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Odds-on History

Wednesday's NHL Draft Lottery gives the Kraken a chance to pick from No. 1 to No. 5 in the first round of July's amateur draft. Here's the origin story of the event

by Andy Eide / @AndyEide /

The Kraken will be rooting for lottery balls to bounce their way Wednesday during the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery. No, a transformative windfall is not involved, but there is a distinct hope the results help land a franchise-changing player.

All 16 NHL teams that failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, plus the Kraken in its first official league-wide event, will be watching and waiting to find out what pick they will land in the first round of July's NHL Draft.

General manager Ron Francis and the Kraken are guaranteed one of the top five spots, but which one won't be discovered until the 4 p.m. hour Wednesday (live on NHL Network and check back here and Kraken social channels for a link to our post-NHL Draft Lottery livestream at 5 p.m.).

But the Kraken GM and his hockey operations staff do know some facts.

Part of the NHL's expansion process was to ensure the Kraken would get the same draft lottery odds as the third-worst team in terms of 2020-21 regular-season record - this year, that's the New Jersey Devils. That translates to a 10.3 chance of landing the No. 1 pick.

By the Kraken expansion rules and a more recent change in procedure as voted by NHL GMs, Seattle also will pick no later than the No. 5 slot.

How did we get here? What is this lottery all about?

The first NHL Draft for amateurs was held in 1963 at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel and was not open to the public. It has grown over the years and eventually would begin being held in NHL arenas packed with passionate fans.

The draft order in early years was determined simply by how the teams finished in the standings. The worst team got the first pick - the thinking here is those-bottom finishing teams needed the most help.

In 1994, the NHL instituted a weighted "Draft Lottery" system to determine the draft order and effectively not inadvertently penalize non-playoff teams from competing hard and winning games during the final months of the season. Teams that missed the playoffs would be eligible to move up in the draft, depending on how those balls landed.

From 1995 through 2012, the rules stated teams in the lottery could only move up four spots resulting in just the five clubs with the lowest point totals eligible for the No. 1 pick. In 2011, the New Jersey Devils had their lottery ball come up first but were in the eighth position. NJD could only move up to the fourth pick, resulting in Edmonton eventually receiving the top spot.

A change in 2015 allowed any of the teams in the lottery to win the top spot but with weighted odds depending on where a club finished.

For the 2021 Draft, there will be one draw to determine the top spot and a second draw for the second spot. The remaining teams will slot in by points earned, with no team dropping more than two spots from their original starting point. By expansion rules, the Kraken is officially in the third spot, so picking No. 5 is worst case.

The Edmonton Oilers won the top pick in 2010, 2011 (by way of New Jersey only moving up four spots), 2012 and again in 2015 - when they selected superstar Connor McDavid. There was growing criticism among NHL general managers about one team winning the top pick so frequently. A new rule has been instituted this year that limits a team to win the top spot no more than twice over a five-year period.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the lottery reveal would be televised with representatives from each team in studio. This usually includes general managers or team presidents and often they'd bring some sort of lucky charm with them to urge the odds in the favor.

Perhaps the greatest lucky charm is Boston Bruins forward Taylor Hall. Over a seven-year span early in his career, the team he played for won the draft lottery on three occasions. Hall, who himself was the No. 1 pick overall by Edmonton in 2010, was with the Oilers for their lottery wins in 2012 and 2015. After a trade to the New Jersey Devils, Hall was good luck again when the Devils won it in 2017 - prompting the talented winger to dub himself "lottery ball specialist".

Hall's Boston Bruins made the playoffs this season (currently in a one-win apiece second-round series with the New York Islanders) and are not eligible for the lottery. No all-time great lucky charm this time around.

The Buffalo Sabres finished the 2020-21 regular season with the fewest points in the league and have the best odds to win the first pick. While the specter of winning the lottery and having the choice of which player to select is within the Sabres' reach, it's far from a guarantee. Despite their league best 16.6 percent chance to win the lottery, only eight teams since 1994 who finished with the best odds ended up winning the lottery.

Ron Francis has been through the NHL Draft Lottery on four occasions in the past. As the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, he never won the top spot but did end up with the seventh pick in 2014 - selecting defenseman Haydn Fleury - and the fifth pick in 2015, picking another NHL defenseman in Noah Hanifin. Fleury has played 179 NHL games and Hanifin checks in at 436 games.

There is no consensus No. 1 pick in this year's amateur draft class, like there was last year when New York Rangers forward Alex Lafreniere was the top pick. Some names that are in the mix include University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power and Michigan forward Matthew Beniers. Other names to look for at the top end of the first round are defensemen Simon Edvinsson from Sweden and Canadian D-man Brandt Clarke, who played in the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-2020 but competed in Slovakia this season as the elite junior OHL canceled its season.

Check back with us on more stories about the NHL Draft Lottery (Wednesday, 4 p.m.) and tune-in information for our post-Draft Lottery livestream at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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