The NHL’s non-playoff teams don’t have to wait long to find out their fate for the league’s annual draft, taking place in Vancouver this June.
That’s because the draft lottery is taking place tonight in Toronto, giving 15 teams a shot at winning a top-three draft pick.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. It’s taking place earlier this year
If you’re thinking “it’s happening already?” there’s a good reason for that. The draft lottery taking place earlier this year.
The NHL has traditionally held the lottery during the second-round of the playoffs, but decided to move it up this year to the eve of the start of the postseason.
The results of the lottery will take place live on Sportsnet in Canada, with a one-hour show beginning at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET.
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2. The league’s worst team won’t win it
The league’s worst team won’t be taking part in the draft lottery this year. In regrettable deal for Matt Duchene (who they’ve since traded to Columbus), the Ottawa Senators traded their first-round pick for this year’s draft to the Colorado Avalanche.
That means the Avs will get a top-four draft pick, despite also being a playoff team.
3. Canucks have a 16% chance at moving up
The Vancouver Canucks finished with the ninth-worst record in the NHL this season, meaning they have a 16% chance at winning a top-three pick and a 5% chance at getting first overall.
The best odds of winning the first pick belong to Colorado (Ottawa’s pick), at 18.5%. Montreal has the worst odds of winning, at 1%.
The Edmonton Oilers, who have won four draft lotteries, have a 6.5% chance to win it again.
4. Yeah, but, Canucks luck
If the Canucks didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all.
One of the worst teams (cumulatively) over the past four seasons, Vancouver’s run of futility coincided with the NHL making changes to the lottery system.
Previous to 2016, only the first pick was decided by chance, meaning each team could only move down one spot in the order.
The Canucks had the third-best odds to win in 2016 (the Auston Matthews draft), but dropped down two spots to fifth. They had the second-best odds in 2017, but slipped three spots to fifth. Last year, they had the sixth-best odds, but dropped one spot to seventh.
Vancouver participated in another high-profile draft lottery of sorts in 1970, when they came into the league with the Buffalo Sabres. The spinning wheel landed on Buffalo’s number, giving them future Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault. The Canucks got Dale Tallon.
5. Ok, but they’d have to be really really unlucky to move down multiple spots again
The chance of the Canucks not winning a single top-three pick, cumulatively, in the last three years is 32.7% (thanks to local numbers genius @Sir_Earl for the math work). That certainly qualifies as ‘unlucky,’ but on an individual level, the results for the Canucks shouldn’t have been unexpected.
The most likely outcome for the league’s worst teams are to move down.
Take the Avalanche this year, for instance. They’ve got the best shot at winning the lottery, but they’ve also got a 50.6% chance at dropping three spots to No. 4.
But when you’re lower in the order, the opposite is true. The Canucks don’t have great odds at winning, but the chance of them dropping is lower too.
Now that this year's lottery probabilities are finally available (https://t.co/n5L9LjUzAV, thanks to @frank_seravalli for the link) I've worked out the chances for every pick for every finishing spot.https://t.co/xKnAd2K5XO pic.twitter.com/z7QPDaYrim
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 27, 2018
These are the seven possible results for the Canucks this year (with odds listed in parentheses):
- 1st: 5%
- 2nd: 5.3%
- 3rd: 5.7%
- 9th: 48.8%
- 10th: 30.7%
- 11th: 4.3%
- 12th: 0.1%
The most likely outcomes are ninth, or dropping one spot to 10th. If they fall to 11th, or god forbid 12th, fans will have reason to claim that their team is cursed.
6. The big prize
While the No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily set in stone, most observers agree that American centre Jack Hughes is the best player available in the draft.
Jack, the brother of Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes, is a highly-skilled 5-foot-10 centre. The next two highest-rated players are 6-foot-2 Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko and 6-foot-1 Russian winger Vasili Podkolzin.
The Canucks, of course, are in need of a defenceman. The highest rated blueliner on Bob McKenzie’s list is Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram, who comes in at No. 6. Philip Broberg and Victor Soderstrom – both Swedish defencemen – are ranked No. 10 and 11, respectively.