NHL Draft Lottery – A Quick Primer


As you are no doubt well aware, the NHL draft lottery will be held tonight in New York to determine the order of the 14 non-playoff teams heading into the June 25-26 draft in Los Angeles. You can catch coverage of the lottery at 8pm on TSN.

And the winner is … Edmonton.  Leafs fans, prepare yourselves to endure “Kessel Trade” debates for the better part of the next decade.

How The Draft Lottery Works

The lottery system is weighted so that teams finishing closest to the bottom of the standings have the best chance — but by no means a guarantee — of being awarded picks closest to their relative place in the standings.  The team that wins the lottery can move up a maximum of four places in the draft order, but no team can move down more than one spot.

The odds of winning the lottery are as follows:

(via mynhldraft.com)

25.0% – Edmonton Oilers
18.8% – Boston Bruins (from Toronto)
14.2% – Florida Panthers
10.7% – Columbus Blue Jackets
8.1% – New York Islanders
6.2% – Tampa Bay Lightning
4.7% – Carolina Hurricanes
3.6% – Atlanta Thrashers
2.7% – Minnesota Wild
2.1% – New York Rangers
1.5% – Dallas Stars
1.1% – Anaheim Ducks
0.8% – Calgary Flames
0.5% – St. Louis Blues

Only the teams who finished in the bottom five of the standings have a shot at winning the number one overall pick. The odds of attaining the first overall pick are as follows:

(via mynhldraft.com)

48.2% – Edmonton Oilers
18.8% – Boston Bruins (from Toronto)
14.2% – Florida Panthers
10.7% – Columbus Blue Jackets
8.1% – New York Islanders

The Consensus Top Pick

There has been a lot of debate lately over who is the better player: Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin?  Specifically, many have wondered how some have had Seguin ahead of Hall in their rankings.

Taylor Hall is arguably the most dynamic offensive player outside the NHL. He is quick, possesses tremendous stick skills, owns a great shot, and displays exceptional playmaking skills and creativity.  Due to his date of birth (November ’91), he is also the beneficiary of three years’ worth of Junior experience, whereas most Junior players tend to become draft-eligible after their second campaign.  Simply put, Hall may have the highest offensive ceiling of any winger to be drafted in the 1st round since Patrick Kane went 1st overall in 2007.

Tyler Seguin, on the other hand, has been billed by many as a far less dynamic, but more complete, player than Hall. Seguin is only 1.5 months younger than Hall, but due to his birthdate (January ’92) has played only two Junior seasons (hence the talk of Seguin being “a year younger” in his career). However, this past season (his 2nd) he bested Hall’s 2nd-season numbers, and recorded more goals, and only 2 fewer points, than Hall did this season.  Beyond the numbers, however, Seguin plays the game with a level of poise, and two-way acumen, well beyond that usually seen in players his age.  It would surprise few to see him wearing a letter one day at the NHL level.  He also plays centre which — rightly or wrongly — often seems to have a positive effect on draft rankings.

In the case of the Edmonton Oilers, who no matter what will be in position to draft one of these players, it is a win-win situation.  While many Edmonton fans would prefer Hall, who shared an obvious chemistry at the WJC with Oilers’ prospect Jordan Eberle, the Oilers do have a need for depth at the centre position and Seguin would fit the bill quite nicely.  Regardless of who ends up with the top pick, the Oilers will walk away winners.

What Tonight Means For Leafs Fans

Much has been made of the Leafs‘ 1st round pick going to Boston in the trade for Phil Kessel, and no matter what happens tonight, the debate over whether the deal was worthwhile is bound to continue well into the next decade. Looking at the odds, Boston’s pick (via Toronto) can go no lower than 3rd overall, so even if Boston does not land a consensus top player such as Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, they will be in position to land a very good prospect nonetheless.

Between Florida, Columbus, the New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay, there exists a 39.2% chance that Boston will end up with the 3rd overall pick.  However, there is an 18.8% chance Boston wins the 1st overall pick, which leaves — as pointed out by MLHS reader “Nights”– a 42% chance Boston ends up with the 2nd overall pick.

The best fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs can do — other than hope for one of Fla, Clb, NYI or TB to win the lottery — is to find it within themselves to accept the trade for what it was and trust team management to find creative ways to build a winner beyond simply relying upon top draft picks.  The Detroit model is proof enough it can be done, as are the examples of Buffalo and San Jose.

Fans may also wish to comfort themselves with the knowledge that consistently high-drafting teams such as Edmonton, Columbus, and the New York Islanders have little to show for their efforts thus far.

Despite the hand-wringing that is bound to ensue following tonight’s draw, and leading into the draft in June, the future remains bright in Toronto. After all, had Burke held onto the picks and not traded for Kessel, would he have been as willing to move players such as Stajan and (particularly) Hagman to complete the trade for Dion Phaneuf?  And had the Leafs not made the deal for Kessel, would they have come close to being as bad as Edmonton was this season?  Chances are, they would not have been.

So, a top prospect that could have been Toronto property will go elsewhere.  In exchange, the Leafs have a gifted sniper in Kessel under contract for four more years, whose acquisition enabled them to move two of their top veteran scorers for Phaneuf.   Whether or not this is a fair exchange can — and will — be debated for years to come. However, if there is one immutable fact proven time and again in the NHL, it is this.  There is more than one way to build a team, and a collection of highly-ranked prospects, while providing optimism toward and definite opportunities for future growth and success, is by no means a guarantee.

In other words, hope is not lost.  Even though it may not feel that way immediately after the lottery concludes.  Consider this post your thread for venting those frustrations, and forming any necessary support groups.

Looking forward to your thoughts as always,