New draft lottery format leaves Red Wings' Steve Yzerman with 'mixed feelings'

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman didn’t sound like he was a huge fan of the new NHL draft lottery format.

The NHL unveiled its lottery plan on Tuesday, and the new format potentially has two phases.

The draft lottery will take place June 26, with the Wings holding an 18.5-percent chance of winning the right to pick first overall.

Steve Yzerman

A plan under consideration earlier this month would have guaranteed the Wings the first or second pick in the draft.

“The first I heard of it was yesterday (Tuesday),” Yzerman said during Wednesday’s end-of-season Zoom briefing with the media. “I have mixed feelings about it. You knew the league would do what it felt they needed to do to make it work.

“So, it is what it is.”

The NHL cancelled the original June 26-27 Entry Draft due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After seeing the success of the NFL Draft in April, the NHL then wanted to have the draft in early June, and floated the idea of reverting to an older lottery format that would have greatly helped the Wings.

But many GMs, including Yzerman, opposed the idea of holding the draft before the season was completed.

So, the NHL came back with a model that is mostly similar to the system presently in use, but with some tweaks.

More: Jeff Blashill ‘has done a good job,’ will return to Red Wings, Steve Yzerman says

The eight teams that lose in the in the play-in round of the postseason will also take part in the lottery. The NHL will use placeholders for those teams in the lottery, designating them as teams A-H.

There will be three draws, as usual, and if they’re won by teams that aren’t competing in the play-in round, there will not be a need for a second phase to the lottery.

But if at least one play-in team wins one of the draws, there will be a second phase of the lottery between the play-in round and round two of the playoffs.

Ottawa, because it has its own first-round pick and San Jose’s (through a trade), has a 25-percent chance of landing the top pick.

The Wings can pick no worse than fourth overall.

“We’re excited,” Yzerman said. “Obviously we’d love to get the highest pick we possibly can and we’re confident we’ll be happy with the player we get.”

The top pick is expected to be forward Alexis Lafreniere, a prolific offensive player out of the Quebec major junior league.

Wings will be ready

The draft process has been turned upside down, along with so many other things, because of the NHL’s shutdown. The draft combine was canceled and isn’t likely to return this fall before the actual draft is held.

But Yzerman said the organization has continued to meet with prospects virtually and will be ready for the draft when it arrives.

“We’ll be prepared as best as we can be for the draft,” Yzerman said. “All of our meetings have been done virtually; they’ve worked pretty well.

“I don’t think we want to work remotely forever. Human contact, being together as a company, is important. But it’s worked reasonably well and we’ve been able to do what we needed to do.”

Future of AHL

The AHL, the NHL’s minor-league system, has cancelled its season and isn’t sure when the 2020-21 season will resume.

Moritz Seider, the Red Wings' first-round draft pick from 2019, played 49 games for the Griffins last season.

The Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings’ affiliate, were making an impressive late-season push toward the playoffs – and gaining valuable experience for prospects – before the pandemic ended the AHL season.

“We were hoping they’d benefit from the stretch drive and getting into the playoffs; it would be a great thing,” Yzerman said. “For them, for everybody, not playing isn’t a good thing. There’s no positive in not playing.”

There is speculation that without fans in the stands, the AHL may not return next season.

“That’s certainly a possibility that the AHL won't play. I wouldn't say that's definitive yet,” Yzerman said. “But that is certainly possible. We'll figure out what we do at that point if they didn’t play. It's premature to say they're not going to play right now but it is a possibility, and then we have to figure out as a league where do all our prospects go.”

Yzerman noted the organization’s development coaches, primarily Shawn Horcoff and Dan Cleary, have been in regular contact with the organization’s prospects.

But to a certain extent, it’s up to the young players to continue to push forward and train diligently.

“They have to do everything they can,” Yzerman said. “Motivated athletes, motivated hockey players, are going to find a way to train. We’ll learn who really wants to be a hockey player. Guys to want to train will figure it out and want to get better.”

Newest addition

Yzerman talked about the April 29 signing of European undrafted free agent forward Mathias Brome, a Swede who had 17 goals and 43 points for Orebro HK this season.

“He’s a good skater, a left winger, has good skills, very competitive,” Yzerman said. “Good hockey sense.”

Brome is 25, and at 6-foot and 183 pounds, is considered a late bloomer, having his best two seasons in recent years.

“He’s become a real good player in that league,” Yzerman said. “We’re hopeful he can make the transition to play in the NHL. I like his hockey sense and competitiveness.”

Twitter: @tkulfan