2020 NHL Draft: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios Part 2

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. To give a brief synopsis of how the complex phased lottery will be conducted by the NHL, there are two layouts 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.
  2. If any one 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.


Nashville Predators – some roster shuffling during the 2019 off-season was expected to boost the Predators’ chances at making a run for the Cup. However, this season was up-and-down, and Nashville finished closer to the middle of the standings prior to the regular season being canceled. The roster has clearly not played up to its potential, which could be the perfect mix heading into this year’s whacky playoff set-up.

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

Best case (10th overall) if Nashville loses their play-in round versus Arizona, but many of the lower seeds produce upsets, it could find itself with a top-10 pick.

Worst case (22nd overall) – after winning their play-in matchup but losing out in one of the next two playoff rounds would put firmly place Nashville’s pick in the back half of the first round.

Probable outcome: Rodion Amirov (19th)


New Jersey Devils – after one of the most active off-seasons in 2019, the Devils looked poised to make a jump back to the post-season after a one-year hiatus. Then the regular season happened. Nothing seemed to click for the Devils and they quickly found themselves sitting near the bottom of the standings and forced to sell off some of their most valuable assets.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 7.5%, Top-three: 23.3%

Best case (6th, 8th & 10th overall) with three first-round picks the Devils are bound to come away with an incredible boost to their prospect depth chart. The Devils must hope that nobody jumps from behind them to grab a top-three lottery pick; that includes two of the picks they own! 

Worst case (6th overall) – in the unlikely scenario that both Arizona and Vancouver lose their play-in matchups and both teams win the lottery, New Jersey would wind up making one pick inside the first-round; their own.

Probable outcome: Lucas Raymond (6th), Jake Sanderson (10th), Jack Quinn (18th)



New York Islanders – the trade deadline acquisition of P.A. Pageau cost the Islanders their first and second pick in the 2020 draft. Under Barry Trotz, New York is now a viable threat for playoff success in Long Island and a healthy lineup could become a feared opponent in the Eastern Conference. 

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

Best case (72nd overall) – the first-round pick that was traded to the Ottawa Senators is lottery-protected, but more than likely it will be a long wait until they get to walk up to the podium whenever the draft occurs. The Islanders’ first pick is expected to be in the third round and will end up somewhere in the middle of that round.  

Worst case (91st overall) – if the Islanders can make their way to the Eastern Conference Final their pick would slide towards the end of the third round.

Probable outcome: David Ma (83rd)


New York Rangers – It is hard not to admire the way GM Jeff Gorton has insulated the organization with a ton of high-quality assets. The Rangers should be considered a dangerous squad that is built perfectly for the ‘new NHL’. They also own two picks in the first round of the 2020 draft: their own selection, plus the lower-ranked pick from either Carolina or Toronto.

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

Best case (8th &  overall) – if the correct teams win their qualification round games while the Rangers lose, that pick could potentially jump up to the eighth overall position. 

The other pick would have to see both Carolina and Toronto lose out in their preliminary matchups. Of course, the Rangers are playing Carolina which would knock its own pick further down the draft board. But the second pick could potentially land at the 15th position.  

Worst case (28th & 30th overall) – if all three of the Rangers, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs make serious post-season runs the two draft picks will move towards the end of the first round. 

Probable outcome: Anton Lundell (13th), Kaiden Guhle (19th


Ottawa Senators – the speed at which this organization has been decimated has made it a tough couple of years for Ottawa fans. On the bright side, they are in the best position to add some key pieces that will make the Senators’ overhaul much quicker as they own three first-round picks.

Lottery odds – 1st overall: 25%, Top-three: 72.7%

Best case (4th, 5th & 13th overall) – under the conditions of this exercise, we must assume the Senators do not win the lottery with any of their picks. The best-case scenario would have Detroit winning one of the top three spots and two other teams would jump ahead of Ottawa. The Senators must also hope that the Islanders lose their play-in matchup and most of the underdogs win their qualifying round. 

Worst case (5th & 6th overall) – if three teams jump ahead of the Senators and one is the New York Islanders, this would most definitely be the worst-case scenario. The Islanders’ pick is lottery protected so it would move to a first-round in 2021. 

Probable outcome: Alexis Lafreniere (1st), Tim Stutzle (3rd) & Noel Gunler (21st)



Philadelphia Flyers – as having one of the top-ranked prospect pools over the past several seasons, it should be no surprise that Philadelphia has taken the next step into the upper echelon of NHL teams. They earned a qualification round bye through a great mix of veteran experience and young talent, while also spreading out their stars at multiple positions.

Best case (22nd overall) – if the final four NHL teams left standing all won their respective play-in rounds the Flyers could move up four draft positions.  

Worst case (29th overall) – if Philadelphia makes it into the third round of the playoffs, they could potentially fall three spots.

Probable outcome: Lukas Reichel (26th)


Pittsburgh Penguins – as a perennial Stanley Cup favorite, the Penguins will hope to make another march deep in the playoffs when play finally resumes. They have committed to selling off their future for the hopes of another shot at the game’s ultimate prize.

Best case (15th overall) – Pittsburgh traded away their first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild but can choose to keep it if they fail to make the playoffs. That means if they lose their play-in round versus the Montreal Canadiens they could make a surprising jump up into the top half of the round.  

Worst case (91st  overall) – by winning their first few rounds, Pittsburgh will not make a selection until the third round.

Probable outcome: Carter Savoie (86th)


St. Louis Blues – the defending Stanley Cup champions have a legitimate shot at repeating if their play during the 2019-20 regular season is any indication of what is to come. They held on to their first-round pick but it will undoubtedly come at the end of the first draft day.

Best case (26th overall) – if the Blues falter in one of the first two playoff rounds the best they can hope for is a jump of four positions.  

Worst case (30th overall) – supposing St. Louis makes it back to the final dance again this year, if they lose they will leave with the second-to-last pick.

Probable outcome: William Wallinder (29th)


San Jose Sharks – made the cardinal sin of trading a first-round pick without lottery protection and saw an unexpected turn of events early in the regular season when they plummeted down the standings. They were able to reacquire another pick in the top-31 but it is not nearly as valuable as the one the Ottawa Senators hope will help them obtain a franchise player.

Best case (24th overall) – all hopes are that the Tampa Bay Lightning get knocked out in one of the first two playoff rounds. Their pick is now owned by San Jose after the Barclay Goodrow deadline deal, but it will be in the second half of the round.  

Worst case (30th overall) – as a pre-season Stanley Cup favorite, it is not unthinkable that Tampa Bay makes it to the Finals.

Probable outcome: Tyson Foerster (28th)



Tampa Bay Lightning – after an astonishing exit in last year’s postseason, the Lightning have made depth changes to help bolster their roster for a long playoff push. As a part of that restructuring, it cost them their first-round pick in the upcoming draft.

Best case (53rd