Silver Nuggets: History and Future of the Draft Lottery

May the odds be ever in your favour

You've probably all seen the NHL Draft Lottery simulator floating around the internet these days. It's a straight forward page - it has the lottery odds based on the current standings, and lets you simulate the draw itself. Don't worry, I'm not going to post a bunch of results that I got that nobody cares about - the fun is in doing it yourself.

There's still lots of confusion around as to just how the lottery works however, how it has worked in the past, and how it will work in the future.

The draft lottery, of course, was prompted by the disastrous first season of the Ottawa Senators. Accused of throwing games to get the first overall pick, the NHL decided to implement the draft lottery to remove that guarantee in future seasons. Thus the draft lottery was born, the most lasting part of Alexandre Daigle's legacy.

Every team that didn't make the playoffs was entered into the lottery, with the odds of wining going up the further down the standings each team was. The worst team had a 25% chance of winning the lottery, the second worst 18.8%, and so on down to 0.5% for the best non-playoff team. The team picked would move up in the first round of the draft (the remaining rounds stuck to the pre-lottery draft order).

The big catch was that a team could only move up 4 positions, so only the top 5 teams could actually get the first overall pick. This meant that while the worst team only had a 25% chance to win the lottery themselves, their chances of holding on to the first pick were almost double that - 48.2%.

Other than the 2005 Draft where every team went into the lottery due to the lockout, this was the way of the lottery until 2013 and the way that sticks in most people's minds.

Non-Playoff Team
(Fewest Pts. to Most)
Odds: 2015 and on Odds: Before 2015
1 20.0% 25.0%
2 13.5% 18.8%
3 11.5% 14.2%
4 9.5% 10.7%
5 8.5% 8.1%
6 7.5% 6.2%
7 6.5% 4.7%
8 6.0% 3.6%
9 5.0% 2.7%
10 3.5% 2.1%
11 3.0% 1.5%
12 2.5% 1.1%
13 2.0% 0.8%
14 1.0% 0.5%

As of the 2013 draft, the NHL removed the restrictions on how far up a team could move in the draft - all 14 non-playoff teams now had a shot at the top spot. Further changes were made for this year's lottery, with the odds of winning being reduced for the four worst teams and increased for the remaining 10 teams. That's why Buffalo only has a 1 in 5 chance of getting McDavid right now.

The real shift comes with next year's lottery, and why Buffalo is tanking while the tanking is good. The odds of getting that first pick won't change - but the second and third picks will also be determined by the lottery. There's a legitimate chance (between 45% and 51%) that the bottom team next season will pick fourth overall.

  • Recaps! First for Tuesday's win in Buffalo... [Silver Seven] [NHL] [Ottawa Citizen] [SenShot]
  • ...And last night's loss to Pittsburgh. [Silver Seven] [NHL] [Ottawa Citizen] [SenShot]
  • Some news on the LeBreton front - the phase 1 selection process looks to be ahead of schedule. The Citizen also has some speculation (based on sources) on who all is involved in the 5 submissions. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Sportsnet talks each team's most untradeable contract in this week's power rankings [Sportsnet]
  • Lots of potential trade talk going on in regards to who could be sent where before the deadline. [Hockey News] [ESPN] [6th Sens]
  • The Methot contract talks roll on - not much time left to make a sign-or-trade decision though [Sportsnet]
  • The anthems before Monday's game will be performed by the 11-member brass choir of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Pretty sure it's a first for the franchise. [Ottawa Citizen]/
  • Travis Yost digs in to the value of draft picks in terms of chances of making the NHL [TSN]
  • Shanny is going to blow it up [Globe and Mail]
  • Were you on a wilderness retreat this week? If so, you may (and only may) have missed the big trade that saw Evander Kane join the Sabres and Tyler Myers join the Jets. [Die by the Blade] [Arctic Ice Hockey]
  • The always-excellent 30 Thoughts focuses on where else Evander Kane may have gone instead of Buffalo. Thoughts 5 and 6 deal with Chris Neil trade rumours. [Sportsnet]
  • Some further suggestions on how to fix the NHL Draft Lottery over at Pension Plan Puppets [PPP]
  • Evgeni Nabokov retired this week, and didn't repeat the mistake of a certain other recently retired goaltender - he went "home" to do it. [Fear the Fin]

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