Time To Get Studious

It wasn’t too long ago that the Senators stood alone (or were huddled in a fetal position) on the the floor of the NHL’s basement with an overpaid collection of veteran underachievers. Now that the trade deadline has passed and the uncertainty was removed, the Senators embraced their pressureless situation, rallied around some good goaltending and their collection of young (but not necessarily the most talented) players.

For some, it has been easy to get caught up the in the optimism for what next season could bring (case in point, just stick a microphone in front of The Euge) but and others will remind us that late season surges don’t necessarily translate into future success. (Leafs fans can attest to this.) But regardless of your feelings towards Ottawa’s modest success of late, everyone is eagerly anticipating what the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has in store for the organization. And if the picture at the top of this article is a sign of things to come, I’m already looking forward to watching Bill Daly flip flash cards with a constipated look on his face.

While the last regular season game hasn’t even been played, that hasn’t stopped fans from postulating or fretting as to where or who the Senators will be selecting. Thanks to two articles written by Timmo Sepa, the managing editor from Hockey Prospectus, he projects the Senators to finish the season with the third worst record in the NHL. (Note: here are the projected Eastern Conference standings and the Western Conference standings.) With 68 forecasted points, only Edmonton (63.6) and Colorado (67.7) are expected to finish lower in the standings than the Senators. You can thank the Avalanche’s 2-20-2 record since January 18th for contributing to Ottawa’s deteriorating draft odds. (Or you could simply blame Alexei Kovalev. Even when the team is winning in his absence, cynics will use him as a scapegoat.)

Since Ottawa hasn’t had their own top five selection since Chris Phillips was drafted in 1996 (Note: Jason Spezza was drafted 2nd overall by Ottawa in 2001 but only after the Senators had traded for that pick on the day of the draft.), I figured it might be beneficial to outline how the draft lottery is conducted.

Once the regular season has concluded, the 14 NHL teams that did not qualify for the NHL’s postseason are entered in a weighted lottery to determine the preliminary order of the first round. Based of the standings, teams that finished lower will have better weighted odds of capturing the first pick. As per NHLSCAP.com, on the day that the lottery is conducted, fourteen balls, numbered 1-14, are placed in a lottery machine and four are drawn, forming a series of numbers. A probability chart, created by Bortz & Company, divides the possible combinations among the 14 participating clubs. The four-digit series that results from the balls drawn are be compared to the probability chart to determine the team to which that combination has been assigned.

The percentage chance of being selected in the lottery is as follows, based on team finish:

30th……….. 25.0% (250 combinations)
29th……….. 18.8% (188 combinations)
28th……….. 14.2% (142 combinations)
27th……….. 10.7% (107 combinations)
26th………….8.1% (81 combinations)
25th………….6.2% (62 combinations)
24th………….4.7% (47 combinations)
23rd………….3.6% (36 combinations)
22nd………… 2.7% (27 combinations)
21st………….2.1% (21 combinations)
20th………….1.5% (15 combinations)
19th………….1.1% (11 combinations)
18th………….0.8% (8 combinations)
17th………….0.5% (5 combinations)

There are 1,001 numerical combinations possible, with one combination eliminated to make the odds fair; if the eliminated combination is drawn (a 0.1% probability), the drawing is immediately re-done. A single selection from the lottery pool is made, with the winning team improving its draft position by up to four places, and no team dropping more than one place. Therefore, only the 26th through 30th place teams are eligible to receive the first over-all draft pick.

After the club selected moves up, the balance of the first 14 draft selections are adjusted by one, with the appropriate clubs moving down one slot to accommodate the winner, if necessary. Here’s a chart showing the chances of each team picking in a given spot:

Assuming that Ottawa finishes in its current position, they’ll have a 56.1% chance of retaining the third overall selection, a 29.7% chance of drafting fourth and a 14.2% shot at selecting first. Now if only who to draft was a bit more transparent. Now here’s some more draft linkage to satiate your appetite:

  • Over at Jibblescribbits, the Colorado Avalanche Bloguin brethren has attempted to identify the value of a draft pick
  • Adrian Dater has a blog article up over at the Denver Post that briefly discusses the names of Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog as fits for the Avalanche.
  • Omitted from Dater’s blog article is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose name adorns the top of the latest International Scouting Service Top 30 prospect list that can be found at Hockey’s Future.