Draft lottery changes reduce incentive to tank for supreme talent

Brian Costello
Erie Otters v Guelph Storm

The NHL is making changes to its draft lottery ostensibly to discourage teams from tanking in order to get a higher pick. What that means for the 2015 draft is the team finishing 30th now has just a 20 percent chance of winning the lottery and getting first overall pick. That’s down from 25 percent the past two drafts and down from 48.3 percent since the creation of the draft lottery in 1995.

What’s more, starting with the 2016 draft, the league will now have a lottery to determine the top three picks in the draft, not just the top pick. In past years, if the 30th-place team didn’t win the lottery, it slipped just one spot to second pick. Starting next year, the 30th-place team could conceivably slip to fourth pick if its number doesn’t come up during the draws for the first three picks.

Here are some other new facets of the adjusted lottery odds.

The odds to win first pick for the bottom four teams go down. The 30th-place team’s odds fall from 25 percent to 20; the 29th-place team’s odds fall from 18.8 percent to 13.5; the 28th-place team’s odds fall from 14.2 percent to 11.5; and the 27th-place team’s odds fall from 10.7 percent to 9.5.

That means the odds for the 10 teams closest to making the playoffs increases, marginally in most cases. What the NHL effectively did is shift 13.9 percent worth of odds from the bottom four teams to the 10 teams closer to 16th place in the overall standings. In other words, there’s a little less incentive for bad teams to mail in the final weeks of the season in order to really ramp up their lottery odds.

What does remain the same in the 2015 draft is a team can only slip one spot in selection order compared to inverse order of regular season points.

In 2016, once the first lottery is held to determine which of the 14 non-playoff teams picks first overall, the odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the second lottery draw, and again for the third draw. Then, the 11 teams not selected in the three lotteries will be assigned selections No. 4 through 14 in inverse order of regular season standings.

What has not changed is only the 14 non-playoff teams are eligible to win first pick in the lottery.

Here are the new lottery odds for the 2015 draft.

• 30th-place team: 20.0 percent odds of winning lottery

• 29th-place team: 13.5 percent odds

• 28th-place team: 11.5 percent odds

• 27th-place team: 9.5 percent odds

• 26th-place team: 8.5 percent odds (up from 8.1)

• 25th-place team: 7.5 percent odds (up from 6.2)

• 24th-place team: 6.5 percent odds (up from 4.7)

• 23rd-place team: 6.0 percent odds (up from 3.6)

• 22nd-place team: 5.0 percent odds (up from 2.7)

• 21st-place team: 3.5 percent odds (up from 2.1)

• 20th-place team: 3.0 percent odds (up from 1.5)

• 19th-place team: 2.5 percent odds (up from 1.1)

• 18th-place team: 2.0 percent odds (up from 0.8)

• 17th-place team: 1.0 percent odds (up from 0.5)

The Hockey News projects the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames to be the bottom three teams in the NHL this season. Center Connor McDavid is expected to be a franchise-caliber prospect and is favored to go first overall. Center Jack Eichel is firmly in the No. 2 spot and defenseman Noah Hanifin third in a strong 2015 field.

 

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN