NHL
March 29, 2021

The NHL Board of Governors Tweaks the NHL Entry Draft Lottery

The NHL Draft Lottery is changing. 

From its inception in 1995 through 2015, the NHL Draft Lottery winning team moved up no more than four positions in the draft order. If the winner of the lottery was among the five worst teams in a given season, that team won the first pick in the draft. If another non-playoff team won, they advanced four slots closer to the top prospects.

Beginning with the 2016 draft, the first three selections were determined by the lottery. Any team that did not make the playoffs had a weighted chance to select in the first, second or third slot. The remaining teams maintain their order of selection based on the points accrued the previous season. As the top three slots are determined by the lottery, no team can drop more than three places from the position established based on previous season point totals.

The NHL has seen fit to again adjust the format because there has been an unusual number of teams higher in the order beating the odds and jumping to those top three desirable slots.

The draft rules have been altered to the following:

Check out our 7-round 2021 NHL Mock Draft here.

Fewer Lottery Draws

Starting in 2021, the number of lottery draws will be reduced from three to two, so the last-place team, therefore, can’t draft any lower than No. 3 overall.

The lower of the lottery-spot jump means the truly worst team will select third overall at the lowest.

Since 2016, the following teams jumped up into that No. 3 slot: 2016 Columbus (Pierre Luc DuBois), 2017 Dallas (Miro Heiskanen), 2018 Montreal (Jesperi Kotkaniemi) and 2019 Chicago (Kirby Dach).

Under the new system, none of the teams would have been able to select those players, but if the rule was left intact, all these teams but Chicago would have been able to select the very same players. WHY? We're glad you asked... 

Lottery Winner Limited to Move Up 10 Spots

Starting in 2022, the maximum number of places a lottery winner can move up is limited to 10 spots, so just 11 teams can win the No. 1 pick, instead of 16.

A team finishing in the top 11 can win the first overall slot. The team finishing in the 12th spot can select second overall, and the final non-playoff team, in that 16th slot, can pick as high as sixth, a nice jump up nonetheless.

Franchises Cannot Win the Lottery Twice in Five-Year Span

Finally, starting in 2022, no team can win the lottery more than twice in a five-year period.

This is the most controversial aspect of the rule changes. If, say, the Red Wings win the first overall in 2021 and second overall selection in 2022, does that mean they throw in fewer lotto balls in the next three years, or everything stays the same and if there is a third win they stand pat or drop to a lotto winner(s)? Does the fact they are already a top-two team negate their lotto win?

We'll know more as we get closer to the NHL Draft.