The Hughes/Kakko Lottery Race

As I’ve stated repeatedly on this blog, I’m not a fan of tanking. That’s for losers. Sure. It helps your team’s odds in a highly anticipated NHL Draft Lottery like this year’s crop which features Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. But it doesn’t guarantee anything.

When the Devils won the 2017 Lottery, they finished 26th out of 30 teams- tying in points (70) with the Coyotes, who had one less regulation and overtime win. The Canucks had 69 and the Avalanche were the worst team in the league with only 48. Colorado had the highest odds and it didn’t matter.

With the Devils winning it and selecting Nico Hischier first overall, Colorado fell to number four and still drafted a good player in defense prospect Cale Makar. He’s a Hobey Baker finalist after his second year at UMass-Amherst.

It’s also the same lottery that saw Vancouver drop to fifth and wind up with Calder lock Elias Pettersson. That proved two things.

A.That was a deep draft.

B.You can still get a good player even if you slip.

It boils down to good scouting and luck. Look at Flyers center Nolan Patrick. He and Hischier were neck and neck as the top two draft picks. In Year 2 after Philly moved all the way up to second overall, Patrick has the identical 13-17-30 line with only a few games remaining. Meanwhile, the Stars wound up grabbing a good defenseman in Miro Heiskanen, who’s 12-21-33 as a rookie at number three.

If you’re keeping track, I get it. The Rangers were two picks away from landing primary target Pettersson that draft following the trade of former playoff hero Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta for Tony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick that turned into Lias Andersson. However, it’s too soon to write off the 20-year old Swede the way some ultra negative fans are already doing. They finally have the right coach in David Quinn, who’s done a good job developing young players this season.

Fast forward to April 9. It’s only eight days away. The anticipation is building in these parts with both the Devils and Rangers two of 15 participants for next week’s lottery. The other 16 will be busy in the playoffs. That includes the Islanders, who are to be congratulated on a great year by surprising everyone thanks to the hires of Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz. They face you know who in a rematch at NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum tonight with the Maple Leafs needing one point to clinch. John Tavares will get cheered. April Fool’s. 🙂

Right now, this is how the bottom of the NHL standings look entering tonight’s meaningless exhibition between the Rangers and Devils in Newark.

31.Senators 78 GP 62 Pts 28 ROW

30.Kings 78 GP 67 Pts 26 ROW

29.Devils 79 GP 68 Pts 26 ROW

28.Sabres 79 GP 72 Pts 26 ROW 😐

27.Red Wings 79 GP 72 Pts 28 ROW

26.Rangers 78 GP 75 Pts 25 ROW

25.Ducks 80 GP 76 Pts 30 ROW

24.Oilers 78 GP 77 Pts 31 ROW

23.Canucks 79 GP 78 Pts 28 ROW

22.Blackhawks 78 GP 79 Pts 32 ROW

Note: ROW is included because it determines first tiebreaker. In this crazy scenario, you want your team to have less so your team finishes lower. Even with the odds not as favorable as before, you never know.

The fact Buffalo has fallen so dramatically with last year’s prize in rookie defenseman Rasmus Dahlin along with Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhardt and Jeff Skinner is absurd. What do they have? Thirteen wins since late November?!?! If ever a team doesn’t deserve to win the Jack Hughes/Kaapo Kakko Lottery, it’s them. Ditto Edmonton with them basically done. They already boast Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is good too.

The one point I want to raise is that the bottom feeders have been playing better lately. Even Ottawa and the Kings are winning games. Don’t forget by opting to accept Colorado’s number one pick last year (Brady Tkachuk) in the Matt Duchene disaster, the Senators don’t have their pick. It belongs to the Avalanche, who are in the second wildcard with 85 points. One up on the miracle Coyotes. I didn’t include either along with the fading Wild due to all three still in contention. The Blackhawks can still make it if they run the table and get help. The Flyers and Panthers are already eliminated and in play.

What will happen next Tuesday? Nobody knows. With the odds more weighted like the NBA to be fair to everyone, it’s no guarantee the worst team will win. Of course, the runner up won’t be too upset with either Hughes or Kakko as their consolation prize. However, this is a deep draft. So, that’s good news for the teams that finish behind the top two. So is next year’s class.


There really isn’t anything else to add. Even with the Rangers having won two in a row for the first time since January, I don’t care either way. If they lose, it can’t hurt their chances. However, I’m kinda hoping the honest approach Quinn’s team has taken will earn them a reward. Like Hasan noted when John Moore scored an overtime winner in 2017, it actually worked out for the Devils.

We’ll see what happens.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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