The shootout loss in Carolina Thursday night guaranteed that the Canadiens can finish no better than 28th in the NHL’s final standings.  That’s the bad news.   The good news is, the Canadiens cannot fall lower than fourth when the league holds it’s Draft Lottery Tuesday night.  Even better, the Canadiens have a chance of drafting first overall, a slim 1-in-7 chance,   but a chance nevertheless.

For those who can’t fathom the complexities of the lottery, here are the basics.  All fourteen non-playoff teams participate but, since a team cannot gain more than four places, a team seeded lower than fifth can’t reach number one, even if they win the lottery. Last year, 8th ranked New Jersey won.  they best they could do is move  from 8th to 4th leaving the number one seed drafting first bumping the fourth through seventh seeds down a notch.

In the 16 year history of the draft, number one retained it’s position seven times incljding the last four years in a row.   It’s interesting the the second seeded team has never won, while number three has taken the top pick three times; fourth-to -first  once.   Twice,  the fifth seed, at more than 1-12 odds, nailed down number one;  the 2000 Islanders (they drafted goaltender Rick DiPietro)  and the 2007 Blackhawks  (Patrick Kane).

It would take a Canadiens loss to Toronto and an Edmonton win in Vancouver Saturday to move the Canadiens to second in the Lottery.  The odds of that happening are long.  So, assuming the Canadiens remain at third, they have a 14% chance of winning, a 70.3% chance of remaining where they are and a 28.7% chance of dropping to fourth overall.

Here’s are the chances for the top five lottery seeds.

2012-DRAFT DRAWING PROBABILITY CHART (standings through games of Thursday, April 5,2012)

Current ————-   PERCENTAGES OF ————-
Non-Playoff Club * Draft Pos. Pts If Selected Winning Getting 1st Dropping Not Dropping
Columbus 1 63 Retain 1st pick 25.0% 48.2% 51.8% 48.2%
Edmonton 2 74 2nd to 1st 18.8% 18.8% 39.2% 60.8%
Montreal 3 76 3rd to 1st 14.2% 14.2% 29.7% 70.3%
NY Islanders 4 79 4th to 1st 10.7% 10.7% 22.6% 77.4%
Toronto 5 80 5th to 1st   8.1%   8.1% 17.2% 82.8%

Winning – percentage chance of winning the Draft Drawing (see above, ‘If Selected’)     Getting 1st – percentage chance of being awarded the first overall pick as a result of the Draft Drawing        Dropping – percentage chance of moving down in the draft order as a result of the Draft Drawing        Not Dropping – percentage chance of not moving down in the draft order as a result of the Draft Drawing

Doug Wickenheiser - Drafted First Overall 1980 Entry Draft

Whether it’s first or fourth, it will be the Canadiens highest draft pick since 1980 when, thanks to a far-sighted 1976 trade by Sam Pollock, the Canadiens had the number one pick overall.  Pollock had traded two minor league forwards, Ron Andruff, Sean Shanahan plus their 19th overall pick to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for this pick.  Pollock had left the Canadiens when, in what has become an unending quest for a big centreman, drafted Doug Wickenheiser ahead of local favourite Denis Savard.  Savard was taken by Chicago third overall.

In the thirty-one ensuing years, the Canadiens highest picks were fifth, twice.  (Petr Svoboda in 1884 and Carey Price in 2005). 


Last year, the Edmonton Oilers were seeded number one in the draft lottery.  Eighth seeded New Jersey won the lottery and moved up the maximum four places in the draft.  Using the fourth choice, the Devils drafted Adam Larson while Edmonton, retaining number one, took Calder Trophy candidate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Results of Previous Draft Drawings

Year     Selected Effect On Draft Order Player Selected
1995 Los Angeles Moved from 7th to 3rd D Aki Berg
1996 Ottawa Retained 1st selection D Chris Phillips
1997 Boston Retained 1st selection C Joe Thornton
1998 Tampa Bay Moved from 3rd to 1st via trades C Vincent Lecavalier
1999 Chicago Moved from 8th to 4th RW Pavel Brendl *
2000 NY Islanders Moved from 5th to 1st G Rick DiPietro
2001 Atlanta Moved from 3rd to 1st LW Ilya Kovalchuk
2002 Florida Moved from 3rd to 1st LW Rick Nash **
2003 Florida Moved from 4th to 1st G Marc-Andre Fleury ***
2004 Washington Moved from 3rd to 1st LW Alex Ovechkin
2005 Pittsburgh n/a C Sidney Crosby
2006 St. Louis Retained 1st selection D Erik Johnson
2007 Chicago Moved from 5th to 1st RW Patrick Kane
2008 Tampa Bay Retained 1st selection C Steven Stamkos
2009 NY Islanders Retained 1st selection C John Tavares
2010 Edmonton Retained 1st selection LW Taylor Hall

* San Jose was selected, but Tampa Bay held the right to exchange first round selections with the Sharks.
** NY Rangers obtained Chicago’s pick in a trade (via Vancouver and Tampa Bay). The Rangers selected RW Pavel Brendl fourth overall.
*** Columbus obtained Florida’s pick in a trade. The Blue Jackets selected LW Rick Nash first overall.
^ Pittsburgh obtained Florida’s pick in a trade. The Penguins selected G Marc-Andre Fleury first overall.
^^ Due to a work stoppage, the draft order was not based on the previous seasons standing; all 30 teams were eligible for the first-overall selection.