John Ferguson won't waste much time checking his lottery numbers tomorrow.
The Maple Leafs general manager knows his team only has a 0.8% chance of moving up four positions in the draft when the drawing for the 14 non-playoff clubs is conducted tomorrow at noon at the National Hockey League's New York office.
Toronto's win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night and an overtime loss by the Atlanta Thrashers in Florida moved the Leafs past the Thrashers (by the season-series tie-breaker) and Los Angeles Kings into 18th place overall at the close of the regular season.
"We'll take any amount of luck we can get," Ferguson said yesterday. "If we could move up in the draft towards 10th or so, that would be great. But there won't be a lot of fanfare around our office about the lottery. It was our goal to be in the playoffs."
Junior-aged talent possibly available in the middle of the first round for the Leafs includes Barrie Colts centre Bryan Little, American-born defenceman Bob Sanguinetti of the Owen Sound Attack and Russian right winger Vladimir Zharkov.
The St. Louis Blues, who lost in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks last night,finished last overall and have the best chance of winning the lottery (25%). The Penguins, who put on a charge at the end of the season to exit the basement and finish 29th, have an 18.8% chance.
First pick overall is expected to be a tight race among American forward Phil Kessel, American defenceman Erik Johnson, Winnipeg forward Jonathan Toews of the University of North Dakota and Peterborough Petes centre Jordan Staal.
"You don't see that one dominant name that you've seen in the past with Sidney Crosby," Ferguson said. "But there are always good players, three or four years down the line."
Tomorrow's lottery will be conducted using 14 balls, numbered one to 14, forming 1,001 possible combinations.