- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
The NHL will hold its annual draft lottery tonight, with 16 non-playoff teams looking to move up to claim future stars.
The NHL draft is scheduled for July 7-8 in Montreal. Here’s everything you need to know:
When and where is this NHL draft lottery being held?
The NHL draft lottery drawing for the No. 1 overall pick will be held on Tuesday, May 10, at NHL Network’s Secaucus, N.J., studio. The broadcast will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN+, Sportsnet, SN NOW and TVA Sports. The lottery will determine the first 16 picks in the draft. Representatives from the lottery teams will join the broadcast remotely rather than in studio. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly will once again flip over those placards to reveal team logos and break some hearts.
How many draws are there in the NHL draft lottery?
Starting in 2021, the NHL dropped the number of lottery draws from three to two, ensuring that the team with the worst record in the NHL selects no later than third overall if it loses the first or second lottery draws.
“There are some clubs who think it’s important that the teams that are struggling most get the most help,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last season. “There are other teams that think there’s nothing wrong with the present system at all. Our competitive balance is so extraordinary that some clubs feel that the difference between a team that misses the playoffs and a team that really misses the playoffs really isn’t all that great. In order to try and reconcile those competing views, we thought maybe a little bit of a tweak [was necessary].”
This change was influenced by the 2020 lottery, in which the Detroit Red Wings — who had the worst record in the league (17-49-5) and the best odds for the first overall pick (18.5%) — ended up picking No. 4 overall as the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators won the lotteries for the first three picks.
The team with the NHL’s worst regular-season record also dropped to the fourth pick in 2017 and 2019. Ironically, the team with the fourth pick in both of those drafts was the Colorado Avalanche, who owned the league’s worst record in 2017 and owned the basement-dwelling Senators’ pick in 2019.
Their fourth-overall pick in 2017? Cale Makar, the superstar defenseman who won rookie of the year in 2019-20 and is favored to win the Norris Trophy this season. Sometimes, fourth can still be best.
Have there been other tweaks to the lottery format?
Yes. In March 2021, the NHL Board of Governors approved a few new rules regarding the draft lottery.
Move-up limitation. Starting with this season’s draft, the number of spots that a team can move up if it wins the lottery has been limited to 10 picks. So, bad news for teams Nos. 12 to 16 in the lottery: You can’t win the first overall pick.
Limits on lottery wins. Beginning this season, no team will be able to move up the draft board by winning a lottery more than two times in a five-year period. In the last decade, the Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres have won lotteries for the first overall pick multiple times in five-year spans.
Which teams are in the 2022 draft lottery?
The NHL draft lottery is comprised of the league’s 16 non-playoff teams. They’re ranked from worst points percentage in the standings to the highest. Here is the field for the 2022 NHL draft lottery, including their odds of winning the first lottery draw.
Montreal Canadiens 18.5%
Arizona Coyotes 13.5%
Seattle Kraken 11.5%
Philadelphia Flyers 9.5%
New Jersey Devils 8.5%
Chicago Blackhawks 7.5%
Ottawa Senators 6.5%
Detroit Red Wings 6.0%
Buffalo Sabres 5.0%
Anaheim Ducks 3.5%
San Jose Sharks 3.0%
Columbus Blue Jackets 2.5%
New York Islanders 2.0%
Winnipeg Jets 1.5%
Vancouver Canucks 0.5%
Vegas Golden Knights 0.5%
Two teams may not own their first-round picks this year.
The Blackhawks sent a conditional first-round pick to Columbus in the Seth Jones trade. They will transfer their pick to Columbus if it isn’t the first or second overall. If it is, then the Blue Jackets get Chicago’s 2023 first-rounder.
The Vegas Golden Knights traded their first-round pick to Buffalo in the Jack Eichel trade. The Knights will transfer this season’s pick that isn’t in the top 10, but if it is, the Sabres will get Vegas’ first-rounder in the 2023 draft.
Is there a “generational player” in this draft class?
There isn’t a Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews level player at the top of the draft. But fans of struggling teams were happy to feel “Pain for Shane” this season.
Center Shane Wright of Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League is projected to go first overall. While he isn’t a “generational talent,” his strong two-way game has earned comparisons to Patrice Bergeron, which is a good neighborhood in which to live.
Center Logan Cooley of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program narrowed the gap between himself and Wright during the season, although NHL Central Scouting had Wright atop its final ranking.
The wild cards are a pair of Slovakians: Winger Juraj Slafkovsky of TPS of Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, and defenseman Simon Nemec, of Nitra in the Slovak Extraliga. Slafkovsky is the highest rated international skater by Central Scouting and had a star-making performance for Slovakia in the Beijing Olympics: Scoring a tournament-best seven goals in seven games and winning MVP. Nemec also played on that Olympic team and is seen as an outstanding two-way defenseman.
Other players near the top of the draft include center Matthew Savoie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and right wing Joakim Kemell of JYP in Liiga.
Again, no generational talent this year … but wait ’till next year, when Regina Pats (WHL) phenom Connor Bedard is draft-eligible.
Which teams in the lottery need the top pick the most?
Let’s start with the Montreal Canadiens, who went from the Stanley Cup Final to last in the league. The addition of Wright to their lineup would give them a solid one-two punch with 22-year-old Nick Suzuki.
The Arizona Coyotes are trying to rebuild through the draft and have never won the lottery since its inception in 1995. Neither have the Detroit Red Wings, who are looking to add a top talent to their growing next wave of young players like Calder Trophy favorite Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond and defenseman Simon Edvinsson. The Philadelphia Flyers have never won the lottery and could use an elite young player for their prospect group.
The Seattle Kraken had a disappointing debut season but the future got brighter when 2021 second overall pick Matty Beniers debuted with nine points in 10 games. Adding another top-two pick would make it brighter still.
Then there’s a maximum chaos option: The Devils winning their fourth lottery since 2011 … and still having a chance to win it again next year in the Connor Bedard draft under the new rules.
Does this format work?
On paper, yes.
As Bettman said, the NHL draft theoretically ensures that “the teams that are struggling most get the most help.” That should be in perpetuity. Limiting team lottery wins in a five-year period is an equitable change. Limiting the number of picks a team can leap up if they win the lottery also makes sense: There is absolutely no logical reason why a team that finishes a point or two out of a playoff spot should have even a 1% chance of winning the first overall pick. Finally, making it so the worst team in the league picks no lower than third overall is an overdue innovation.
The lottery discourages tanking. It should accept a certain level of mediocrity, though.
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