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NHL Draft Lottery Format: Missed Marketing Opportunity

Now that the Connor Bedard mystery destination has been identified and the first-round pick in the Jacob Chychrun trade has been assigned, I had an idea I wanted to share about how I think the NHL is leaving money on the table as it relates to the Draft Lottery. I also think this idea would help eliminate any of the remaining conspiracy theorists who claim the process is rigged for big market teams.

I don’t go too far down the conspiracy theory rabbit holes, but I can see when a process is carried out in private and then shared with the public, that when a large market team rises from lower odds to get the top selection, that people might think there is an agenda at play even with Frank Seravalli’s piece trying to shed some light on the legitimacy.

I can also understand why people might only tune into the last 10 minutes of the draft lottery show to see who wins. Bill Daly is no Vanna White.

Why not have a format that both adds to the suspense and credibility of the event at the same time?

The Edmonton Oilers have won the Draft Lottery three times (2010, 2012 and 2015) and they are not a large market team by any means. They also retained the first overall pick when New Jersey won the Draft Lottery in 2011. It’s also worth noting that Ottawa won the Draft Lottery in 1996 when they got Chris Phillips, and they retained the number one overall pick when they selected Bryan Berard in 1995 (Kings won the draft lottery). Maybe the Senators do have a bit of draft lottery luck.

Now try to imagine the watch parties the night of the lottery if the results happened in real time. The league has been waiting on Connor Bedard for two years. Before him it was Matthews in 2016 and McDavid in 2015. Franchise altering players are a huge focus for the game and the odds of landing them are calculated down the 10th of a decimal point.

The odds for the 2023 lottery were as follows:

Going into the Draft Lottery, all the teams and their fans know that there can only be one team moving up and that potentially none will. In the end, it all seems like a lot of effort to have very little in the way of disruption from the original draft order.

How can the league sell more advertising revenue for this broadcast, make it more suspenseful and increase engagement for the entire broadcast?

Why not have a giant lottery ball with the number of balls a team has in the machine reflecting their odds to winning? The team with the best odds of winning (Anaheim) would have the most balls in the machine.

As long as a team still has a ball in the machine, they can still win the draft lottery. The team with the last ball out of the machine wins the draft lottery. It doesn’t mean they win the number one pick overall. Same rules would apply as to how far a team can drop or move up.

I can see the obvious obstacle being “How can you have a ball in the machine reflecting a fraction of a percentage point?” This is where some compromise might make sense where they either do odds with no decimal points and round to the nearest integer or get the folks at Ernst & Young to do the math and figure out how many balls would be required to make it work.

Others might wonder how long is this is going to take. If people are watching, who cares? Fans watch the first round of the NHL or NFL draft on TV, and it takes three hours. Having someone release a ball from the machine every 15 seconds with an electronic tracker tabulating the number of balls dropped and the number of balls remaining per team would make for must-watch TV.

As long as you have a television, you must be keenly aware of how easy it is to place an in-game bet or parlay in the middle of a sporting event. Same would apply to the Draft Lottery. Every ball that drops out changes the odds. In game betting would go through the roof. The websites would probably go down from all the traffic. It would be the second coming of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facemash at Harvard.

Assuming they would even go to a commercial at any point in the broadcast, fans would be dying to know how many balls dropped while the ad was running and if their team was affected. The one to two minutes of not knowing would be excruciating.

James Duthie and his panel of experts would provide the commentary and they would have live genuine reaction of GMs, Owners and Fans in bars all over North America which would make the event so much more palpable.

This would put the NHL Trade deadline to shame. Now let's get Gary Bettman and Bill Daly on the line and make this happen!


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