews in this draft, but there are very few years you have a McDavid or a Matthews in the draft,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said.
Shane Wright of Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League, a solid two-way center, is projected to go first overall. Center Logan Cooley of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program narrowed the gap between himself and Wright during the season, although NHL Central Scouting had Wright atop its final ranking.
The other two top prospects are Slovakian Olympians: Winger Juraj Slafkovsky of TPS of Liiga, Finland’s top professional league; and defenseman Simon Nemec, of Nitra in the Slovak Extraliga.
The NHL changed its draft rules last season, reducing the number of lottery draws from three to two to ensure that the team with the worst regular-season record drafts no lower than third overall. It also added a rule this season where a team can only move up a maximum of 10 spots if it wins one of the lotteries.
In the drawing that determined the No. 2 drafting position, the Devils had the fourth-greatest percentage likelihood among the remaining clubs eligible for selection (10.4%).
“There are some clubs who think it’s important that the teams that are struggling most get the most help. There are other teams that think there’s nothing wrong with the present system at all,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last season. “Our competitive balance is so extraordinary that some clubs feel that the difference between a team that misses the playoffs and a team that really misses the playoffs really isn’t all that great. In order to try and reconcile those competing views, we thought maybe a little bit of a tweak [was necessary].”
Additionally, the NHL passed a rule starting this season: No team will be able to move up the draft board by winning a lottery more than two times in a five-year period.
The Canadiens and Devils are on the clock.
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