Canadiens, Leafs, Oilers in NHL draft lottery

Executives from five NHL teams, including the Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, will participate in the NHL draft lottery Tuesday night in Toronto.
Russian forward Nail Yakupov is the top-ranked prospect in the NHL entry draft on June 22. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Long faces of National Hockey League fans in Montreal and Toronto could turn to smiles — albeit for a brief period — as early as Tuesday evening.

While 16 of the league’s 30 teams prepare for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs this week, the 14 other clubs — including the Canadiens and Maple Leafs — will be hoping for some luck in the NHL draft lottery, set for 8 p.m. ET.

The weighted lottery system was introduced in 1993 after the Ottawa Senators "tanked" in order to pick forward Alexandre Daigle first overall.

This year, the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets stand the best chance of being awarded the top pick at 48.2 per cent, followed by Edmonton at 18.8 per cent, which won the lottery the past two years. If it happens again Tuesday, the Oilers would become the first team since Quebec (1989-91) to pick first in three consecutive seasons.

Montreal stands the third-best chance at the first pick at 14.4 per cent, with the New York Islanders (10.7 per cent) and Toronto (8.1 per cent) rounding out the top five.

Each of those teams will be represented in person Tuesday in Toronto. General managers Steve Tambellini (Edmonton), Scott Howson (Columbus) and Brian Burke (Toronto) will be on hand. of the Maple Leafs. Assistant GM Larry Carriere will be on hand for Montreal, which is searching for a replacement for the recently fired Pierre Gauthier, and the Islanders are sending director of pro scouting Ken Morrow.

"When you're at the draft lottery it's a nailbiting time, and it's also a time of admitting failure," Burke said at a end-of-season news conference. "You're up there for a reason and the second it's over, that's when we get to work.

"We know where we're drafting. Can we move up in the draft? Can we move down in the draft?"

The good news for the aforementioned teams is they can only move down a maximum of one spot while having the chance to move up as many as four selections, meaning the Leafs — who finished 26th — will pick either first, fifth or sixth.

"We're content that we can get a player at that point," Burke said, "and with any of those picks there is depth in this draft that we can get a player that will make a difference for us down the road. A couple of players I've watched the last couple of weeks are guys I have high hopes for but I'm not sure they can play right away."

Each of the other nine NHL teams that missed the playoffs also have a chance to "win" the lottery by having their ping-pong ball selected.

Only three teams ranked beyond the top five, including the New Jersey Devils a year ago, have won the lottery and moved up, going from eighth to fourth.

On Monday, NHL central scouting released its final draft rankings. Here’s the skinny on the top five players.

  • Topping the list is forward Nail Yakupov of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting, who scored 31 goals and 69 points in just 42 games this season. He has drawn comparisons to Pavel Bure and Alex Ovechkin.
  • Defenceman Ryan Murray of the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips has supplanted centre Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Quebec Remparts. Murray is coming off a nine-goal, 40-point regular season over 46 contests. Grigorenko, whom scouts say controls the whole pace of a game, notched 40 goals, 85 points and a plus-35 rating in his first season in North America.
  • Morgan Rielly of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors is ranked fourth, the second of six defenceman listed among the top 10 North American skaters. He missed most of this season while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. He played at a point-a-game pace over 18 games (three goals, 15 assists) before the injury.
  • Rounding out the top five is Yakupov’s teammate Alex Galchenyuk, who didn’t make his season debut until March 14 after recovering from October surgery to repair a torn ACL. He played only one game exiting a March 16 contest against London with an upper-body injury. He returned to post four points in six playoff games.

This year’s two-day draft will be held in Pittsburgh, starting June 22.

Odds of winning NHL draft lottery

TEAM CHANCES (in per cent)
Columbus 48.2
Edmonton 18.8
Montreal 14.2
NY Islanders 10.7
Toronto   8.1
Anaheim   6.2
Minnesota   4.7
Carolina   3.6
Winnipeg   2.7
Tampa Bay   2.1
Washington*   1.5
Buffalo   1.1
Dallas   0.8
Calgary   0.5

* — pick acquired from Colorado