TORONTO (AP) — Devils general manager Ray Shero has made it clear his team needs to accumulate more talent.
The luck of the draw helped New Jersey take a huge step in that direction Tuesday.
The Devils will pick first at June’s NHL draft after the lottery balls fell in their favor — bumping the franchise up to the top spot from No. 3.
The night’s big losers were the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.
The Avalanche, who open the playoffs Wednesday against the Calgary Flames, had the best odds of landing the first pick at 18.5 percent after acquiring the selection from the Ottawa Senators in the trade for Matt Duchene in November 2017, but instead fell down to the No. 4 slot.
Colorado also dropped from first to fourth three years ago before selecting defenseman Cale Makar.
Ottawa, which finished 31st in the overall standings this season, could have sent the team’s first pick at last June’s draft to the Avalanche, but kept the selection and took winger Brady Tkachuk at No. 4.
Shero wouldn’t tip his hand after the order was revealed, but presumptive No. 1 pick Jack Hughes was already on everyone’s mind.
“I’ve seen Jack play a long time,” Shero said of the 17-year-old U.S. National Development Team center. “We recognize Jack’s a great young player.
“It’s just an exciting night.”
The New York Rangers will choose second at the draft — the team’s first top-2 selection since 1966 when they grabbed future Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park — after moving up from sixth.
The night’s other big winner was the Chicago Blackhawks, who went from No. 12 to No. 3 despite having just a 2.5 percent chance of securing the top selection.
Speaking with reporters before the lottery order was announced, the five-foot-10, 168-pound Hughes outlined his skillset.
“My biggest things are my inner drive, my competitiveness,” he said. “I want to score every shift and make a play happen.
“I like to say I play like Patrick Kane a little bit, but I feel I’m more of a Mat Barzal in how I carve through the neutral zone, lug the puck, and find my teammates.”
Tuesday marked the second time in three years the Devils, who had an 11.5 percent chance of getting the top pick, have won the lottery after moving from fifth to first in 2017 before selecting center Nico Hischier.
New Jersey also has three second-round picks and two thirds at the draft in Vancouver as the club looks to rebound from a disappointing season.
“Getting Nico was a big step,” Shero said. “And doing this again, you have to be lucky, you have to have not a great year, obviously.
“We want to fix that.”