2020 NHL Draft: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios

Mason Black



Over the past few weeks, I have been working on creating a 1st round lottery, mock draft, and playoff simulator for the NHL Rank King app. When the NHL released their ‘phased lottery system’ I began implementing it as an option to hopefully give a somewhat realistic scenario of what could happen at the eventual 2020 NHL Entry Draft that should occur sometime this fall.


The first phase of the lottery will occur on Friday, June 26. In an effort to simplify how the complex phased lottery will be conducted by the NHL, there are two conditions that could potentially happen:

  1. If all three lottery selections are won by teams not participating in the play-in round (Detroit, Ottawa, San Jose (to Ottawa), Los Angeles, Anaheim, New Jersey and Buffalo), that will conclude the lottery on June 26.
  2. If one (or more) of the lottery selections is won by another team outside of the top-seven listed above, a placeholder will be used until after the play-in qualification round. The second phase of the lottery will be conducted at the conclusion of that round, where all losing teams will receive an equal probability of obtaining the placeholder lottery pick(s). That means that teams like Pittsburgh and Edmonton would have a legitimate shot at winning a lottery pick if they lose their play-in round.


Because of the complicated nature of the phased lottery system, I wanted to give a brief outline of the best- and worst-case scenarios for each NHL team so that it is somewhat easy enough to follow along. Obviously, the best thing that could happen for any team in the running, would be to win the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes by having their lottery ball combination come up first. On the other end of the spectrum, the worst scenario – at least from a draft standpoint – would be to win the Stanley Cup. Although I’m sure any NHL organization would be ecstatic about trading off a Stanley Cup win for a late draft pick.


However, for the purpose of this article, all outcomes are calculated outside of winning a lottery pick or the Stanley Cup. I wanted to take a look at a realistic probability of how other teams could impact a specific team’s chances at landing draft picks. Before diving into this article, it is important to understand the terms “best case” and “worst-case” are taken purely from a draft perspective.


Word to the wise – some of the probabilities are not entirely divulged by the NHL, so the actual likelihoods may be off slightly compared to actual results. Also, when calculating all of the permutations and combinations of how much a team can move in either direction, it is quite possible that I miscalculated or did not take a specific piece of information into consideration. However, they should all be within reason of where the actual picks could potentially be made. In other words, don’t shoot the messenger.


Anaheim Ducks – with one of the better prospect pools in the NHL that is on the verge of graduating, an aging corps has seen a short term downfall of the once ‘Mighty’ organization. Anaheim currently holds two first-round picks: their own at 5th, and Boston’s at 31st overall. 

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 8.5%, Top-three: 26.1% 

Best case (5th & 24th overall)– outside of grabbing one of the three lottery spots, the best they can hope for is that all lottery winners placed below them at the end of the regular season standings. In this case, the Ducks would wind up holding onto its 5th overall pick. However, that has less than a 50% chance of happening. Nonetheless, they will likely pick in that fifth overall ballpark. 

With the Bruins’ pick, the best they can hope for is that Boston gets knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, and all other top seeds win their first two rounds; an unlikely scenario. However, if it happens that pick could jump from 31st overall to a 24th overall. 

Worst case (8th & 31st overall)– three lottery winners jump over the Ducks 5th overall and they wind up with the 8th pick. At least there will still be a fantastic player left on the board in that range.

Boston wins the Cup and they still draft at 31st.

Probable outcome: Marco Rossi (5th), Justin Barron (29th


Arizona Coyotes – a bold move to acquire the biggest fish in the trade deadline pond cost the Coyotes its first-round pick as a result of the Taylor Hall trade. However, the pick is lottery-protected, which makes them an intriguing team.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (39th overall) – Arizona gets knocked out of the play-in round by Nashville and they go on to win the lottery. That is the only way they will pick inside the first round (trade notwithstanding). 

Worst case (48th  overall) – if the Coyotes find chemistry early on and make a deep run in the playoffs they could pick towards the end of the second round.

Probable outcome: Justin Sourdif (41st)


Boston Bruins – the Bruins traded away their first-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks, so they are hoping that a long playoff run is in their cards. For good reason, they head into the playoffs with the highest probability of winning Lord Stanley after narrowly missing out last year. The Bruins’ roster is built for the playoffs, but any team is going to have to make a quick transition to get back up to game-speed when play resumes if they have any hope of winning the ultimate prize.

Best case (58th overall)– hypothetically speaking, suppose the Bruins flame out in the first round of the playoffs. They would hold the 27th pick in each round, which would make their first pick in the 2020 draft at 58th place.

Worst case (62nd overall) – they win the Stanley Cup and finish in the exact same spot they are currently ranked: the 31st pick each round. That would make their first selection at 62nd overall.

Probable outcome: Luke Tuch (60th)


Buffalo Sabres – with only a 20% chance of landing a top-three lottery pick, Buffalo is in a prime position to snag an impact player near the top of the first round. With the messy situation that has become the trademark of the Sabres’ organization, you have to feel for one of the most loyal fanbases in the league. Fortunately, Buffalo has some franchise pieces, so adding one more could propel them once again into the playoffs in the next couple of years.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 6.5%, Top-three: 20.4%

Best case (7th overall) – in the likelihood that the Sabres do not win a lottery pick, they are hoping that no team jumps ahead of them to snag a lottery selection and they are able to hold onto the 7th overall pick. 

Worst case (10th overall) – in the highly unlikely scenario that three lottery winners jump over the Sabres 7th overall and they wind up with the 10th pick.  

Probable outcome: Cole Perfetti (7th)



Calgary Flames – many are writing the Flames’ playoff chances off after a mediocre year, but they could be a sleeper pick to make a long drive in the postseason if they can rekindle some of the magic that helped them lead the Western Conference in points last season. 

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (8th overall) – if they lose in the play-in round, and a handful of teams seeded lower win their respective matchups they could possibly jump up six spots and take over the 8th position in the draft; a highly unlikely situation.

Worst case (19th overall) – the Flames will be heading into its play-in matchup as the favorite against the Winnipeg Jets. Let’s suppose they win that round, but so does every team currently ranked ahead of them in the draft, but every team ranked below them loses their play-in matchup. Assuming that the Flames do not make it to the Conference or Stanley Cup Final, in that scenario they will pick at the 19th spot.

Probable outcome: Connor Zary (16th)


Carolina Hurricanes – in terms of the draft, the Hurricanes have one of the more complex situations because they traded a first-round pick to the Rangers, but also own the Maple Leafs’ first-round pick. The Rangers will obtain the lower of either Carolina’s or Toronto’s first-round pick, but there is also a lottery-protected condition on Toronto’s draft pick.  After a surprising playoff run in 2019, that experience could pay itself off in this year’s unprecedented setup.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (12th overall) – if the Maple Leafs lose their play-in matchup versus the Blue Jackets and finish outside the top-10 the Hurricanes would retain this selection. If most of the bottom-seeded teams in the play-in round also lose, it is possible for that pick to move from its original position of 19th all the way to 12th overall. 

Worst case (23rd overall) – if the Maple Leafs lose their play-in round and also win one of the lottery selections, my understanding is that the Rangers will obtain Carolina’s first-round selection giving the Hurricanes no pick until the second round (54th). In another scenario, if the Hurricanes win their play-in round along with Toronto and most of the bottom-ranked teams in that round win out, this could push the Hurricane’s pick to 23rd position.

Probable outcome: Dylan Holloway (14th)


Chicago Blackhawks – as the pinnacle dynasty of the last decade, the Blackhawks have one last breath to make a run for the Cup. Enough has already been written about the required dismantling of one of the preeminent franchises in the NHL in the ‘cap era’, but in the exceptional circumstances of this year’s playoff experience may provide an added boost. 

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (8th overall) – if the Canadiens win their first-round matchup versus the Penguins, Chicago loses to Edmonton, and no lower ranked team wins the lottery the Blackhawks will lock up the eighth-overall selection.

Worst case (17th overall) – if both the Canadiens and Blackhawks win their qualifying series, and the Blackhawks do not make it to the Conference Final or beyond, they will pick in the middle of the first round.

Probable outcome: Yaroslav Askarov (9th)



Colorado Avalanche – as one of the fastest up-and-coming teams in the NHL all eyes will be on the Avalanche as the young Colorado squad will look to push deep into the 2020 playoffs. Colorado decided to hold onto their first-round pick, but it will be almost certainly near the end of the round.

Best case (25th overall) – if Colorado loses in either one of the first two rounds and almost all other teams that received a play-in bye push into the final four, the best Colorado can hope for is the 25th overall selection.

Worst case (29th overall) – there is a slim margin between the best- and worst-case scenarios, but for probability’s sake, if the Avalanche make it to the final four before being knocked out, they could potentially end up with a pick at the bottom of the round.

Probable outcome: William Wallinder (27th)


Columbus Blue Jackets – expected to select somewhere in the middle of the first round, the Blue Jackets are hoping to add some star power to a middling roster. There are some really great pieces on Columbus’ roster, but they lack a true offensive superstar. Unfortunately, they probably will not add one at this year’s draft.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (11th overall) – if there are seven upsets in the play-in round Columbus can make a drastic jump moving seven spots.

Worst case (23rd overall) – if the Blue Jackets win their opening round against Toronto, but lose in one of the next two rounds it is possible they could drop five draft positions.

Probable outcome: Jan Mysak (18th)


Dallas Stars – as one of the teams receiving a bye in the play-in round, the Stars were many pre-season prognosticator’s choices to make a serious run at Lord Stanley’s Cup. Interestingly enough, Dallas held on to its own draft pick instead of adding a key player at the deadline.

Best case (18th overall) – if four teams that are required to play in the play-in round matchups somehow make it to the Conference Finals, Dallas would move up four spots. 

Worst case (29th overall) – if Dallas gets knocked out in the Western Conference Final they would potentially drop seven draft spots.

Probable outcome: Jacob Perreault (24th)



Detroit Red Wings – with the best single shot at receiving the first overall pick as well as an almost 50-50 shot at obtaining one of the top three choices, Detroit is poised for adding a legitimate NHL star during the draft. 

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 18.5%, Top-three: 49.4%

Best case (4th overall) based on the criteria for this exercise, the best that Detroit can hope for if they do not win one of the lottery selections is fourth.

Worst case (4th overall) – for the same rationale, the worst pick that Detroit can win is the fourth overall selection.

Probable outcome: Quinton Byfield (2nd)


Edmonton Oilers – with superstar power now compiled on multiple top-scoring lines, Edmonton can now start insulating around Draisaitl and McDavid with the hope of creating a Western Conference powerhouse.  

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (12th overall) if there are nine upsets during the play-in round – including Edmonton – the unlikely scenario could see the Oilers jump up to select at the 12th position.

Worst case (23rd overall) – if Edmonton wins their play-in matchup but loses in one of the next two rounds, it is possible that they could wind up with the 23rd selection.

Probable outcome: Mavrik Bourque (20th)


Florida Panthers – a middle-of-the-pack team fighting for their playoff hopes prior to the cancellation of the regular season. Florida hopes that their stars can propel them into the late stages of the unusual format. More than likely they will be picking somewhere in the middle of the first round.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (12th overall) it is possible for the Panthers to move up six positions if the correct teams win their play-in matchups, but Florida does not.

Worst case (22nd overall) – Florida could also drop seven spots if the opposite happens during the play-in round.

Probable outcome: Seth Jarvis (16th)



Los Angeles Kings – after the best decade in franchise history, Los Angeles is attempting to do a quick rebuild to reboot its organization. They currently hold the fourth seed in the lottery sweepstakes and stand to add another pivotal piece to arguably the strongest prospect pipeline in the entire league.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 9.5%, Top-three: 28.8%

Best case (4th overall) based on the criteria for this exercise, the best that Detroit can hope for if they do not win one of the lottery selections is fourth. For this to happen both Detroit and Ottawa have to take all three spots. 

Worst case (7th overall) – if three teams jump over top of the Kings, L.A. could slide three spots to seventh overall. It is still not a bad position to be in, but not one they are hoping for.

Probable outcome: Jamie Drysdale (4th)


Minnesota Wild – a middling franchise for the past decade that has not been able to propel itself over the post-season hump and deep into the playoffs. Minnesota is in a tough position where they have some tough contracts eating up serious cap space for a significant amount of time, which makes a complete rebuild impossible. Yet the Wild do not have the prospect pedigree to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup in the coming years.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (8th & 15th overall) if Montreal, Chicago and Arizona all win their play-in matchups, but the Wild lose, and nobody jumps from behind them to win a lottery selection.

Minnesota also owns Pittsburgh’s first-round pick so they are hoping that the Penguins bow out in the qualifying round.

Worst case (18th & 29th overall) – assuming Minnesota wins their play-in round but flame out before they make it to the Conference Final, they could drop seven spots. Pittsburgh has a better chance of making it to the Eastern Conference Final, so that pick could drop to the end of the round.

Probable outcome: Dawson Mercer (11th), Lukas Cormier (24th)


Montreal Canadiens – Habs fans prepared themselves for a mini-rebuild and have since seen early indications that the pain that many other organizations have gone through will not be nearly as long in hockey’s Mecca. Some key acquisitions have sped up the process, and if Montreal can add another key player during the 2020 draft, they could have the components of working their way back up the Atlantic Division.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 2%, Top-three: 6%

Best case (8th overall) if no other team that loses in the play-in round wins a lottery selection, Montreal will stand pat with the eighth overall selection.

Worst case (15th overall) – assuming Montreal wins their play-in round but falters in one of the next two playoff rounds it is possible that the Canadiens slide to the middle of round one.

Probable outcome: Alexander Holtz (8th)



If you made it this far, it probably means you have a keen interest in the 2020 NHL Draft. If you have not done so already, I would highly recommend downloading the NHL Rank King app from either the Google Play Store, or Apple App Store. The newest feature I have added is a mock draft where you take control of your favorite NHL team and their draft pick(s) for the first round. The NHL’s phased lottery system is incorporated based on a playoff simulation that changes with every new lottery spin.  You can also click a player which opens their stats and player profile which includes a direct link to their Dobber Prospects webpage and scouting report. 


The remaining teams’ lottery odds, best- and worst-case draft scenarios will be out shortly here at Dobber Prospects.


Thank you for reading!


Mason Black


Photo Credit: NHL.com



Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
Colby Barlow 8.0 9.5
Ville Heinola 6.5 8.5
Dylan Coghlan 4.5 7.5
Oskar Magnusson 6.5 4.0
Patrick Guay 7.0 5.0
Brandon Lisowsky 6.5 5.5
Nick Malik 4.5 1.0
Kyle Jackson 6.0 5.0
Viktor Persson 6.0 2.0
Jeremy Langlois 6 5.5