The NHL hosted Phase One of the NHL Draft Lottery on Friday, June 26th. This was to determine who would get the privilege to select top-ranked Alexis Lafreniere in this year’s upcoming NHL Entry Draft, which was originally supposed to be hosted in Montreal. It was also to see if they would require a Phase Two lottery. This would happen if a place holder team who is set to take part in the play-in tournament designed by the NHL to determine who ultimately makes the playoffs, won the lottery. These placeholder teams will be the teams who lose their play-in series. Lo and behold, we will be having a second lottery as a place holder won the lottery. This is excellent news for the Montreal Canadiens and their fans. The results of the NHL Draft Lottery can be viewed as nothing but a win for the Canadiens.
Montreal Canadiens are the Big Winners of the NHL Draft Lottery
Anytime you have a shot at the number one pick, it’s an exciting feeling. It’s the consolation prize for not making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, for the Canadiens, they get the best of both worlds. The Habs are currently set to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in a five-game series to determine which of them will get the chance to fight for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Had the season not been cut short, the Canadiens had less than a two percent chance of making the playoffs. Now their odds are basically 50 percent because all they need to do is beat the team in front of them. That’s a huge win for the Habs. There are so many scenarios that could play out here for the Canadiens. Each of them seems to be a win in some way shape or form for the Habs.
Scenario One: Beat the Penguins and Advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs
The first scenario involves the improbable chance of the Canadiens beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the five-game play-in series. This seems unlikely, as the Penguins are the best team playing in the play-in series and obviously that makes the Canadiens the worst, based on points percentage. It’s very unlikely that the Canadiens will win. However, anything can happen. We see time and time again in playoff series where teams get upset and this will be no different. Especially considering that it is shorter than a normal playoff series. That mixed with the fact that the Canadiens are statically one of the best five-on-five teams in the NHL and that there are considerably less penalties called in the playoffs, that bodes well for the Canadiens. The Canadiens are also a much faster and feistier team than the Penguins. Add in the Carey Price factor and it could go either way.
If this were to happen, the Canadiens would either get the 16th choice in the NHL Entry Draft or if they go to the Conference or Stanley Cup Finals, they would get one of the final four picks. Last season, the Canadiens got a huge win drafting 15th when they somehow managed to get Cole Caufield. This year, the first half of the first round is extremely skilled compared to most other draft classes. Meaning even at 16, the Canadiens could get a solid addition to an already outstanding prospect pool. If not and they go on a run, the Canadiens and their fans get to experience something they haven’t seen since the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. That excitement of a lengthy playoff run just can’t be beat.
Scenario Two: Losing to Pittsburgh and Losing Phase Two of the Draft Lottery
This would be the worst-case scenario for the Canadiens. If they lose the Penguins and lose the draft lottery, this would mean the Canadiens would be drafting ninth in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. However, that’s not terrible, all things considered. Anytime you get a top 10 pick, you have a very good shot at adding a significant piece to your team’s future. Especially in a draft class as talented as this one is in the first half. As it stands, the ninth-ranked skater by Last Word’s own Ben Kerr, is Anton Lundell. He would be an excellent addition to the Canadiens already brilliant prospect pool.
However, every year we see teams reach on players. Or, they value a player more than the other players who are ranked higher. We witnessed this last year when the Detroit Red Wings selected Moritz Seider sixth overall at the 2019 NHL Draft. So we could be looking at the Canadiens selecting someone like Cole Perfetti, Alexander Holtz, Marco Rossi, Jake Sanderson or Jack Quinn. While they’re not Alexis Lafreniere, any of these players would be a significant addition for the Canadiens.
Scenario Three: Season Does Not Go Ahead
In the third scenario, the season is not given the green light to continue. If this happens, there is still a Phase Two of the draft lottery, in which the Canadiens would be included and they are the last place seed in the play-in series. They would be joined by the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets in the second phase of the lottery. The same situation applies for the Canadiens. If they win, they get Lafreniere. If they lose, they’ll pick ninth. This is the scenario feelings have mixed feelings about. Outside of Pittsburgh and Edmonton Oilers fans, no one else wants to see the Penguins and Oilers win the lottery. However, it would come at the cost of the season not continue, which I’m sure fans would not want either. Either way, it works for the Canadiens.
Scenario Four: Canadiens Win the Draft Lottery
The last scenario and probably the one most Canadiens fans are hoping for is that the Canadiens lose their play-in series and win the right to draft Lafreniere. Realistically, for the Canadiens to go on a run and win the Stanley Cup, they need to pull off upset after upset. It’s been done before, however, not at this magnitude. We’ve seen the eighth seed go on to win the Stanley Cup, but never the 24th seed in the entire NHL. The Canadiens are not even supposed to be there let alone go on a run to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. But hey, anything can happen.
But again, realistically, fans are expecting to be a part of the lottery. If they win the lottery, its a game-changer for the Canadiens. First of all, they get the best player available in the entire draft and someone who would potentially be the best player on the Canadiens roster, if he lives up to the potential. Not to mention, a Quebec born player, which would just set the win off even more for the Canadiens and their fans. They have not drafted a local talent of this magnitude in decades. It would be a dream come true for the Habs fans and more importantly Lafreniere and his family.
Getting Lafreniere would open up so many doors for the Canadiens moving forward. It gives them a legitimate elite scoring threat in their top six. It would allow the Canadiens to use one of the current forwards in a trade. This could help improve other areas, such as left defence. And it would give the Canadiens a franchise player they can build around moving forward.
Dream Becoming a Reality
Whatever way this plays out, it’s hard to find a way where the Canadiens don’t win in some way shape or form. While obviously some scenarios are better than others, the Canadiens are sitting in the best possible position right now.
When it comes to the draft, the Canadiens have not held the first overall selection since they selected Doug Wickenheiser back in 1980. How fitting would it be that 40 years later, they win the right to the first overall selection, and draft a Quebec-born star that would drastically turn around the organization? For the Canadiens and their fans, it sounds too good to be true. However, that dream is one step closer to becoming a reality. It’s very possible we see Lafreniere donning the bleu, blanc et rouge next season.