If you have questions about the resumption of the NHL season, just wait until you see the league’s plan for the 2020 NHL Draft lottery.
As part of his return-to-play announcement on Tuesday, commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled the plans for the lottery, a complicated series of steps that will have three draws and as many as two phases, depending on the bounce of the ping-pong balls.
“This is a bit complicated — as if what I told you already hasn’t been,” Bettman said Tuesday after explaining how the postseason picture would look. “And I apologize for that.”
First, the easy part: The initial phase of the lottery will take place on June 26, and be limited to the seven teams that didn’t qualify for the postseason and the eight teams that do not advance from the qualifying round (or the teams that acquired their first-round picks).
The seven teams, ranked in inverse order of their points percentage when the league hit the pause button on the regular season, are: Detroit, Ottawa, San Jose (owned by Ottawa), Los Angeles, Anaheim, New Jersey, and Buffalo. (Ottawa has its own choice, as well as San Jose’s first-round pick.) Because the Red Wings had the worst point percentage, they have the best odds at landing the top pick at 18.5 percent.
The eight “place-holders” represent the qualifying-round teams that do not advance, thus maintaining previously established odds.
The easiest resolution? If a team from the unlucky seven wins the first pick in the first draw, it wins the right to make the first overall selection. However, if the winning team is among the eight “place-holders,” the right to the first overall pick will be determined in the second phase of the lottery.
The draws for the second and third pick are similar:
▪ If the winning team of the second draw is from the group of seven, that team wins the right to the second overall pick. If the winning team of the second draw is from the group of eight, the right to the second overall pick will be determined in the second phase of the lottery.
▪ If the winning team of the third draw is from the group of seven, that team wins the right to the third overall pick in the draft. If the winning team of the third draw is from the group of eight, the right to the third overall pick will be determined in the second phase of the lottery.
If necessary, Phase 2 of the lottery would play out as follows:
▪ It would be conducted between the qualifying round and first round of the playoffs, and involve just the eight teams that do not advance from the qualifying round (or the teams that acquired their first-round picks).
▪ Following each draw in Phase 2, the winning team will be assigned the corresponding selection. If another Phase 2 draw is necessary, that team’s numbered lottery ball will be removed.
In each Phase 2 draw, all participants will have the same odds.
When the first two phases are completed and the top three choices are assigned, the remaining selections in the top 15 will be assigned to the 12 teams that did not win a draw, in inverse order of their points percentages at the time of the season’s pause.
The NHL has used a draft lottery since 1995, and has occasionally tinkered with the system. The league’s latest move came in 2016, when it ruled the top three picks were awarded through the draw. That ensured the team that finished 30th overall was guaranteed only a top-four selection, instead of the second pick being a worst-case scenario.
Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.