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Tank defense: NHL changes up Draft Lottery format

Aug 20, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

Bill Daly lottery Getty Images

If your favorite team is hoping to tank next season to land Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft, just know their chances of landing the top pick just got worse.

The NHL announced changes to the NHL Draft Lottery that will see the odds of landing the top pick change slightly in 2015 and the lottery process change even more in 2016.

The league says the odds will be adjusted to “more appropriately reflect the current state of competitive balance in the League.” That means if your team has the worst record next season, their chances of landing the No. 1 pick in the lottery go from 25 percent to 20. That in itself is a 20 percent drop in chances to earn the top pick.

As for how the percentages change for all picks, here’s a handy chart via


As you can see, finishing with one of the three worst records no longer pays off as well in the lottery. Meanwhile, the other 11 non-playoff teams all see their chances of landing the No. 1 pick get a boost.

The team most obviously affected by these changes are the Buffalo Sabres. They’re expected to be one of, if not the, worst teams in the league and may stand the best chance of landing McDavid. Now if they wind up with the worst record, their chances of winning the lottery have gotten worse.

Then again, if the Sabres want to look on the bright side of things, if the New York Islanders and/or St. Louis Blues miss the playoffs, their chances of stealing the top pick have improved slightly since they own both of their first-round picks.

Keep those odds in mind because when it’s time for the 2016 Draft Lottery, there will be a drawing for each of the top three picks, not just the first overall selection. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how the NBA handles their draft lottery.

That means if you have the worst record in the league then, you’re not guaranteed either the first or second overall pick and that team could pick as low as fourth overall.

If teams are going to tank to land McDavid or Jack Eichel, they might find out doing so may not work out the way they intended while burning a season trying not to win too much.

  1. djshnooks - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM

    This year is all that matters…

    Finish worst and you get one of them.

    • xx1111 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:39 PM

      not really as it said… They can pick 4th overall with the worse record.

      • bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:40 PM

        No. The team finishing last can do no worse than the 2nd pick, just like this year.

    • xx1111 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:39 PM

      not really as it said… They can pick 4th overall with the worse record.

      • cheliostwin - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:09 PM

        That rule won’t go into effect until the 2016 draft. For the 2015 draft, the team with the worst record in the coming season will have a 20% chance of getting the first pick, and an 80% chance of getting the second pick.
        For the following year, the team with the worst record will have a 20% chance of getting the first pick, a 16% chance for the second pick, a 12.8% chance of the third pick, and 51.2% chance of picking fourth.

      • bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:13 PM

        @cheliostwin – you are wrong. The last place team will move to the nr. 2 position at worst in 2015.

      • kirkmcleansbaby - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:52 AM

        WOW…….. some people really need to work on their reading comprehension! *facepalm*

        xx1111 – You’ve already been corrected, so won’t go there again! lol

        @Bullwinkle88 – cheliostwin is right! How did he not say that the first place team would pick first or second?! He said the first place team has a 20% shot at first….. which it does…. and an 80% chance at picking second….. which it does! Where in there does it say that they could finish third or fourth?! Nice try calling someone out.

        People…..please read thoroughly before saying dumb crap, and sounding like an idiot.

  2. ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    “The league says the odds will be adjusted to “more appropriately reflect the current state of competitive balance in the League.””

    I don’t necessarily understand that part when they have the glaring case of the Oilers waved in their faces. The Oilers got 3 first picks and are still in the basement. how can they assert that the gap between the best and worst teams has closed somewhat? With the Sabres, Panthers, Oilers, Flames all still needing a first pick or two, this is a slap in the face.

    In my mind, this is probably just a tiny bit more safeguarding against teams tanking toward the end of the season.

    • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      did a quick comparison for the last 6 seasons. took the standings point average of the top 5 teams and average of the bottom 5 teams, looked at the difference. the last 2 years actually kinda tell me that they need MORE of a chance to win that first pick.

      year averages difference
      ’13-’14 113.4-68.2 45.2
      12-13 116.16-67.65 (adjusted) 48.51
      11-12 108.2-75.2 33
      10-11 108.2-69.8 38.4
      09-10 111.2-74.2 37
      08-09 111.8-70.2 41.6

      • ibieiniid - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:38 PM

        ran the same test for the bottom 5 compared to the next bottom 5 and last year was far-and-away the most lopsided season in the last 6.

        13-14 84.4-68.2 16.2
        12-13 78.925-67.65 11.275
        11-12 82.2-75.2 7
        10-11 82.6-69.8 12.8
        09-10 82.8-74.2 8.6
        08-09 82.2-70.2 10

        i’d be pretty bummed about that if i was a fan of one of the bottom 4 teams (5th worst actually got a boost in odds. wish i had seen that earlier)

  3. vancouversportsbro - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    I bet the troilers and panthers took a big sigh at the news

  4. areaman714 - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    The odds still favor tanking.

  5. mobil4life - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    The Penguins will miss the playoffs on purpose. Finish 11th and win first pick because the league is fixed and against the Sabres. Period.

    • stixzidinia - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:41 PM

      If the league was “fixed” to benefit the Pens then they would have gotten Ovechkin, since they finished last going into that draft. It all worked out for the best though, as they got the better Russian anyway.

  6. lilroot9 - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    Reading this quote:

    “Then again, if the Sabres want to look on the bright side of things, if the New York Islanders and/or St. Louis Blues miss the playoffs, their chances of stealing the top pick have improved slightly since they own both of their first-round picks.”

    will never be true if you compare the new and old. The worst team (if Sabres) and any other finish from the Islanders would result in a lower % chance than previous draft odds.

    The only way it helps the Sabres is if both (or all 3) finish 5th worst or higher (up to 14th worst). So the fact that they should be bottom 3-4 this does not really help the Sabres at all.

  7. bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    Televise the drawing! I don’t trust the NHL.

    • nflfan4now - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      It already is dumbass

      • letsgolightning - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:21 PM

        I don’t believe they televise the actual drawing, just the showing of which team ‘won’ being pulled out of an envelope.

      • bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:04 PM

        No it isn’t. All they do is turn over cards, or haven’t you been watching?

      • mackattack29 - Aug 22, 2014 at 1:35 PM

        No it isn’t dumbass.

  8. hockey7515 - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:40 PM

    The only thing with this is that the bottom team still has almost a 7% greater chance than the next lowest. Maybe make the bottom less spread out to discourage tanking and the higher end more spread out since they have an incentive to keep playing with a playoff spot still in sight.

  9. cantescapekarma - Aug 20, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    Honestly, I don’t really know that this matters for Buffalo. I feel like the NHL would never allow them to win the 2015 draft (and Connor McDavid) anyway. I am very skeptical of the draft “lottery”. I do agree with Tim Murray when he said that these changes should have been out off until at least 2016. You know which teams you are directly affecting the most when implementing these changes for next season. It figures though, the Sabres had finished just out of playoff contention for years and got draft picks outside the top 5-10 like every year. So they were just good enough to keep them from from getting high draft picks and just bad enough to barely miss the playoffs and it seems to be a never ending cycle. Then they Finally decide to rebuild the right way (through high (top 5) draft picks) and their first year in the NHL changes the rules. On well. All I care about is next years draft anyway. I expect them to take large steps forward after the 2015 draft, hopefully quickly. But I really want a top 2 pick in 2015. Last seasons “suffering” was the worst season of Sabres hockey I have ever witnessed and was literally just about unwatchable at times (especially before Ted Nolan took over). I just want all that “suffering” to be worth it (in the form of a franchise changing player like McDavid or Eichel). But I have a bad feeling that they are going to be just good/bad enough to miss out on a top 5 pick next year…

    Also, I wonder how Garth Snow and Isles fans feel about these changes…? If they finish just outside the playoffs, they will be giving away a but higher chance lottery pick. Not by much, but still… They traded the pick under one set of rules and now those rules have changed (even if only slightly I guess). I think the Isles will be better than last season, but I still don’t see them in the playoffs yet. So if that’s the case, that gives the Sabres a slightly higher chance of winning the lottery with their pick than it would have if the rules stayed the same (as last season).
    What do you Isles fans think? Happy, mad or indifferent about these changes? I’m curious to know…

    • lilroot9 - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      As a Sabres fan, I agree with the majority of what you are saying. The thing I have a disagreement with is

      “I think the Isles will be better than last season, but I still don’t see them in the playoffs yet. So if that’s the case, that gives the Sabres a slightly higher chance of winning the lottery with their pick than it would have if the rules stayed the same (as last season).”

      If the Sabres finish as the worst team (30th place), they would have a 20% chance (instead of 25%, -5%) and if the Islanders “just miss” the playoffs as the 20th ranked team (meaning 10th best pick) there chance at the lottery is 3.5% (instead of 2.1%, +1.4%) the Sabres collectivly only have a 21.4% chance of winning (oppsoed to 26.4%). So they technically dont have a better chance per the new lottery changes. Just saying.

      If the Sabres get to 26th place or better there chance will increase, but we don’t really even want that anyway.

      But I say, even if after lottery we get 2nd pick, Murray would trade a lot to get to #1 and it depends who has it if they want Eichel over McDavid. Still way too much guessing, but I hope the Sabres finish 30th for the last time (for a long time) and really start their upswing. Go Sabres!

      • blueballzny - Aug 22, 2014 at 12:25 AM

        It’s not even worth debating because the Islanders are making the playoffs this year. I think they are really gonna surprise people this year and end up with a 5 or 6 seed. The Old Barn is gonna be rocking in it’s final year!

  10. jernster21 - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:01 PM

    I like how the Sabres are getting thrown under the bus to be the worst team when Edmonton has done nothing to prove that they aren’t going to be a lottery team every year till the end of the world.

  11. nflfan4now - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    Karma had a good reply there, but to make it simpler this just wasn’t fair to do this year, it should have been done for 2016 or 17 where no teams have traded their first rounders yet. This change made 1st rounders more valuable, as you do have a better chance of getting a #1 so it not only effects the teams like the Sabre’s who will be near the bottom, but also slightly better teams that are close to the playoffs.

    Good news for the Sabre’s though, with the changes they have made I don’t think they will be on the bottom this year – just close to it – so their odds increase.

  12. thomasvanek - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    What does it matter. They give the pick to whomever they want to have it anyway. I guarantee that no matter how bad they are this year Buffalo will not get the top pick because the league isn’t in love with us like it is with the Pens.

    • bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:43 PM

      I agree. They won’t let a generational star like McDavid fall to Buffalo, Arizona, or Florida. They want a big city claiming him.

      So the Sabres should end up with Eichel – unfortunately he’s not as good as McDavid in talent, but he is still going to be a star player.

      • moarjam - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:37 PM

        Oh shut it. They “let” Crosby go to Pittsburgh. They had the same odds as the NYR. There’s no conspiracy.

  13. gbart22 - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    They say they have a chance at number 1 but when the devils won the lottery a few years ago they were only allowed to move up 4 spots so in actuality they had zero shot at the number 1 pick. Has that changed?

    • lesleyvissersfacelift - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:45 PM


  14. sgs32 - Aug 20, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    They should have the odds even for all the 14 teams that don’t make the playoffs, should make the league for competitive and nobody would tank for sure

    • chanceoffleury - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:11 PM

      It helps eliminate tanking, but it’ll make up for it with just as much drama surrounding how “fair” the lottery was. If 2 or 3 years in a row teams in the 17-19 overall seeding take the first overall pick people will start losing their minds. It doesn’t really fix anything it just redirects the drama to a new thing to conspire about.

  15. 34defense2014 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:14 PM

    Hmmm, so how stupid does Garth look now lol lol good luck with that first puck Buffalo! As a NY Islanders fan, I could careless about this years first round pick! We are stacked with young talent! PS. We will make the playoffs! Good job on “Snowing” Buffalo, Garth lol #Islesfanforlife

    • bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      With Garth Snow in charge, I have no idea if you guys will EVER see the playoffs! The guy is incompetent.

      P.S. Thanks for the additional chance for McDavid

      • chanceoffleury - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:20 PM

        They made the playoffs a year ago……

  16. roblo76 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:22 PM


  17. 34defense2014 - Aug 20, 2014 at 6:28 PM

    We feel great about it! We gave Buffalo a “Snow job” no pun intended lol, #Islesfanforlife

    • shutmdownd - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:32 PM

      Really, you gave us a Snow job? Do you remember the trade? Thats right I’m sure isle fans would love to forget it but it was Vanek for Moulson, a first and second next year, then we trade Moulson to Minn for Mitchell and a second in 2014 & 2016, then we sign Moulson to a 5 year deal…

      Buff gets: Moulson
      1st rd 2015
      2nd rd 2015
      2nd rd 2014
      2nd rd 2016

      NYI gets: Boned!!!! thanks Garth, first Barnaby kicks you’re ass, now Tim Murray…

      • lilroot9 - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:13 AM

        The Islanders did get a 2nd from Montreal in 2014 and a decent prospect (3 – 4th line player I believe), so they did get something, but Buffalo still won the trade.

        I do think that Garth is not very efficient so I do believe he will rush a few young guns this year and it might back fire, which would be good news for Buffalo. Only time will tell, but even without that pick, the Sabres will be a force in a few seasons.

        Of course that pick helps them quite a bit in a strong drarft and the St. Louis pick as well as their own 2nd rounder and Islanders 2nd rounder in 2015. If the Islanders fall flat on their face this year, the Sabres could have 5 picks in the top 40 already and have 3-4 players they could trade at the deadline this year, so it could get rediculious in Buffalo with draft picks. If they get 2-3 more first rounders they will have to move the draft to Buffalo this year too, haha

      • shutmdownd - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        True lilroot, I did not list what the isles got back for Vanek, it was something…

  18. gbart22 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    Some of you with your conspiracy theories just sound ridiculous.

    • bullwinkle88 - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:06 PM

      If they have nothing to hide, televise the drawing or have it watched over by an outside agency. Sorry, I don’t trust Bettman.

      • ibieiniid - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:22 AM

        how would they have a “drawing”? they’d have to have a lot of names in a hat to replicate the tilted odds they’re going for. If you watched it, it’d just be a lot of picking teams who already have their position decided. With their intended odds, it’s not as simple as putting 30 names in the hat and picking one by one…. i think it’d be more like 200 names in a hat to make the odds work out.

    • Hard to BeLeaf - Aug 20, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      Especially after Buffalo getting the combine for the next two seasons… it’s kinda hard to buy into this “The NHL hates Buffalo” thing.

      • lilroot9 - Aug 21, 2014 at 9:15 AM

        I actually think that helps the Sabres chances with the draft lottery, but what really hurts it is having 3 1st rounders in a strong year, I feel like whomever they get they get an A+ for the draft, so they might spread around the love there and give 1st overall to another team.

  19. badguy711 - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    They should put in a rule that says after enough Top 5 picks in a row, teams are ineligible. The amount of draft picks Edmonton got is completely unfair. After enough they should get told “You’ve had more than your fair share, go figure it out like everyone else”. What a joke of a franchise.

    • rmccleary97 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:18 AM

      Here’s the problem with that: how many is “enough?” Every team is different, and picking high is no guarantee of success. Until Columbus made the playoffs in 2009, they had never picked lower than 8th in the 1st round – the last 5 of those coming between 6 and 8. I don’t think anyone was claiming the Blue Jackets were “tanking for 1st” or “trying to load up on young talent” at any point in time there. Before last year, Buffalo had picked in the top-10 thrice (#7, 1996 – Erik Rasmussen; #5, 2003 – Thomas Vanek; #8, 2013 – Rasmus Ristolainen) since picking Pierre Turgeon with the #1 overall pick in 1987. That’s hardly any kind of “track record for tanking” and anyone paying attention to the Sabres knew they were going to suck on a massive scale before too long despite spending $70 million.

      The Islanders got future stud John Tavares with the #1 overall pick in 2009, and have still picked 5th, 5th, 4th and 5th in 4 of the 5 drafts since. Chicago had 6 top-11 picks between 1998 and 2005 (the last two #3 and #7), and still needed Toews (3rd, 2006) and Kane (1st, 2007) and Dollar Bill Wirtz to keel over to get out of the league basement – and Kane had nowhere near the hype Tavares had going into his draft. Tampa Bay went to the conference finals in ’12 – which was the only time from 2008 to 2013 they didn’t pick in the top-10; 4 of which were in the top-6 and 3 in the top-3. Were the Lightning tanking for someone? Does that CF appearance say “hey, you’ve got enough talent now – you’re out for picking top-X for a while?”

      I can go on with other examples here – both showing teams that “got more than their fair share” and still sucked for a while (or still do suck), and teams who didn’t come close to “getting their fair share” and still figured out how to pull themselves out of the basement and be successful.

      • jmccleary597 - Aug 22, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        I agree you can’t take away a trams top pick just because they have had a bunch. There are plenty of top first round picks that never produce the numbers everyone claimed they could.

  20. rmccleary97 - Aug 20, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    This change makes as much sense as the change to how cap hits were calculated after the Kovalchuk contract (which, if everyone remembers, was supposed to prevent the ultra-long, front-loaded contracts from happening again – and did … until Zdeno Chara signed his, and everyone figured out the change did nothing and it was ‘game on’ again). If tanking is such a problem, investigate; if it’s going on, yank the team’s 1st round pick and fine it $5 million. That will *instantly* fix any “tanking problem” that’s going on. The fact is, even if these changes had been in place last season Buffalo wasn’t going to magically go from 52 points to 88 and knocking on the door of the playoffs. Edmonton wasn’t going from 67 to 100, Florida wasn’t going from 66 to 90, and Calgary (who went 12-9-0 from March 5 on) wasn’t going to be dramatically better in those first 61 games and do better than 77 points.

    What no one wants to admit is that tanking is good for the league and the changes to the draft lottery are nothing more than a “look, we’re really serious about fixing this problem” dog and pony show that’s as believable as the biannual “crackdown on obstruction” in the early 2000s that lasted about a week and a half. Don’t believe that tanking is good for the league? By letting bad teams be even more terrible by selling off assets at the deadline, it puts more of the better players in the league on teams headed to the playoffs; that means a higher level of play in the postseason. On the other side, bad teams get to “build for the fuuuuuture” – a process that’s likely to take at least 3-5 years where fan loyalty is tested, free agents steer clear unless huge $$$ are lobbed out, and there’s no guarantee that “rebuilding” is successful (and even less guarantee it ends with even a trip to the Finals, much less the Cup). Admit it: you’d much rather see guys like Mike Cammalleri, Joel Ward and Brian Campbell on a playoff team trying to win a Cup than seeing Derek Dorsett trying to win a Cup, or Brandon Bollig trying to win a 2nd, or Jordan Nolan actually winning a 2nd.

    Teams who are bad are bad for a reason; trying to “encourage them to be more competitive” is like asking Grandma to get out of her wheelchair and run a half-marathon, We’ve seen that being bad and drafting #1 overall and getting “the next great superstar” doesn’t instantly transform an NHL team into a Cup contender (or even a playoff team, for that matter). If a team wants to dig itself a hole on the hope that it can land McDavid or some other future phenom who will magically lift the franchise to the highest of heights, I say let ’em tank away – but if we’re going to pretend “tanking for a high pick” is some kind of epidemic, actually deal with the problem instead of glossing over it with a non-solution like “let’s change the odds, that’ll convince teams not to do it!”

  21. sizzle299 - Aug 20, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    Who really cares about all this anyway? Only a bunch of losers whose teams suck and have no shame in encouraging them to lose on purpose [aka cheat] to get CM. Now Sabres fans are crawling out from their rocks only to whine and cry about the league making it harder to cheat- trying to justify it in any way that makes them not sound like a bunch of whiny cheating losers. True colors on display for all to see.

  22. thekindone4 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    As a Sabres fan, you still should be pleased with the new rules for 2015. It could of been worse! Even if you finish last, your still guaranteed McDavid/Eichel! It’s amazing to think that the Sabres will improve that much. Think about it, they could improve by 10 games and still be the worst. Sure they signed Moulson, but he was there the majority of the season last year. Gionta is there for leadership and he probably won’t get over 40 points. They get rid of their best Dman in Erhoff and replace him with Gorges. Good player but not Erhoff. Despite everyone remembering Millers disappointing time in STL, he was unbelievable for Buffalo. Can Nyquist or Enroth steal a few games like Miller? So while they added some quality leaders back into the fold, these moves won’t push The Sabres out of the basement! Let’s lose BUFFALO! And the ISLANDERS can SUCK as well!!!

  23. chief361 - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    i thought this was old news and part of the last labor dispute, further evidenced by the panther’s first round pick this off-season?

  24. 34defense2014 - Aug 21, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    shutmdownd,, looke at our Roster compared to yours! So yes he sure did!!!!! Also you can have Moulson And his overpaid contract lol lol

  25. sndflyers - Aug 21, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    Yeah like when the Flyers should have easily won the lottery and taken Kane. Now they wanna change it. The flyers are only that bad once every 20 years. Jvr wasn’t and isn’t a bad player but I don’t think anyone could argue he’s on the same level as kane.

  26. mackattack29 - Aug 24, 2014 at 6:55 AM

    Good god these writers are stupid. This is not the McDavid draft… it’s the Eichel/McDavid draft. Any tanking that is done will be for Eichel just as much as McDavid. When Draft day comes around there will not be a clear cut number 1. And anyone who thinks there is a clear cut number 1 is clearly unaware (just downright idiotic) of the unreal potential of BOTH players. Either one will dramatically change the organization they go to for the better.

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