The New York Rangers won the NHL draft lottery on Monday, and with it the rights to grab expected No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere.
The Rangers, in rebuild mode since 2018, have made substantial progress. New York could pair Lafreniere with winger Kaapo Kakko -- the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft -- and Artemi Panarin. Panarin, acquired as a free agent in July 2019, had 95 points (32 goals) in 69 games this season.
"Really good news," Lafreniere said in an interview on NHL Network. "Rangers are an unreal team with really good players and a really nice city. So, for sure it's really good news, and I'm really happy."
The NHL held its initial draft lottery in June, which included the seven teams that did not qualify for the expanded 24-team tournament, as well as one placeholder pick for one of the eight teams that lost in the qualification round.
The placeholder pick won June's initial draft lottery, which forced the second -- or Phase 2 -- lottery drawing on Monday.
Each of the eight teams eliminated in the qualifying round had an equal 12.5 percent chance of being chosen for the No. 1 overall pick on Monday.
The Rangers, eliminated 3-0 by the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round this month, had the ball bounce their way. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild each also had a 12.5 percent chance to win, but instead will now be slotted 9 to 15 in the draft order.
Prior to the draw, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league felt the format was the best for competitive balance.
"Under these unusual circumstances, this made the most sense, and was fair," Bettman said. "Despite who you root for and what results ultimately it obtains."
The Los Angeles Kings were awarded the No. 2 pick in the initial draft lottery in June, and the Ottawa Senators will select third. The Detroit Red Wings, who finished the truncated regular season with 23 fewer points than any other franchise, slid to fourth.
The NHL hopes to hold the draft on Oct. 9-10. The draft must follow the end of the Stanley Cup Final, but take place before free agency opens.
Lafreniere, 18, led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112 points in 52 games before the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. He earned the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year award for a second straight season, joining Sidney Crosby as the only two-time winner.
--Field Level Media