The NHL Entry Draft Lottery hasn't been kind to the Red Wings.
Heading into Friday's virtual lottery with general manager Steve Yzerman participating on a video conference call because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Wings have dropped in their draft position in the last three draft lotteries since 2017.
According to NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, Yzerman will "speed up" Detroit's rebuild the fastest if they win the lottery (Detroit has an 18.5% chance of getting the first overall choice) and insert consensus No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere into the lineup.
But McGuire says even if the Red Wings fail to earn one of the top three picks and fall to fourth overall, the rebuild and return to the playoffs after a four-year drought is on course with their last three lottery picks (Michael Rasmussen in 2017, Fliip Zadina in 2018 and Moritz Seider in 2019) as well as one of the NHL's deepest list of prospects now being driven by chief amateur scout Kris Draper in Yzerman's reorganized scouting staff.
"If you get Lafreniere, you really change the equation," McGuire said. "He's the real deal. Usually, when a player dominates at the world juniors like he did this year, they can make the NHL. He's NHL ready. I'm sure people would offer Detroit a package of players and draft picks. I can't see them trading it. I would keep the pick and take Lafreniere. No matter what, it's an amazing draft. Tim Stutzle's skill level is off the charts, too.
"As for the last three lottery picks, Zadina is eventually going to be a very good scorer, Rasmussen is a very good two-way player and Seider is going to be a star player in the league. People who knew the draft last year knew that Yzerman and his staff made a heck of a pick. Take a look at some of the picks by (director of European scout) Hakan Andersson. The turnaround is going to happen sooner rather than later."
McGuire says Yzerman's steady influence and success at the draft table reminds him of what the former Red Wings captain accomplished in nine years in Tampa Bay. Led by chief scout Al Murray, the Lightning recorded more wins and goals than any other team since 2013 with players bypassed by other teams like Nikita Kucherov (second round), Brayden Point (third round) and Anthony Cirelli (third round).
"He's using Tampa as a model," McGuire said. "He's refined, calculating, very smart. Look at what he's done in Detroit. Kris Draper is going to be very similar to Al Murray. I always thought Al was the best scout out there for years. Kris has been around the rinks and knows youth hockey. He's very organized and he's coached in the Little Caesars system. He understands the player procurement process."
If the Red Wings get one of the top three picks during the three separate draws in Friday's lottery, it would be Detroit's first top-three pick in 30 years when center Keith Primeau was taken third overall in 1990 and only the fifth time in the past 51 years since the NHL draft was expanded to 10 rounds in 1969 (No. 1 Joe Murphy in 1986, No. 3 Mike Foligno in 1979, No. 1 Dale McCourt in 1977 and No. 2 Marcel Dionne in 1971).
"The Wings haven't been in this position because they've been a model franchise for years and years," McGuire said. "Back in the late '80s and early '90s, they drafted, traded and signed players as well as any professional sports team. Steve has been a big part of that. He's fully confident and well informed. I also liked the fact that he didn't panic and fire Jeff Blashill. Blashill has done a good job with all of those young and exciting players. Any team that suits up has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs."
McGuire credits former general manger Ken Holland, who was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday, for the team's 25-year playoff run and setting expectations that Yzerman is trying to continuewith the most draft picks of any team the last three years (32) and 10 more draft picks this year, including six of the top 65 players.
"That was an overdue gesture by the Hockey Hall of Fame," said McGuire, a two-time Stanley Cup champion as an assistant coach and scout with the Pittsburgh Penguins and one of 18 members on the Hall of Fame's selection committee. "I used to go on the road to scout with Kenny. He paid attention to details and treated people with respect. He was also one of the most innovative guys. He helped the NHL with three-on-three in overtime and that's been a fantastic addition. He knows how to run a tight ship."
NHL draft lottery glance
What: 2020 NHL Entry Draft Lottery
When: 8 p.m., Friday
Where: NHL Network studio, Secaucus, N.J.
TV: NHL Network, NBCSN
Format: Fifteen teams will be eligible in Phase 1 — the seven teams that have not qualified for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, including the Red Wings and eight “placeholders” that represent the to-be-determined qualifying-round teams that do not advance in the upcoming playoff tournament. If any of the eight teams in the qualifying round are selected in any of the three picks, it’ll force a Phase 2 of the lottery that would take place between the qualifying round and first round of the NHL playoffs.
Odds: The Red Wings, by virtue of having the worst regular-season record before the pandemic shut down the season in mid-March, have an 18.5% chance of winning the lottery and selecting first. Ottawa (second-worst record) has a 13.5% chance and San Jose (third-worst record) has an 11.5% chance (San Jose's pick is going to Ottawa). The Red Wings can pick no worse than fourth overall if they are shut out of the top three picks.
Prospects: The consensus No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft is forward Alexis Lafreniere. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound left wing had 112 points in 52 games with Rimouski in the Quebec junior league. He also led Canada to a gold medal at the world junior championships with 10 points in five games. Other top prospects include: Forwards Quinton Byfield (Sudbury) and Tim Stutzle (Mannheim/Germany), as well as defenseman Jamie Drysdale (Erie).
NHL draft: The date and time of the NHL Entry Draft has yet to be determined. Originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Montreal, the schedule will be decided after the dates are announced for the upcoming playoffs. If the playoffs are completed as expected, the draft should be held in mid- to late-October.