The Coyotes have a 6.5 percent chance of landing the top pick in the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday. If you can’t handle that sobering truth, and the likely odds that Scottsdale product Auston Matthews will be playing for a Canadian team next fall, we suggest you play out your fantasies on the NHL Draft Lottery simulator until the odds turn in your favor.
We ran it 20 times. Edmonton won fives times. We’ll stop there and give you a moment to vent.
Toronto and Winnipeg won it three times apiece while Vancouver, Montreal and Buffalo won it twice. The Coyotes won it once, along with seven other teams, and Arizona placed in the top three picks four times.
The NHL changed its format this season so that the top three picks are all determined via the lottery. Last season, it was just the top pick when Edmonton infamously leapfrogged the Sabres and Coyotes to land franchise center Connor McDavid — the fourth time in the last six years that Edmonton has chosen first.
The Coyotes ownership group was publicly frustrated by that result.
“It felt like someone punched me in the stomach,” Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said at the time.
LeBlanc won’t be bringing any talismans or charms to change his luck this time around when he attends the lottery in Toronto. Instead, he’ll bring a co-owner.
“Yes, Gary Drummond,” LeBlanc said. “He’s our good luck charm.”
Matthews was gracious when asked which team he’d like to play for at the Coyotes’ home finale.
“Ask anybody if they’d love to play for their hometown team, it would be pretty special,” Matthews said. “The Coyotes are the reason I started playing hockey. We’re pretty fortunate to have them in the Valley.”
Unfortunately for Matthews and the Coyotes, it doesn’t work that way. Here’s how the lottery works. Fourteen balls numbered 1 to 14 are placed in a lottery machine. The machine randomly selects four balls. The resulting four-number sequence (without regard to selection order) is matched against a chart that shows all the possible combinations and the teams to which each is assigned.
One combination (11, 12, 13, 14) is designated as a re-draw, allowing for the division of exactly 1,000 combinations proportionately.
With the Coyotes’ odds of landing any of the top three picks slim, LeBlanc is taking a more measured approach this year.
“Obviously, it would be incredible if the Coyotes were to win the lottery and be awarded the first overall selection,” he said. “Whatever happens, we know that this is a deep draft and with two first-round draft choices (their own and the New York Rangers’), we hope to come back from Buffalo with two very good prospects.
“In the past, we have always chosen the best player available with our selection. Gary Drummond, Dave Tippett and our hockey operations department will determine what our needs are and make the right selection.”
Here’s a look at each team’s odds at landing each of the top three picks. All 14 non-playoff teams are listed in reverse order of their finish in the NHL standings.