The Rangers were one of the eight teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Each of those teams had a 12.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, after it was assigned in the First Phase of the lottery on June 26.
That winning placeholder, designated Team E, had a 2.5 percent chance to be assigned the No. 1 pick, the 12th-best odds among the 15 entries in the first drawing.
"The teams that are participating tonight didn't succeed in the qualifying round for the playoffs, which under a normal year would have been the equivalent of not making the [Stanley Cup Playoffs], they would have been eligible for the lottery," Commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL Network. "Our competitive balance is so extraordinary the differences between and among our clubs isn't all that great.
"So under these unusual circumstances, this made the most sense and was fair, despite who you root for and what result [it] ultimately obtains."
The Rangers finished 18th in the NHL standings this season. They are the first team to finish that high and have the No. 1 pick since the 1994 NHL Draft, when the Florida Panthers finished 16th. New York is the first team to participate in the postseason and have the No. 1 pick since the 1983 NHL Draft (Minnesota North Stars).
New York was swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in their best-of-5 qualifier series.
"Anytime you can pick first, especially this year, it's a special year, we all know that," Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said. "It was tough up in the bubble (in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city). Those three games, Carolina gave it to us pretty good, but surely excited to have this happen to us tonight."
Video: Rangers GM Jeff Gorton on winning the draft lottery
The 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for Oct. 9-10. It was originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal but was postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
The No. 1 pick is likely to be forward Alexis Lafreniere, who was the top player in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.
"Really good news; the Rangers are an unreal team with really good players," the 18-year-old left wing said. "Really nice city, so for sure, it's really good news and I'm really happy."
New York has the No. 1 pick for the second time. They selected forward Andre Veilleux in the 1965 NHL Draft.
"I feel like things are coming together, there's a lot of work left to be done, don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but I think it's a good night for Rangers fans," Gorton said. "It's never happened before for the Rangers, the first time ever picking first. That's a long time."
The Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets were the other teams that had a chance at the No. 1 pick in the Second Phase. They received picks No. 9-15, set by points percentage this season.
The lottery was conducted with eight balls each marked with a logo of the participating teams.
"You never expect this," Gorton said. "We were watching the ball come up, I'm watching and watching and I see every single logo with the ball spinning around but ours and started getting nervous. Then when you see the tube, you're begging to see the logo. Once I saw it come out on top, it is a lot of different emotions you go through. ... We knew we needed luck, and luck is on our side tonight. We're pretty, pretty happy ... a few days after coming out of the bubble walking away pretty upset. It's a funny game sometimes, the good and the bad. Obviously this is a great feeling."
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The First Phase included the seven teams that weren't part of the 24-team NHL Return to Play Plan, plus eight placeholder positions for the eliminated qualifiers. A separate drawing was held for each of the top three picks.
Picks 2-8 were set in the First Phase. Picks 16-31 will be determined by the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings moved up to the No. 2 pick, and the Ottawa Senators received the No. 3 pick. The Kings entered the lottery with the fourth-best odds to win the No. 1 pick (9.5 percent).
The Detroit Red Wings, who had the best odds to win the No. 1 pick (18.5 percent), fell to No. 4.
"It was a long process, but we waited for this day for a couple weeks now and it was big day, and for sure it's a relief just wondering who will pick first," Lafreniere said. "But we'll see what happens next, but for sure it was a really special day and an emotional day."
Lafreniere won the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the leading scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) for Rimouski, the Paul Dumont Trophy as QMJHL personality of the year, the Michel Briere Trophy as the most valuable player in the QMJHL, the Canadian Hockey League Top Draft Prospect of the Year Award, and the CHL David Branch Player of the Year Award.
Video: Alexis Lafreniere speaks after draft lottery
New York moved up to No. 2 in the 2019 NHL Draft and selected forward Kaapo Kakko. Forward Artemi Panarin is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, given to the player voted NHL MVP, and forward Mika Zibanejad scored 41 goals this season.
"It really is exciting," Lafreniere said. "Like you said, Panarin is one of the best players in the League, and Zibanejad and guys like that, they're a really good team, and I think they're going to have a lot of success in the next couple of years. For sure, it's pretty fun."
Lafreniere is the second player to win CHL Player of the Year in consecutive seasons, joining Rimouski center and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in 2004 and 2005.
Asked for his best assets, Lafreniere said, "I would say my vision, offensively being able to create chances for me or for my teammates. I think my leadership is something that is really big, and just all of my offensive abilities. That's my strength ... to play offensively with the puck, and I think that's when I'm at my best."
Lafreniere was named most valuable player at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship after he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the tournament. He could be the third QMJHL player to be picked No. 1 since 2013, when the Colorado Avalanche selected Halifax center Nathan MacKinnon. The New Jersey Devils selected center Nico Hischier, also of Halifax, at No. 1 in 2017.
Gorton said the Rangers did not talk to Lafreniere in advance of the lottery.
"I didn't want to waste his time," the GM said. "So we'll go through that process and we'll start to meet the young man and go down the road of talking to him and his family and doing all that. Let's get through that first. For tonight, let's let the Rangers fans be happy about winning the lottery."
The eight teams that could have won the No. 1 pick finished from seventh (Pittsburgh) to 21st (Minnesota) in the NHL standings this season. Since the 1995 NHL Draft, no team had held the No. 1 pick finishing better than 26th in the standings.
The Maple Leafs' pick goes to the Hurricanes from a trade made June 22, 2019, involving forward Patrick Marleau.
The Maple Leafs acquired the No. 15 pick in the draft from the Penguins on Aug. 25 as part of a six-player trade for forward Kasperi Kapanen.
2020 NHL DRAFT ORDER
1. New York Rangers
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
9. Minnesota Wild
10. Winnipeg Jets
11. Nashville Predators
12. Florida Panthers
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)
14. Edmonton Oilers
15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh Penguins)
NHL.com deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman contributed to this report
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