The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of eight teams who failed to advance past the Qualifying Round series and into Round One of the NHL playoffs. Though technically the Penguins “made the playoffs,” that seems a hard sell based on PHN social media chats and individual conversations. As a result of the flameout, the Pittsburgh Penguins will participate in the Phase 2 NHL Draft Lottery on Monday night at 6:00 p.m.
Hopefully, by now, everyone understands the convoluted process by which four would-be playoff teams and four other teams who lost the Qualifying Round have a chance at the first overall pick. The Penguins, like the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Nashville Predators (or Winnipeg Jets who are also in the lottery) would have made the playoffs if the season were not cut short by the coronavirus pause.
However, because those teams lost the Qualifying Round, and because the place holder team meant to denote a Qualifying Round loser won the first NHL Draft Lottery, all eight teams sent home from the NHL bubble in the first week have an equal 12.5% chance.
So, the Montreal Canadiens get the first seeded Philadelphia Flyers, while the Penguins get a higher draft pick, despite the Penguins finishing the regular season solidly in a playoff spot and Montreal finishing the season well out of a playoff spot. We don’t think the NHL and NHLPA intended this scenario when the agreement was reached in May, but here we are.
The Penguins have a few paths in front of them.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will pick first overall if they win the lottery, or 15th overall if they don’t.
By virtue of the Penguins’ acquisition of Jason Zucker in February, the Penguins have a choice: keep their first round pick or give it to the Minnesota Wild. The Penguins must surrender their first-round pick in 2020 or 2021 to Minnesota as part of the Zucker trade.
The Penguins are likely to keep the 15th overall pick, but one wonders if fears of missing the playoffs next season and being in the lottery again could sway the Penguins thinking. Or, Minnesota could send a little extra the Penguins way to get the 15th pick?
By the way, Pittsburgh Hockey Now is hosting a live watch party for the NHL Lottery tonight, via our Youtube and Facebook channels. We’ll deliver more info on that later today.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound LW played his junior hockey at a place familiar to Penguins fans: Rimouski Oceanic, which is the same club that gave rise to Sidney Crosby and recently retired his number in an emotional ceremony.
This is the second time in Sidney Crosby’s career the Penguins will be in the lottery. The last time was 2006, and the Penguins chose Jordan Staal second overall. The Penguins have been in the playoffs ever since.
Lafreniere is considered an elite offensive talent. He dominated the QMJHL scoring race with 112 points, including 35 goals in 52 games. His next closest challenger was 13 points behind and a Russian import who was a full year-and-a-half older.
Lafreniere dominated the 2020 World Junior Championships for Team Canada. He scored 10 points (4g, 6a) and was the tournament MVP.
He was also suspended twice this season for questionable hits on opponents, including a three-game suspension for a hit to the head. You can see that play here.
Lafreniere is a playmaker and a goal scorer with a physical streak. He is a swift skater though not blazingly fast. His hockey IQ and work in the defensive zone show polish. And his ability to command the puck in the offensive zone to shoot or pass with poise and authority sets him apart. In the WJC tournament, he looked like an NHL player against boys.
He is NHL ready.
NHL Draft Order
Since the first phase of the NHL Draft Lottery was already completed, here is the NHL Draft order:
- Qualifying Round Loser
One of the following teams will win the lottery. Here is their order based on records. So, pull one team out. For example, Minnesota and new GM Bill Guerin will draft ninth if Minnesota does not win the lottery. One team will win, but if it isn’t the Penguins, they move up one slot to 15th.