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 31