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2015 NHL Entry Draft Lottery: Odds, procedure, start time, and TV schedule

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Fourteen teams were left behind when the Stanley Cup Playoffs began last week. Tonight, one of those teams will take a big step toward reaching the post-season next year by winning the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

The final order of balls '2756' rest in the lottery machine during the 2008 NHL Draft Drawing on April 7, 2008 at the National Hockey League headquarters in New York City.
The final order of balls '2756' rest in the lottery machine during the 2008 NHL Draft Drawing on April 7, 2008 at the National Hockey League headquarters in New York City.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens fans watched their team hover near the top of the NHL standings for the entire 2014-15 season.  Stars P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty each had a great season, contributing to their team's success in all facets of the game.  Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk, and Andrei Markov had stellar campaigns in a supporting role, while Carey Price put on one of the best goaltending performances in the storied franchise's history to allow his team to claim the second overall position in the NHL.

Other fanbases were not treated to such a spectacle.  Those who cheer for the Buffalo Sabres had their fandom tested by play unworthy of the top professional league in hockey.  The Arizona Coyotes, already struggling to maintain a foothold in the NHL, didn't do much to gain new fans with the worst record of any team in the hotly-contested Western Conference.

Those low finishes aren't all bad news for the Sabres, Coyotes, or any of the other teams that are currently watching an entertaining post-season from the sidelines.  They are all guaranteed an eary first round draft pick (provided they didn't trade it away in a previous deal) that can be exchanged for one of several promising prospects who are set to make the transition from junior hockey to the professional ranks.

Tonight, one of the 14 teams that missed the playoffs will be awarded the top selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft when the winner of the Draft Lottery is revealed.

How to Watch

Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the USA: NBC

Procedure

All fourteen teams have been randomly assigned a set of four-number combinations using the numbers 1 to 14.  The amount of number combinations a team has been assigned has been determined by a previously-announced odds system that gives the greatest chance of winning to the lowest finisher (30th overall in regular season standings) and decreases those odds for each subsequent team:

  1. 20.0% (Buffalo Sabres)
  2. 13.5% (Arizona Coyotes)
  3. 11.5% (Edmonton Oilers)
  4. 9.5% (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  5. 8.5% (Carolina Hurricanes)
  6. 7.5% (New Jersey Devils)
  7. 6.5% (Philadelphia Columbus)
  8. 6.0% (Columbus Blue Jackets)
  9. 5.0% (San Jose Sharks)
  10. 3.5% (Colorado Avalanche)
  11. 3.0% (Florida Panthers)
  12. 2.5% (Dallas Stars)
  13. 2.0% (Los Angeles Kings)
  14. 1.0% (Boston Bruins)

With 14 balls, 1001 combinations are possible.  The combination of balls 11, 12, 13, and 14 has not been assigned to any team to give an even 1000 possible winning combinations.  In the event of those four balls being chosen, the lottery machine will be reset for a redraw.

As the Buffalo Sabres have been given 20% odds with their last place finish, 200 of the 1000 number combinations have been assigned to them, while the Boston Bruins, with a 1% chance, have been assigned just 10.

The number combination assignments are publicly available, both sorted numerically [NHL.com | PDF] and by franchise [NHL.com | PDF].

If balls numbered 2 7 5 6 are selected by the lottery machine, as they were in 2008 and shown in the header image at the top of the post, the Florida Panthers will win the 2015 NHL Entry Draft Lottery as that particular combination has been assigned to them (listed in numerical order as 2 5 6 7 in the PDFs).  In the event of the first three balls being some combination of 1, 2, and 8, the final ball being a 13 will award the first overall pick to the team with the 20% chance of winning the lottery: the Buffalo Sabres.  If that fourth ball is a 12, the Boston Bruins will have hit one of their 10 assigned combinations and select first overall in the 2015 Draft.

As exciting as that may sound to watch as the future of several NHL teams waits to be determined by one of 11 balls being extracted by a machine, the actual selection process will not be televised.  Instead, in the few minutes before Game Two of the New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Penguins series gets underway, the winner of the lottery that will have already taken place will be announced in an undetermined fashion.  According to an NHL article on the draft lottery [NHL.com | Draft Lottery Procedure], a video of the actual drawing will be made available on the site after the announcement of the winner has been made.

Next year, three separate lotteries similar to this one will take place to award each of the first three picks.  Perhaps the NHL will rethink their stance and make the 2016 NHL Entry Draft Lottery more of a production.

After the first overall pick is awarded, the remaining teams slot into picks 2-14 in reverse order of their standing in the regular season.  The winner jumps to the top while the teams that were ahead of them shuffle down one spot each.  The lottery only affects the selection order of the first round.

Further reading on the NHL Entry Draft

Robert Rice explains not only how the NHL Entry Draft will proceed, but also what to expect from the players taken in a specific round. [An Introduction to the NHL Entry Draft]

EOTP has a draft hub that contains Montreal Canadiens draft stories going back to 2007 [NHL Draft Hub]

There's also one specifically for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft that currently contains a few stories on top 2015 prospects Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.  New articles will be added as we get you all the information you need before, during, and after this year's draft. [2015 NHL Draft Hub]