This year, the NHL will be debuting a new system to determine which team gets the top overall pick.
Like basketball, hockey has been using a lottery system. That means the team with the worst record is not guaranteed the top pick in the draft. This ensures a team can't tank games toward the end of the season and fall into the No. 1 pick and draft a stud who can turn the franchise around.
It's far from a perfect system, but you're not going to be able to please everybody.
Prior to this season, only the teams with the five worst records had a shot at earning the top overall draft pick. The rules stated the winning lottery team could only move up four spots. That led to cases like in 1995, when the Los Angeles Kings won the lottery but could only move up to third from the seventh position. Similar cases happened again in 1999 and 2011.
It was a significant flaw. Sure teams can move up spots, but there was not a significant reward for actually winning the lottery.
This season is unique, though, as the league is experimenting with a new system. It parallels more what you see in the NBA. There's no cap on how high a team can climb should it win the draft lottery. All 14 teams that missed the postseason will have a chance to earn the No. 1 pick. The odds diminish as the teams' regular season point totals improve.
The favorites to win the lottery are the Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators. All four teams have odds of nabbing the top pick in the double digits.
Here's how the odds break down for this year's draft (h/t Sporting News):
|Tampa Bay Lightning||40||14.2|
|New Jersey Devils||48||2.7|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||55||0.5|
This year's draft is considered the Seth Jones Sweepstakes. The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones is an imposing presence on the ice at 6'4" and 205 pounds. Jones is also a very good threat on the offensive end of the ice. He's scored 14 goals and notched 42 assists for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL.
Should he get selected No. 1 overall, Jones would be the first black player ever to earn that honor. In addition, only six Americans have been taken with the top pick in the NHL draft. Patrick Kane was the last, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007.
Fans can tune in to the draft lottery Monday, April 29, at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Network in the United States and TSN in Canada.
The draft itself is still a ways off, taking place on June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.