History has a quirky way of telling us everything and nothing at the same time.
On one hand, there's the well-known adage that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
On the other hand, when it comes to the NHL Draft Lottery, it only takes one proverbial ping-pong ball to change the course of history — and in this case, a franchise.
For that reason alone, Tuesday's draft lottery is must-see television. But for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it's must-see TV times two.
A quick refresher: The Blue Jackets have a pair of potential picks in Tuesday's lottery — their own and the protected first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. If the math holds, Columbus will select 7th and 12th in July's entry draft. The 12th pick would be their own, and one they have an 85.7% chance to select from. The pick that is most likely to come in at number seven is from the Blackhawks. While Chicago finished with the sixth-worst record, they have a higher likelihood to choose 7th (41.4%) than they do 6th (34.1%) because the odds say that a team below them in the standings will catapult into the top five as a result of a little bit of lottery luck.
|CBJ via CHI||6th||34.1%|
|CBJ via CHI||7th||41.4%|
|CBJ via CHI||8th||9.1%|
If Chicago wins one of the top two picks — something that has a 15.4% chance of happening — they keep the pick until next summer's draft, and Columbus would only get first-round pick, ranging from the least-likely scenario of 'winning' the 14th pick (0.2%) to the aforementioned, highly likely 12th pick. The Blue Jackets do have a 5.3% chance of getting a top-three pick, but they cannot win the number one pick. That's because starting last summer, the NHL implemented a rule that a team can't move up more than ten spots in a lottery. In other words, only the 11 worst teams have a crack at the top spot.
With that in mind, how have things shaken out in recent lotteries? Here's a look at the five most recent lottery results, and the results show that Tuesday is very much worth watching.
2021: Mostly Nothin'
The 2021 lottery was about as chalk as it can get. The only change of the entire lottery was a swap between the Seattle Kraken and Anaheim Ducks that saw Seattle jump Anaheim to pick second, dropping the Ducks to third. The Blue Jackets were given fifth-best odds (8.5%) of the top pick and were most likely to pick sixth (45.8%), but the 20.6% odds that there would be no change and that Columbus would pick 5th overall held firm. If the 2021 lottery results are repeated Tuesday, the Blue Jackets would pick 6th and 12th.
2020: Just Plain Crazy
This was a wild one. Because of Covid, only the bottom seven teams were out of the postseason bubble, and thus, knew their place in the lottery order. The eight teams that lost the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were then placed in spots 8 through 15, but those weren't known at the time of the lottery and those teams were labeled as Team A, Team B, etc. They were literally given placeholder labels. Really long, moderately complicated story made short: "Team E" was in the same spot the Blue Jackets find themselves in this lottery. They were most likely to pick 12th (78.0%) and had an outside (2.5%) chance of going as high in the order in the order as possible. In 2020, as high as possible was the number one pick — this year, it's number two. Who was "Team E"? The New York Rangers, who took the 2.5% chance and ran with it all the way to the top spot. The bad news is that because of a rule change after this lottery, this exact scenario can't play out again: the Blue Jackets can't win the lottery. But if the ping pong balls fall Tuesday as they did in 2020, the Blue Jackets would be picking second (their pick) and seventh (Chicago's).
2019: Just Plain Crazier
The 2019 lottery rivals the 2020 one as being absolutely insane, and is at least part of the reason for the rule changes. The Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings were given the two best chances at the top pick, but ended up selecting 4th and 5th. Why? Because the New Jersey Devils, who had the third-best odds at winning the lottery, claimed the top spot.
But here's where things get good, and stick with me here: the second pick went to those damn Rangers again, who in this lottery, were given the sixth-best odds at the top spot — the same spot the Blackhawks find themselves in this summer. As if that's not enough, the third pick went to the Blackhawks, who jumped up into the top three after being given the 12th-best odds to win the lottery — yes, the same spot Columbus finds themselves in this summer. If this result played out again in 2021, the Blue Jackets would have the third overall pick in the draft and would own Chicago's unprotected pick next year.
2018: Close, But No Cigar
The 2018 draft lottery saw the team with the 11th-best odds at winning one of the (three, at the time) lotteries make the jump. The Carolina Hurricanes went from 11th to second, bumping the top ten teams down one spot each. If this scenario played out in the 2022 lottery, the Blue Jackets would pick 7th (Chicago's) and 12th — the most likely scenario to play out, according to the math.
2017: Also Close, But Also No Cigar
While the 2018 lottery saw the team in the 11th spot make the leap, the 2017 draft lottery saw the Philadelphia Flyers jump 11 spots from 13th to 2nd. That wouldn't be able to happen in this summer's draft because of the 10-spot limit, but it's yet another example (the 4th in five drafts) of a team outside the top ten making a leap into the top three. If the 2017 scenario played out Tuesday, Columbus would select 8th and 13th.
What makes Tuesday so intriguing is that the Blue Jackets are mostly in a can't-lose scenario. The worst-case scenario is a matter of opinion: there is a world in which Columbus gets one pick in the first round this summer and it's the 14th pick. But in the nearly astronomical odds that it goes down that like, it means that the Blue Jackets have Chicago's unprotected pick next summer, in what many consider to be one of the deepest drafts in history — and certainly deeper than this the one coming this July.
If It Played Out Again
Where Columbus would pick if recent lotteries came to fruition again in 2022:
- 2021: 6th + 12th
- 2020: 2nd + 7th
- 2019: 3rd + 2023
- 2018: 7th + 12th
- 2017: 8th + 13th
In the most likely scenario, the Blue Jackets will have two of the first 12 picks in the draft. They had that last summer, and the prize of Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger was one that reenergized the franchise.
But that "most likely" scenario has only played out once in the last five lotteries, and in three of the four in which it didn't, the Blue Jackets would — if it happens again — find themselves to be the beneficiary of a little bit of draft luck. The pair of top seven picks they'd have if this lottery played out like the one did two years ago? Fantastic. The 2019 scenario that would see Columbus with a top-three pick this July and two potential lottery picks next summer in a deep draft? That's possibly even better.
No matter what, the roadmap to Columbus' future will start Tuesday.