Winning the Lotto

Three years ago at this time, the Capitals defied the odds (they had a 14.2% chance) and won the NHL Draft Lottery. Although they finished 28th among the 30 clubs in final 2003-04 standings, Washington earned the right to choose first overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. As we all know now, that was a crucial lottery win: it led to Alex Ovechkin donning a Caps sweater.

Tomorrow in New York, this year’s draft lottery will be held. The Philadelphia Flyers, the league’s worst team in 2006-07, will have nearly a 50% chance of winning the lottery and earning the top overall choice. But by virtue of Saturday night’s Edmonton win over Calgary, the Caps slipped from 26th to 27th, thereby slightly increasing their own chances (from an 8.1% chance to a 10.7% possibility) of getting the magic pingpong ball that would lead to Washington getting the top overall choice in the draft for the fourth time (1974, 1976 and 2004) in franchise history.

Basically, teams can slide up a maximum of four spots. So although all 14 teams that missed the 2007 playoffs have a chance to win the lottery, only the top five teams have a chance at moving up far enough to get the first overall choice. The team that wins the lottery leapfrogs as many as four teams in front of it, but no team can fall more than one slot.

The list below shows the odds. The leftmost column shows a team’s odds of having one of its ping-pong balls come up in tomorrow morning’s lottery. the middle column shows the odds of getting the first overall pick. (Philadelphia’s odds of getting the first pick vs. having one of its own balls are different, because if any of the bottom nine teams has its ping-pong ball pulled, the Flyers would pick first. That’s because the bottom nine would merely move up four slots, not high enough to push Philly down to the second slot.)

So pull out your good luck charms, get your mojo working, sleep with your jammies on inside-out, do that voodoo that you do so well, or whatever is necessary for the Caps’ ball to get pulled on Tuesday in the Big Apple. And if it doesn’t happen, console yourself with this: There is no Ovechkin-like talent in the draft this year anyway. The Caps won it when it really mattered.

Move First Team
25.0% 48.2% Philadelphia
18.8% 18.8% Phoenix
14.2% 14.2% Los Angeles
10.7% 10.7% Washington
8.1% 8.1% Chicago
6.2% 0% Edmonton
4.7% 0% Columbus
3.6% 0% Boston
2.7% 0% St. Louis
2.1% 0% Florida
1.5% 0% Carolina
1.1% 0% Montreal
0.8% 0% Toronto
0.5% 0% Colorado

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12 Comments on “Winning the Lotto”

  1. OrderedChaos Says:

    Good job on breaking down the draft Mike. I’ve tried explaining this to casual fans before, and it ain’t as easy as it seems it should be. My approach was to explain that you take 100% and then subtract the chances that teams 2-5 win the lottery (i.e., the ones who would get the first pick if they win), and the resulting 48.2% is the chance that the Flyers get the #1 pick.

    But in the future I’ll just forward people the link to this article and save myself (and them) the headache of my stumbling attempts at explaining the system. 🙂

  2. Absaraka Says:

    Let me see if I’ve got this right.

    We’ll end up picking 1st, 4th, or 5th, depending on who gets drawn.

    We pick 1st if we win the whole enchilada. (10.7% chance, which is odds of about 9-1)

    We slide to 5th if Chicago, Edmonton, Columbus, or Boston win. (22.6% chance, odds about 7-2)

    We hang on to the 4th pick if anyone else comes up. (66.7% chance, odds 1-2)

    Do I have it right?

  3. Chris Says:


    Do you have any ideas of who the Caps would like to draft with their first choice?

    Maybe Cherepanov?

  4. b.orr4 Says:

    Once we get the lottery out of the way, will you be giving us individual scouting reports on the top 7-8 prospects in this year’s draft? That would be really helpful. Also, what’s your opinion on trading the pick? Given the number of prospects in the system and the team’s need for veteran help, I think this is the year to turn that pick into an established player. Especially snce we still have another #1 and two #2s.

  5. Shawn Says:

    What time is the draft lottery??? Can’t find any information on it.

  6. Jeremy Says:

    Happened close to 1 today… Blackhawks took it with their 8.1% chance and bumped us down to the 5th pick. Had a feeling that the icing on the Flyers cake after such a horrible season would include loosing the first overall pick. LOL Too bad we had to move down as well.

  7. mattgunn Says:

    Pretty funny seeing Philly lose out on the first overall pick, but it’s not that big of a deal this year. The top 8 picks are decent, and really… any of them could go first overall.


  8. dumpnchase Says:

    I do not have any insight as to who the Caps are looking at with their top pick. There is still a good bit of hockey to be played at the junior level; playoffs have more than another month to run. Then there’s the combine, so players still have a chance to move up and down team’s lists.

    We will probably provide some scouting reports on some players, we will certainly have the Central Scouting Bureau data when it is made available. And as we did last year, we’ll have some independent scouting organizations on the Capitals Report as the draft gets closer to discuss players and answer the listeners’ questions.

  9. Absaraka Says:

    Yeah, I’m sure the Flyers faithful have about had it up to here with losing hockey games this year. But to lose the lottery on top of that, man, that’s like insulting someone’s mother after robbing them at gunpoint.

    If that were any team but the Flyers, I’d be sympathetic. But it’s hard to feel sorry for our old Patrick Division archrivals–the squad that has a veritable forest of banners hanging in its rafters. Some years you run ’em over, some years they run you over. They won’t be down forever, and the difference between first and second this year isn’t as dramatic as it’s been in years past. And the Flyers may end up getting who they wanted anyway if the ‘Hawks leave the Flyers’ top pick on the board.

    No harm, no foul this year, though–this draft class seems to be fairly even-steven, so even though we’ve gotten bumped, we might still end up with a decent hockey player at the five-spot.

  10. […] Winning the Lotto Three years ago at this time, the Capitals defied the odds (they had a 14.2% chance) and won the NHL Draft Lottery. […] […]

  11. mimi Says:

    how do one work out the odds in order to win the lotto. i mean the jack pot is this possible. i bought the system but it is too difficult to work out. can anyone help and show me the easiest way to get the winning numbers?????????????????

  12. […] conducted, Mike Vogel does an excellent job of explaining the rules and the nuances of the lottery here, but the long and short of it is that every non-playoff club was entered, and each team could rise […]

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