Devils buck odds to win NHL draft lottery
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Hockey Writer
The New Jersey Devils bucked the NHL lottery odds, and lady luck wasn’t with Las Vegas.
New Jersey won the lottery, vaulting four teams including the last-place Colorado Avalanche and expansion Vegas Golden Knights for the right to the first pick in the draft.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars both made huge jumps in winning the second and third lottery drawings on Saturday night. Given just a 2.2 percent chance of winning, the Flyers went from the 13th spot to second. The Stars moved from the eighth spot to third in a lottery process that scrambled the final standings.
Colorado entered with the best odds to win the lottery, but fell three spots and will select fourth. The Golden Knights are sixth, also falling three spots from where they were slotted. Vegas and its desert rival Arizona Coyotes were each awarded the third-best odds to win at 10.3 percent.
The seven-round draft will be held in Chicago June 23-24.
NHL Central Scouting ranks Brandon Wheat Kings forward Nolan Patrick as its top draft-eligible prospect even though he missed 39 regular-season and playoff games due to injuries. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Patrick finished with 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games.
A year ago, Nolan was named the Western Hockey League playoff MVP in leading Brandon to its first title in 20 years.
Swiss-born forward Nico Hischier is ranked second after earning Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookie-of-the-year honors playing for Halifax.
The lottery hasn’t been kind to teams finishing last. This was the 11th time the team with the best odds failed to win.
This marks the first time the Devils have won the draft lottery since it was introduced in 1995. The franchise has had the first pick once, in 1979, when the then-Colorado Rockies selected Rob Ramage.
Winning the lottery presents a big boost for a Devils team that’s missed the playoffs for a fifth straight season, and rebuilding under third-year general manager Ray Shero.
No team in the lottery has ever made a bigger jump than the Flyers. The Devils won the lottery in 2011 despite having a 3.6 percent chance after finishing with the eighth fewest points. The Devils, however, could only jump four spots under the previous rules.
The Golden Knights lottery got off to a bad start when the team announced general manager George McPhee was not able to travel to Toronto for the event due to flight delays. He instead watched the lottery in Washington, where he attended Game 2 of the Capitals second-round playoffs series against Pittsburgh.
Vegas hockey operations analyst Tom Poraszka, who lives in Toronto, represented the team at the lottery.
The only two teams who retained their positions based on the standings were Tampa Bay, who will select 14th, followed by the Islanders. The remaining 16 draft positions will be determined based on the playoffs.
The Coyotes fell the furthest, moving from being tied for the third spot to seventh.
Patrick compares himself to Los Angeles Kings two-way forward Anze Kopitar, and has several family ties to first-round draft picks. His father Steve Patrick split a six-year career between the New York Rangers, Buffalo and Quebec in the 1980s. Patrick’s uncle is former defenseman James Patrick, who played 1,280 career NHL games before becoming an assistant coach.
Hischier has an opportunity to be the highest drafted Swiss player, surpassing Nino Niederreiter, who was selected fifth overall by the New York Islanders in 2010.
This year’s crop of prospects lacks both the buzz of the previous two year’s draft classes and is also short of top-end defensive depth.
The top-five ranked North American skaters are all centers, including Minnesota-born high-schooler Casey Mittelstadt. The top-two ranked international skaters are both forwards: Russian-born Klim Kostin and Swede Elias Pettersson.
The previous two lottery winners landed transformational players.
In 2015, Edmonton jumped three spots to win the right to select center Connor McDavid, who has played a key role in helping the Oilers end a 10-year playoff drought this season.
And the Toronto Maple Leafs have benefited from selecting Arizona-born forward Auston Matthews a year ago. Matthews is a favorite to win rookie of the year honors after helping the Maple Leafs go from last place to clinching the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
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