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.
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
|-||Vegas Golden Knights||-||10.5%|
|28th||New Jersey Devils||67||10.5%|
|26th||Detroit Red Wings||72||8.0%|
|20th||Los Angeles Kings||77||2.5%|
|18th||Tampa Bay Lightning||81||1.5%|
|17th||New York Islanders||82||1.0%|