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.