Effective this season are two changes to the NHL Draft Lottery rules that place some limitations on teams moving up. Fortunately for the Habs, those rules shouldn’t hurt them in Tuesday’s festivities.
The first change in effect for this year is that teams can only move up a maximum of ten spots with a lottery win. As a refresher, here are the odds for the first pick heading into the lottery:
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%
(The odds for the second selection would be redistributed based on whoever gets the first pick.)
Any of the teams below San Jose wouldn’t reach first overall with an increase of ten spots. As a result, while they can win the lottery (which would still be a great outcome for them), they can’t pick first overall. This is why you see plenty of sites showing Montreal’s lottery odds at 25.5%. They have an 18.5% of winning the lottery but a 25.5% chance of picking first.
Last year, Buffalo finished last and had a 16.6% chance of landing the number one pick so this rule change actually helps the Canadiens in terms of the odds of selecting first. That said, from a probability standpoint, their likeliest outcome remains that they’d be picking third.
The other rule change of note is putting a limitation on the number of times a team can ‘win’ the lottery. The wording of the rule has led to some confusion as there’s a difference between winning and moving up in the lottery if you’re a team that’s already in the bottom two in the standings. Let’s look back at the announcement from last year that has the precise wording.
No single team will be able to advance in the Draft order by reason of winning a Lottery Draw more than two (2) times in any five (5) year period. This limitation will not affect a Club’s ability to retain its presumptive Draft position in any Draft Lottery, nor would it preclude the possibility of the Club moving down in Draft Order to the extent other Clubs advance by reason of winning the Lottery Draws.
The key phrase here is advancing in the draft order. Montreal can’t advance in the order so the rule shouldn’t apply to them this year, particularly with the second sentence indicating it doesn’t affect their ability to retain their current position which, for the Habs, is the first pick. It will apply to everyone else (including Arizona if they win the first draw) though. As a result, if they win either of the two draws, it shouldn’t count towards the limitation of advancing more than twice in a five-year period. Basically, it’s a ‘free win’ from that standpoint.
As everyone knows, the Habs didn’t do a lot of winning this season. Since it appears this won’t affect their ability to win a future lottery over the next few years, Tuesday is as good a time as any for Montreal to get a victory.