Can the Rangers win the Cup AND land a top 3 pick?
This Tuesday, amongst a plethora of rumors about the NHL season returning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that there will in fact be a 2019-2020 Stanley Cup Champion. This year however, the Stanley Cup will be fought for by 24 teams instead of the traditional 16. With this ruling, the Rangers would squeak into the playoffs as the 11th seed out of the 12 in the Eastern Conference.
Skipping straight to the playoffs means that the remainder of the NHL season will not be finished, making all stats final. This means that us Rangers fans will not be able to see our players hit milestones, that I personally never thought I would see. Panarin with a team leading 95 points will not get the chance to hit the 100 point mark and Mika with 41 goals will not be able to hit the 50 goal mark. Although that's the case, they now have the opportunity to reach the greatest milestone of them all. Etching their name into Lord Stanley's Cup. (The haters are projecting there's a 1% chance).
The playoffs this year will have an extra round called the "qualifying round" consisting of a best of 5 game series. The top 4 teams in each conference however are not participating in this qualifying round. Instead, they will be playing a round robin tournament to determine their seeding. Once the remaining 8 teams have completed their qualifying round, and 4 teams advance, they will then face off against the top 4 teams, based on their seeding, resuming the playoffs as normal.
The playoff format is not that out of the ordinary but the way the draft lottery has been set up has all of us scratching our heads. It had to be meticulously put together so that teams that would have normally not made the playoffs get a draft pick they deserve and also has to help prevent teams from tanking in the qualifying round. The normal draft lottery set up is fairly simple. The 15 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs would each be given a spot, with the worst teams getting the best odds for the top pick. Instead, this year there will be two phases to the draft lottery. Phase one will contain the seven teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs as well as the 8 teams that will be eliminated in the qualifying round. Because Phase One is occurring on June 26th and we won't know which teams are going to be eliminated, there will be placeholders for the 8 teams. During Phase One there will be 3 drawings, one for each of the top three picks. Okay now stay with me. If all the top 3 picks go to the bottom 7 teams (who did not qualify for the playoffs) there will be no Phase Two. Instead, the remaining 12 lottery picks would be awarded to the remaining 4 teams who did not qualify as well as the qualifying round losers in reverse order by regular season point percentage. Now if any of the top 3 picks go to a placeholder (a qualifying round loser), there will be a Phase Two. In this Phase, only qualifying round losers would participate and each will have an equal chance of receiving the pick. This means that if the worst 7 teams do not get any of the top 3 picks, teams that lose in the qualifying round will have an even chance at one of the top 3 players in the draft, which is a huge upside for teams like the Rangers.
What does this all mean for the Rangers though? Craziness is what it means. The Rangers have 2 first round draft picks this year. One is our own and the other is the worse of Carolina's two picks (their own and Toronto's). Let's go through the 4 possible scenarios:
1. If the Rangers beat Carolina and Toronto beats Columbus, the Rangers get no lottery picks.
2. If the Rangers beat Carolina and Toronto loses to Columbus, the Rangers get Toronto's lottery pick unless they win the lottery or move up to the top 10. In which case we get Carolina's lottery pick because of the condition that Toronto keeps their draft pick if it moves up to a top 10 spot.
3. If the Rangers lose to Carolina and Toronto beats Columbus, the Rangers would keep their own lottery pick as well as the lower of the 2 non-lottery picks from Carolina or Toronto.
4. If the Rangers lose to Carolina and Toronto loses to Columbus, the Rangers keep their own lottery pick once again as well as Carolinas non-lottery pick.
The ultimate scenario for the Rangers would be for Carolina and Toronto to lose in the qualifying round and then go on to win the 1st overall pick. If this happens, the Rangers would get Carolina's pick no matter what and it would be top 3. This is the only scenario on which the Rangers can advance and receive a top 3 draft pick.
Overall this is a great situation for the Rangers. If they lose in the qualifying round, their chances of a lottery pick increase exponentially and if they win, they get much needed playoff experience as well as maybe a chance to attain another lottery pick from either Carolina or Toronto. Either way, I'm sure you are all just as excited as I am to see our Blueshirts back in action!