Gatineau— If 2020 wasn’t already a strange year, Team E was declared the winner of Friday evening’s NHL Draft Lottery.
Who is Team E? Two words sum can this up, “No idea.” And we won’t know who this mystery team is until the league’s play-in round is completed.
One of the eight clubs that lose their best-of-five series to see who advances to the Stanley Cup playoffs, will have a 12.5 percent chance to select Rimouski Oceanic forward Alexis Lafreniere number one overall in likely late-October.
The remaining known selections are as follows:
2. Los Angeles
3. Ottawa via San Jose
7. New Jersey
For the Red Wings, it was the worst possible scenario for the club—finishing 31st overall during the shortened regular season, while falling three spots to fourth.
For Senators’ fans, the lottery was bittersweet, or if you read comments on various social media sites, just bitter. With two opportunities to earn the no.1 overall selection by virtue of holding the second and third position in the lottery, the Senators two spot dropped to five, while their third position which came by way of the Erik Karlsson trade with the Sharks, stood firm.
The Senators will become the first team and ninth in the history of the NHL Entry Draft to hold two selections among the top five picks – the last being in 2000 when the New York Islanders chose goaltender Rick DiPietro no.1 overall and robust forward Raffi Torres at five.
One of 16 teams that will compete in the eight best-of-5 series in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers will have the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Each of the eight eliminated teams will have a 12.5 percent chance of winning the top pick in a second drawing.https://t.co/EJn7mfcAgo
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) June 27, 2020
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Despite the club not procuring one of the top two picks, Senators’ General Manager Pierre Dorion was elated to keep both selections within the top five slots.
“I’m not sure it’s sunken in right now, but when you look at all the players in the last 25 years in the top five, and the Ottawa Senators have a chance to take two of them – and these players can play as soon as next year pending their development is on the right path. But we’re not going to rush these players. I think we’re pretty excited about that, and I think our fans should be very excited about that too,” said the GM on a Zoom chat Friday night.
“As far as picking three, five, it’s great for the Senators organization, for our fans. We’re going to draft two players that we know are going to be impactful players for the Senators for many years to come. So we’re really excited about having the three, five those players join our organization when the Draft comes. We’ve done our work. We’re still going to keep on doing our work for the next three months. With our group of scouts, led by Trent Mann, we know we’re going to take two really good hockey players.”
— NHL (@NHL) June 27, 2020
The Senators were fortunate to be the beneficiary of the Sharks plummet this season. While the trading of Erik Karlsson in September 2018 was widely-panned at that time, the swap has awarded them the third pick in the 2020 Draft, not mention many other pieces.
Forwards Rudolfs Balcers, Chris Tierney, AHL Rookie of the Year, Josh Norris, defenseman Dylan DeMelo who has since been dealt to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2020 third-round pick were all dealt to Ottawa by the Sharks. The Senators also acquired a second-round 2019 selection which was packaged to Carolina for what another second-rounder which they turned into netminder Mads Sogaard.
The Senators are not finished with the trade that keeps on giving. Dorion also acquired an additional 2021 second-round pick for Karlsson.
Given the fact the team will likely select one of LW Tim Stutzle (Adler Mannheim) or C Quinton Byfield (Sudbury) in the third position, would it behoove the club to draft for organization need with the fifth overall selection?
“As we’ve always eluded, we’re going to look if someone who can play as early as next year, but at the same time we’re going to take the best player available. I think we have a plethora of prospects,” Dorion explained to Full Press NHL.
“We have a lot of players that played in Belleville this year. Belleville was one of the American League’s highest-scoring teams. We have a lot of blue-chip prospects on the back end (Erick Brannstrom, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Lassi Thomson). With the play of (Filip) Gustavsson, (Joey) Daccord, (Kevin) Mandolese, we have a pipeline of good goalies coming up – and (Mads) Sogaard who’ll probably go back to Junior next year. For us we know, we’re going to take a player who can help us whether it’s next year, two years from now, three years from now, four-five years – that player who can help us the most, we’ll take at five.”
If the Senators’ GM was disappointed a placeholder team won the Draft Lottery if he wasn’t showing it.
“The Ottawa Senators fully understood the process. We understood it when the process. Obviously, that team would’ve lost in the play-in round so they officially wouldn’t be in the playoffs. It makes totally sense that one of those teams will be picking number one.”
Whatever happens a few months from now, Pierre Dorion knows his club is going to select a projected top-tier player.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with one and two, but all three players are different. They all have their strengths and they all have things they need to improve on next year. I had the chance the spend a lot of time in Germany this year. I had a chance to go up to Sudbury. I was planning on leaving LA (when the season was put on hold) to spend a couple of days with Alexis Lafreniere. They’re all elite talents. All three are going to be special players in the NHL. All three have what I call a dynamic quality about them. They’re all highly offensively gifted. Lafreniere does a lot of things with power and hockey sense, skill. (Tim) Stutzle does a lot of things with hockey sense and I would say skill – being able to do what he did, playing with men in the German League. Byfield is so special and raw and powerful, the way he can use his strength, skill and hockey sense. They’re all special players. They’re all going to be impactful NHL players in due time. Whatever happens with pick one, two, we’re going to get a special player at three.”
By Murray Pam
Follow on Twitter @pammerhockey