The lottery that will decide which team picks first overall in June's NHL Entry Draft takes place tonight at 8pm ET. The Jackets, by virtue of finishing last in the regular season standings, will have the best chance of winning the lottery. In the US, you can watch the lottery on NBC Sports Network, or on TSN in Canada.
Below are the odds assigned to each non-playoff club taking part in the lottery:
The team that wins the lottery can only move up four places, meaning only Columbus, Edmonton, Montreal, the Islanders and Toronto have a shot at first overall. A team can only move down one spot if a team below them wins the lottery, so the Jackets are guaranteed either the first or second overall pick.
Interestingly, the team that finished last has only won the lottery six times since this format was introduced in 1995. The team that finished with the worst record has picked first overall only nine times in the span. The three times the worst team was able to pick first without winning the lottery was in 1995 when LA won the lottery and moved from 7th to 3rd, in 1999 when Chicago won and moved from 8th to 4th, and last season when New Jersey won, moving from 8th to 4th. The remaining eight times since 1995 (with the exception of 2005 when the NHL had a special lottery due to the lockout) a team finishing second-to-fifth worst won the lottery, moving up to the first overall selection.
This means that for Columbus to retain the first overall pick, they either have to win the lottery or hope that a team that finished 6th through 14th worst wins the lottery. If Edmonton, Montreal, the Islanders or Toronto wins, the Jackets get bumped to second overall.
If the Jackets get the first overall pick, the consensus among scouts is that the player to draft is Sarnia Sting winger Nail Yakupov. After Yakupov, there are a handful of great defensemen available, along with high-end forwards like Mikhail Grigorenko, Filip Forsberg and Radek Faksa.
In the coming days I'll have a mock draft, and will follow up with a final one in June.
Cross your fingers, Columbus fans!