The 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is set to take place on April 30 and the Maple Leafs head into the event with the highest odds of drafting first overall in the upcoming NHL Draft.
As former MapleLeafs.com columnist David Alter explained in a piece one year ago, the NHL Draft Lottery is comprised of balls marked '1' through '14' with each team having various combinations of those 14 numbers. All told, there are 1001 combinations available between those balls, which are drawn at random. The draw occurs behind closed doors and team representatives -- one from each team eligible in the lottery -- are not allowed contact with the outside world until the lottery is concluded and the results are announced on television.
Prior to 2015, teams further down the standings would only be able to move up a maximum of four selections if they won the lottery. For example, a team slated to draft 10th overall could only move up to the sixth overall selection. Last season, each team in the lottery mix had a chance at winning the first overall selection. Many will recall the Maple Leafs had a 9.5 percent chance of drafting first overall one year ago, a 45 percent chance of selecting fourth -- they took Mitch Marner in that position -- and a 45.5 percent chance of selecting fifth.
In 2016, for the first time in NHL history, the League has adopted a system similar to that of the NBA. The lottery will now include three draws -- for the first, second and third overall selections -- to determine the draft order. Each team in the lottery has a chance to draft in one of the first three slots. The additional lotteries also mean re-draws are possible as the lottery progresses. The team that wins the first overall selection could also be drawn to win the second overall pick in which case a re-draw will occur.
While the Leafs have the highest mathematical odds of winning the first overall selection, they only own 200 combinations of the 1001 possible combinations in each draw. You can see the numbered ball system play out at your leisure here.
"But, wait," you're likely saying. "Isn't 200 of 1001 less than the 20 percent I've heard so much about?" That is true. One combination is automatically designated as the aforementioned re-draw combination. So the Leafs have 200 combinations of a possible 1,000 winning combinations for teams and a single re-draw combination. A lottery win would be Toronto's first in 21 years of the NHL Draft Lottery.
Here's a rundown of the Leafs draft lottery odds...
First Overall: 20 percent
Theoretical comparable scenario: You and four friends draw straws to see who is going to win a framed Wendel Clark 1985 NHL Draft photo signed by the man himself. You have a one in five chance of winning the photo, meaning there's a 20 percent chance you win and call it a day. There's an 80 percent chance you walk away with a brand new straw.
Past first overall selections by the Leafs: Wendel Clark
Second Overall: 17.5 percent
Theoretical comparable scenario: You're at a Leafs event with 39 of your closest friends. The promotions team is doing a t-shirt toss, but they get to you and your friends with only seven t-shirts left. That means there's a 17.5 percent chance you get an awesome new Leafs shirt and a 72.5 percent chance you leave wearing the shirt you agonized over wearing before you left the house.
Past second overall selections by the Leafs: None
Third Overall: 15 percent
Theoretical comparable scenario: You enter a raffle to win a pair of tickets to the Leafs 2016 Home Opener. There are 19 other people in the draw and three pairs of tickets up for grabs. There is a 15 percent chance you are one of the three winners and an 85 percent chance you're refreshing Leafs Twitter for Selfie Seats on the day of the Home Opener.
Past third overall selections by the Leafs: Scott Thornton, Gary Nylund
Fourth Overall: 47.5 percent
Theoretical comparable scenario: After the theoretical second overall t-shirt toss above, the promo team finds 12 more t-shirts in a box and decides to throw the rest towards you and your 39 friends. Now 19 people in your group of 40 will leave with an awesome new Leafs shirt instead of the original lucky seven winners.For random reference: You had a one in six chance of winning a cup of coffee or food during this year's Roll up the Rim contest at Tim Hortons -- slightly less likely than the Leafs winning the second overall selection. And in the spirit of fun for those who recall the Powerball lottery saga of 2016, there was a one in 292.2 million chance of having the winning ticket in that lottery. So, yes, considerably better odds to win first overall.
Past fourth overall selections by the Leafs: Mitch Marner, Al Iafrate, Lanny McDonald
In sum, the Maple Leafs have a 52.5 percent chance of drafting in the top three and a 47.5 percent chance of selecting fourth overall. They can't select lower than fourth with their top draft selection. So, while it seems the Leafs are highly likely to draft fourth overall at a passing glance, they're actually at better odds than a coin flip to select in the top three.
The lottery will be held at 8 pm on April 30 in Toronto. To see how it plays out you can tune in on CBC and be sure to check in with MapleLeafs.com, Leafs TV and @MapleLeafs on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see how things shake out for the Blue and White.