The 2017 NHL Entry Draft lottery takes place on Saturday night, and you might be asking yourself a simple question.
How do they decide which cards that man holds up to the television screen?
A common question, friends. The NHL Draft lottery is simple, yet slightly complex thanks to a change made in 2013. Under the previous system, only the five clubs with the fewest points in the regular season standings could win the first overall pick. And no team could move up more than four spots.
That led to a bottleneck, as the Edmonton Oilers won the first overall pick 10 billion years in a row. Essentially.
In 2013, the NHL lottery opened up: Every team not qualified for the playoffs is eligible to win the first overall pick.
Thrown into the mix this year are the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s latest expansion team set to start play next year. They’ll get the same odds as the 28th-place NHL team, the Arizona Coyotes, who have 10.321 percent odds of winning first overall.
How it works
Fifteen balls, numbered one to 15, are placed in a lottery machine. Supposedly.
The machine expels four balls, forming a series of numbers. The four-digit series resulting from the expulsion of the balls is matched against a probability chart that divides the possible combinations among the 15 participating clubs.
The lottery has three drawings: The first lottery draw determines first overall, the second determines second overall, and the third determines third overall. Fairly straightforward. All of this happens off-camera before the lottery results are revealed.
This is how it shakes out past the lottery draws, per NHL.com:
The odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the 2nd Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the 1st Lottery Draw, and again for the 3rd Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the 2nd Lottery Draw.
The 12 clubs not selected in the NHL Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 4 through 15, in inverse order of regular-season points.
The odds are a little different this year with Vegas in the mix, as we mentioned above.
2017 NHL Draft Lottery Odds
|Vegas Golden Knights||10.321%|
|New Jersey Devils||8.517%|
|Detroit Red Wings||6.713%|
|Los Angeles Kings||4.509%|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||1.804%|
|New York Islanders||0.902%|
Lottery surprises are not unheard of in the NHL. Winnipeg won second overall in 2016 despite the sixth-best odds (7.8 percent) to jump that high. They picked Patrik Laine, who is a Calder Trophy finalist.
Edmonton had the third-best odds to claim first overall in 2015. They won it, leap-frogging the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes to select Connor McDavid.
In case you were wondering, this is how SBN's hockey network reacted when the Oilers won the lottery. pic.twitter.com/OVaICdw6hN— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) April 19, 2015
It changed their franchise; McDavid will probably win the NHL’s Hart Trophy (MVP award) this year as a 20-year-old.
Avalanche fans might be sweating a bit tonight.