(The Associated Press)

Rangers win 2nd phase of NHL draft lottery for right to choose Alexis Lafreniere

New York had a 1/8 shot — or 12.5 per cent — of grabbing the top pick

The New York Rangers were the first team to see their NHL restart bubble burst.

They got a pretty nice consolation prize Monday.

The Rangers won the second phase of the league’s draft lottery, all but assuring star winger and presumptive No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere will be heading to the Big Apple.

“Leaving the bubble first hurts,” Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said. ”There’s still seven teams in the hotel and you’re walking by them all. They’re all getting coffee and you’re getting on your bus. Usually you lose, you walk out of the rink, you fly home.

“This one year, you’re right in there with all these teams and you’re the first one out.”

Now they’ll be the first to the microphone when the draft, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10, is held at the conclusion of the pandemic-delayed season.

New York had a 1/8 shot — or 12.5 per cent — of grabbing the top pick after a placeholder secured the No. 1 slot back in June.

Swept by the Carolina Hurricanes three straight in the best-of-five qualifying round, the Rangers were one of the eight clubs eliminated from the 24-team restart included in the second phase of the lottery.

“It’s been really long the last couple months,” said Lafreniere, who’s played three seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rimouski Oceanic. ”But really fun to know who won the lottery.

“It’s pretty good news and I’m really happy.”

New York selected Finnish winner Kaapo Kakko in 2019 after jumping from No. 6 to No. 2 in the draft order, and has lots of firepower up front, including Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.

The Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets were the other franchises in the mix for this year’s top pick.

Lafreniere said he let his mind wander as players like Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews were eliminated from the qualifying round over the last number of days, narrowing where he might end up.

“The lottery had a couple of really good teams,” he said. ”It was a really exciting.”

The placeholder — designated as Team E — that won the lottery back in June to set the stage for the Rangers’ ball being selected Monday had just a 2.5 per cent shot at the No. 1 pick. The league went with a modified format after the season was halted in mid-March because of COVID-19, with the seven teams not included in the restart and eight placeholders representing franchises that would eventually be eliminated before the usual 16-slot playoff bracket.

New York has been in the middle of a rebuild that was accelerated by drafting Kakko and signing Panarin in free agency last year. Getting to add another talent of that calibre should speed the process up even further.

“You’re trying to gather as much talent as you can,” Gorton said. ”If you look through some of the best players in the league, some of the star players in this league, it’s not a huge secret where the teams are getting them.

“It’s lottery picks, it’s the very high-end parts of the draft.”

The Los Angeles Kings will choose second, while the Ottawa Senators own the third — as part of the Erik Karlsson trade — and fifth selections. The Detroit Red Wings, who had the best singular odds at winning the lottery the first time around, possess the fourth pick.

Selections nine through 15 are based on the regular-season points percentage of t

he other seven losers in the qualifying round at the time the league’s suspended play March 12. Minnesota will pick ninth followed by Winnipeg (10th), Nashville (11th) and Florida (12th).

Carolina owns Toronto’s selection — which was part of the Patrick Marleau trade, but top-10 protected — and will choose 13th, followed by Edmonton at No. 14. Pittsburgh currently holds the 15th pick, but has seven days to decide whether or not it will keep the selection or give it to Minnesota as part of the Jason Zucker deal. If the Penguins hold onto the selection, the Wild will get their first-rounder in 2021.

The next 16 spots in the first round of the draft will be determined by the reverse order of playoff results.

The NHL was originally scheduled to hold the 2020 draft at the Bell Centre in Montreal, not far from Lafreniere’s hometown of St-Eustache, Que.

“It was really disappointing,” said Lafreniere, who is set to become the first Quebec-born player to go No. 1 since Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003. ”It’s gonna be different.”

The six-foot-one, 193-pound forward and NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater, the 18-year-old is the two-time Canadian Hockey League player of the year. Lafreniere had 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games before the QMJHL season was cancelled because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Lafreniere, who said he might start next season in Rimouski since the NHL won’t get going until at least December, was also named MVP of the 2020 world junior hockey championship in the Czech Republic after leading Canada to gold.

Gorton, who didn’t want to tip his hand even though Lafreniere is viewed as a slam-dunk No. 1, said he hasn’t spoken to the player, but that process — over video conferencing — will commence in short order.

“We didn’t want to jinx ourselves and do our interview with Alexis until we had the good fortune of winning the lottery,” he said. ”I didn’t want to waste his time.”

The Rangers have picked first overall just once, when they took Andre Veilleux in 1965, but that was before all junior players were eligible.

“It’s huge excitement for an organization to get the first pick on any year,” Gorton said. ”And I think this one’s even more special.”

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

There have been 23 cases of reported cases of COVID-19 in the Nechako Lakes Health Area

’Herbert’ Shane Hartman with his daughter Isla. (Shane Hartman Facebook photo)
Love for daughter and drumming leads to author’s first book

Shane Hartman spent very spare moment writing and illustrating Isla’s New Drum

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Most Read