Hockey History: Getting Bumped In the NHL Draft Lottery


Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday night, the Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery which allowed them to move up from their original number two draft spot to number one. The Florida Panthers by virtue of having the NHL’s worst record originally held the number one spot but were bumped down to the second spot by Colorado losing.

My reaction to seeing the Panthers lose the number one pick was mild, after all we have no idea what the future holds for the players at the tops of this year’s draft and just because a player is ranked higher than another now it does not mean that player will have a better NHL career. (The 2007 NBA draft comes to mind)

In order to get a better handle on what might happen, I thought it would be smart to look back on what has happened so below is an examination of all the historical situations (since 1995 when the draft lottery began) where a team with the number one pick has been usurped by another team by virtue of winning the NHL Draft Lottery.

First here are some quick rules and clarifications:

  • I am only looking at situations where a team moves to the number one slot as a result of winning the lottery. Before this year’s rule change, the NHL only allowed a team to move up five spots in the draft by winning the lottery so only teams in the top five prior to the lottery could possibly move up to number one by winning the lottery. Because of that, there are instances where teams win the lottery and do not move to number one for example in 1999 the Chicago Blackhawks moved from 8th to 4th. I will not be looking at those instances.
  • I did not include the 2oo5 draft when the Penguins selected Sidney Crosby. The draft lottery was different that year coming off the locked out season. In was has become known as the “Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes”, teams were assigned one to three ball for the lottery based on a number of factors. Because no one team had a higher chance to win than any other team, this draft does not fit the criteria I will be looking at.

2000 NHL Draft:

Feb 11, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie

Rick DiPietro

(39) keeps an eve on the puck for a save during the second period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Lottery: New York Islanders moved up from 5th to 1st, bumping the Atlanta Thrashers to 2nd

Number 1 pick: New York Islanders selected Rick Dipietro (G)

Number 2 pick: Atlanta Thrashers selected Dany Heatley (RW)

Rick Dipietro never really lived up to the billing that comes with being the number one pick in the draft. From 03-08 he was the Islanders number one goalie and put up decent numbers. He has a sub .500 record for his career (130-136-28) a .902 SV% and spent most of this season playing in the AHL. Dipietro will be remembered for the ridiculous 15 year $67,500,000 contract he was given before the 06-07 season (the Islanders will be paying him 4.5 mill a year until 2021) and for having his face broken in a 2011 goalie fight with career backup Brent Johnson.

Dany Heatley started out his Thrasher career in style winning the Calder Memorial Trophy his rookie year and finishing his sophomore season with 89 points. Things took a nasty turn when Heatley got into a car accident that resulted in the death of his passenger, teammate Dan Snyder. Heatley who had been drinking but was below the legal limit was charged with vehicular homicide but avoided trial by accepting a plea bargain. The accident effectively ended Heatley’s Atlanta career as he requested a trade prior to the 05-06 season in part because of the painful memories that came from playing in Atlanta.Heatley has gone on to have a steady career and is currently with the Minnesota Wild, although he is injured and will miss the playoffs.

Outcome: Draw

Heatley has gone on to have a better career than Dipietro but most of that career came playing for teams other than Atlanta. Both players helped their teams for a few seasons before dropping into obscurity, in Dipietro’s case, or moving on to other teams, in Heatley’s case. Looking back, neither team has enjoyed marked success as a direct result of the Islanders winning the number one pick in the lottery.

2001 NHL Draft:

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Lottery: Atlanta Thrashers moved from 3rd to 1st displacing the New York Islanders who traded the 2nd pick to the Ottawa Senators on draft day

Number 1 pick: Atlanta Thrashers selected Ilya Kovalchuk

Number 2 pick: Ottawa Senators selected Jason Spezza

Over the long run, Jason Spezza has done more for the Senators than Kovalchuk did for the Thrashers. Kovalchuk was the better scorer but in his eight seasons his Thrashers only made the playoffs once. Spezza on the other hand has played his entire career with the Senators including seven trips to the playoffs and one trip to the Stanley cup finals.

Advantage: Ottawa

The Senators with Spezza have had better fortunes than Atlanta with Kovalchuk but the big losers in 2001 were the New York Islanders. The Islanders made a draft day trade with the Ottawa Senators for Aelxei Yashin. In additions to sending their number two pick, which netted Ottawa Jason Spezza, they also sent a player by the name of Zdeno Chara.

2002 NHL Draft:

Lottery: The Florida Panthers moved up to number one from the 3rd pick displacing the Atlanta Thrashers. Florida then traded their number one pick to Columbus for the Blue Jackets’ first round pick (number three)

Number 1 pick: Columbus Blue Jackets selected Rick Nash

Number 2 pick: Atlanta Thrashers selected Kari Lehtonen

Number 3 pick: Florida Panthers selected Jay Bouwmeester

Advantage: Columbus

Who really wins when three of the leagues most downtrodden teams elect at the top of the draft? At this point I was thinking we would have seen some teams that used their top pick as a catapult towards future success but instead we keep talking about the damn Atlanta Thrashers. Anyway even though Columbus never did much with Rick Nash, he was still a prolific scorer and amazingly helped Columbus qualify for the playoffs in 08-09. Lehtonen was strong in net for the Thrashers during his five seasons with the team and Atlanta did qualify for the playoffs in 06-07. As for Jay Bouwmeester? Suffice to say Jay and the Panthers never made much noise and Jay is finally making his playoff debut this year with the Blues.

2003 NHL Draft:

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Lottery: The Florida Panthers moved up to the top slot from 3rd displacing the Carolina Hurricanes. Florida again traded their top pick, this time moving back to the 3rd spot in a trade with the Penguins.

Number 1 pick: Pittsburgh Penguins selected Marc-Andre Fleury

Number 2 pick: Carolina Hurricanes selected Eric Staal

Number 3 pick: Florida Panthers selected Nathan Horton

Advantage: Not the Panthers

In the 2003 draft Pittsburgh and Carolina each drafted players that would play keys roles on Stanley Cup winning teams. The Panthers drafted Nathan Horton who played a key role on a Stanley Cup winner also, the Boston Bruins. You could debate which of these players has helped their teams out the most the only thing that cannot be debated is: it wouldn’t have mattered which of these players the Panthers drafted because they would assuredly have gone on to trade that player and watch them win a Stanley Cup elsewhere.

2004 NHL Draft:

Lottery: The Washington Capitals moved from 3rd to 1st displacing the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Number 1 pick: Washington Capitals selected Alex Ovechkin

Number 2 pick: Pittsburgh Penguins selected Evgeni Malkin

Advantage: Penguins

This one is obviously close and I am giving the edge to Pittsburgh just because they won a cup with Malkin. Both of these players are huge talents and neither team can really go wrong with either one. With both teams in the playoffs this season, this battle is far from decided.

2007 NHL Draft:

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Lottery: The Chicago Blackhawks moved up from 5th to 1st displacing the Philadelphia Flyers

Number 1 pick: Chicago Blackhawks selected Patrick Kane

Number 2 pick: Philadelphia Flyers selected James van Riemsdyk

Advantage: Blackhawks

Lets see, Patrick Kane scored the Stanley Cup winning goal for the Blackhawks in the 2009-10 season while James van Riemsdyk scored 47 goals in three seasons with Philly before being traded to Toronto. Here is one instance where the lottery played a huge role in deciding the fortunes of two teams. Keep in mind that when they Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, their opponent was Philadelphia. Patrick Kane had 28 points in those playoffs, van Riemsdyk had six. ‘Nuff said.

2012 NHL Draft:

Lottery: The Edmonton Oilers moved from the 2nd to 1st pick displacing the Columbus Blue Jackets

Number 1 pick: Edmonton Oilers select Nail Yakupov

Number 2 pick: Columbus Blue Jackets select Ryan Murray

Advantage: Oilers

While it is still way to early to judge the impact of these players, the early returns favor Yakupov. He scored 17 goals and 14 assists and tied Jonathan Huberdeau for the NHL rookie scoring lead. Murray on the other hand got hurt playing in the WHL during the lockout did not play in the NHL this year.