According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the NHL Board of Governors has approved changes to the NHL Draft lottery starting in 2021.
It seems the NHL is reacting to the results of their 2020 Draft lottery that saw the New York Rangers, an expanded playoff participant, steal the #1 overall pick. Many felt the way the league handled the lottery was poor, so this feels like a reaction to said criticism.
The first change to the lottery is a reduction of lottery picks, reducing the lottery from three picks to two. Two other approved changes will not go into effect until 2022, including restricting teams to a ten-spot jump in the lottery, as well as limiting a team’s ability to win a lottery spot in a five-year span. Teams will only be allowed two lottery wins every five seasons.
As mentioned, the last two changes will not go into effect until 2022. Instead of all 15 teams having a shot at the lottery, now only 11 teams will have a chance at the #1 pick.
Per The Athletic’s report, the reasoning for this change is to benefit teams that are just legitimately bad. However, one of the teams that will benefit from this change was actually the reason for the expanded lottery in the first place.
After a tank season for the Buffalo Sabres in 2014-15, the league decided to expand the draft from one lottery spot to three, forcing teams to avoid tanking. The Sabres did not win the top pick that season. More recently, the Detroit Red Wings have suffered due to the lottery structure. Over the last four drafts, the Red Wings have dropped eight spots in the lottery, including picking fourth in 2020 after having the league’s worst record. Ideally, this format should change that if done properly. =
I personally don’t believe this is the best scenario for the NHL Draft Lottery as a whole. The lottery allows a team not in the bottom-five every year some hope of landing a game-changing player. A perfect example is the Blackhawks landing Kirby Dach in the 2019 NHL Draft after winning the third lottery pick.
Beat writers Max Bultman and John Vogl have thoughts that align with mine. You can read their commentary in The Athletic’s article on the matter. However, they both state that the restrictions could hurt teams that are really bad, allowing them to only win a lottery pick in two out of five seasons. If that is the case, these teams need to hit on such lottery picks if they have any chance of rebounding quickly in the NHL.
Truth be told, is there any guarantee that teams in the bottom two or three will consistently pick atop the draft? It’s fair to say that the lottery balls have bounced in such a way recently creating an anomaly in the odds. It’s safe to assume the odds will bounce back in the favor of the worse teams as time moves on.
Nonetheless, the league has made its decision, and it will likely take some excitement out of the NHL Draft lottery. That said, we’ll get to see if the league’s quick change does in fact helps the teams who truly need the assistance.