The Metropolitan Division, which has produced the past three Stanley Cup champions, just got a little more difficult for six of its eight teams. That's because the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, the teams that finished last and next-to-last in the division this season, were the big winners in Tuesday night's NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto.
For the second time in three years, the Devils will select first overall, while the Rangers will have the No. 2 pick in this June's draft in Vancouver.
Ray Shero and the Devils bucked the odds, by moving down two spots after having an 11.5 percent chance of winning the lottery. The Rangers fared even better. They had a 7.5 percent chance to win but will now select in the top two for the first time since 1966 when they drafted Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park.
This is the second time since 2017 that the Metro will hold the first and second overall picks. Two years ago, the Devils picked Nico Hischier first overall while the Flyers took Nolan Patrick at No. 2. However, the top end of this year's draft is considered to be elite. Both the Devils and Rangers are expected to land what most scouts believe will be franchise players who are expected to play in the NHL next season.
Jack Hughes of the U.S. National Team Development Program has been the consensus favorite to go first overall, but Finnish right winger Kaapo Kakko of TPS in Liiga has been gaining ground this season.
Hughes, a slightly-built center at 5-10 and 170 pounds, is the younger brother of Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes. Jack Hughes led the NTDP with 86 points (23 goals and 63 assists) in 41 games.
"I skate with (Devils forward) Taylor Hall in the summers, he's been a really good guy to me, he's been really nice," Hughes told NBCSN on Tuesday. "... I'd be honored and really happy to play for New Jersey one day. That'd be a great spot, I hear a lot of great things about that. I'd be really excited."
Apparently, the 2017 Hart Trophy winner had a pretty good feeling about the Draft Lottery:
This has been some kind of heater folks. This is like when you’ve hit the blackjack tables and made 10x the money you came with. For one final bet, you toss on half your winnings and hope for the best. Either way, you’ve gotten lucky and came out ahead. Here goes https://t.co/sbrRmx770V
— Taylor Hall (@hallsy09) April 9, 2019
Kakko, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound right winger, scored 22 goals in 45 games, a record for a first-time draft-eligible player in Liiga. He is expected to represent Finland in the upcoming IIHF World Championships.
Clearly, the biggest loser on Tuesday was the Colorado Avalanche. They held Ottawa's pick from last year's Matt Duchene trade, but fell to No. 4 despite having the best odds (18.5) to win.
The Blackhawks will select third overall, followed by the Avalanche, Kings, Red Wings, Sabres, Oilers, Ducks and Canucks. The Flyers, Wild, Panthers, Coyotes and Canadiens round out picks Nos. 11-15. Picks 16-31, including the Penguins' first first-round pick in five years, will be determined after the results of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which get under way tomorrow.
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