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NHL Draft Lottery Odds: What’s the outlook for teams outside the playoff hunt?

Will the Coyotes get the first overall pick for the first time since moving to the desert? Can the Sabres secure the top selection this time around? Or will an unexpected lottery team swoop in to steal the chance to draft Rasmus Dahlin?

You wouldn’t quite call it a race, but NHL franchises heading towards an early summer are keeping a close eye on the standings to see who will fail their way — and then have luck fall their way — to the top selection in the upcoming draft.

The prize for the draft lottery winner is significant this season, too. For a couple of years now, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has been seen as a readymade NHLer, a rearguard with offensive intelligence and defensive acumen to be an impact player at the big-league level straight out of the draft. He was wowed scouts with his play in the Swedish League, impressed with his performance at the World Junior Championship and earned his way onto the team Sweden sent to the PyeongChang Olympics. But where he stops next — will it be Arizona? How about Buffalo? Or will the first overall selection go to a surprise “contender,” like Edmonton or Chicago? — will be influenced greatly by the bottom of the standings, with each team from the bottom up having increased odds at winning the lottery.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what’s to come for the 10 teams who are outside the wild-card race and where each team is projected to finished based on points pace:


Record: 23-35-11 (57 points)

Remaining Schedule: 13 games

Average Opponent: 80.3 points

Point Pace: 68 points

The Coyotes have spent the better part of the past 15 years being among the league’s worst franchises, earning a post-season berth just three times over that span. But here’s a stunning bit of trivia: Arizona hasn’t had a selection higher than third overall since landing in the desert and only one top-five selection in the past decade. It feels as though they should have had more than that, right? Winning the lottery would go a long way for the Coyotes, particularly if Oliver Ekman-Larsson decides he wants out at any point in the near future, and having the toughest schedule down the stretch could see Arizona drop enough points to head into the lottery with the best chance at the first-overall selection.


Record: 25-37-9 (59 points)

Remaining Schedule: 11 games

Average Opponent: 77.5 points

Point Pace: 68 points

Time is either working against or in favor of the Canucks, depending on how you want to look at it. For those who want to see any glimmer of light heading into the off-season, the hope is Vancouver can show some life over the final weeks of the season. If it’s the top selection Canucks fans are craving, though, the good news is that it’s going to be awfully difficult for Vancouver to move up the standings even the slightest bit with other basement dwellers possessing games in hand. Based on strength of schedule and point pace, Vancouver’s almost locked in to second- or third-best odds come the lottery.


Record: 22-35-12 (56 points)

Remaining Schedule: 13 games

Average Opponent: 78.9 points

Point Pace: 70 points

The bad news is that this has been another disastrous campaign for the long-suffering Sabres and Buffalo is heading straight towards a seventh straight season outside the post-season. The good news is that maybe, finally, the Sabres can get their hands on the first overall selection they were after back when Connor McDavid was the top prize. Sure, they cashed in huge themselves by landing Jack Eichel, but Buffalo isn’t going to want anything less than the top prize in this year’s lottery. The second-strongest schedule down the stretch will certainly help push the Sabres closer to top odds.


Record: 25-33-11 (61 points)

Remaining Schedule: 13 games

Average Opponent: 75.5 points

Point Pace: 73 points

Some sort of regression was expected for the Senators this season, no doubt, but who would've guessed they’d be in the conversation for the first overall pick? That’s the reality in Ottawa, though, and the Sens could actually slide further towards the basement as the campaign closes. If Ottawa is in the mix for 31st in the league come the final week of the season, they might end up dead-last no matter how hard they try to play spoiler as three of the Senators’ final four contests are against the Jets, Penguins and Bruins.


Record: 26-32-11 (63 points)

Remaining Schedule: 13 games

Average Opponent: 75.4 points

Point Pace: 75 points

Detroit hung around on the fringe of the wild-card race for longer than anyone would have expected, but seven consecutive losses has dropped the Red Wings far enough back that some in Hockeytown are fawning over the idea of another stud Swedish rearguard wearing the winged wheel. Detroit’s ineptitude in recent weeks is going to put them in the conversation for the top pick, too, as they’re on pace to finish with the fifth-fewest points. The only thing that might get in the Wings’ way, so to speak, is that they have the easiest remaining schedule of the listed teams. But, hey, Detroit probably wouldn’t be too upset if they landed the second pick and brought prospect Evgeny Svechnikov’s brother, Andrei, to town.


Record: 26-32-12 (64 points)

Remaining Schedule: 12 games

Average Opponent: 78.9 points

Point Pace: 75 points

Since Feb. 1, the Canadiens have gone on two separate losing streaks of five-or-more games and fallen right into the mix for the top draft choice. And if it’s a race to the bottom, Montreal might have one distinct advantage on the other organizations trying to struggle their way to bringing Dahlin aboard: strength of schedule. Only the Coyotes and Sabres face a tougher road to close the campaign and the Canadiens have one fewer game to play than the projected third-through-fifth-place teams. A point here or there for the other bottom-feeders paired with a few more Montreal losses and the Canadiens could have an even better shot at selecting first overall for the first time since the 1980 draft.


Record: 30-35-5 (65 points)

Remaining Schedule: 12 games

Average Opponent: 77.3 points

Point Pace: 76 points

McDavid has almost singlehandedly attempted to power a playoff push for the Oilers, but Edmonton is in a hole so deep that even the most star-studded lineup wouldn’t be able to dig its way out. Thus, the Oilers are relegated to the lottery conversation instead of a potential wild-card spot. The way things are looking at the moment, Edmonton isn’t in line for anything better than a pick in the middle of the top 10, but this is the Oilers we’re talking about. Chances are they’re going to finish with the worst odds yet have the ping pong balls fall in their favor en route to another top selection.


Record: 30-32-8 (68 points)

Remaining Schedule: 12 games

Average Opponent: 78.9 points

Point Pace: 80 points

No matter how much Chicago shuffled the deck in the summer, few would have imagined the Blackhawks would be in the lottery conversation with less than a month to go in the campaign. Here we are, though, with Chicago heading towards the worst season of the Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane era. The Blackhawks still have a mighty difficult schedule ahead, too, with three games against the Jets, a pair of battles with the wild-card Avalanche and three tilts with the rival Blues. Given Corey Crawford is likely done for the year and Chicago’s goaltending has been suspect at the best of times in his absence, the Blackhawks could fall closer to top odds than most would expect.


Record: 32-32-7 (71 points)

Remaining Schedule: 11 games

Average Opponent: 78.8 points

Point Pace: 82 points

The Blueshirts haven’t been able to fail in the right direction. At the deadline, New York moved out Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, J.T. Miller, Nick Holden and captain Ryan McDonagh, but they’re 5-2-1 since the trade freeze and have actually moved up the standings. Heck, they’re in a better position for a wild-card spot than the Islanders at the moment. The Rangers probably won’t fall much further down the standings as they’ve got a modest schedule the rest of the way compared to the rest of the surefire lottery clubs. It’s also not likely to help the Rangers that Henrik Lundqvist is staring down another 30-win season. One would imagine he wants to hit the milestone again.


Record: 30-29-10 (70 points)

Remaining Schedule: 13 games

Average Opponent: 78 points

Point Pace: 83 points

The Islanders are in no man’s land right now as each additional point keeps them in the wild-card race while also hurting their odds at landing the top pick. There’s no two ways about it, though: New York needs to push for the playoff berth and try to take down some giants along the way. The bad news is four of their next five games see them play the Capitals, Penguins and Lightning. That’s a recipe for eight lost points. They might be closer to top odds than they expected in short order.



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