Oilers, Habs, Leafs among teams vying for No. 1 pick in NHL draft lottery

TORONTO – It only takes an instant for the silver lining to emerge from a forgettable season thanks to the NHL’s draft lottery.

Executives from five teams are set to gather in a TSN television studio on Tuesday night with the chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, including Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini, who is back for a third straight year.

He won the top selection in the past two drafts and proclaimed last June: “I don’t plan on having the first pick overall next season.”

Now that he has a shot at it, he won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

The Columbus Blue Jackets enter with the best odds of landing the No. 1 selection—48.2 per cent—after finishing 30th overall. Edmonton (18.8 per cent), Montreal (14.2 per cent), the New York Islanders (10.7 per cent) and Toronto (8.1 per cent) are the other teams with a shot at the top pick.

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, but league rules stipulate that the winner can only move up four spots. That scenario played out a year ago when New Jersey overcame long odds to win the lottery and move from eighth to fourth, bumping each of the teams in between down a spot.

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That left the Oilers with the top pick and allowed them to land Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. A year earlier, they took Taylor Hall at No. 1.

The jewel of this year’s draft appears to be Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, who was named the top North American-based skater in rankings released by NHL central scouting on Monday. Swedish forward Filip Forsberg is considered the top prospect out of Europe.

All of the NHL teams in attendance at the draft lottery are coming off disappointing seasons and will be eager to add a top prospect.

In a testament to how important the event is to each organization, three GMs will be present—Tambellini, Scott Howson of the Blue Jackets and Brian Burke of the Maple Leafs. The Habs are still searching for a replacement for Pierre Gauthier and will be represented by assistant GM Larry Carriere while the Islanders are sending director of pro scouting Ken Morrow.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly will announce the winner.