Lafreniere, an 18-year-old winger, is the consensus top prospect available and appears to be talented enough to potentially help next season and for years to come. The Red Wings and the rest the league will find out Friday night which team will be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to take him.
Detroit has an 18.5% chance of having the No. 1 pick overall in the draft, on a day to be determined, after trailing every NHL team by at least 23 points and finishing 61 points behind the league-leading Boston Bruins.
The Ottawa Senators have 13.5% and 11.5% chances to spoil the Red Wings' plans to have Lafreniere in the lineup with two non-playoff spots in the draft, including San Jose’s from the Erik Karlsson trade.
The Red Wings had a league-low 17 wins in their 71-game season. Detroit trailed every team in the league by at least 23 points and finished 61 points behind the NHL-leading Boston Bruins. The Los Angeles Kings (9.5%), Anaheim Ducks (8.5%), New Jersey Devils (7.5%) and Buffalo Sabres (6.5%) are the other teams not in the 24-team expanded playoff with a chance to draft Lafreniere.
Eight other teams that do not advance will also have an opportunity to take one of the top players as part of the league's revamped plans announced last month. “Very creative solution that the league came up with," Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said. “I either wanted to be a playoff team or a lottery team, but I didn’t want to be both and I didn’t want anybody else to be both. “This complicated, two (phase) lottery system actually does make a lot of sense and it could mean a lot of intrigue.”
If one of the league's bottom seven teams wins the lottery, that team will have the No. 1 pick. If one of the other eight teams gets the luck of the draw in the lottery, the No. 1 selection will be sorted out after a second phase of the process on another date to be determined.
Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman did not sound as if he was fond of the format. “I have mixed feelings about it," Yzerman said. “You knew the league would do what it felt they needed to do to make it work."
Ottawa, meanwhile, seems to like the how the lottery shapes up. The Senators have chances to get difference-making players to end a three-year postseason drought that is the franchise's longest since it was an expansion team in the 1990s.
“We’re very happy with how it will proceed," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. “We know we’re going to get two players in the top six in the worst-case scenario." The Sabres have had a standing reservation at the draft lottery for the past nine years, in which they own the NHL’s longest active playoff drought and are one short of matching the league record.
It’s a stretch in which Buffalo has had a revolving door at the coach and general manager positions. Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s sixth coach over the span, and newly hired Kevyn Adams the fourth general manager of the franchise.
For any of the teams with a shot to take Lafreniere, a seemingly special player will be on the way. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound-Lafreniere had 114 goals and 297 points in 173 games in the Quebec Major Junior League. He also captained Canada’s gold-medal-winning team and earned MVP honors at the world junior championships earlier this year.
AP Hockey Writers Stephen Whyno and John Wawrow contributed to this report.
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