In what has become an annual event, the NHL Players’ Association has yet again approved changes to the NHL Draft lottery odds. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the NHLPA today signed off on a new lottery set-up recently submitted by the league. It marks the third season in a row that the odds have been altered.
The percentage chance that a team is selected to pick first, second, or third, as expressed by the number of ping pong balls present in the lottery draw, is dependent on where they finish in the overall league standings. Unsurprisingly, the changes to the odds first agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement began with the Edmonton Oilers and the painful realization that they had won yet another lottery in 2015 and would move up in the draft order to select Connor McDavid as their fourth first overall pick in a six year span. In response, the league significantly boosted the odds in 2016 toward the teams finishing last winning the lottery – expecting that Edmonton would no longer be in that range – as LeBrun notes that the 30th-place team had 20% odds of picking first two years ago. After the worst team in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs, retained the top pick that year and selected Auston Matthews, the league and NHLPA again agreed to lessen the odds and insert more chance (and excitement) into the lottery. LeBrun indicates that last year the league’s worst, the Colorado Avalanche, had an 18% chance of holding on to the top pick. However, in a wild turn of events, three teams outside the bottom four won the lottery and moved into the top three draft slots, the biggest shift being the Philadelphia Flyers, who narrowly missed the playoffs, picking second. So, to perhaps combat another clean sweep, the odds have again been increased for those toward the bottom
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the new odds of selecting first for the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft will be 18.5% for 31st, 13.5% for 30th, and 11.5% for 29th. With the addition of an extra non-playoff team, there is also a new distribution which in fact increases the odds for the last team to miss the playoffs, the 17th-place finisher, by a tenth of a percent to 1%. This is accomplished by lessening the odds for the middle-of-the pack lottery teams. It may not be a coincidence that the Oilers are part of that group. Nor may it be a coincidence that the current bottom three – the Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, and Arizona Coyotes – are all teams that have been struggling for years and would certainly appreciate retaining their high picks. This yearly change in draft lottery odds seems to be very responsive to the results of each prior lottery, but that isn’t a bad thing. So long as both the league and NHLPA agree, it’s safe to assume that the changes have the best interests of competitive balance in mind.