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This article was published 30/4/2016 (1267 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The biggest prize went to the team with the best odds of getting it but the Winnipeg Jets were the team to gain the most in Saturday’s NHL draft lottery in Toronto.
The Jets came up winners for the second-overall pick for the entry draft next month in Buffalo. They jumped ahead from the No. 6 slot, based on the final regular-season standings.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, the worst team of the 2015-16 season, scored the top pick in the draft. They entered Saturday’s three drawings with the highest odds of being selected, 20 per cent, for the first-overall pick.
The Jets, sixth in the reverse order of the standings, had just a 7.5 per cent chance of winning the first pick. Their odds increased slightly (to 9.375 per cent) for the second selection and one of their allotted combinations of ping-pong balls (5-10-7-14) was drawn.
For the stats nerds, the winning numbers were the 60th on the list of Winnipeg’s 75 designated combinations.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s enthusiasm about the result came through in a phone interview Saturday night.
"I don’t know if it has sunk in yet," Cheveldayoff said from Toronto. "I was doing my scrum at the end (of the show) with the media that was here, I said at one point, ‘Moving from six to two…’ and I had to catch myself and go through the mental notes in my head that it had just really happened.
"I guess I wouldn’t have been standing there talking if it hadn’t. For me, when it got to nine, you’re watching the other picks and seeing them unfold as they should, so you know they didn’t win. But when you get to nine, you know that could be you down from six, so that’s when you really start to get interested."
What Cheveldayoff was referencing was the format of the announcement. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly revealed the order from the bottom up, so he started at the No. 14 pick in the draft, which went to Boston, and moved up from there.
When Daly revealed the Montreal Canadiens at No. 9, it meant the Jets had not moved down to their worst-possible outcome on Saturday, and it was a similar case that the Jets didn’t show up at eight or seven either.
"So nine, eight, seven and then we knew at least we hadn’t moved backwards," Cheveldayoff said. "Really, when it got to six and Bill flipped the card, I couldn’t even tell you whose team popped up (it was Calgary) so when I saw it wasn’t ours, it’s that moment where you know, ‘Hey, we have the opportunity to draft in the top three.’ That was a big moment."
Those cards from nine through seven were three small victories for the Jets. With the Flames at No. 6, it meant a lottery win of some kind.
Down to the final three, the Jets had another win when Columbus, which had the fourth-best odds, was declared the third pick in the draft.
Edmonton had moved down from second to fourth and Vancouver from third to fifth.
The Leafs then prevailed with their best odds and Winnipeg, with the second pick, made the biggest move of the night.
What the Saturday-night success will do for the Jets is likely to pull a capable prospect into their lineup quickly.
A wide consensus, though it doesn’t seem to be completely unanimous, has centre Auston Matthews, who played in Switzerland this past season, as the top pick of the draft.
Right behind Matthews are a pair of potent Finns, left-winger Patrik Laine of Tappara and right-winger Jesse Puljujarvi of Karpat. Laine turned 18 earlier this month; Puljujarvi celebrates his 18th birthday Saturday.
Laine, a 6-4 winger, is No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of international skaters. He had 17 goals and 50 points in 46 games in Finland’s top league this season and was named MVP of the playoffs with 15 points in 18 games for champion Tappara.
Puljujarvi, a 6-3 winger ranked No. 3 by central scouting, led the world junior championship with 17 points last winter. He had 13 goals and 28 points in 50 games for Karpat during the season.
Saturday’s move up in the draft may alter some of the Jets’ preparation for the draft.
"It probably will change a bit," Cheveldayoff said. "You know where you’re drafting now. The preparation throughout the year, that never changed. You prepared like you’re drafting everywhere, because certainly in our situation with two picks in the first round, you know there is a lottery situation and the amateur scouts are focused on that all year round.
"The world under-18s were just in Grand Forks and the world championships are coming up, so I’ve had a chance to see Puljujarvi play and at the world championship I’ll get a chance to see Matthews and Laine play. I was going over (to Russia) regardless to watch Kyle Connor. So now it’s dual duty.
"It’s a lot more interesting now."
The next wave of Jets’ amateur scouting meetings start on May 10.
Saturday’s result, Cheveldayoff insisted, does not wipe out or make up for anything that happened to the Jets during the 2015-16 season.
"These things are always there to learn from, to instruct from," the GM said. "You don’t just diminish what you’ve gone through in this past year.
"It’s an exciting moment for the franchise moving forward because this is a player that can potentially be a foundation piece for years ahead. But you have to learn from every experience you’ve had. It doesn’t just close the door on what happened in the regular season. That would be diminishing all the things we’ve gone through and disappointment on some side and fantastic things on the other side."
Saturday’s lottery result will be realized in the first round of the upcoming draft, to be held June 24-25 at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center.
Winnipeg’s regular pick in ensuing rounds will revert to sixth, except of course for the third round, where they don’t have a pick. It was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2015 for Jiri Tlusty.
Winnipeg’s will have two picks in the first round. February’s trade that sent captain Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks yielded Chicago’s first-round pick.
According to the NHL’s complicated order-of-selection rules for playoff teams, revised and used in 2015, that selection will be 22nd in the first round.
The Jets, as of today, have three picks in the top 36 of the draft.
Interestingly, when balls 5, 10 and 7 were the first three out of the machine for the second lottery, Winnipeg had two winning balls remaining, 3 and 14, and out came 14. There were seven teams still in the running at that point, with Buffalo the only other team with two shots at it.
In the drawing for the first overall pick, when balls 6, 8 and 5 came out as the first three, the Jets also had two balls still in play before the pick landed with Toronto.