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Race to the Bottom: The key battles for 2017 NHL Entry Draft Lottery positioning

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There’s lots to (not) play for as the regular season winds down.

Arizona Coyotes v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As the final games are played in the NHL’s regular season, the 16 playoff spots are gradually being locked down by the league’s top teams. The final two weeks will feature hotly contested battles between those in do-or-die situations to make the post-season and continue playing hockey in mid-April.

The final placement at the bottom of the standings table is also important between now and the final game on April 8. The 1999 crop of the world’s young talent is ready to begin its professional career, and it’s those basement-dwellers who will get the first shot at the top junior-aged prospects at the NHL Entry Draft this June.

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
2015 first-overall selection, and current NHL points leader, Connor McDavid
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The selection order generally runs from worst finish to best in the draft, though the NHL does have a draft lottery to prevent the worst team from automatically claiming the best player available. In fact, in an effort to discourage teams from actively trying to achieve the final placement, there are now separate lotteries for each of the first three slots in the first round.

Even so, the bottom team still gets the best odds in the lotteries, so if you’re going to miss the playoffs, finishing last is still the best strategy.

The Colorado Avalanche have that 30th-overall position locked up, and had done so quite some time ago. Currently with a meagre total of just 43 points, they’re 20 points behind the next closest team: the Arizona Coyotes, with 63 points.

The battle for 29th is a key one this year as the NHL’s newest franchise, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, will automatically be given the same odds as the third-worst team in the lottery, but designated the third draft slot. Unless they win a lottery, the 28th-place team will select no higher than fourth despite having the third-lowest point total.

Right now there are four points separating the 29th-place Coyotes and the New Jersey Devils in 28th, with the Vancouver Canucks another two points up in 27th. Those three teams have all played 75 games.

The next six teams are all separated by just five points, from the Detroit Red Wings with 72 to the Florida Panthers and Los Angeles Kings with 77 apiece. The chance of winning the top draft spot could be five percentage points higher at the top of that range than the bottom.

As of Sunday evening, here is how the 17 teams that will participate in the upcoming draft lottery rank, with estimated odds in the lottery for the #1 selection.

Draft Lottery odds

Position Team Pts Odds (est.)
Position Team Pts Odds (est.)
30th Colorado Avalanche 43 18.0%
29th Arizona Coyotes 63 12.0%
- Vegas Golden Knights - 10.5%
28th New Jersey Devils 67 10.5%
27th Vancouver Canucks 69 9.0%
26th Detroit Red Wings 72 8.0%
25th Dallas Stars 73 7.0%
24th Buffalo Sabres 74 6.0%
23rd Winnipeg Jets 75 5.0%
22nd Philadelphia Flyers 76 4.0%
21st Florida Panthers 77 3.0%
20th Los Angeles Kings 77 2.5%
19th Carolina Hurricanes 79 2.0%
18th Tampa Bay Lightning 81 1.5%
17th New York Islanders 82 1.0%