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Lose for Lafreniere? How the Toronto Maple Leafs could still possibly land the first overall pick on Monday

Back in June, the NHL conducted its first phase of this year’s draft lottery. While many teams faced the unfortunate fact that they wouldn’t be picking first overall, the most surprising result was that Team E, or a “team to be named later” won the first overall pick. But what happens now?

Well the second phase of the draft lottery is scheduled to take place on Monday night at 6 p.m. EST, and technically the Toronto Maple Leafs are still in the running for the first overall pick. The Leafs chances may be slim, but it’s still possible. Here is a breakdown of how the Leafs can have a shot at the top selection.

A quick debrief about the new format

Before I get into the Leafs’ chance at selecting the assumed first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, I want to quickly give a refresher over how this new draft lottery works.

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Phase one of the draft lottery took place on Jun. 26. Basically, the seven teams who did not qualify for the return-to-play phase were entered into three lotteries. These three lotteries were for the top three picks, ultimately to determine where teams would be selecting between first and 10th.

However, the eight teams who would ultimately lose in their respective qualifying round series were also entered into these lotteries. Since the qualifying rounds had not begun at the time of this first draft lottery, these eight teams were given placeholder names, Teams A-H. All eight of these teams had different chances at winning any three of the lotteries, but in the grand scheme of things, there was a combined total chance of 24.5 per cent that one of these teams could win the top pick (since any one of those eventual losing teams could claim this pick through the Phase 2 lottery).

In the end, one of the placeholder teams, Team E, won first overall, bumping every other teams selection down a spot. Here’s the draft order that was determined after the first lottery:

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So now what?

All qualifying round series will conclude on Sunday night, which means the eight losing teams will be determined heading into Monday’s Phase 2 lottery. All eight of these teams will be put in a lottery to try and become “Team E” and receive that first pick that was promised to that placeholder team.

Here’s where the Leafs come in. The Leafs have a chance to win the first overall pick, but before we get into their odds, there’s one more tidbit of information that we need to understand.

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The Leafs might not be able to use their pick

The Leafs traded away their 2020 first-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes last year as part of the trade that shipped Patrick Marleau off. However, this pick was traded with the condition that if Toronto’s first-round selection in the 2020 draft ends up being a top-10 pick, the Hurricanes will instead receive the Leafs’ first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.

This trade condition is important to know for a couple of situations the Leafs may find themselves in. Now into the odds.

How the Leafs can win first overall

Let’s get this out of the way. In order for the Leafs to win the first overall pick, they would have to lose their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. As of right now, the Blue Jackets are up 2-1 in the series. Surely, the Leafs nor their fans want them to lose this series, but a top pick is a nice consolation prize. For the population of fans that are a part of “tank nation” and value a chance of getting the first pick more than a Cup run this season though, this next bit is for you.

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If the Leafs do end up losing their qualifying round series, they will be entered into Monday’s lottery for the first overall pick, along with the seven other teams that lost in the Stanley Cup qualifiers. Every single one of these eight teams will have a 12.5 per cent chance at the first overall pick, represented by one ball in the lottery machine. The seven teams not selected in this Phase 2 lottery will be assigned draft positions nine through 15, in reverse order based on their points percentages at the time of the NHL’s pause back in March.

So basically, if the Leafs lose their qualifying round series against Columbus, they have a one in eight chance at selecting first overall.

What happens if the Leafs defeat Columbus?

If the Leafs end up defeating Columbus in their qualifying round series, simply put, they won’t have a shot at the first overall pick. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Here’s where the trade condition comes into play. Since this condition exists, if the Leafs defeat Columbus in the qualifiers, their first-round pick this year will fall outside of the top 10 and would therefore be in Carolina’s possession. Instead, the Leafs will get to keep their first-rounder next year.

What happens if the Leafs lose to Columbus AND lose the lottery?

If the Leafs end up in the Phase 2 lottery but also end up without the first overall pick, their first-rounder will still end up in Carolina’s possession.

In order for Toronto to hold on to the pick, their pick would have to end up being ninth or 10th (since numbers one to eight would already have been determined). This can only happen if Toronto is somehow one of the two eliminated teams with the lowest point percentage.

However, this is still not possible because of the series matchups that are currently going on.

If Toronto ends up with a pick 11th or beyond, the Hurricanes will gain possession of that pick, and Toronto will keep their pick next year. Theoretically, the Canadiens, Blackhawks, Coyotes, Wild, Jets, Flames, Rangers, Canucks, Predators, Panthers and Blue Jackets are all teams below the Leafs in points percentage. If at least two of them, as well as the Leafs, lost their qualifying series, the Leafs pick would be bumped out of the top 10.

Currently, the Flames defeated the Jets, and the Coyotes and Predators are playing against each other in their own respective series. This assures that at least two of these teams, who are all below the Leafs in points percentage, would lose and take the ninth and 10th picks. So in the end, there is no possible way the Leafs can finish with a top 10 pick, unless it is first overall.

So now with all bases covered, we can prepare for the second draft lottery. Tune in on Monday to see whhether or not Alexis Lafreniere will be a Leaf.