TORONTO — Devils General Manager Ray Shero has made it clear his team needs to accumulate more talent.
The luck of the draw helped the Devils take a step in that direction Tuesday.
The Devils will pick first at June’s N.H.L. draft after the lottery balls fell in their favor — bumping the franchise up to the top spot from No. 3.
Shero would not tip his hand after the order was revealed, but the 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 center who plays for the United States National Development Team. “We recognize Jack’s a great young player.”
The Rangers will choose second at the draft — the team’s first top-2 selection since 1966, when they grabbed the future Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park.
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.
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. In 2007, they moved from fifth to first and selected center Nico Hischier.
The Devils also have 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.”
The night’s big losers were the Colorado Avalanche and the 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. Instead Colorado fell down to the No. 4 slot.
The Avalanche also dropped from first to fourth three years ago before selecting defenseman Cale Makar.
Ottawa, which finished last 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.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, had the second-best odds of winning the lottery at 13.5 percent, but will pick fifth.
The 15 teams that failed to qualify for the 2019 playoffs — or the franchises that acquired the first-round picks of non-playoff clubs — participated in the lottery.
Hughes holds the U.S. National Development Team record with 197 points (63 goals and 134 assists) over his two seasons after putting up 86 in 41 games in 2018-19.
Asked if he’s always wanted to an N.H.L. star, he responded with a smile: “I didn’t really dream of being a grinder.”
Hughes, who was born in Orlando, Fla., but grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, skates with Devils winger Taylor Hall in the summer.
Hall has had some incredible luck with the lottery balls in his career. Of the nine drafts since he entered the league as the No. 1 pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 2010, his team has picked first five times.
“Very excited to welcome our future #1 overall pick to Jersey!” Hall tweeted. “Great start to the summer for the Devils.”
Hughes could become the second player to be chosen first overall directly out of the U.S.N.D.T. — and the first to go right to the N.H.L. — after the St. Louis Blues took defenseman Erik Johnson at No. 1 in 2006.
“I’m focused on playing in the N.H.L. next year,” said Hughes, who turns 18 on May 14. “I feel like I could do it. With the way the game is now, how it’s speed and skill, I feel like my game translates perfectly.”
Winger Kaapo Kakko, 18, of Finland is ranked as the top European skater and is expected to go No. 2 at the draft. He set a Finnish league record with 22 goals in his rookie season to go along with 16 assists for 38 points in 45 games. He added two goals and three assists in seven games at the world junior tournament.
Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton said moving up to No. 2 will help move his team’s rebuild along.
“My phone’s in my back pocket buzzing like crazy,” he said. “I haven’t been able to look at it, but I can only imagine what people are saying.”