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Islanders have best shot at top pick

by Adam Kimelman
The NHL will play its version of Powerball Tuesday.

Representatives from the 14 non-playoff teams eagerly will be watching the announcement of the winner of the 2009 Scotiabank/NHL Draft Lottery today (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN,, which will set the order for the 2009 Entry Draft.

At stake is the right to select London Knights center John Tavares, the consensus best player available, or giant Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman, who mixes 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds with high-end skating and offensive skills.

The New York Islanders, who finished with the fewest points in the League, are guaranteed of a chance to select either one of those players. By rule, a team only can move down one spot from their place in the standings, so regardless of what happens today, the Islanders will have either the first or second selection.

"We can't control what unfolds," Islanders General Manager Garth Snow told Newsday, "but I do know, whichever scenario it is, we'll get a good hockey player."

Since teams only can move up four spots, only the five teams with the fewest points this season -- the Islanders, Lightning, Avalanche, Thrashers and Kings -- are in the running to claim the top spot.

If a team outside the bottom five wins the Lottery, that team will move up four spots, and then the standings will determine the rest of the Draft order for the non-playoff teams.

That gives the Islanders a 48.2-percent chance of winning the top pick, by far the best odds. The Lightning have an 18.8-percent chance at the top shot; the Avalanche 14.2 percent; the Thrashers 10.7 percent; the Kings 8.1 percent.

Just because the odds favor the Islanders, however, doesn't mean another team's name won't be called first. In 2007, the Flyers had the worst record in the League but lost the Lottery to the Blackhawks, who had the worst odds among the bottom five. In fact, of the 13 previous draft lotteries (not counting 2005, when every team had a chance), only four times has the team with the worst record won the lottery.

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