Sports Outside the Beltway

The NHL Draft System Explained

Spurred on by the post Jeff Van Gundy Wants Random NBA Lottery, it is worth looking at the NHL, who also combines a lottery with the inverse order of finish and playoff success to building its draft order.

The first is the distinction between playoff teams (finish as 1-16) and non-playoff teams (finish as 17-30) and the draft ordering, as well as the first round and rounds two thru seven.

Rounds 2 thru 7
Picks 1-14: Non-playoff teams ranked in order of fewest points (2 pts for a win, 1 pt for overtime loss).
Picks 15-24: Non-Division Winners who did not make the Conference Finals ranked by points, will consist of 6 to 10 teams.
Picks 21-26: Division Winners who did not make the Conference Finals ranked by points , will consist of 2 to 6 teams.
Pick 27: Conference Final Loser with least points.
Pick 28: Conference Final Loser with most points.
Pick 29: Stanley Cup Runner-Up.
Pick 30: Stanley Cup Champion.

1st Round
Picks 1-14: Teams ranked by points. Balls numbered 1-14 are selected to form series of numbers with the 14 Teams involved assigned combinations of numbers using a probability chart. The four-digit series that results from the balls drawn are be compared to the probability chart to determine the team to which that combination has been assigned. There are 1,001 numerical combinations possible, with one combination eliminated to make the odds fair; if the eliminated combination is drawn (a 0.1% probability), the drawing is immediately re-done. The percentage chance of being selected in the lottery is as follows, based on team finish:

30th: 25.0% (250 combinations), but a 48.2% chance of picking first
29th: 18.8% (188 combinations)
28th: 14.2% (142 combinations)
27th: 10.7% (107 combinations)
26th: 8.1% (81 combinations)
25th: 6.2% (62 combinations)
24th: 4.7% (47 combinations)
23rd: 3.6% (36 combinations)
22nd: 2.7% (27 combinations)
21st: 2.1% (21 combinations)
20th: 1.5% (15 combinations)
19th: 1.1% (11 combinations)
18th: 0.8% (8 combinations)
17th: 0.5% (5 combinations)

The team selected in the lottery may not move up more than four positions in the draft order. Thus the only clubs with the opportunity to receive the 1st overall selection are the five clubs with the lowest regular-season point totals (or clubs that acquired those clubs’ first-round drafting positions). No club can move down more than one position as a result of the lottery. Under the weighted lottery system, the club with the fewest regular-season points will have the greatest chance (25%) of winning the lottery and will pick no lower than second at the Entry Draft.

After the club selected moves up, the balance of the first 14 draft selections are adjusted by one, with the appropriate clubs moving down one slot to accommodate the winner, if necessary.

Picks 15-30: Same as Rounds 2 thru 7.

2005 was an exception to the standard draft procedure, due to the NHL Lockout. Teams felt it was unfair to reuse the the 2004 Draft order, so teams were assigned 1 to 3 balls based on playoff appearence over the previous 3 seasons (3 balls = 0 playoff appearneces, 2 balls = 1 playoff appearence, 1 ball = 2 or more playoff appearances). To make the draft “fair” the draft order was reversed each round, so who ever picked last in the current round pick first in the next round. The developing of this draft was quite tense as it was the year of the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes and every team wanted a shot at him. And yes there were accusations similar to the Patrick Ewing frozen envolope draft involving weighted balls to make sure Pittsburgh got Crosby to “help” the team stay in Pittsburgh.

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