Looking back at the history of the NHL Draft Lottery

When it comes to the NHL Draft Lottery, history is written by the losers.

When the NHL began holding an amateur draft in 1963, it introduced a system that would allow the teams in the League to have wider access to the talent pool.

In 1969 the Montreal Canadiens picked Rejean Houle as the first ever pick in an draft that truly represented the best amateur players available.

From 1969 to 1994 teams would draft in the opposite order of their regular season standing, meaning the worst team in the league would have the rights to draft first.

Although drafting is truly an inexact science, the first overall pick was usually counted upon to be an important addition to a team's roster. And that's how it remained until 1995 when a draft lottery was introduced to try and dissuade teams from purposely tanking the season in order to get the best player available.

From 1995 to 2012 the rules of the Draft Lottery stipulated that the winning team could not move up more than four spots in the draft, so first overall was only achievable by the five worst teams. That rule was put to the test right away in 1995, as the Los Angeles Kings won the Lottery, however as they were only the seventh worst team in the League, they were only able to move up to the third pick, which they used to draft Aki Berg. Ottawa retained their first pick, and the New York Islanders kept their second pick,

Under these rules the worst team in the League lost the first overall pick six times out of 18, or one in three.

YEAR Top Seed Lottery Winner First Pick First Pick
1995 Ottawa Los Angeles Ottawa Bryan Berard
1996 Ottawa Ottawa Ottawa Chris Phillips
1997 Boston Boston Boston Joe Thornton
1998 Tampa Bay San Jose Tampa Bay (via trade) Vincent Lecavalier
1999 Tampa Bay Chicago Atlanta (via trade) Patrik Stefan
2000 Atlanta New York Islanders New York Islanders Rick Dipietro
2001 New York Islanders Atlanta Atlanta Ilya Kovalchuk
2002 Atlanta Florida Columbus (via trade) Rick Nash
2003 Carolina Florida Pittsburgh (via trade) Marc-Andre Fleury
2004 Pittsburgh Washington Washington Alex Ovechkin
2005 N/A Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Sidney Crosby
2006 St. Louis St. Louis St. Louis Erik Johnson
2007 Philadelphia Chicago Chicago Patrick Kane
2008 Tampa Bay Tampa Bay Tampa Bay Steven Stamkos
2009 New York Islanders New York Islanders New York Islanders John Tavares
2010 Edmonton Edmonton Edmonton Taylor Hall
2011 Edmonton New Jersey Edmonton Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2012 Columbus Edmonton Edmonton Nail Yakupov

Starting in 2013, all 14 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs were entered into the contest for the first overall pick, using a weighted system based on their finish during the regular season.

Now all 14 teams could move up to first with decreasing likelihood. Under this approach no team suffered more than Buffalo, who finished last twice, yet never received top pick. In fact the top seeded team lost the first overall pick all three times.

YEAR Top Seed Lottery Winner First Pick First Pick
2013 Florida Colorado Colorado Nathan MacKinnon
2014 Buffalo Florida Florida Aaron Ekblad
2015 Buffalo Edmonton Edmonton Connor McDavid

Starting with the 2016 Entry Draft, the top three picks will be up for grabs, meaning that up to three teams can move up in the draft order, making the entire process more random, while still giving a statistical advantage to the teams that finished with the least points in the regular season standings.

This was implemented to dissuade teams from purposely being terrible. Now the worst team in the League, the Toronto Maple Leafs, risk not drafting until the fourth overall position, however statistically improbable.

Click here to find out more about the rules and procedures for the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

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