UPDATE 2: Draft Lottery: a primer

Jason Gregor
January 08 2010 11:57AM

Many are wondering what are the odds and rules regarding the draft lottery, since it seems likely the Oilers will be a major player in the lottery. Here is a quick breakdown of what could happen between now and the 2010 draft in Los Angeles.

The history of the lottery since its inception in 1995:

1995 – Los Angeles was 7th, moved to 3rd; Ottawa retained 1st overall pick and took Bryan Berard (they traded him along with Don Beaupre and Martin to the Islanders for the 2nd pick Wade Redden and Damien Rhodes) and the Kings choose Aki-Petteri Berg.

1996 – Ottawa retained 1st overall pick and chose Chris Phillips.

1997 – Boston retained 1st overall pick and took Joe Thornton.

1998 – Tampa Bay was 3rd, moved to 1st and got Vincent Lecavalier. Nashville dropped to second and took David Legwand.

1999 – Chicago was 8th, moved to 4th and traded the pick to the Islanders. Atlanta retained 1st overall pick and took Patrik Stefan.

2000 – NY Islanders was 5th, moved to 1st and took Rick Dipietro. Atlanta dropped to second and took Dany Heatley.

2001 – Atlanta was 3rd, moved to 1st and took Ilya Kovalchuk, while the Islanders dropped to 2nd. They traded the 2nd pick (Jason Spezza) along with Zdeno Chara and Bill Muckult to the Senators for Alexei Yashin. What a horrible trade for the Islanders…WOW.

2002 – Florida was 3rd, moved to 1st and then ended up trading picks with Columbus and ended up taking Jay Bouwmeester 3rd overall.

2003 – Florida was 4th, moved to 1st but traded the pick again. They traded the 1st pick (Marc-Andre Fleury and 73rd pick (Daniel Carcillo) to Pittsburgh for the 3rd pick (Nathan Horton), 55th pick (Stefan Meyer) and Mikael Samuelsson.

2004 – Washington was 3rd, moved to 1st and they took Alex Ovechkin, while Pittsburgh dropped to #2 and took Evgeni Malkin. The Hawks were the big losers dropping down a notch to #3 and settled on Cam Barker.

2005 – Pittsburgh (all 30 teams had a chance at #1) and took Sidney Crosby.

2006 – St. Louis retained 1st overall pick and took Erik Johnson.

2007 – Chicago was 5th, moved to 1st and took Patrick Kane. The Flyers dropped to 2nd and took James Van Riemsdyk.

2008 – Tampa Bay retained 1st overall pick and chose Steven Stamkos.

2009 – NY Islanders retained the 1st overall pick and took John Tavares.

In the 14-year history of the lottery, 2005 doesn’t count because everyone had an equal chance, the team holding the first pick has retained the pick seven times. But the team with the first pick has only won it five times, good for 35%.

It has been mentioned that the last place team has a 25% chance of winning the first pick, but that is technically inaccurate.

Here are the odds based on finish:

30th place has 25.0%
29th place has 18.8%
28th place has 14.2%
27th place has 10.7%
26th place has 8.1%
25th place has 6.2% (can only move up to 2nd pick)
24th place has 4.7% (can only move as high as 3rd)
23rd place has 3.6% (can only move as high as 4th)
22nd place has 2.7% (can only move as high as 5th)
21st place has 2.1% (can only move as high as 6th)
20th place has 1.5% (can only move as high as 7th)
19th place has 1.1% (can only move as high as 8th)
18th place has 0.8% (can only move as high as 9th)
17th place has 0.5% (can only move as high as 10th)

However, since only the bottom five teams have a chance at the first pick, the 30th ranked team actually has a 48.2% chance of maintaining the first overall choice. They can lose the lottery and still maintain the first pick, as long as the winner of the lottery is not the 26th -29th team.

Finishing first gives you the best chance, but based on the first 14 lotteries, finishing 28th is better than finishing 29th, because four times out of 14 the 28th place team has won the lottery and moved up to first. The 29th ranked team has never won.

Isn’t it fitting then that the Oilers currently sit in 29th spot in the league. While you cheer for the DFF or the Fall for Hall, keep in mind that the 29th position of the bottom five teams that has never won the lottery. Bottom five but not second last should be your motto!

Updates from team skate...

One could argue that if the Oilers were preparing for April they would have been better served to go to Palm Springs and golf, but instead they hit the ice today for the first of a two-day mini-camp.

Day one of a brief two-day mid-season training camp started today at 12:30...

  • The first few minutes focused on lots of one-on-one battle drills, and other drills.
  • They would start as a two-on-one drill that would move down the boards into a one-on-two drill. J.F Jacques rubbed Marc Pouliot out against the boards and Pouliot came up lame. Not sure if he re-aggravated his pubic/groin injury but he didn’t return to the ice.
  • Lubomir Visnovsky was on for the entire first session and looked like he should be ready to return Tuesday v. the Predators.
  • Next they focused on breakouts and the forecheck.
  • Tom Renney would stop a drill when players made a wrong read or if the forecheckers didn’t disrupt the breakout to his liking.
  • There were lots of stoppages instructing players about commitment, making the right decision and where the coach wants them to be. Anticipate correctly was another theme.
  • Bryan Pitton was in goal in place of Devan Dubnyk who will get some more starts in Springfield this weekend.
  • 1:26... They place both nets in one zone, each at the hash marks along the boards. The coach would dump the puck into a corner and then play one-on-one for about 20 seconds.
  • Staios/Brule... Nilsson/Cogliano, Penner/O’Sullivan,Gagner/Strudwick, Moreau/Pisani, Smid/Horcoff, Jacques/Souray, Stone/Stortini, Visnovsky/Gilbert, Grebeshkov/Potulny. And then they started again in different pairings.
  • Stone was only one to score with a nice move on JDD.
  • Souray and Moreau went head-to-head and Souray fell awkwardly into the end boards. He got up and was fine.
  • Strudwick was robbed on a nice pad save by Pitton, after he stepped by Nilsson.
  • Patches O’Sullivan undresses Grebeshkov but rips one off the post
  • Pitton with a sweet saucer pass sends Gilbert in all alone but he misses the net.
  • Drill ends at 1:37 and the flood with a second session to follow.

Second update from this afternoon's skate

The second session started at 1:58...

  • The usual basic opening drill. A full-length horse shoe type drill, except three guys would come down the wing a few strides behind one another and fire shots to warm up the goalies.
  • Then they move into three-on-one rushes.
  • You get a sense that the coaches might tweak their systems a bit, because so far the system is not working with the skill-set of this team.
  • After a four-minute white board meeting they resume five-on-five play. Focusing on how they want to breakout of their zone between the top of the circles and the blueline. This is an area where the Oilers have turned over way too many pucks, so any wrong decision/play in that area results in an instant whistle.
  • There is also an emphasis on getting off the ice quickly and skating hard ALL the way to the bench. They’ve been whistled for too many men penalties more than they’d like.
  • Horcoff with the first goal on a great no-look 60-foot pass from Nilsson to spring Horcoff and Penner on a two-on-one... Horcoff beats Pitton through the five hole.
  • Next shift out Penner beats Pitton from the top of the circle blocker side.

Then they skated for about ten minutes before Quinn finished practice around 2:30. Overall nothing eventful, but it is clear that coaching staff wants more from this team. And as I mentioned earlier expect a few small tweaks in how they play when they return against Nashville on Tuesday. Not that I think those changes will make much of a difference this season, but it could help some of the younger guys improve in small areas that should be beneficial long term.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#101 Jonathan Willis
January 08 2010, 06:55PM
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@ Serious Gord:

I remain firmly convinced that you can beat the one-armed bandit.

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#102 Greg MC
January 08 2010, 07:30PM
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Whatever the odds, you want the lowest slot possible, just for the reason that you can only be dropped one position in the draft.

So the team that finishes 29th could end up dropping to the third pick, and the team that finishes 28th could drop to the fourth pick.

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#103 Tyler
January 08 2010, 08:05PM
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Holy hell. I thought that Gregor was kidding or just making an observation initially as well. What a trainwreck.

FWIW - I calculate an 8.8% chance that something with a 14.2% chance of happening would happen 4 times in 14 trials. I come up with a 5.4% chance of something with an 18.8% chance of happening coming to pass zero times in 14 lotteries. These aren't exactly one in a million shots.

Gregor - As I hope to keep you from someday living outside in Tamarindo, stealing the sandals and wallets of people stupid enough to figure that they could stash them on the beach at 5:30 in the morning while they were surfing, I'll share something: betting against the odds, where those odds are known and defined as here, is always stupid. You might get lucky and win, but I saw a drunk guy stumble into rush hour traffic and not get hit by anyone a week or so ago. Same principle.

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#104 Woodguy
January 09 2010, 01:23AM
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I used to make a significant portion of my income playing poker.

A 5% edge in any bet is huge.

You make that bet all day, every day then get rich in the long run.

Its all about sample size.

When figuring out our true win rates at various levels of poker, it was determined than 1,000,000 hands of poker may not be sufficient to determine your true win rate.

Its probably close, and generally 250,000 was enough to tell if you were a winner or loser at the game as opposed to lucky or unlucky.

People are seriously talking about the results of something that has run 15 times?

That's a spec in the eye of the monster that is "the long run"

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#108 Casino's Everywhere
January 09 2010, 01:16PM
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Dear Gregor,

Please come to the casino. And yes it's true, if you've won three out of times at the blackjack table, or the slot machine, that means you're on a roll and you've got a 75% chance of winning the next time too.

How else can you explain your last few wins than by saying you're "on a roll" and you're likely to win more because you're on a roll

The 28th placed teams are on a roll in the lottery, too.

And don't you listen to those bad men, JW and Tyler. They don't understand what it means to be on a roll.

Sincerely, Casino's Everywhere

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#109 Casinos Everywhere
January 09 2010, 01:18PM
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"the 28th pick is the lucky one."

And there are lucky tables, lucky dealers, and lucky slot machines too.

Come on down to the Casino and find them.

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#110 Crash
January 09 2010, 01:44PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

It was an observation and meant to show Oiler fans that there isn't a guarantee that 29th will secure them a top two spot. I didn't think I needed to explain I was joking...

However, while the odds favour the 29th team, they don't ensure success. And many Oiler fans feel the Oilers have no luck to begin with, or a great track record at drafting, (although the last five years haven't been bad) and I was tongue-in-cheek stating that cheering for 29th could result in disaster for the Oil.

Betting against the odds can make you a windfall, if you get lucky and do it at the right time, of course if you live by it you probably end up homeless.

I don't bet very often, but even I know that just because the odds are in your favour doesn't mean I will win. I won't be stunned if the 29th pick ends up with a higher pick than 28th, but if the 28th wins the lottery then for some strange reason it is the hot number right now.

Similar to roulette or craps. Sometimes black comes out four or five consecutive times, when it is only 50/50 before every role. Doesn't mean I would bet on black every time, but we've all seen runs. That was my point.

And while the odds aren't great either way, if it was a twenty dollar bet, I'd feel comfortable putting up twenty bucks on 28th over 29th. In three years from now it might be different because the trend could change.

If any of us knew how to play the odds effectively I think we'd all be at a Casino, or probably on our own beachfront property with someone serving us Pina Colodas...

I'm not blind to the fact the odds are favourable for 29th, but the great part about betting is a gut feel or intangibles that make you not always follow the odds.

Either way I love that people get so fired about 29th or 28th...It's better than worrying about 17th or 18th..ha

One thing to keep in mind is that in securing a top 2 pick the odds are actually more than a 4% differential just as it is more than 25% if you finish last that you will get the 1st pick. The 4% differential is in obtaining the 1st pick overall only. The 29th place finishing team actually has a 60.8% chance of retaining the 2nd overall pick to go along with their 18.8% chance of moving to number one while the 28th place team only has a 14.2% chance of picking ahead of the 29th place team. So in actual fact the odds of a top 2 pick are much much more than 4% when finishing 29th over 28th. I would take the 60.8% everytime at the casino over the 14.2%.

Also on another side. If 28th had been chosen more times than 29th wouldn't it be safe to say that 29th is due? lol

Just thought I'd throw that out there. The marginal difference between finishing 28th and 29th is in obtaining the top pick, it's much less marginal in the retaining the 2nd pick.

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#112 crash
January 09 2010, 03:07PM
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Taken from the article above: Gregor said

*Finishing first gives you the best chance, but based on the first 14 lotteries, finishing 28th is better than finishing 29th, because four times out of 14 the 28th place team has won the lottery and moved up to first. The 29th ranked team has never won.*

*Isn’t it fitting then that the Oilers currently sit in 29th spot in the league. While you cheer for the DFF or the Fall for Hall, keep in mind that the 29th position of the bottom five teams that has never won the lottery. Bottom five but not second last should be your motto!*

Ok, don't get upset, this is just tongue in cheek but about the above statements couldn't you also swing it to say that even though the 28th place team has won the lottery 3 times out of 14, the 29th place team has picked ahead of the 28th place team 11 out of 14 times? So I'm stil on board with as low as we can go motto, ha, ha

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#113 crash
January 09 2010, 03:09PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

You can use logic and the point is obvious. My underlying point, which I guess I will have to write in bold letters next time, is that the Oilers haven't had much luck since 2006. Injuries, player slumps, bad contacts, Human Rake, Heatley...all of it...and so with their luck they could finish 29th and still miss a top two pick.

Your point about them getting the 2nd pick wouldn't happen if 28th wins, because they'd drop to the 3rd pick then.

And Casino's everywhere...thanks for the dripping sarcasm...comparing actual money to a draft lottery is a tad different don't you think???

I wasn't attempting sarcasm, it's all tongue in cheek, no finish anywhere guarantees anything. I'm just throwing out the numbers for fun. But in a year that there seems to be at least at the moment a clear number one and number two I think we stand a much higher chance at finishing 29th of getting Seguin or Hall...

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#114 Crash
January 09 2010, 03:25PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

You can use logic and the point is obvious. My underlying point, which I guess I will have to write in bold letters next time, is that the Oilers haven't had much luck since 2006. Injuries, player slumps, bad contacts, Human Rake, Heatley...all of it...and so with their luck they could finish 29th and still miss a top two pick.

Your point about them getting the 2nd pick wouldn't happen if 28th wins, because they'd drop to the 3rd pick then.

And Casino's everywhere...thanks for the dripping sarcasm...comparing actual money to a draft lottery is a tad different don't you think???

I understand that if 28th wins 29th drops to 3rd, same if 27th, 26th and 25th win. I'm just wanting the odds tilted in my favour as much as possible. Odds are never a guarantee, I do know that. So how about nevermind 29th...let's grab 30th and guarantee a top 2 pick.

I only referenced Casinos because you used a Casino reference in post 106.

I get your point about the Oilers bad luck...can we say odds are their string of bad luck should come to an end soon? *said with a rabbit foot in hand and all my fingers and toes crossed*

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#115 Woodguy
January 10 2010, 08:57AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Just curious why you don't make income from it anymore.

I know a few guys who have eight screens in their house and play online all day. That is their job. And you are right it pays off if you play the odds.

Of course the draft pick won't affect my wallet, so I can say without much concern that to date, the 28th pick is the lucky one.

And if you played poker that often, you must admit that at times you played your gut over the odds. If not, you are stronger than most of us.

Played a lot after work when I was single and just starting my business.

After a while it becomes a grind like anything else, except the luck factor can make it a very frustrating way to make $$$ and be a real grind.

I was a 4 table at a time guy as it wasn't my sole source of income. I know a lot of 8 table guys, that can become a real tough job after a while, most that I know quit or change away from 8-tabling after a few years due to monotony.

After my business started to do better the $$$ was less of an allure and hanging out with friends and girls is way more fun than poker.

Get married and have a daughter, and the time for poker drops to 4 hours a month.

Yes I did go with my gut occasionally, but when you were trying to get better at the game that is one of things you tried to eliminate. Always go with the percentages. Go with your gut if the call was close, but try to never take a bet unless you have the best of it.

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#116 Jonathan Willis
January 10 2010, 09:31AM
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"Hot" Number:

Of interest, in 10 of the 14 drafts, the team that finished 29th had a higher selection than the team that finished 28th.

Granted, that isn't the 85.8% of the time that we'd expect (and which, given infinite number of events, we would see) but 71.4% ain't half bad either.

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#117 Crash
January 10 2010, 12:13PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

"Hot" Number:

Of interest, in 10 of the 14 drafts, the team that finished 29th had a higher selection than the team that finished 28th.

Granted, that isn't the 85.8% of the time that we'd expect (and which, given infinite number of events, we would see) but 71.4% ain't half bad either.

Lol, I just mentioned that 4 posts ago (#112) although I made an error in thinking it was 11 of the 14. As well in post (#110) I did some math, it's actually a 60.8% of a chance that the 29th overall finisher will retain pick #2.

One other thing I just looked at using the history from the article. While the odds are 60.8% that 29th will retain the 2nd overall pick. So far in 14 drafts with the lottery the 29th pick has retained the 2nd pick 7 out of the 14 times so far. So not quite 60.8% but not far off.

Interesting and fun to look at the numbers.

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#118 Crash
January 10 2010, 06:56PM
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Carolina only 4 back now (not long ago it was 10), same number of games...most teams seem to be pulling away from us, Carolina charging hard...now if the Leafs could win a game or two

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