This year’s NHL draft lottery has a very different dynamic to it. We will see the début of the top three spots all determined by a bounce of some lottery balls. With that comes some intriguing possibilities for outcomes.
Just because you finish in 30th doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the top three. In fact, the chances of the last place team picking fourth is almost a coin flip at 47.5%. Even though last place has the best odds of landing the top pick at 20%, more often than not, someone below jumps up and steals the pick from them.
Odds of where last place team will pick in NHL Draft:
— James Duthie (@tsnjamesduthie) March 7, 2016
What makes this lottery even more interesting are the teams vying for those top three spots. If the season ended today, every Canadian team would take part in the lottery. The team with the best odds at this point is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There are teams and fans in lottery cities that would love nothing more than to knock the Maple Leafs down to fourth. Toronto would still get a very good player if they fall to fourth. But just imagine the outrage if the lottery balls bounced a certain way.
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) March 8, 2016
Exploring Interesting Possibilities
Because of who is in the lottery, there exists a scenario where three of the Maple Leafs biggest rivals could all jump them in picking order. Imagine if Montreal won the first pick, Buffalo the second pick, and Ottawa the third pick. Would Toronto burn to the ground? Of course not! But many fans would cringe at this outcome. With three spots up for grabs, anything can happen.
Uh oh! The Edmonton Oilers now sit in 29th place. At the moment, they have better odds of picking first than they did last year. You know that if Edmonton is in the lottery, it’s a slam dunk for them. Now we’re giving them more chances? And they have Connor McDavid? Why even draw for the first pick? Just hand it to Edmonton now. I’m not sure which scenario is worse for the Maple Leafs, their arch rivals jumping them, or Edmonton winning again? When the Oilers win the first pick, that will make five times in seven years.
As of today, the bottom four teams are all from Canada. If that holds, the odds of the number one pick landing with one of those four teams (Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg) is 54.5%. Overall, if you count all seven Canadian teams, the chances of a Canadian team picking first jumps to 70%. Naturally, someone from the United States will win. How would Canada feel if the Columbus Blue Jackets or New Jersey Devils won the top pick? Given their current Stanley Cup drought, Canada will wonder if they’ll ever win anything again.
Speaking of Canada, there also exists the chance that the top three picks go to an entire section of Canada. Imagine any combination of Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa within the top three. Eastern Canada is in seventh heaven, while Western Canada will cry foul. But what if the lottery favors the west with some combination of Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary? That has the makings of a civil war. And that doesn’t even speak to how Winnipeg would feel about this.
Even better, we could see the top seven picks occupied by all Canadian teams. If the bottom four are all Canadian, and the other three win the top three spots, talk about doomsday. To even think that this is possible is amazing and surreal. That doesn’t even speak to American teams possibly winning the top three spots.
Keep this in mind as we start to approach the draft lottery. The odds favor someone jumping into first overall. That’s what makes the lottery interesting and full of drama. Fans throughout North America will sit at the edge of their seat hoping their team overcomes the odds and wins a top three pick. Will we see a doomsday scenario? Only the lottery balls truly know the answer.
Just imagine the headlines in Toronto when one of their rivals win the lottery. Or imagine headlines anywhere if Edmonton wins again, or if the first seven picks are all from Canadian teams, or if America wins all three lottery picks. With so many possibilities, there is no shortage of tantalizing stories. May the odds ever be in your favor.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.