NHL Draft Lottery Odds and How It Works

2013 NHL Draft Lottery Logo

Since 1995, non-playoff teams have been secretly following hockey superstitions in an effort to steer Lady Luck their way and win the NHL Draft Lottery.

The NHL utilizes a weighted system in determining the order of selection for the first 14 picks of the entry draft. This year’s installment takes place Monday, April 29th at 8PM EST.

The New Twist – Equal Opportunity

While the odds of winning the lottery are unaltered from prior years, the lottery-winning team will now land the coveted first overall pick.  The remaining 13 teams are subsequently slotted in reverse order of their regular-season point totals.

Of course, in every other year, the victorious team could move up no more than four slots in the draft order.

The Odds

Of note, not including the Sidney Crosby Draft (2005), only 6 of 17 teams with the best odds of selecting 1st won the lottery. On three other occasions, the team with top odds still retained the pick as the team who won was ranked lower than 5th and could not move up to the 1st pick.

1st: 25.0% – Florida Panthers
2nd: 18.8% – Colorado Avalanche
3rd: 14.2% – Tampa Bay Lightning
4th: 10.7% – Nashville Predators
5th: 8.1% – Carolina Hurricanes
6th: 6.2% – Calgary Flames
7th: 4.7% – Edmonton Oilers
8th: 3.6% – Buffalo Sabres
9th: 2.7% – New Jersey Devils
10th: 2.1% – Dallas Stars
11th: 1.5% – Philadelphia Flyers
12th: 1.1% – Phoenix Coyotes
13th: 0.8% – Winnipeg Jets
14th: 0.5% – Columbus Blue Jackets

Example: Calgary Flames – Against All Odds

  • Odds Flames draft 1st overall: 6.2%
  • Odds Flames draft 6th overall: 76.8%
  • Odds Flames draft 7th overall: 17%

NHL Draft Lottery Results

Update: The 2013 lottery results are now in the books. The Colorado Avalanche, who had the second best odds to win, were the big winner, supplanting Florida to have a shot at drafting phenom blueliner Seth Jones.

While Nate MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin are legitimate contenders, Jones seems all too fitting given it was Joe Sakic who gave Seth’s father Popeye Jones advice on getting the then youngster started in what looks to be a path to hockey stardom.

The Avs, however, are a secretive franchise, keeping all maneuverings close to their vests. They’ve been known to throw a curve ball or to just when you think you have them figured out.

Historic Lottery Results: see NHL.com

How The Lottery Works

Fourteen balls numbered 1 through 14 are placed in Gary Bettman’s washing machine; in actual fact they are placed in the lottery machine. Four balls are then ejected.  This forms a four digit number which is matched against a probability chart that divides the possible combinations among the 14 participating teams.

Pythagoras would have been proud.

To clarify further, by finishing last overall the Florida Panthers receives 25 per cent of the 1,001 combinations possible in this system, while the second-last Colorado Avalanche receives 18.8 per cent of them, and so on.

For the rest of the picks and how they are determined check out Future Considerations’ NHL Draft Lottery Primer.

The lottery result is only applicable to the first round of the draft. In all ensuing rounds, selection order reverts to the original order based on standings.

Imperfectly Protecting Against Tanking

This system is far from perfect and I outlined four ways the system could be changed last year:

NHL Draft Simulator

Have some fun with this one: 

Do-It-Yourself NHL Draft Simulator – Try it!


Email: CRalph@TheHockeyWriters.com

Twitter: @ChrisRalphTHW