Things didn’t go the Devils way this season. That was reflected in New Jersey’s last place finish in the Eastern Conference and the franchise’s lowest point total over a full season in 18 years. But on Saturday, the odds were in their favor.
Entering the NHL Draft lottery with just 8.5 percent odds, the Devils jumped from their assigned-fifth overall spot to capture the coveted-first overall selection in a draft lottery unlike any in recent memory.
Different in that all three teams that won spots had less than a 10 percent chance at winning any of the available spots–first, second and third. The Devils beat out the Flyers, who took a large leap from 13th to 2nd with just 2.4 percent odds. The Stars won the third overall pick with a jump from eighth to third on just 6.4 percent odds.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who were given the same odds as the 28th placed Coyotes, dropped to sixth overall for their first draft pick in franchise history.
For the Devils, it is the first time since moving to New Jersey that the franchise will pick first overall. Saturday’s drawing was not the first time the team won the lottery though. In 2011 the Devils won the lottery under its previous format that only allowed the winning team to move up a maximum of five spots. That allowed the team to move from eighth overall to fourth–winning with a 3.6 percent. That lottery pick was used to select defenseman, Adam Larsson who was dealt by the club this summer to bring in Taylor Hall, who knows a thing or two about draft lotteries. This will be the fifth time in his career that his team has won the draft lottery.
Officially adding "NHL lottery ball specialist" to my hockey resume.
— Taylor Hall (@hallsy09) April 30, 2017
In 1979, when the franchise was the Colorado Rockies, the club held the first overall pick, using it on defenseman, Rob Ramage. Though he was picked just three seasons before the team moved to East Rutherford, Ramage never played for the Devils. He was traded to the Blues right before the franchise relocated in 1982–a deal that sent him to St. Louis for a pair of first round draft picks that became Rocky Trottier (1982) and John Maclean (1983).
‘This is a great day for our franchise, and to pick first overall, to have that for our Devils’ fans and our organization, is great news,” said New Jersey general manager, Ray Shero following the team winning the lottery.
Unlike the last two drafts, the consensus top prospect is not nearly as cut-and-dry. Center, Nolan Patrick is presently ranked as the top prospect, according to TSN rankings. Right behind him though in center-laden first round are Nico Hischer and Gabriel Vilardi. Finnish league defenseman, Miro Heiskanen is ranked fourth overall and is the top-ranked blueliner available.
This year’s NHL Entry Draft will be held on Friday, June 23 and continue on Saturday, June 24 at the United Center in Chicago.