The 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs will start Wednesday as 16 teams begin their pursuit of hockey's Holy Grail. The remaining teams, meanwhile, will look for a little consolation as they follow the bouncing ping pong balls at the 2012 Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery on Tuesday.
The League, in cooperation with TSN, will unveil the results of the Draft Lottery as it happens live at 8 p.m. during a 30-minute program on TSN in Canada. The special presentation, which establishes the order of the first 14 picks of the 2012 Draft, also will air in the U.S. on NBC Sports Network. The remaining selections will be determined at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who finished with the fewest points in the League, have the best chance of winning the No. 1 pick. Since teams can move up a maximum of four spots, the only teams with a chance at gaining the top choice are the Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Odds of winning the draft lottery
1 - Columbus - 25.0%
2 - Edmonton - 18.8%
3 - Montreal - 14.2%
4 - NY Islanders - 10.7%
5 - Toronto - 8.1%
6 - Anaheim - 6.2%
7 - Minnesota - 4.7%
8 - Carolina - 3.6%
9 - Winnipeg - 2.7%
10 - Tampa Bay - 2.1%
11 - Washington (via COL) - 1.5%
12 - Buffalo - 1.1%
13 - Dallas - 0.8%
14 - Calgary - 0.5%
NOTE: No team can move up more than four spots, or move down more than one.
The Blue Jackets enter Tuesday's drawing with a 25.0-percent chance of winning the Lottery. If a team outside the bottom five in the standings wins, then Columbus will get the top choice, improving their odds to 48.2 percent. League rules dictate that no team can drop more than one spot, so the Blue Jackets will have at least the first or second pick in the draft.
The team with the fewest points in the League has gotten the highest pick at the Lottery the last three years. League rules dictate that no team can drop more than one spot, so the Blue Jackets will have at least the first or second pick in the draft.
Whichever team receives the first choice will have a number of outstanding prospects to choose from. Atop the list could be Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, who was NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American skater in its mid-term rankings. That club also could opt to select one of several top-tier defensemen on the board, including Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips in the Western Hockey League. Murray was rated No. 3 on Central Scouting's mid-term list.
Central Scouting will reveal its final list of North American and European skaters and goaltenders on Monday.
After Columbus, the team with the next-best chance at winning the Lottery is the Oilers at 18.8 percent. The Oilers had the top pick the last two years, choosing Windsor Spitfires left wing Taylor Hall in 2010 and Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011. The Canadiens have a 14.2-percent chance, the Islanders a 10.7-percent chance and the Maple Leafs an 8.1-percent chance.
The only other time the Blue Jackets have had the first pick in the draft was 2002, when they selected current team captain Rick Nash.
The Capitals are the only playoff team with a pick among the bottom 14. They have Colorado's pick, currently No. 11, which they acquired last July in the Semyon Varlamov trade.
The 2012 Draft will take place June 22-23 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale