Summary of Habs Draft Lotto Odds

CALGARY, CANADA - JANUARY 5: Mikhail Grigorenko #17 of Team Russia... the next Montreal Canadien? (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

This past weekend marked a new low for me as a Canadiens fan: the team I support were officially eliminated from the post-season, with two full weeks left to play. They've been unofficially eliminated for a long time, but two weeks out and having no mathematical shot is something else.

Also, the Canadiens reached 29th in the 30 team standings. It is impossible for them to fall lower than 29th thanks to Columbus' horrid start of the year, but now the only standings that matter are the draft lottery ones. Which means hoping the team stays bad for six more games. The NHL sucks, ladies and gentlemen... we should be hoping for wins to avoid relegation to the minor leagues, and never hoping for losses.

Here are the odds we're looking at. The draft lottery works by not allowing teams to move down more than one spot in the selection process than their final standings, and allow one team to move up a maximum of four spots. It is weighted so that the lower you finish, the greater your odds are at winning the lottery. Here is scenario one, the Canadiens finishing in 29th place, their current standing:

  • Chances of Drafting 1st overall: 18.8%
  • Chances of Drafting 2nd overall: 42.0%
  • Chances of Drafting 3rd overall: 39.2%

This would be the 'best case' scenario. There is a combined 39.2% chance that one of the teams sitting 3rd-6th in the draft lotto would leapfrog the Canadiens to push them to the #3 spot in the order, with slightly better odds of either Columbus winning the lotto or a team 7th or lower winning for the Canadiens to select 2nd. The chances of the Canadiens moving up are significant, but the nature of random chance in the lotto has revealed one oddity since the system was adopted in 1995: no team who finished 2nd last in the NHL has ever won the lottery and moved up to select 1st.

Draft Lotto Odds

NHL Finish

Draft 1st


Drop 1

29th (2)




28th (3)




27th (4)




26th (5)




Basically, your odds of maintaining your draft position rise with each spot further down you are. The potential to draft at the top of the board lowers, but your chances of losing a spot diminish as well. For the 30th place team, the chances of Drafting 1st are 48.2% (combine winning lotto and someone 25th or lower winning) vs. 51.8% for dropping to 2nd. This means that finishing 29th (at 42.0%) is actually the place where you are least likely to hold your draft position. Moving up or down a spot is the most likely scenario when you finish 29th.

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