TORONTO (AP) – The New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets have the best chance of drafting Sidney Crosby first overall in the 2005 NHL draft.

Each of those teams will have the maximum three balls in the lottery barrel while the other 26 teams will have either two or one each.

The lottery is expected to be held next week at an NHL board of governors meeting to ratify the tentative collective bargaining agreement reached Wednesday between the NHL and the players’ association.

The NHL wants to have the draft July 30 in Ottawa, according to sources.

Each team will have a chance at drafting first overall – a departure from recent years when only the bottom five teams in the league from the regular season were involved in the lottery for the No. 1 pick.

This time around, teams’ chances are weighted according to the following formula:

• Each team starts with three balls and loses one for each playoff appearance in the last three years but only to a maximum of two, assuring each team will have at least one ball.

• The teams which had the first overall pick in each of the last four drafts also lose a ball. Florida loses two for having the first pick twice – in 2002 and 2003 – even though the Panthers traded the first pick in both cases, and Washington (2004) and Atlanta (2001) lose one each.

That puts a total of 48 balls in the barrel with New York, Buffalo, Columbus and Pittsburgh each having a 6.25 percent chance of landing the first pick. Anaheim, Atlanta, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville and Phoenix each have two balls and a 4.17 percent chance. The remaining 16 teams have one ball each and a 2.08 percent chance.

Clubs will draft from 1 to 30 in the order the balls are picked. The first-round order will be reversed for the second round and flip on an alternating basis through the nine rounds.

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