Making sense of a strange NHL Draft Lottery
In order to prevent NHL franchises from purposely losing in order to obtain the first overall pick in the entry draft, the league implemented the NHL draft lottery. The lottery participants feature all teams who were unable to reach the playoffs during the previous season. Each team, starting with the last place team, has a certain percentage of a chance to win a top 3 pick in the draft. Last place gets an almost 18% chance, and it decreases until it reaches the team who just missed the playoffs, with a 0.902% chance of moving up to the top 3. This year, however, every team started with a lower percentage than they normally would for one simple reason; the Vegas Golden Knights and the expansion draft. The Golden Knights were automatically awarded the third highest shot at moving up in the draft, behind only the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks. However, this year was even more strange, as none of these three teams are now in the top 3 picks in the 2017 NHL entry draft.
The first team who moved up with just a 2.204% chance of doing so (the third lowest percentage) was the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers were a consistent on-the-bubble team this season, being dominant at times and absolutely terrible at others. A few fewer mistakes during the regular season and they could’ve been a playoff team. These are the types of teams which other teams hate to see move up in the draft. The Flyers were awarded the second overall pick, moving up from pick number 13, in a draft that is considered very weak with only the top 2 players expected to be significant game-changers. Ron Hextall and his team could not be happier with this result, as it will more than likely net them one of Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, both of which are expected to be solid NHL centermen once they make it.
The next team who moved up in the draft thanks to the lottery was the Dallas Stars. The Stars were similar to the Flyers in that in their previous season they were a strong playoff team, but with some goaltending troubles and mistakes here and there they fell short of doing so again this season. The team already fired coach Lindy Ruff in the offseason and hired Ken Hitchcock, which certainly can’t hurt them going into next year. Now they also top it off with the third overall pick in the draft. As previously mentioned, the draft weakens past the top two players, so Dallas could look to trade it for roster players or they could draft someone great and make scouts look stupid. Either way, the Stars are a solid team who could’ve easily been in the playoffs this season had a few more things gone their way, and to be awarded this pick through the draft lottery should have a lot of Stars fans excited for the seasons to come.
The final team to move up in the draft was the New Jersey Devils. The Devils were a bad team this season, with their normally all-star caliber goaltender Cory Schneider even having a rough season. Taylor Hall, who they acquired earlier in the year in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson, was the bright spot of the team. He shined even brighter during the draft lottery when he chose the teams drafting destination at random and happened to win them the number one overall pick with just an 8.517% chance of doing so. The Devils had the fifth highest chance of moving up and did so gladly as they will choose either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier number one overall, giving them a solid number one center to play alongside Taylor Hall.
The teams who really felt the damage from this strange result of the draft lottery were, of course, the league’s weakest teams who all now pick from number 4-6 instead of 1-3. The Vegas Golden Knights as a new franchise will now have their first ever draft pick start at number six in one of the weakest draft classes in many years. The Colorado Avalanche had the worst season of any team in twenty years, finishing this season with just 22 wins and 48 points, 21 points behind the Vancouver Canucks, who finished the season in 29th. The Avalanche will now miss out on choosing between the two future star centermen in the draft and get their scouts to work trying to find them a gem to turn the team around using their number four pick.
The 2017 55th NHL entry draft will take place in Chicago, Illinois at United Center, June 23-24.