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FEATURE: Behind the scenes at the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery

Take an inside look back at the moment the Blackhawks won the third overall pick during the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery

by Chris Wescott /

Back on April 9, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly held up the large square card with the number '12' printed in bold, silvery font on the front, there was a collective thought that once he flipped it over, a large Blackhawks logo would present itself on the back.

Chicago had an unthinkable 2.5% shot at winning the lottery and an unrealistic 8.2% chance at finishing in the top three. 

Surely, Chicago would stay where they finished in the standings and select outside of the top 10 in June.


The hockey gods smiled down on Chicago on a Tuesday night in Toronto, Daly flipped the card over to reveal that Minnesota, in fact, would hold the 12th-overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. That meant Chicago made it into the top three.

"Holy cow, it actually happened," Blackhawks Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman said of his initial reaction.

The cameras caught a glimpse of Bowman in the studio allowing himself a celebratory laugh as he mouthed the word "wow."

Tweet from @NHLBlackhawks: A mood.#NHLDraft #Blackhawks

A few floors up, in a sequestered room with other team representatives and league personnel, Blackhawks Vice President of Communications Adam Rogowin was fighting back his own smile as he watched one stretch across Bowman's face on a monitor showing the live feed of the broadcast. Rogowin had known for about an hour that the Blackhawks would be picking third.

And the moment he found out, all Rogowin could say to himself was "holy [expletive], Stan called it."

Days before he departed for Toronto, Bowman had a premonition of sorts. 

"Looking back at the 2006 Draft that was in Vancouver, we picked third overall that year," said Bowman. "We picked a guy named Jonathan Toews. That worked out pretty well. This year, the draft is in Vancouver and I just had a feeling. A few weeks ago I had a dream that we were going to end up with the third pick again and draft a great player to follow in Jonathan's footsteps, and here we are."

Bowman had let Rogowin know of his prediction days ahead of the event.

"Stan was in my office when we first confirmed we'd be a part of the draft lottery and he said, 'I've got a good feeling about this, Adam. We were the third pick overall in Vancouver [in 2006].'"

The moments leading up to that premonition coming to fruition were tense but rewarding for the franchise.

Video: Bowman on third overall pick

Tuesday, April 9

7 p.m. - Bowman and Rogowin arrived at the CBC building around 7 p.m. ET as requested and immediately were separated. Bowman would later be part of the broadcast of the lottery, while Rogowin had volunteered to represent Chicago in the sequestered room, where he'd watch the lottery unfold in real time.

Rogowin entered a room with no windows and brick walls, a studio of sorts, and the first thing he saw was the lottery machine. There was beer and wine, soda and snacks laid about the room that was starting to fill with the fellow team and league representatives.

7:10-7:20 p.m. - Those who were representing the clubs in attendance were handed packets full of combinations of numbers, in small print, assigned to the teams.

"You'd seriously need a magnifying glass to read through them all," said Rogowin.

The phones of those in the room were taken, placed in an envelope and secured away. Just before 7:30 p.m., NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman joined the room.

"Alright, let's go," Bettman said, and the door closed. Bettman ran through an explanation of what would happen next.

There were 1,001 potential winning combinations. The teams who finished lowest in the standings had the most combinations and the highest percentage chance to win. Chicago had considerably fewer combinations listed.

"Colorado [who held Ottawa's pick] had two or more pages of numbers and then the next team had a little less and so on. By the time you got to us, there were maybe 15 combinations," said Rogowin. "Ours were very easy to keep track of and look at."

7:30 p.m. - Bettman flashed a copy of the April 9 edition of The Toronto Star for a camera that was documenting the evening for historical and legal purposes. Then the commissioner opened a case with the 14 lottery balls that would help determine the order.

"They inserted them one by one and then flipped the machine on," said Rogowin. "Gary then finished going over the rules."

There would be three different drawings of four balls, which would then correlate with a winning combination. The combination for the first pick would be drawn first, followed by the second and then, finally, the third.

"Someone would say 'draw' and they'd hit the button and a ball popped up," said Rogowin. "A guy from the accounting firm presiding over the lottery would grab it and turn it around."

But the numbers on the ball were so small that it was hard to keep track of as they also didn't announce the numbers loudly when they were drawn.

"When they held up the numbers I saw quickly we didn't have the combination," said Rogowin. "So I knew within 30 seconds of the second number being pulled that we were out of the running for the first pick."

The New Jersey Devils secured the winning combination and the first overall pick in the Draft.

"Onto the second one and it's the same thing," said Rogowin. "Not our combination. So boom, we're out."

The New York Rangers took the second pick.

"Then we get to the final draw and they pull the number and it's 11. We had 11. Great! We got one! Nice. And then the second ball comes up and this is where my eyesight failed me.

"They flipped the number around and I thought it was a six, but it was a nine. We had a nine, but not a six."

Rogowin thought the Blackhawks were out of the running for the third and final pick in the lottery so he flipped his sheet over in defeat but continued to watch.

"They drew the next two balls. After each draw of four numbers is done, Bettman turned to the guys sitting there who have the list of combinations. They repeat the numbers back and say that combination, whatever it was. All of a sudden my paper in front of me flipped over as I was staring ahead to see what it was and they said 'combination, Chicago.'"

That's when Rogowin realized, holy [expletive], Stan called it.

2-3-9-11 was the group of lucky numbers that secured the Blackhawks their highest draft pick since 2007.

"I was shocked because I had the second number wrong at first," he said.

Armed with a secret that couldn't leave the room, Rogowin waited. It took a little more than an hour until he could watch Stan's reaction live.

"That was cool watching Stan up there and knowing you were going to get a reaction out of him," Rogowin said. "That was really fun. That was tough not to break out in a huge smile in that room."

Bowman's reaction was calm, cool and collected but a smile crept across his face.

"He had that glare on his face and then that smile," said Rogowin. "I'm looking at him and I'm proud of our entire hockey operations staff. You know how hard Stan, Mark Kelley, and the amateur scouting staff work all year and this is a great thing for them. Then the belief Stan had and the confidence. That was really cool for him because he had the third pick on his mind the whole time."

After a few tense moments, the excitement set in.

"Before this, there was already a lot of anticipation and optimism heading into the offseason and then this happens and it's luck, not skill, but sometimes when something like that turns out it adds to how you're feeling," said Rogowin. "When I returned to the office you could definitely notice a different level of excitement and energy with the staff."

The Blackhawks jumped all the way from the 12th spot to the third, a move that has likely secured them an elite prospect with solid odds of becoming an impact player.

The lottery was a win for the Blackhawks organization and its fans. It's an exciting start to a summer of possibilities.

"These are the kind of moments that really energize a franchise, energize a team," said Bowman. "Players get excited when they know they have a chance to play with the elite talents. I think it's great for everybody on our team currently and guys who are on their way to the team and for our organization, and most importantly for our fans to give them excitement for what could be in the years to come."

The 2019 NHL Draft takes place June 21-22 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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