New NHL Draft Lottery Rules Explained


The NHL Entry Draft is the opportunity for those playoff deprived teams to make some drastic improvements in hopes of bolstering their organization’s roster for years to come.  Missing the playoffs over the past years hasn’t guaranteed a top pick in the first round, which often yields a cornerstone type player for the club to build around.  Just ask the Calgary Flames who have been knocking on the playoff door over the past few years, only to narrowly miss the second season.

Not only were the Flames shut out of the playoffs but they didn’t do themselves any favors with the draft, never getting in the top five picks.  Meaning that the draft lottery did little for Calgary given they could never move up far enough to grab a Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Ryan Murray.

But now the NHL has changed the draft lottery rules which is leaving the door wide-open for any team that fails to punch their ticket to the postseason.

As explained on, it’s rather simple. All 14 teams that miss the playoffs now have a shot at winning the first overall pick at this year’s draft.  As mentioned, in previous years the bottom five clubs were in the hunt for the number one pick, with a club not being allowed to move up more than four spots.  Now it’s wide open and with the change brings a new set of possibilities.

For instance, the Philadelphia Flyers were said to be one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference heading in to this season.  But a barrage of injuries and side-show circus acts from Ilya Bryzgalov have left the Flyers on the outside looking in.  This is a team full of young talent and now they potentially have the chance to further add to their depth should they win the lottery.

Or what if the New York Rangers miss the playoffs and win the lottery?  Here’s a team that traded for superstar Rick Nash last summer and once again it’s a team of who’s-who.  What about adding a Jontahan Drouin or Seth Jones to this star studded lineup?

The new lottery will remain weighted meaning that teams like the Rangers and Flyers won’t have as great of odds as the Florida Panthers or Colorado Avalanche.

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reported the odds for each of the fourteen teams that will enter the draft lottery:

Team 1 – 25.0%
Team 2 – 18.8%
Team 3 – 14.2%
Team 4 – 10.7%
Team 5 – 8.1%
Team 6 – 6.2%
Team 7 – 4.7%
Team 8 – 3.6%
Team 9 – 2.7%
Team 10 – 2.1%
Team 11 – 1.5%
Team 12 – 1.1%
Team 13 – 0.8%
Team 14 – 0.5%

Suddenly the chances of the Rangers or Flyers landing the number one spot decreases when you consider the odds, but none the less there is still that outside chance.  Remember last season when the Edmonton Oilers weren’t the worst team in the NHL and still managed to win the draft lottery for the third straight season?  If that doesn’t teach us to expect the unexpected than nothing will.

One note on the lottery.  No team will move more than one position and the remaining 16 teams that make the playoffs, their draft position will be determined on when they are bounced from the playoffs.

The NBA adopted this type of lottery format back in 1993 with the hopes of increasing the chances of the worst team winning the first overall pick, while limiting the chances for the best, non-playoff team.

The NHL Draft Lottery will be held on April 29th with the Entry Draft taking place on June 30th in New Jersey.