Draft lottery produces stunning results, Devils win No. 1 pick

Devils

The results of the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery were unexpected, to say the least, as the league revealed the winners of the three lottery draws Saturday night just prior to the Penguins-Capitals game. One could even argue that the results were shocking, as all four teams with the highest odds of winning the lottery dropped significantly in the final draft order.

The New Jersey Devils, who had an 8.517 percent chance of winning the lottery and who were slotted to select fifth, came out victorious and will select first overall at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft on June 23 in Chicago.

But it wasn’t just the Devils that jumped ahead. In fact, all three lottery winners jumped at least four spots in the draft order.

Before getting into all of the results, though, it’s important to understand how the new NHL draft lottery works.
 

The Rules

The league has tweaked the lottery rules several times over the past few years to keep up with the NHL’s tighter standings and to discourage teams from tanking (as well as in response to the fact that the same team kept winning the draft lottery year after year). Essentially, as it stands now, every team that does not make the playoffs has a chance to win one of three lottery draws for each of the first three picks in the NHL draft. There were 15 teams in contention this year with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights franchise to the league.

The odds are calculated based on the final regular-season standings, though the Golden Knights were awarded the same odds as the team that finished with the third fewest points in the standings (10.321%). For example, the Colorado Avalanche, the team that finished in last place in the 2016-2017 standings, had the highest chance of winning the first overall pick at just under 18 percent (17.936%). The New York Islanders, who finished with the highest point total out of all teams that missed the playoffs, had a 0.902 percent chance of winning the first pick.

According to NHL.com, the odds change for the drawings for the second and third overall picks:

The odds for the remaining teams will increase on a proportionate basis for the 2nd Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the 1st Lottery Draw, and again for the 3rd Lottery Draw, based on which club wins the 2nd Lottery Draw.

The 12 clubs not selected in the NHL Draft Lottery will be assigned NHL Draft selections 4 through 15, in inverse order of regular-season points.

The system as a whole guarantees that the team with the fewest points in the regular season will pick no later than fourth overall. But it gives all non-playoff teams a chance to move up in the draft.
 

The Odds

For a full list of pre-lottery odds, see Figure 1 below, courtesy of Broad Street Hockey, via NHL.com.

As you can see, the odds for teams 5-15 increase slightly for the second and third lottery draws, whereas the odds slightly decrease for the four teams with the best chances of winning the first overall pick. Colorado’s and Vancouver’s odds decrease slightly for each draw; Vegas and Arizona maintain the same odds for the second lottery draw, but their odds decrease slightly for the third lottery draw.

Figure 1


 

The Reveal

There was a lot of drama in this year’s Draft Lottery presentation.

The NHL reveals the Draft Lottery results by holding up cards with the pick number on one side and the team logo on the other. Starting with the 15th pick, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly flips each card to reveal the owner of each pick.

It started out as expected, with the New York Islanders owning the 15th pick and the Tampa Bay Lightning owning the 14th pick. However, when Daly flipped the #13 card over, he revealed the logo of the Winnipeg Jets. This meant that the team that was designated to pick 13th, the Philadelphia Flyers, had won one of the three lottery draws and would jump at least 10 spots to pick first, second or third overall.

Daly went on to flip the next several cards, revealing that the Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers would select 12th, 11th and 10th overall, respectively. No surprises there.

When he flipped the #9 card over, however, it revealed the logo of the Detroit Red Wings. This meant that Dallas, expected to pick 8th overall, had also won one of the three draws and would jump at least five spots to pick first, second or third overall. From there, Daly revealed that the Buffalo Sabres would pick 8th.

The #7 card revealed the Arizona Coyotes’ logo, which meant that the New Jersey Devils were the third winner of the day and would jump at least two spots to pick first, second or third overall. This meant that all of the top four teams in the lottery would drop three spots. The Coyotes would pick 7th, the Golden Knights would pick 6th, the Vancouver Canucks would drop to 5th for the second consecutive year, and the Colorado Avalanche, the team with the worst record and the best odds to win the lottery, would pick 4th overall.
 

The Results

The candidates for the first, second and third overall picks were the New Jersey Devils, the Dallas Stars and the Philadelphia Flyers. No team would pick lower than third overall, and each of the teams could have won any of the three picks.

Daly flipped the #3 card to reveal the Dallas Stars’ logo. The Stars will pick third overall, jumping a total of five spots from 8th to third.

It came down to New Jersey and Philadelphia.

In the end, the Devils’ logo appeared on the #1 card, meaning general manager Ray Shero and his team had jumped four spots and had won the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery.

But the Flyers came away winners, too. Philadelphia had a 2.2 percent chance of winning the lottery and was supposed to select 13th overall. Instead, Philly jumped an incredible 11 spots to the number two pick.

 

The Takeaways

New Jersey Devils

This is a huge moment for a New Jersey Devils franchise that had a disappointing season. The Devils made a bold move last offseason and acquired superstar winger Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers, but the team couldn’t win consistently down the stretch. Cory Schneider, who had been a rock for this Devils team that previously lacked offense, was mediocre at best from the start. Even if this year’s draft class isn’t projected to be as strong as usual, it gives New Jersey many options and is a great way for them to kick off the offseason. It’s also pretty ironic since the franchise lost its first-round pick a few years ago when Ilya Kovalchuk left the NHL.

Colorado Avalanche

On the other side of the spectrum, the Colorado Avalanche had one of the worst seasons in recent memory. Aside from the team’s abysmal 22-56-4 record and league-worst 48 points, everything seemed to go wrong for this club. The Avs finished a full 21 points behind every other team in the league, so the fact that they will pick fourth overall instead of first is just the icing on the cake.

No matter what, this Colorado club knew heading into the Draft Lottery (and the offseason) that change was on the horizon.

In this instance, it’s a shame for the results to be so skewed. The Avalanche didn’t tank this season, they were really that bad. They needed the help more than any club in the league, and they are the biggest losers coming out of today’s lottery. It’s great for the Devils, Flyers and Stars, but it’s unfortunate to see it happen in a year when there was actually one team that was truly much, much worse than every other team in the league.

History

That being said, it’s not entirely unheard of. This isn’t the first time a team has moved up several spots in the draft lottery.

The Winnipeg Jets won the second overall pick in last year’s draft despite having the sixth-best odds; they selected Patrik Laine, who is a 2017 nominee for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. The Edmonton Oilers jumped two spots from third to first in 2015, which landed them Connor McDavid, the most highly-touted prospect heading into the draft since Sidney Crosby. McDavid is a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP this year. Additionally, the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks both made the jump from fifth to first in 2000 and 2007, respectively (though that worked out significantly better for the Blackhawks, who selected Patrick Kane, than it did for the Islanders, who drafted Rick DiPietro).
 

Final Thoughts

Putting everything else aside, this was a dramatic spectator event. It is truly shocking to see three separate teams climb the ranks, especially given this year’s reduced odds because of Vegas. Jumping four, five and 11 spots in the draft order is stunning. The fact that there’s no Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews at the end of the tunnel makes the results a little easier to swallow for the teams that dropped several spots, but it’s a tough break every way you look at it.

One thing is for sure, though: it will be very interesting to see what these teams do with these top picks, especially with the expansion draft coming up in mid-June.
 

Final Draft Order

1. New Jersey Devils
2. Philadelphia Flyers
3. Dallas Stars
4. Colorado Avalanche
5. Vancouver Canucks
6. Vegas Golden Knights
7. Arizona Coyotes
8. Buffalo Sabres
9. Detroit Red Wings
10. Florida Panthers
11. Los Angeles Kings
12. Carolina Hurricanes
13. Winnipeg Jets
14. Tampa Bay Lightning
15. New York Islanders


 

Featured Image via NHL.com