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Lottery put friends on opposite sides of Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup Finals have numerous intriguing story lines - and the matchup between Flyers rookie left winger James van Riemsdyk and Chicago right winger Patrick Kane is near the top of the list.

The Stanley Cup Finals have numerous intriguing story lines - and the matchup between Flyers rookie left winger James van Riemsdyk and Chicago right winger Patrick Kane is near the top of the list.

If a ping-pong ball had bounced differently, the two young players could be on opposite sides in this series.

Back in 2006-07, the Flyers had the NHL's worst record. Odds were in their favor to land the No. 1 pick in the 2007 lottery.

And then . . .

Chicago, despite being the fifth team eligible for the lottery and holding the worst odds (8.1 percent) of securing the top pick, had the ping-pong ball go its way.

The Blackhawks selected Kane No. 1; the Flyers picked van Riemsdyk No. 2.

Neither team has been disappointed.

Kane, 21, has blossomed into an NHL star, registering 30 goals and 88 points this season, his third in the league. In these playoffs, he is third in the NHL with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists).

Van Riemsdyk, 21, is still emerging but had a solid season, scoring 15 goals and finishing tied for the league lead among rookies with six game-winning goals.

Van Riemsdyk, whose first-period goal ignited the Flyers' comeback from a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 of the conference semifinals in Boston, is thrilled the lottery went the way it did. He grew up in central New Jersey, so his friends and relatives have been able to attend most of his home games this season.

"I couldn't be happier to be a Flyer," van Riemsdyk said. "Just to be here and be part of the organization is something to be proud of. It's been a great ride."

Kane admitted "you always wonder what things would have been like" if the ping-pong ball went in the Flyers' favor, "but it turned out good for both of us."

Van Riemsdyk and Kane were teammates on the U.S. developmental team and the U.S. World Juniors, and they have developed a bond.

"He's one of my better friends in hockey," van Riemsdyk said.

They went out to dinner when Chicago played a regular-season game in Philadelphia on March 13. They exchanged text messages after the Flyers beat the Canadiens on Monday to earn a Finals berth against the Hawks.

"We said 'Good luck' to each other," van Riemsdyk said. "He's made a great name for himself and become one of the top players in league, so [containing him] will definitely be a big challenge."

Kane helped van Riemsdyk prepare for this season "by telling me what to expect," the Flyers winger said. "He gave me that extra confidence going into the year, that I could contribute from the get-go."

Van Riemsdyk doesn't plan to go out to dinner with Kane for at least a few weeks.

"I don't anticipate too much contact during the playoffs," he said. "We're both focused on what we need to do, and we'll talk about things afterward."

Luck of the Ping-Pong Balls

The Flyers had the best chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NHL draft, having produced the league's worst record (56 points) in the 2006-07 season. But like the NBA, the NHL holds a lottery for the previous season's non-playoff teams.

So the Chicago Blackhawks, who had the fifth-worst record (71 points) and were coming off their fourth straight losing season, won the lottery. They chose Patrick Kane with the top pick, and the Flyers followed by taking James van Riemsdyk. It was the first time the top two picks were American-born players.

It was a rare chance for the Flyers to get the top pick, since it was the only time in the last decade they had missed the playoffs. In fact, they went from 101 points, to 56, to 95 in a span of three seasons.

Chicago, on the other hand, had a mostly futile run through the early decade. Starting with their selection of Kane, the Blackhawks have been heading up the league's points standings ever since.

Here is the Flyers' decade of (mostly) success, and the Blackhawks' lack of success before their recent run:

Flyers Blackhawks

Points                  Season Points

88                        2009-10 112

Reached Stanley Reached Stanley

Cup Finals Cup Finals

99                        2008-09 104

Lost in first round Lost in conference


95                        2007-08 88

Lost in conference Missed playoffs


56                        2006-07 71

Missed playoffs Missed playoffs

101                     2005-06 65

Lost in first round Missed playoffs

101                     2003-04 59

Lost in conference Missed playoffs


107                     2002-03 79

Lost in conference Missed playoffs


97                        2001-02 96

Lost in first round Lost in first round

100                     2000-01 71

Lost in first round Missed playoffs