blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: April 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

2016 NHL Draft Lottery Results

Tonight Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presented the NHL Draft lottery results live on CBC, with the top overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, to be held on June 24-25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York, being awarded to the intentionally tanking Toronto Maple Leafs.
The actual lottery was conducted 30 minutes earlier in Sportnet's Hockey Central Studio in Toronto. In this video from 2013, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offers a detailed explanation of the process.
Designed to guard against teams purposely losing regular season games to improve their draft position, the weighted lottery system implemented prior to the 1995 NHL Entry Draft provides weaker teams with a greater chance of a higher pick without any guarantees for poor performance.

Until 2013, only the league's five worst regular season teams were eligible for the top overall pick, allowing teams to advance up to four spots and fall only one spot in the lottery. That changed in 2013 with all non-playoff teams eligible for the top overall pick albeit with their statistical likelihood directly tied to their final regular season standing. Though, a team could still only fall one spot in lottery position.

In 2014, additional changes were implemented for the lottery to reflect the competitive balance of the league, with more balanced odds being introduced in 2015 and separate draws in 2016 for the top three positions (as opposed to just for the top overall pick), allowing the league's worst regular season performer to slip as low as fourth overall (as opposed to just second overall under the prior regime).  

For the first time in five years, the top pick went to the statistical favorite. The win provides Toronto with their first top overall pick since selecting Wendel Clark in the 1985 Draft, snapping the Edmonton Oilers streak of selecting first in four of the past six drafts (Taylor Hall 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2011, Nail Yakupov 2012, Connor McDavid 2015).

Adding to the excitement, the Winnipeg Jets (7.5%) and Columbus Blue Jackets (9.5%) snagged 2nd and 3rd spots, leapfrogging statistical favorites Edmonton and Vancouver. The chart below shows final draft position by team with accompanying odds of selecting first, second or third overall, along with their most likely seeding in the lottery.

Draft Position 1st Pick    2nd Pick    3rd Pick    Likely Pick
1. Toronto  
20.0%
17.5%
15.0%
   4th (47.5%)
2. Winnipeg
7.5%
7.8%
8.1%
   7th (39.3%)
3. Columbus
9.5%
9.7%
9.8%
   6th (33.2%)
4. Edmonton
13.5%
13.1%
12.5%
   4th (35.2%)
5. Vancouver
11.5%
11.4%
11.3%
   5th (37.8%)
6. Calgary
8.5%
8.8%
9.0%
   6th (35.5%)
7. Arizona
6.5%
6.9%
7.2%
   8th (39.1%)
8. Buffalo
6.0%
6.4%
6.8%
   8th (39.2%)
9. Montreal
5.0%
5.4%
5.8%
   9th (51.8%)
10. Colorado
3.5%
3.8%
4.2%
  10th (64%)
11. New Jersey       
3.0%
3.3%
3.6%
   11th (73.6%)
12. Ottawa
2.5%
2.7%
3.0%
   12th (82.3%)
13. Carolina
2.0%
2.2%
2.5%
   13th (90.1%)
14. Boston
1.0%
1.1%
1.3%
   14th (96.6%)

Per HockeyViz math wiz Micah Blake McCurdy, the lowest seven finishers (i.e., 24th to 30th overall) are more likely to fall one spot in the draft than to move up under the current draft lottery mechanism.

Remaining NHL Entry Draft positions are set after the playoffs with the Stanley Cup champion and runner-up picking 30th and 29th, respectively. Conference finalists (28th, 27th) as well as division winners and wildcard teams (26th through 15th) are then ordered among their respective subgroup based on regular season standings, positioning teams with better regular season records to pick later than their peers.

* See also 2017 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2015 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2014 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2013 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2012 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2011 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2010 NHL Draft Lottery Results.
* See also 2009 NHL Draft Lottery Results.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NHL Playoff Seeding And Re-Seeding Rules

With the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the books, the list of Stanley Cup suitors has officially been halved from sixteen teams to a remaining eight. The next question is who plays who in the next round, and why.

The NHL relies on reseeding to pair opponents beyond the postseason's preliminary round. This process sets top teams in each of the four divisions against wildcard recipients and matches second and third place finishers in their respective division against each other. The survivorwinner of the these two series will play each other in the second round, with winners from each of the four divisional brackets battle in their respective Conference Final, with victors skating in the Stanley Cup Final.

Home ice advantage in each best-of-seven series belongs to the team with the most regular season points. When teams have the same number of regular season points, tiebreaker rules are employed.

The beauty of reseeding is it rewards regular season strength amongst divisional teams. Underdogs never shed their skin, forced to play through higher finishing teams to advance, whereas top dogs always enjoy an extra game at home.

Unfortunately, the current reseeding system disadvantages divisions with strong teams, forcing them to play each other when weaker teams reside elsewhere in the conference. As an example, the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division finished the regular season 1st, 2nd and 4th overall in the NHL. Yet, the 2nd and 4th regular season finishers (Pittsburgh & Columbus) played in the opening round and the 1st and 2nd overall finishers are meeting in the second round (Washington & Pittsburgh). Meanwhile, the Atlantic Division's second round matchup features the 9th and 12th best regular season teams (New York Rangers & Ottawa).

So yes, the regular season does count for something but the current playoff format doesn't necessarily yield the easiest path for top finishers.

* See also NHL Tiebreaker Rules and Playoff Seeding.