Breaking Down the NHL Draft Lottery

Wednesday, 03.12.2008 / 10:53 AM CT / Features
By Kevin Wilson  - Nashville Predators
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Breaking Down the NHL Draft Lottery
With the Predators receiving Florida’s first-round selection at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft as some of the compensation in exchange for goaltender Tomas Vokoun last summer, Preds fans should keep a close eye on the Panthers’ place in the standings down the home stretch, as they are currently positioned 11th in the Eastern Conference and 24th in the NHL. If they fall just two spots lower, Florida’s pick (which now belongs to the Predators) will be in play for the first overall selection, thanks to the draft lottery system. Here is how it works:

All the picks that originally belonged to teams who do not make the 2008 postseason, 14 in all, seven from each conference will be determined by the draft drawing, which is a weighted lottery system using numbered ping-pong balls, just like you see every night in the Powerball drawing. For example, Florida’s pick now belongs to Nashville and Edmonton’s first choice was dealt to Anaheim, but the positioning of Florida and Edmonton will determine what spot the other teams will draft from.

No pick can move up more than four spots, or down more than one spot in the drawing, and therefore only the bottom five picks have the opportunity to move into the coveted number-one spot.

From the NHL’s draft documents which detail the process:
“Fourteen balls, numbered 1 to 14, are placed in a lottery machine. The machine expelled four balls, forming a series of numbers. The four-digit series resulting from the expulsion of the balls are matched against a probability chart that divided the possible combinations among the 14 participating clubs.”

The probabilities break down like this (based on the combinations assigned):
30th –place team: 25% chance of winning
29th –place team: 18.8%
28th –place team: 14.2%
27th –place team: 10.7%
26th –place team: 8.1%
25th –place team: 6.2%
24th –place team: 4.7%
23rd –place team: 3.6%
22nd –place team: 2.7%
21st –place team: 2.1%
20th –place team: 1.5%
19th –place team: 1.1%
18th –place team: 0.8%
17th –place team: 0.5%

But, even if the 17th place team wins the lottery (which is slim at only one-half of one percent), they can only move up four spots, to 10th from 14th. Only twice since the lottery was put into place in 1995 has a team outside the top five won.

Since only the top five can move into the first spot, if they or any of the other nine teams that can’t get the number-one pick, and they can’t move down more than one spot, the 30th-place team has a 48.2% chance of retaining the pick.

Works cited: NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement and is the official Web site of the Nashville Predators and are trademarks of the Nashville Predators.  NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Nashville Predators and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

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