Luckily For The Detroit Red Wings, The Draft Lottery Is Broken

NHL Draft Lottery
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As the cards were flipped showing the order of the NHL Draft lottery the past two seasons, Detroit Red Wings fans released collective sounds of agony.

Luckily for the Red Wings, the NHL’s Draft Lottery is broken.

Originally put in place to deter teams from tanking, legitimately bad teams, as the Red Wings have been in recent seasons, sometimes suffer. 

The Red Wings “Losses” In The NHL Draft Lottery 

In 2018-2019 the Red Wings finished with the league’s fourth-worst record but fell to 6th in the draft. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils jumped ahead three spots to select 1st overall.

In 2019-2020, Detroit was last overall by a landslide, and the worst appeared to happen when they dropped from the top pick, down to 4th overall in the lottery. That season, Detroit had only 39-points, while Ottawa, who had the second-worst record in the NHL, had 62-points. In a just world, the Red Wings would have landed the top pick. It was not a tank job, they were truly that bad.

As fate would have it though, the Red Wings’ apparent misfortune has turned into fortune.

In 2019, Detroit’s two-spot slip meant choosing Moritz Seider, considered by many as the front runner for the Calder Trophy this season. In Sieder, they have an almost sure-fire future Norris candidate. He’s Detroit’s current time-on-ice leader.

The 2019 draft was a sweepstake between Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. However, while the fourth overall, Bowen Byram, wouldn’t have been a miss, he also wouldn’t have been the steal Detroit has seemingly nabbed in Seider.

The 2020 Draft was even more dramatic. Not only did Detroit fail to grab the first overall pick but they also slid to the 4th position. Alexis Lafreniere was the consensus first pick, and he kept that honour when the New York Rangers chose him. That selection was followed by the highly touted Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle. At number four, a variety of players were in consideration, but the Red Wings chose Swedish forward Lucas Raymond, and the pick has paid dividends.

Detroit Is Not Alone On The Bad Lottery Luck

While the Detroit Red Wings have undoubtedly benefited from their misfortune as of late, the same can’t be said for all franchises. Perhaps the most notable is the Buffalo Sabres.

Finishing last overall in consecutive seasons in 2014 and 2015, the Buffalo Sabres lost the draft lottery both years. In those drafts, this cost them Aaron Ekblad in 2014, and Connor McDavid in 2015. 

One can only wonder how Buffalo’s record and struggles in the past five years would be different with a premiere defender like Ekblad. The game’s top offensive talent in McDavid on their roster would definitely make a huge difference as well.

What is broken in the NHL Draft Lottery?

There are currently 16 non-playoff teams in the NHL. Each is entered into the draft lottery, although only the bottom 10 teams can grab the 1st overall pick.

In the case of the 2020 Detroit Red Wings, that would amount to a team 35-points ahead of them in the standings. Also leaving them only four points out of a playoff spot, potentially taking the top pick.

When the talent disparity is so great between teams, the potential to award a playoff-contending team the top pick is criminal.

Since the Draft Lottery came into use in 1995, the rules have been changed six times. That would suggest the system doesn’t work, and no iteration has brought peace among NHL owners. 

The Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes are stranded at the bottom of the standings. And because of that, they will have the best chance to win the lottery. 

Currently, OHL forward Shane Wright is the consensus number one pick. Behind Wright is USA-born Logan Cooley, and Finland’s Joakim Kemell. Canadian-born Matt Savoie is another player to watch. Juraj Slafkovsky having a strong Olympics from Slovakia could propel him into the top three. 

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