By now you’ve probably heard about yesterday’s Draft Lottery in which a mystery team to be decided later won the 1st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Of course, because the Golden Knights don’t suck, they had no chance at winning last night’s lottery and because they were one of the eight best teams in the league at the pause, they also have no shot at becoming the mystery team.
The NHL’s first live event in more than 100 days was conducted without the Golden Knights, and Vegas fans should be proud that it was.
Many Vegas fans probably don’t even remember the only time the Golden Knights were actually involved in the Draft Lottery, so I figured today was a good day to take a trip down memory lane to reminisce about the days when Stanley Cup hope was more a joke than a realistic feeling. (It’ll also remind you of why you never want your team’s fate to rest on the lottery.)
The date was April 29th, 2017. Six months after the Golden Knights got their name and two months before they picked their players at the Expansion Draft. (The team had signed Gerard Gallant two weeks prior and they were a week away from signing Vadim Shipachyov)
Historically, expansion teams are awarded the 1st overall pick in the Entry Draft to go along with their selections in the Expansion Draft. However, since the NHL believed the rules of that Expansion Draft were the best they’d ever had, the decision was made to give Vegas a high place in the lottery as opposed to an automatic top pick.
The rules stated that Vegas would have the same odds as the team that finished with the 3rd worst points percentage in the 2016-17 season. That team ended up being the Arizona Coyotes. Both teams were given a 10.3% chance to win the 1st overall pick and about a 30% chance to land in the top three.
Here were the Golden Knights exact odds in that lottery.
1st – 10.3%
2nd – 10.3%
3rd – 10.1%
4th – 11.8%
5th – 39.3%
6th – 18.1%
The lottery was slated to take place between a pair of playoff games at around 5PM Vegas time. All of the participating GMs flew to Toronto to be there for the unveiling of the 2017 Draft order. Vegas’ GM, however, got stuck in Washington DC after his flight was delayed due to weather. (That was probably foreshadowing of what was to come when the order was read.)
Due to travel complications, George McPhee will be unable to attend the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery in person. In his place will be Tom Poraszka.
— y-Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 29, 2017
When the balls were pulled, the New Jersey Devils won the 1st pick with their 8.5% chance, Philadelphia hit the second lottery with just a 2.4% shot, and Dallas moved up from 8th to 3rd with their 6.4% chance. Meaning three teams all slotted below the Golden Knights moved up and Vegas went from a 30.7% chance to select in the top three, to seeing the just 18% chance of selecting 6th become a reality.
To make matters worse, Dallas’s 3rd pick was won with the combination of numbers reading 2, 6, 8, 13. If that last number was a 14, the Golden Knights would have selected 3rd.
So the Golden Knights fell as far as they could leaving them out of the top five picks completely. Here’s how the first six picks of the Draft went a few months later.
1st – New Jersey – Nico Hischier (209 GP, 135 PTS)
2nd – Philadelphia – Nolan Patrick (145GP, 61 PTS)
3rd – Dallas – Miro Heiskanen (150 GP, 68 PTS)
4th – Colorado – Cale Makar (57 GP, 50 PTS)
5th – Vancouver – Elias Pettersson (139 GP, 132 PTS)
6th – Vegas – Cody Glass (39 GP, 12 PTS)
All in all, the Draft Lottery was a nightmare for the Golden Knights on the day it happened and now three years later it hurts even more seeing just how close they were to players like Heiskanen, Makar, and Pettersson.
The Golden Knights had an 82% chance of selecting in the top 5 but the ping pong balls had other ideas.
And that is the story of the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery. One of the most forgettable nights in franchise history.