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The Draft Lottery

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – The ice isn’t the only place NHL general managers are hoping to get a few lucky bounces.

On Tuesday night, the NHL will announce the draft lottery winner as well as what will be the final order for the first 14 picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The draw will take place earlier that day and will follow a complex system which we’ll try our best to unravel for you in the next few paragraphs.

To begin with, it’s important to know that only the 14 non-playoff teams are eligible to participate in the lottery, in addition to the clubs that acquired the first-round draft picks of any of those 14 clubs.

If a team’s number is drawn, they can jump ahead no more than four spots. For example, in 2011, the New Jersey Devils were slated to pick eighth at the upcoming draft, but they won the lottery. They were able to jump four spots ahead to draft fourth overall. While a team can move up four spots, they can only drop one, so a team that finishes third last in the league will draft no lower than fourth overall in June.

When it comes to the teams’ chances of winning, the system is both simple and complicated. People might think each team’s logo would be stamped on a small ball, but that’s not quite how it works.

Fourteen balls with the numbers 1 to 14 are dropped into the mix and four of those balls are randomly selected. Depending on the final standings, a number of combinations are given out to each team. For example, the team finishing last will obtain 25% of the combinations, the team finishing 29th will have 18% of the combinations and so on through No. 14, who receives just 0.5% of the combinations.

The sequence of numbers drawn will then be compared to the chart of combinations. The winning team would then jump four ranks and every team below that rank will slide down one spot.

Vincent Cauchy is a writer for Translated by Lee Anne Vincent O’Connor.

NHL Draft Lottery History
Year 30th Ranked Team Lottery Winner First Overall Pick Player Taken
1995 Ottawa Senators Los Angeles Kings Ottawa Senators Bryan Berard
1996 Ottawa Senators Ottawa Senators Ottawa Senators Chris Phillips
1997 Boston Bruins Boston Bruins Boston Bruins Joe Thornton
1998 Tampa Bay Lightning San Jose Sharks Tampa Bay Lightning Vincent Lecavalier
1999 Tampa Bay Lightning Chicago Blackhawks Atlanta Thrashers Patrik Stefan
2000 Atlanta Thrashers New York Islanders New York Islanders Rick DiPietro
2001 Islanders New York Atlanta Thrashers Atlanta Thrashers Ilya Kovalchuk
2002 Atlanta Thrashers Florida Panthers Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash
2003 Carolina Hurricanes Florida Panthers Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury
2004 Pittsburgh Penguins Washington Capitals Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin
2005 - Lockout - Pittsburgh Penguins Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby
2006 St. Louis Blues St. Louis Blues St. Louis Blues Erik Johnson
2007 Philadelphia Flyers Chicago Blackhawks Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane
2008 Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos
2009 New York Islanders New York Islanders New York Islanders John Tavares
2010 Edmonton Oilers Edmonton Oilers Edmonton Oilers Taylor Hall
2011 Edmonton Oilers New Jersey Devils Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2012 Columbus Blue Jackets ??? ??? ???

Table of probabilities
Position Probability of winning the lottery Combinations
30th 25.0 % 250
29th 18.8 % 188
28th 14.2 % 142
27th 10.7 % 107
26th 8.1 % 81
25th 6.2 % 62
24th 4.7 % 47
23rd 3.6 % 36
22nd 2.7 % 27
21st 2.1% 21
20th 1.5 % 15
19th 1.1 % 11
18th 0.8 % 8
17th 0.5 % 5

* The team with the winning combination can only jump a maximum of four ranks.
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