As the NHL season comes to an end, and sixteen teams punch their tickets to the post-season, the remaining teams that did not qualify still have something to look forward to, the NHL Draft Lottery. While a date has yet to be set for the lottery, at some point following the completion of the season, the sixteen teams that did not make the playoffs will be entered into a lottery to determine the first sixteen picks of the NHL Draft. The teams that do not make the playoffs will be assigned an odds percentage that is based on where they finish in the standings.
After reviewing the current CBA, it appears that the rules governing the NHL Draft Lottery are not codified within the CBA. Therefore, changes to the NHL Draft Lottery are proposed to the NHL Board of Governors, who then vote on the proposal. The NHL Board of Governors is the ruling and governing body of the NHL. Each team appoints a Governor, usually the owner of the team, and two alternates to the Board. Over the years, the NHL Draft Lottery has changed several times with the approval of the Board of Governors. From 1995-2012, the league’s rules stipulated that the team selected in the NHL Draft Lottery could not move up more than four positions. Prior to the 2014-15 season, the rules changed giving less weight to finishing 30th overall and granting the opportunity to select First Overall to the team that wins the NHL Draft Lottery. From 2016-19, the rules changed such that the top three picks were awarded through the NHL Draft Lottery. Most recently, the Board of Governors considered a proposal by the NHL to make three changes to the NHL Draft Lottery. After a week-long vote, the Board of Governors voted to approve the changes, one of which would be implemented in the 2021 off-season, while the other two would be implemented following the completion of the 2022 NHL season.
In 2021, the NHL Board of Governors passed three new rules that would apply to the NHL Draft Lottery in future years. The change that would apply in 2021 and beyond was reducing the number of lottery draws from three to two. This change was implemented to limit the number of selections the worst finishing team could fall. Prior to this rule change, the worst finishing team could fall from the First Overall position to the Fourth Overall position, which happened in 2017, 2019, and 2020. This rule change limits the lowest the worst finishing team could be selecting to the Third Overall position.
The second change, that will begin with the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery, is limiting the amount of spots a team could move up. Starting this year, the maximum number of spots a team can move up is limited to ten. This reduces the number of teams eligible to select First Overall in any given year from sixteen to eleven total teams. The rule, limiting the number of teams eligible to select First Overall, may have been implemented because in recent years teams that have barely missed the playoffs have won one of the lottery selections. For example, in 2020, the New York Rangers jumped fourteen spots to select First Overall. Also, in 2017, while the Philadelphia Flyers did not select First Overall, the team won the second lottery draw and moved up eleven spots to select Second Overall. Finally, in 2019, the Chicago Blackhawks jumped nine spots to select Third Overall. This rule change affects the percentages that teams have to win the NHL Draft Lottery. In 2021, the percentages that a team select First Overall ranged from 16.6% for the worst finishing team to 1.0% for the sixteenth finishing team. However, now that the number of teams eligible to select First Overall has been reduced from sixteen to eleven, the percentages range from 25.7% for the worst finishing team to 3.1% for the eleventh finishing team.
The third change that will be implemented in 2022 and beyond is a limitation on the number of times a team can win a lottery draw in a five-year period. This new rule states that no single team will be able to advance in the draft order by reason of winning a lottery draw more than two times in any five-year period. The rule change does not affect a team’s ability to retain its presumptive draft position, nor precludes the possibility a team moves down in the draft order as a result of the lottery draw. Limiting the number of times a team can win a lottery draw helps protect the idea that the lowest finishing teams deserve the first few picks in the draft. Further, many within the league argued for a rule like this as a result of the same teams picking in the top three several years in a given time period. Support for this type of rule change was likely increased as a result of the Edmonton Oilers selecting First Overall four times in a six-year period (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015).
When discussing the reason for the changes to the NHL Draft Lottery, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “[t]here are some clubs who recently think it’s important that the teams that are struggling the most get the most help.” While many share the view that in order to protect competitive balance in the NHL, the worst finishing teams should get the most help in the draft process, others believe the competitive balance is so extraordinary that the difference between a team that barely misses the playoffs and a team that really misses the playoffs is not that great. However, to most that are familiar with the NHL, there appears to be a vast difference in the quality of play between a team that barely misses the playoffs and one of the worst finishing teams.
It is interesting to note the rules pertaining to the NHL Draft Lottery are not contained in the CBA, while rules relating to the NHL Entry Draft are included in the CBA. Perhaps this is because in order to protect competitive balance in draft selection, changes to the NHL Draft Lottery have to be able to made quickly and with ease. It is likely that amending the CBA several times as these rules change is much more difficult than having a proposal for the rule change voted on by the NHL Board of Governors. The NHL Draft Lottery rules have changed several times in the past few years and it will be fascinating to see if this trend continues in the years to come.
Featured Image Retrieved From: https://www.foreverblueshirts.com/how-the-nhl-draft-lottery-actually-works/