NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might not think so, but NHL teams do indeed tank. The draft is the single most effective way of changing the fortunes of any franchise, and that relies on the team selecting as high as possible to get as talented a player as possible with as high a likelihood as possible.
This year marks a massive year for the draft with generational talent Connor Bedard up for grabs. Teams near the bottom of the standings have definitely put themselves in a position to win the lottery and the rights to Bedard, and they’ll have a better chance this year than in some previous years. However, the worst team isn’t guaranteed the first pick in the draft, and that’s due to the lottery. Any team that did not qualify for the playoffs is entered into the lottery.
NHL draft lottery rules
To mitigate against teams tanking, the NHL has implemented a draft lottery system since 1995, with varying rules and stipulations in different years.
From 1995–2012, only one team won the draft lottery, and the winning team could only move up a maximum of four spots. This means that the first overall pick would be guaranteed to go to a bottom-five team.
Due to the lockout in 2004–05, the 2005 lottery was significantly modified. All teams were in the lottery, with the entire draft order decided at the lottery. Each team was given either one, two, or three ping pong balls int he lottery depending on their playoff performance in the previous three seasons, and the first overall picks in the previous four drafts. The draft order was then determined, and snaked for all seven rounds.
From 2013–2015, the restriction on the maximum number of spots a team could move up was removed. Any non-playoff team could win the lottery and select first overall.
From 2016–2019, the top three selections were determined by the lottery. All non-playoff teams were given weighted odds and three separate lotteries were held for the first, second, and third overall picks in the draft.
In 2020, the lottery was modified due to the pandemic ending the regular season prematurely. The draft was held as it was previously, but due to the play-in round, if any team that lost in the play-in round won the lottery, a second lottery was held to determine which of those play-in losers would win that lottery slot. This happened for the first overall pick where TEAM E won the lottery, and then an equally weighted second lottery was held to determine which of the eight play-in losers won that draft pick. The New York Rangers ended up winning the second lottery.
In 2021, only the first two draft picks were decided by lotteries.
In the current lottery format, only two teams can win the lottery, but there are two major restrictions. Teams are only allowed to move up a maximum of 10 spots, and teams can only win the lottery twice within a five-year period.
Draft lottery results
- 1995: LAK moved up four spots from seventh to third (Aki Berg). OTT selected first overall (Bryan Berard).
- 1996: OTT won the draft lottery and retained the first pick (Chris Phillips).
- 1997: BOS won the draft lottery and retained the first pick (Joe Thornton).
- 1998: SJS won the draft lottery, but the pick was traded to FLA and then to TBL (Vincent Lecavalier).
- 1999: CHI moved up four spots from eighth to fourth. That pick was eventually traded to NYR (Pavel Brendl). The first overall pick was moved from TBL to VAN to ATL (Patrik Stefan).
- 2000: NYI moved up four spots from fifth to first (Rick DiPietro).
- 2001: ATL moved up two spots from third to first (Ilya Kovalchuk).
- 2002: FLA moved up two spots from third to first, but traded the pick to CBJ (Rick Nash). FLA selected third (Jay Bouwmeester).
- 2003: FLA moved up two spots from third to first, but traded the pick to PIT (Marc-Andre Fleury). FLA selected third (Nathan Horton).
- 2004: WSH moved up two spots from third to first (Alex Ovechkin).
- 2005: PIT won the lottery and selected first (Sidney Crosby).
- 2006: STL won the draft lottery and retained the first pick (Erik Johnson).
- 2007: CHI moved up four spots from fifth to first (Patrick Kane).
- 2008: TBL won the draft lottery and retained the first pick (Steven Stamkos).
- 2009: NYI won the draft lottery and retained the first pick (John Tavares).
- 2010: EDM won the draft lottery and retained the first pick (Taylor Hall).
- 2011: NJD moved up four spots from eighth to fourth (Adam Larsson). EDM selected first overall (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins).
- 2012: EDM moved up one spot from second to first (Nail Yakupov).
- 2013: COL moved up one spot from second to first (Nathan MacKinnon).
- 2014: FLA moved up one spot from second to first (Aaron Ekblad).
- 2015: EDM moved up two spots from third to first (Connor McDavid).
- 2016: TOR retained the first pick (Auston Matthews), WPG moved up four spots from sixth to second (Patrik Laine), and CBJ moved up one spot from fourth to third (Pierre-Luc Dubois).
- 2017: NJD moved up four spots from fifth to first (Nico Hischier), PHI moved up 11 spots from 13th to second (Nolan Patrick), and DAL moved up five spot from eighth to third (Miro Heiskanen).
- 2018: BUF retained the first pick (Rasmus Dahlin), CAR moved up nine spots from 11th to second (Andrei Svechnikov), and MTL moved up one spot from fourth to third (Jesperi Kotkaniemi).
- 2019: NJD moved up two spots from third to first (Jack Hughes), NYR moved up four spots from sixth to second (Kaapo Kakko), and CHI moved up nine spot from 12th to third (Kirby Dach).
- 2020: NYR moved up from the 8-15 range to first (Alexis Lafreniere), LAK moved up two spots from fourth to second (Quinton Byfield), and OTT retained the third pick (Tim Stutzle).
- 2021: BUF retained the first pick (Owen Power), and SEA moved up one spot from third to second (Matty Beniers).
- 2022: MTL retained the first pick (Juraj Slafkovsky), and NJD moved up three spots from fifth to second (Simon Nemec).
A closer look at the 2016–2022 lotteries
The 2016-2022 period represents the closest types of drat formats to the one we’ll see in 2023. The last overall team only retained the first pick four of the seven years, and we saw the average lottery winner move up 3.4 spots.
|1||MTL||BUF||TEAM E (NYR) (+11)||NJD (+2)||BUF||NJD (+4)||TOR|
|2||NJD (+3)||SEA (+1)||LAK (+2)||NYR (+4)||CAR (+9)||PHI (+11)||WPG (+4)|
|3||ARI (-1)||ANA (-1)||OTT (via SJS) (-2)||CHI (+9)||MTL (+1)||DAL (+5)||CBJ (+1)|
|4||SEA (-1)||NJD||DET (-2)||COL (via OTT) (-3)||OTT (-2)||COL (-3)||EDM (-2)|
|5||PHI (-1)||CBJ||OTT (-2)||LAK (-3)||ARI (-2)||VAN (-3)||VAN (-2)|
|6||CBJ (via CHI)||DET||ANA (-1)||DET (-2)||DET (-1)||VGK (-3)||CGY (-1)|
|7||CHI (via OTT)||SJS||NJD (-1)||BUF (-2)||VAN (-1)||NYR (via ARI) (-3)||ARI|
|8||DET||LAK||BUF (-1)||EDM (-1)||CHI (-1)||BUF (-2)||BUF|
|9||BUF||ARI (via VAN)||TEAM A (-1)||ANA (-1)||NYR (-1)||DET (-2)||MTL|
|10||ANA||OTT||TEAM B (-1)||VAN (-1)||EDM (-1)||FLA (-1)||COL|
|11||ARI (via SJS)||ARI (forfeited)||TEAM C (-1)||ARI (via PHI) (-1)||NYI (-1)||LAK (-1)||OTT (via NJD)|
|12||CBJ||CBJ (via CHI)||TEAM D (-1)||MIN (-1)||NYI (via CGY)||CAR (-1)||NJD (via OTT)|
|13||CHI (via NYI)||CGY||TEAM F||FLA||DAL||VGK (via WPG) (-1)||CAR|
|14||WPG||BUF (via PHI)||TEAM G||PHI (via ARI)||PHI (via STL)||TBL||BOS|
|15||VAN||DET (via DAL)||TEAM H||MTL||FLA||VGK (via NYI)|
|16||BUF (via VGK)||NYR|
The 2023 NHL Draft Lottery
We broke down the rules for the 2023 lottery in detail earlier this year, but the weightings will look like this:
|STANDINGS POSITION||LOTTERY ODDS||FIRST OVERALL ODDS||CURRENT TEAM|
BASED ON PTS%
A franchise-defining draft
This year, only the bottom 11 teams have a shot to select first overall, but just because the weightings aren’t favourable to anyone below last overall doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and hasn’t happened in the past. This is going to be a franchise changing draft with Bedard going first overall and Adam Fantilli likely going second. The entire league will be watching come May 8 when the lottery takes place.