NHL Reportedly Will Implement Changes to Draft Lottery Starting in 2021

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2021

League and team officials attend the NHL hockey draft in Dallas, Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

The NHL reportedly approved some significant changes to its draft lottery Tuesday, one of which will be implemented for the 2021 NHL draft.

According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the number of lottery-eligible picks is being reduced from three to two, starting with the 2021 lottery. That means the team with the worst record cannot pick lower than third.

Two changes that will reportedly be made for the 2022 draft lottery and beyond are restricting lottery-winning teams to a 10-spot jump and limiting teams to no more than two lottery wins over a five-year span.

The lottery changes come on the heels of a somewhat controversial 2020 NHL draft lottery, which resulted in the New York Rangers picking first overall despite reaching the playoffs.

There were technically 24 playoff teams last season since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to change its playoff format. When the first 2020 draft lottery resulted in "Team E" winning, it required a second lottery involving the eight teams eliminated in the qualifying round of the playoffs.

The Rangers won the second lottery, thus earning the right to pick first overall and select forward Alexis Lafreniere.

Also, the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators ended up being big losers in the lottery, as they picked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the draft despite having the two worst records.

Had last year's lottery taken place under the new rules, the Red Wings would have picked no lower than third and the Senators would have picked no lower than fourth.

The team benefiting most from the rule change as of now is the Buffalo Sabres, who have an NHL-low 16 points and are in the midst of a 14-game losing streak.

Buffalo (6-20-4) is eight points behind the next-worst team (Anaheim), giving it a major cushion on the best odds to land the No. 1 overall pick.

If the Sabres do maintain the NHL's worst record over the course of the 56-game regular season, the new rule will ensure that they can pick no later than third in the first round.

Unlike many years, there is no clear, slam-dunk pick at No. 1 overall. Some of the top names to monitor include forwards Matthew Beniers, Fabian Lysell and William Eklund as well as defensemen Owen Power, Simon Edvinsson, Brandt Clarke and Luke Hughes.