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Changes to the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery & Beyond

Posted by AJ Lee on

On March 23, 2021, the NHL Board of Governors approved three rule changes to the NHL Draft Lottery system that determines the order of the NHL Draft (for those teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs).

  • The NHL Draft Lottery will now include only two drawings instead of the three drawings held in the years prior.
  • A team that wins a lottery drawing cannot move up more than 10 spots.
  • A team cannot win the lottery more than twice in a five-year period. (Lottery wins prior to the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery are not applied towards this total.)
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    Only the first of these changes will apply to the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery, while the second and third rule changes will be applied to the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.

    The two non-playoff teams selected in the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery will receive the top two picks, regardless of their place in the standings. While this is not a major change from the current system, limiting the lottery to two drawings does guarantee that the team that finishes at the bottom of the standings will pick in the Top 3.

    When you consider that three out of the last four NHL Draft Lottery results have seen last place team get bumped out of the Top 3 (2017 – Colorado, 2019 – Senators & 2020 – Red Wings), this is a welcome change for a team starving for the high-end elite talent that can often only be found among the top selections.

    The other two changes, which will begin with the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery, are also designed with the teams at the bottom of the standings in mind.

    Since teams can only move up 10 spots in the draft, a team can no longer finish 1 point out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and still have the opportunity to select 1st overall. This helps prevent a near playoff bound team from essentially stealing an elite player away from a rebuilding team that rightfully found themselves at the bottom of the standings.

    Here’s a real-world example: If this change was applied prior to the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, the New York Rangers would have only been able to move up to the #2 selection since they were #12 in the original draft order. This would have allowed for the historically bad Detroit Red Wings to keep the #1 overall selection. (Yes, we ignored the “placeholder” aspect of the draft lottery process for the sake of simplicity, just go with it.)

    The third and final rule change states that a team cannot win the draft lottery more than twice in a five-year period. Luckily for fans of the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, draft lottery wins prior to 2022 will not be counted. It’s clear the NHL doesn’t want another Edmonton Oilers situation to develop.

    Overall, the changes to the NHL Draft Lottery should, in theory, help the draft function the way it’s supposed to. The lottery was implemented to disincentivize teams from tanking their season for a better spot in the draft, but it’s also made it difficult for truly bad teams to acquire the elite talent necessary to be competitive.

    The results of these changes might not be perfect, but hey – maybe your team wins the lottery!

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