Simulating the NHL Draft Lottery 100 times

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With the NHL Draft Lottery taking place later this month, people with a much better grasp of maths than myself can tell you all about probability and predict the outcome of the lottery, at least I think they can.

I’m not that intelligent so instead, I’ve decided to use an online simulator to predict the outcome of the lottery, but instead of just doing it once, I decided to do it 100 times.

For anybody who doesn’t know what I’m on about already, save yourself a few minutes because this is post is not for you. I’m not sure it’s for anybody to be honest.

I can’t say any of the results are surprising because it is just 100 simulations using the same 15 teams (it’s not like the Vegas Golden Knights just randomly appear in one of the results).

But now let’s have a look at who, according to the simulator I did on a quietish day in work, has the best shot at landing Rasmus Dahlin with the first pick.

The contenders.

Before we get into the results, it’s probably a good time to explain briefly who’s in the running.

The Buffalo Sabres did Buffalo Sabres things this year and finished bottom of the NHL, being the first ever team to finish 31st in the league after Vegas entered the business so congrats to them, at least they got some sort of achievement this year.

So Buffalo have an 18.5% chance at the first overall pick, the Florida Panthers on the other hand who just missed out on the playoffs have just a 1% chance.

The chances are listed below.

Buffalo Sabres – 18.5%
Ottawa Senators – 13.5%
Arizona Coyotes – 11.5%
Montreal Canadiens – 9.5%
Detroit Red Wings – 8.5%
Vancouver Canucks – 7.5%
Chicago Blackhawks – 6.5%
New York Rangers – 6%
Edmonton Oilers – 5%
New York Islanders – 3.5%
Carolina Hurricanes – 3%
Calgary Flames – 2.5%*
Dallas Stars – 2%
St Louis Blues – 1.5%**
Florida Panthers 1%

*The Calgary Flames first pick was traded to the New York Islanders in the Travis Hamonic deal in June 2017.

** The St. Louis traded their pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Brayden Schenn deal. However as this is a conditional pick, the Blues can defer the pick until 2019 if it is in the top 10.

The Results.

I will not be going through each and every simulation, not because I don’t want to bore you with data, it’s honestly because I just cannot be bothered to do so (and I’m lucky enough if any of you have even read this far).

So as you can gather from above, without a lottery, Buffalo would pick first at the draft in June, followed by Ottawa and Arizona.

If you go by most mock drafts, that means Rasmus Dahlin would be a Sabre, Andrei Svechnikov would be a Senator and then probably Filip Zadina would head to Arizona.

However, in the 100 simulations, the order of Buffalo – Ottawa – Arizona only appeared once and that was on the 48th attempt. But if you think about it that’s for the best, how boring would the draft lottery be if nothing changed at all? That would be more boring than when the Oilers won it more often than they won games a few years back.

First pick

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In 100 simulations, Buffalo get the first pick 19 times, but the good news for Sabres fans is that they get a top three pick in 55 out of 100 sims.

Naturally the Senators and Coyotes do well at getting the first pick, I guess that’s what higher odds do, but it’s actually the Blackhawks who do okay for themselves getting the first pick on 10 occasions.

That would be fun, Rasmus Dahlin going to the Blackhawks to start replacing some of their aging blueliners, but I think after the success of the Hawks in recent years people wouldn’t be too enthused about the Swedish phenom going to Chicago.

Chicago actually get the first pick just one less time than Ottawa who struggle at their shot to replace Erik Karlsson (if/when he leaves). I say struggle as though this is a real lottery and not just my excuse to pass time in work and start blogging again.

Florida Panthers and their fan (intentionally not plural) may not be pleased to know they don’t get the first pick even once, in fact they breached the top three just three times with two second overall picks, but let’s be honest the Panthers have a good young core so they’re a fringe playoff team for years to come, so while a higher pick could be useful it’s not like they’re crying out for it.

St. Louis (or potentially Philadelphia depending on if St Louis can or will defer the pick) as well as Dallas get the first pick just once each but again, like Florida they’re not desperate for talent, they just need to add a few extra pieces to the puzzle.

Contrary to what I feared, Edmonton didn’t win (or get a lottery pick) every single time, instead they settle for 21 lottery picks included eight first picks where they don’t pick Dahlin for whatever reason (just look at Nail Yakupov V Ryan Murray right…?).

Montreal continue their streak at being win shy as despite having the fourth best odds they pick up the first just five times, tough break Habs fans.

So overall, here’s a run down of who gets the first pick how many times.

Buffalo – 19
Arizona – 12
Ottawa – 11

Chicago – 10
Detroit – 8
Vancouver – 8
Edmonton – 8
New York Rangers – 6
Carolina – 5
Montreal – 5
New York Islanders – 3
New York Islanders (Flames pick) – 3
Dallas – 1
Philadelphia/St Louis – 1
Florida – 0

Second pick

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So we’ve seen who gets the best shot at landing Dahlin, but who potentially lands the consolation prize who’ll probably be Andrei Svechnikov.

Well, it’s Buffalo again with 18 but baring some outrageous Draft Day trade they can’t pick first and second right?

So that’s where the Canadiens pick up the slack from getting the first pick just 5 times out of 100 as they actually have the second most amount of times landing in second place with 13, that’s more than both the Coyotes at 11 and Ottawa with nine.

Florida actually get off the board, getting the second pick twice on the 18th and 76th try.

Vancouver get a solid nine second picks, which let’s be face it with the Sedin twins done now, they’ll need to get some fresh faces in but they also just got lucky with a boat load of cap space free so if they play the market well in July then maybe they don’t need a decent pick. They’ve got some great prospects coming through as well so actually no, Vancouver you don’t need this as much as some of the others so please don’t get a lottery pick.

This is the run down of how many times each time got the second selection.

Buffalo – 18
Ottawa – 9

Arizona – 11
Montreal – 13
Detroit – 6
Vancouver – 9
Chicago – 5
New York Rangers – 4
Edmonton – 7
New York Islanders – 5
Carolina Hurricanes – 3
New York Islanders (Flames pick) – 3
Dallas – 4
Philadelphia/St. Louis – 1
Florida – 2

Third pick

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I’ll do this quick because I can tell you’re losing interest.

Buffalo again do well with 18 (the highest odds thing strikes again) and Ottawa actually do the best they did in all of the lottery pick options with 15, but again like the second Vancouver do great with 14.

The Islanders collectively get 8 chances with their Flames pick pulling up five chances at the third but other than that, the third pick is relatively straight forward, other than Detroit who have decent odds but only get three.

Buffalo – 18
Ottawa – 15
Arizona – 12
Montreal – 7
Detroit – 3
Vancouver – 14
Chicago – 4
New York Rangers – 4
Edmonton – 6
New York Islanders – 3
Carolina – 3
New York Islanders (Flames pick) – 5
Dallas – 2
Philadelphia/St. Louis – 3
Florida 1.

Top 3 results

So rather than sum up the results I’ll just list them to sum up how many times out of 100 each team gets in the top three, and it’s more or less what you’d expect.

Buffalo – 55/100
Ottawa – 35/100

Arizona – 35/100
Montreal – 25/100
Detroit – 17/100
Vancouver – 31/100
Chicago – 19/100
New York Rangers – 14/100
Edmonton – 21/100
New York Islanders – 11/100
Carolina – 11/100
New York Islanders (Flames pick) – 11/100
Dallas – 7/100
Philadelphia/St. Louis – 5/100
Florida – 3/100

See, about what you’d expect, did I waste a day in work on this?

New York Islanders

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I’ll admit, possibly the only thing that kept me interested after doing the simulations was taking a look at the Islanders in this because they get two chances at a lottery pick this year.

Interestingly enough, they never get both the second and third pick, but on the 22nd and 90th simulation the Flames pick goes first and second pick goes to the Islanders original pick.

I completely forgot that the Islanders could steal the party later this month and finish in the top three twice, or even end up picking 1st and second.

That’d be a huge help for the Islanders who will have every possible body part crossed this summer that John Tavares stays with the team. Even if he doesn’t, look at some of the Islanders prospects, Mathew Barzal just dominated in his rookie year, he led the team in scoring (has to win the Calder), Anthony Beauvillier is slowly improving and could be a solid contributor for the future, even Josh Ho-Sang could turn into something if his mouth hasn’t already run himself out of town (he went from NHL to AHL press box in the space of a few months as well which may not help).

Don’t forget about guys like Kieffer Bellows and Michael Dal Colle as well. But most importantly, the Islanders have two potential stud goalies of the future in Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom, so if they can crash the party later this month and get two lottery picks, does that maybe influence Tavares to stay and see what happens? Probably not, but if he did that makes the Islanders a very interesting team to watch over the next couple of years.


So what did we learn from this small exercise? Absolutely nothing about the Draft Lottery.

All we learnt is that I utilise my time in work poorly, and I have no idea how to use Microsoft Excel properly.

If you read this far I’m impressed, this was a dumb blog but I think after how long I spent on the simulations I may as well have something to show for it.

One thought on “Simulating the NHL Draft Lottery 100 times

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