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Making sense of confusing NHL draft lottery

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By the time Friday night’s NHL draft lottery drawing is complete, we’ll know whether the Rangers have a chance to pull off the first-overall pick/Stanley Cup championship daily double; whether the Islanders have the same opportunity or will even retain their 2020 first-rounder; and whether the Devils will claim the first-overall selection for the third time in four years.

Confusing? You better believe it is.

The NHL’s lottery will feature this season’s Seven Dwarfs who did not get an invitation to the league’s 24-team Cotillion Ball (six, to be precise, as San Jose’s pick is owned by Ottawa), plus the eight qualifying-round losers. But as their identities won’t be known until the qualifiers have concluded in August, there will be eight “placeholder” teams entered in the drawing. They will be known as Teams A through H, all holding the same odds.

There will be separate drawings for each of the top three selections. If the top three picks all go to the ne’er-do-wells — Detroit, Ottawa, Los Angeles, Anaheim, New Jersey or Buffalo — that will be that and the eight qualifying-round losers will select in inverse order of their season point totals. But, if a “placeholder” wins any of the first three picks, there will be another lottery between the qualifiers and the first round of the 16-team playoffs to determine the team’s identity.

The Rangers have their own first-rounder plus either Toronto’s or Carolina’s via the Brady Skjei deadline deal with the ’Canes. The Islanders’ first-rounder will go to Ottawa via the deal for Jean-Gabriel Pageau unless it becomes a top-three pick. In that case, the Islanders keep their pick with the 2021 first-rounder going to the Senators, instead.

The Devils, one of the seven with their noses pressed against the window, enter the lottery with a 7.5 percent chance at the first-overall pick. New Jersey won the lottery last year and chose Jack Hughes two years after winning the 2017 lottery and selecting Nico Hischier.

The Rangers could wind up with the first-overall pick and a shot at Rimouski left wing Alexis Lafreniere as a “placeholder” if they lose the qualifier. They would have a second shot at it if they defeat Carolina, Toronto loses to Columbus in the qualifier and both the Leafs and ’Canes emerge with a top-three selection.

In that case, the Maple Leafs would keep their pick through conditions of their prior trade (Patrick Marleau) with Carolina and the Blueshirts would get the Hurricanes’ pick. But you wouldn’t know that Friday; you’d only know that “placeholders” were in the top three.

Otherwise, the Blueshirts are entitled to the later pick between the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs. The actual draft date has not been scheduled.

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