2018 NHL Draft Lottery: All You Need to Know

Make some popcorn and grab your favorite beverage, it’s time for NHL Execs to crank up their ping pong ball hopper for the annual draft lottery on Saturday, April 28 in Toronto.

The “2018 NHL Draft Lottery Show” will air at 7:30 p.m. ET. Representatives from all 14 lottery teams will be in attendance (the New York Islanders hold two picks).

Two-Step Reveal Process

This year, in an attempt at adding drama, the NHL has drawn out a new process of unveiling the draft order. Rather than revealing the entire order of the first 15 selections, as they’ve done in the past, the NHL will announce selections 15 through 4 before the start of the Vegas Golden Knights-San Jose Sharks second-round game. Fans and teams will have to wait until the game’s second intermission to find out the remaining three selections.

The ranking for every team that made the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs will be determined once the Cup has been awarded. Picks 16-27 will be set after the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with picks 28-31 going to the four remaining teams in an order to be determined.

NHL Draft Lottery Odds

Finishing last doesn’t guarantee the first overall pick like it once did. It’s familiar territory as the Buffalo Sabres have finished dead last three times in the last five years.

The NHL has tinkered with the rules and the odds in recent years, to deter teams from intentionally tanking to ensure a top draft pick. The last-place Sabres have the best odds to win the No. 1 pick (18.5 percent). The Sabres can drop to no lower than fourth in the draft order, with all 15 non-playoff teams having a shot to win the top three selections.

Sabres Celebrate
The Sabres rarely won this season. They sure could benefit from winning the lottery. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

Three lottery balls will be drawn and any non-playoff team can pick first, second, or third, and then the rest of the draft order is decided based on the standings of the teams that weren’t drawn.

This list shows the odds for each team to win the 2018 NHL Draft lottery as well as their odds of being in the top three overall.

  1. Buffalo Sabres            18.5 percent, 49.4 percent
  2. Ottawa Senators*       13.5 percent, 38.8 percent
  3. Arizona Coyotes          11.5 percent, 33.9 percent
  4. Montreal Canadiens      9.5 percent, 28.8 percent
  5. Detroit Red Wings         8.5 percent, 26.1 percent
  6. Vancouver Canucks      7.5 percent, 23.3 percent
  7. Chicago Blackhawks     6.5 percent, 20.4 percent
  8. New York Rangers         6.0 percent, 19.0 percent
  9. Edmonton Oilers            5.0 percent, 16.0 percent
  10. New York Islanders       3.5 percent, 11.4 percent
  11. Carolina Hurricanes      3.0 percent, 9.9 percent
  12. New York Islanders**      2.5 percent, 8.2 percent
  13. Dallas Stars                  2.0 percent, 6.6 percent
  14. Louis Blues***              1.5 percent, 5.0 percent
  15. Florida Panthers           1.0 percent, 3.3 percent

* – As part of the Matt Duchene trade on Nov. 5, 2017, the Senators have the option to keep their 2018 first-round pick and send Colorado their 2019 first-round pick.

** – From Calgary

*** – As part of the Brayden Schenn trade, the Blues have the option to defer their 2018 first-round pick to 2019 for Philadelphia if it is in the Top 10.

Ping Pong Balls and Probabilities

Of the past six lottery drawings, the team that finished last in points won the draft lottery only once–in 2016, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a 20 percent chance of winning, and it came to fruition. They chose center Auston Matthews.

Auston Matthews, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs landed Auston Matthews. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

In 2013-14 and 2014-15, the Sabres finished last, but the Florida Panthers (Aaron Ekblad, 2014) and Edmonton Oilers (Connor McDavid, 2015) won the lottery.

Any team that did not make the postseason could swoop in and disrupt the order. Last year, the top three teams that chose were completely different than the odds would have initially suggested. The Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights were all bumped.

The New Jersey Devils, who had just the fifth-best odds of landing the No. 1 pick, won the lottery. The Philadelphia Flyers vaulted from having the thirteenth-best odds to pick second overall and the Dallas Stars jumped up from the eighth slot to the third. The top three picks were: Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick and Miro Heiskanen.

In 2016, the Jets nabbed Patrik Laine with the No. 2 pick despite holding the fifth-best odds.

Play the Simulator

There are several draft lottery simulators that use the odds listed above to project the top three picks overall. Before you click on the link above, consider yourself warned. It can fill you with hope or drive you crazy. Or both.

2018 Top Prospects

The 2018 NHL Draft begins Friday, June 22 in Dallas. Rounds two through seven will be held Satuday, June 23.

This year’s draft features top prospect Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. He’s considered to be a generational talent, so whichever team has the matching set of numbers to draw first will come away with a highly talented, ready-made blueliner.

Rasmus Dahlin #8 of Sweden
Dahlin is the consensus top prize in the draft this year. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)

After the top-prize Dahlin, there’s a collection of good wingers, including Andrei Svechnikov who plays in the OHL, Filip Zadina who plays in the QMJHL, and Brady Tkachuk who plays at Boston University. They’re likely to be selected second, third, and fourth.

The top defensemen include: Evan Bouchard (OHL); Noah Dobson (QMJHL);  Quintin Hughes (University of Michigan) and Adam Boqvist (Swedish junior league).

You can get all of your 2018 NHL Entry Draft information, including prospect profiles, prospect rankings and mock drafts from the THW 2018 NHL Draft Guide. New profiles and content is being added daily. Bookmark it now.