The draft lottery is one of the most complicated events of the NHL season. From the outside, it seems simple—whoever’s ball gets picked wins the lottery. Simple, right? Think again.
To prepare for the lottery, each eligible team (every team that missed the playoffs) is given certain combinations of 14 balls numbered one through nine. The number of combinations each team receives is based on their finish:
30th—25.0 percent (250 combinations)
29th—18.8 percent (188 combinations)
28th—14.2 percent (142 combinations)
27th—10.7 percent (107 combinations)
26th—8.1 percent (81 combinations)
25th—6.2 percent (62 combinations)
24th—4.7 percent (47 combinations)
23rd—3.6 percent (36 combinations)
22nd—2.7 percent (27 combinations)
21st—2.1 percent (21 combinations)
20th—1.5 percent (15 combinations)
19th—1.1 percent (11 combinations)
18th—0.8 percent (8 combinations)
17th—0.5 percent (5 combinations)
The lottery then takes place, which consists of four balls being selected in order. The number it creates determines who wins the lottery. However, whatever team wins may only move up a maximum of four spots. Therefore if the team in 23rd place wins the lottery, they will get the fourth overall pick. But if the 28th overall team wins the lottery, they select first. The 30th overall team is only allowed to move down to second place—no further.
Therefore, since, even if a team 25th to 17th place wins the lottery, the 30th team still retains the first overall pick, the team who finishes in last place has a 48.20 percent chance of drafting first overall. The next three teams’ chances of selecting first is equal to their probability of winning the lottery.
So although the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators all have chances to draft first overall, they are not the only teams that need a good showing at the lottery. Other teams could use the lucky break of moving up in the draft in hopes of perhaps selecting that next franchise player.
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers' Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.
2011 Record: 30-40-12 (72 points)—28th overall
One of just two teams to miss the playoffs every year since the lockout (Toronto), the Panthers have some pieces in place to develop a solid, perennially-contending team in the next few years. On their NHL roster, they already have some great future players, including defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby, forwards Niclas Bergfors, Jack Skille, Michal Repik, Shawn Matthias and Evgeny Dadonov, and more.
In the system, they have defenseman Erik Gudbranson—who may become a franchise blueliner—and goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who will replace Tomas Vokoun anytime now and become an NHL star. They even have a couple forwards in Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden, who will most likely be able to step in sometime in the upcoming years.
But Florida is still missing that superstar forward that can lead them back to the playoffs. Although they would be drafting fourth overall if they stand still (which would still bring in a phenomenal player), by winning the 2011 NHL draft lottery they would draft first overall and have the opportunity to select a future superstar such as Drummondville Voltigeurs center Sean Couturier, Red Deer Rebels center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or even Kitchener Rangers left wing Gabriel Landeskog.
Any of those three (who each could go first overall in June) would be a great addition to an already vibrant group of NHL prospects. The addition of this one piece could eventually propel the Panthers from a prospect-filled, promising team to a talented, contending organization.
2011 Record 32-40-10 (74 points)—26th overall
The capital of Canada is in for a long, tedious rebuild. Finishing 26th overall and with almost $38 million committed to just 14 players for 2011-12, newly extended GM Bryan Murray will have a lot of work on his hands. His goalie of the future in Robin Lehner is not yet ready to play on a nightly basis, while his offense is aging and his defense is just mediocre. Although in the system are a couple of talented players like defensemen David Rundblad and Jared Cowen, the Sens are struggling in the prospect department.
With head coach Cory Clouston and assistants Greg Carvel and Brad Lauer recently dismissed, it leaves room for the Senators to start from scratch and allow a new coaching staff to begin grooming the young team into another mold of Stanley Cup contender—the kind they had a few years ago when they were three games away from a Stanley Cup championship.
The player Bryan Murray would love to draft is defenseman Adam Larsson, who is a great candidate to go first overall to whichever team has the selection. Larsson, a future franchise defenseman, could help quarterback a power play unit and can dominate the defensive zone with his two-way play.
2011 Record: 37-39-5 (79 points)—25th overall
After a horrid start to the 2010-11 season, the New Jersey Devils were very close to coming back and breaking through the playoff line in the standings. However, their luck ran out and they ended up finishing 25th overall, with a losing record, for the first time since the 1995-96 season. Their defense is still fairly talented, especially with the defensive system they continue to play (they gave up just 207 goals, eighth in the league). However, their offense is simply terrible (171 goals for, which is 19 behind the second-worst offensive team in the league).
That can be partially attributed to superstar Zach Parise’s absence for the majority of the season, but the Devils are still struggling to hold on, specifically with little cap room and Parise becoming a restricted free agent this offseason.
In the system, the Devils are lucky to have center Jacob Josefson, who will most likely turn out to be a 50- to 60-point scorer on the Devils’ first or second line in the upcoming years. They also own the rights to defenseman Jon Merrill, who after a successful freshman year of school in which he took Michigan to the National Championship game, will eventually become a top-six defenseman for the organization.
However, other than those two, the Devils do not have much depth on the farm and need a solid forward through the draft to bring them back to legitimacy. Moving up to the second spot overall (by winning the lottery) would allow them to draft a player like Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog or even Saint John Sea Dogs center Jonathan Huberdeau.
2011 Record: 38-35-8 (84 points)—22nd overall
If the Minnesota Wild win the draft lottery, they will move up to the fifth position in the NHL draft. And with a scarcity of prospects in the organization, the Wild need to draft someone—anyone—that can help them out within the next year or two. With two solid goalies on the NHL roster, Minnesota needs either a forward or an offensive defenseman to help them out.
Drafting fifth overall, they won’t be able to get one of the top forwards in the draft. However, there will still be plenty of talent available when they step up to the podium. Players such as Niagra IceDogs defenseman Dougie Hamilton, Portland Winterhawks forward Sven Baertschi or even USNTDP forward Brandon Saad could all be great fits in the Minnesota organization.
The Wild are still in a rebuilding stage, so none of the players they draft are going to drastically change the face of the team. But the right choice and a bit of luck with the ping pong balls could set the organization on the right path for the next few years.
2011 Record: 34-35-13 (81 points)—23rd overall
After making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history a few years ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets once again find themselves struggling in the standings after finishing in last place of the always-tough Central Division and in 23rd place overall in the league. By winning the lottery (just a 3.6 percent chance, but still possible), the Blue Jackets would move up to the fourth overall spot and garner an opportunity to select a budding winger, perhaps someone like USNTDP right wing Tyler Biggs, who could develop into one of the top players from this year’s draft in three or four years.
If the thought of Biggs doesn’t sound good to GM Scott Howson and his hockey operations staff, perhaps, Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog could slide down to fourth overall. If Landy is already taken, then Saint John Sea Dogs center Jonathan Huberdeau could challenge prospect Ryan Johansen for the No. 1 center spot on the Blue Jackets’ roster. Along with Johansen in the system are left wing Nikita Filatov, who still has potential (if Columbus decides to hold onto him this summer), defenseman John Moore, who is succeeding in the American League right now or even left wing Matt Calvert, who had great luck in the Canadian League, and his now developing his skill in the AHL.
Whichever way the ping pong balls fly on Tuesday, Columbus would love to find their number being shown by deputy commissioner Bill Daly before the night is up.