By Katie Adler
The NHL’s Draft Lottery did not favor the Capitals this year, instead choosing the Chicago Blackhawks to pick first overall. The Caps will pick at eighth overall, choosing in the top 10 for the first time since 2007.
Though the Capitals ultimately lost out on a top-two pick, it was closer than any of us thought. In fact, the Caps had a shot at winning the lottery down to the very last ball.
To explain, we’re going to need a rundown on how the draft works behind the scenes. Fair warning, this is tedious and complicated, because the NHL rarely makes things simple.
Though the results were announced on-air Monday evening, the lottery itself was held earlier in the day. Fourteen ping-pong balls were loaded into a lottery machine, and four were selected. Each four-number combination (without regard to order) was assigned to a specific team, with 1,001 total combinations available (11-12-13-14 would signify a redraw.)
After the results were announced, the league published the video of commissioner Gary Bettman directing the draw. It is both incredibly dry and unintentionally funny; please enjoy.
The Capitals had a 6 percent chance of winning, with 60 total combinations that would have won them the pick, for 6% odds. If you’re interested, you can read the full rules and see the combinations in the NHL’s “interactive information guide” here. (Major kudos to RMNB Crashers Kurly and Tyler Smith for running the numbers on how this went down.)
The first three balls drawn for the first lottery were 5, 13, and 4. That narrowed it down to 11 possible options for the final combination. If the last ball was a 3, Washington would have gotten the first overall pick with combination #514.
By the time the final lottery ball was drawn, half of the teams in the lottery had already been eliminated from contention. Only eight teams still had a shot with the final number — though Anaheim, Chicago, and San Jose had the best odds with two possible combinations each.
At that point, the Caps’ odds had actually improved above 6.0 percent –they were at 7.34 percent after one ball was picked, and 9.09 percent after balls two and three. Alas, ball number nine was drawn for the Blackhawks, leaving the Caps on the outside looking in.
Here’s who would have drawn with the other options:
*Had Nashville been selected, lottery rules meant they would have only moved up 10 spots to draft fifth overall
These were all the possible winning combinations remaining by team:
Another opportunity slipped through the Capitals’ fingers for the second lottery draw, where they were once again one ball away from victory. That time, the balls drawn were 9, 8, 10, and 6; if the last ball was a five instead of a six, the pick would have gone to Washington.
Ping-pong math aside, the Caps can still draft an excellent player at their current position. Check out who they might pick here. The 2023 NHL Draft will be held June 28th and 29th in Nashville, TN.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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