Rangers win draft lottery with sights on Lafreniere


The New York Rangers won Monday’s NHL draft lottery — and the right to select consensus No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere.

The Rangers committed to a rebuild in 2018, but that has been expedited after an exciting 14 months. New York selected No. 2 overall in the 2019 draft, picking Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko. In July, the Rangers landed prized free agent Artemi Panarin — a move that provided immediate impact, as Panarin is an MVP finalist this season.

“Really good news,” Lafreniere said in an interview on NHL Network. “Rangers are an unreal team with really good players and a really nice city. So for sure it’s really good news, and I’m really happy.”

Lafreniere is represented by Emilie Castonguay, who would be the first woman to represent an NHL No. 1 pick as an NHLPA-certified agent.

The NHL held its initial draft lottery in June, which included the seven teams that did not qualify for this summer’s expanded 24-team tournament, as well as a placeholder pick for one of the eight teams that lost in the qualification round. The placeholder pick won June’s lottery, forcing a second drawing on Monday.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild each had a 12.5% chance to select No. 1. The seven losers of Monday’s lottery now will be slotted 9 to 15 according to their regular-season points percentage.

Because the Maple Leafs did not win the top pick, their first-rounder — No. 13 overall — now transfers to Carolina. The Hurricanes had acquired the protected pick in the trade involving Patrick Marleau.

New York was swept by Carolina in the qualification round.

Before the drawing, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated that the league felt this format was best to maintain competitive balance.

“Under these unusual circumstances, this made the most sense, and was fair,” Bettman said. “Despite who you root and what results ultimately it obtains.”

The Los Angeles Kings were awarded the No. 2 pick in the initial draft lottery, and the Ottawa Senators will select third. The Detroit Red Wings, who had 23 fewer points than any other team, slid to No. 4.

The NHL is aiming to host the draft on Oct. 9-10. The dates are still flexible, though according to the league’s critical dates calendar, the draft must follow the end of the Stanley Cup Final but take place before free agency opens.

Lafreniere, 18, is a native of Quebec. The 6-foot-1 winger led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112 points in 52 games before the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, earning him the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year award for the second straight season. Lafreniere joins Sidney Crosby as the only players to win the award twice.

Lafreniere’s 2.15 points-per-game average for Rimouski Oceanic was the highest in the CHL since Connor McDavid averaged 2.50 in 2014-15. He was also the MVP of the 2019 World Juniors Championship after collecting four goals and six assists in five games for Team Canada.

Other top-rated players in the 2020 NHL draft class include Canadian center Quinton Byfield, German center Tim Stutzle and Canadian defenseman Jamie Drysdale.

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