Blue Jackets out to win Stanley Cup, not No. 1 pick, Foligno says

The Columbus Blue Jackets are confident they can defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in their best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifier series, and the players are not thinking about the possibility of Columbus winning the No. 1 pick in the Second Phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, captain Nick Foligno said.

“That one doesn’t fly for me. We play to win the Stanley Cup regardless,” Foligno, a forward, told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio on Sunday. “[The No. 1 pick is] where management’s job comes into play; you want to make their job hard on them, and I don’t think any of us are looking to play for the first overall pick. Being in that position where my team is drafting first overall is not a position I ever want to be in during my career. If we’re coming back, we’re coming back to win.”

The No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft was assigned to a placeholder team, one of the eight that will be eliminated from the qualifiers, in the First Phase of the lottery Friday. Each of the eight will have a 12.5 percent chance at winning the top pick in a second drawing to be held before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“It’s crazy how that ended up playing out, but I’m not looking at any other circumstance than winning a Cup,” Foligno said. “I feel this way about our team that with the way our season went, it’s a great chance for us to be healthy, to have a chance to make a run, and it could be anyone’s game because of the situation. You don’t get many cracks at the Cup, so you’re giving everything you can for that opportunity.”

The No. 1 pick is likely to be forward Alexis Lafreniere, a two-time Canadian Hockey League player of the year who was No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.

Columbus, which was 33-22-15 (.579 points percentage) before the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns about the coronavirus, is the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference Qualifiers. Toronto (36-25-9, .579) is the No. 8 seed.

Foligno said it’s imperative for the Blue Jackets that they control the tempo against the Maple Leafs, who scored 57 more goals than them in the regular season (237-180). Columbus allowed 39 fewer goals than Toronto (222-183).

“They’re a very dangerous offensive team, and when they get feeling good about themselves, they can really make you pay,” he said. “For us, it’s understanding who we are and playing to that. When we do that, we rival anyone in the League. It’s not so much about them, it’s about us. Respect them for sure, but also respect our own game and knowing that when we play a hard forechecking, disciplined style of game, we can give fits to anyone.”

A start date and hub cities — one for the 12 Eastern teams, one for the 12 Western teams — for the 24-team tournament in the NHL Return to Play Plan have not been announced.

The Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs are among the 16 teams that will play in the qualifier series and have a chance to get the No. 1 pick, including the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.

The top four teams in each conference will play a round-robin to determine playoff seeding.

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