After the 2004-2005 NHL season was lost due to a lockout there was question on how to determine the draft order for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, with the winner being able to draft highly touted prospect Sidney Crosby. One of the ideas passed around would be to use the previous years standings, which would have left the Pittsburgh Penguins with the first overall selection. However for the first time ever the NHL opted to do a full 30 team NHL draft lottery, giving each team a chance to select first overall due to the lost season.
Each team would be assigned numbered balls based off of playoff appearances and times selecting first overall over the past three seasons. A maximum of three balls would go to teams who had not qualified for the playoffs and who hadn’t earned the first overall selection in any of the past three seasons. Two would go to teams who had either won the draft lottery or qualified for the playoffs once in the past three seasons. One ball would be assigned to teams who had either won the draft lottery or qualified for the playoffs over the prior three seasons at least twice. This left Pittsburgh, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers all with the highest percentage to win as each team had three balls in the lottery.
The balls were selected with the first being for the first overall pick which was won by Pittsburgh, followed by the second on through 30th overall. The draft would go from 1-30 and then snake back from 30-1 in the second round, repeating until all rounds were completed.
Should the entire 2012-2013 NHL season be lost to lockout the NHL could look to this method again for the 2013 NHL draft, which is said to be loaded with high end talent. Including standout Nathan MacKinnon, who some say is the best prospect available since Crosby was drafted in 2005.
If the lottery is conducted in the same method, looking at the standings from the previous three seasons and based off of the Edmonton Oilers owning the first overall selection the past three seasons, the lotto ball breakdown can be seen as follows:
1 Ball: Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Phoenix Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, NY Rangers, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals (17 total)
Based off of this, Dallas, Minnesota, Calgary, Columbus, Toronto, NY Islanders, Carolina and Winnipeg all hold the highest chance of winning the lottery. Toronto, Columbus and the Islanders could all greatly benefit from selecting first overall as all have been towards the bottom of the standings consistently over the past three seasons and would love a talent such as MacKinnon. Florida, St. Louis, Tampa and Minnesota would have the most to gain from this format as all have tremendous talent or solid prospects in their system, yet they would have a high chance at selecting first overall, Minnesota having three balls while the other teams listed have two.
The teams listed with one ball are the ones that have either selected first overall in the past three seasons (Edmonton) or having qualified for the playoffs each of the past three seasons. The draft is setup to be fair to all teams, giving them a chance to win, so a minimum of one ball in the draft is put into place. Teams such as Detroit, NY Rangers and Pittsburgh will all have a chance, granted a small one, to walk away from the lottery with the first overall pick.
It is not yet known whether the NHL will lose another season and use this method for selecting draft order, but looking at the possibilities it could definitely make things interesting come draft time next season. Could you imagine the Wild having just signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter winning the right to MacKinnon, along with having one of the best young prospects in the game in Mikael Granlund? Or Columbus winning the lottery and selecting MacKinnon to replace departed team All-Star Rick Nash?
Exciting times could be ahead and who knows, maybe the NHLPA could use this as leverage in getting a deal done soon as teams may not want to risk losing the chance to draft such a good young prospect to teams like Detroit. Although you could always flip that logic and say big name clubs would rather a lockout for the chance to draft such talent, only time will tell in the end.