Brian Burke on how he’d change NHL Draft Lottery system

HC analyst Brian Burke joins the Starting Lineup to discuss why doesn't love the current NHL Draft Lottery process, offering up some tweaks and solutions on how to make it better.

Perhaps he’s still salty about having to settle for Bobby Ryan instead of Sidney Crosby in 2005, but Brian Burke, like many hockey fans, isn’t fully satisfied with the current system the NHL has in place to determine the order of its annual draft.

Burke said during his To The Point segment this past weekend on Hockey Night in Canada that if it were up to him he’d make certain tweaks. The former NHL exec doubled down during a Wednesday appearance on The Starting Lineup, saying there are two main things he’d change about the draft lottery.

The first is the number of teams involved.

“The teams that need the most help, get the most help. That’s the theory of inverse order of finish,” Burke said. “Now you’ve got teams that openly talk about tanking, teams that clearly tanked, so we have to put in a lottery. I agree. I get it. But we’ve got all the non-playoff teams in the lottery and I think that’s a joke.”

A lottery system was first instituted in 1995 where all non-playoff teams participated in a weighted draw in which the winning team could move up a maximum of four spots. That meant a team had to finish as a bottom-five club in order to get the top pick in the draft. For example, the Devils won the lottery in 2011 but because of the rules they only moved from the eighth spot up to four.

The league tweaked that format in 2013 to give any non-playoff teams that won the lottery the first-overall pick then in 2016 added two additional lottery selections for the second- and third-overall picks.

“I think it should be five teams in the lottery,” Burke said as his first proposed tweak.

Simplifying the process and limiting it to five teams would eliminate a scenario like two years ago when the Flyers won the second lottery, moved up 11 spots to No. 2 and selected Nolan Patrick. Or like last year when Carolina moved up nine spots affording them the opportunity to draft Russian standout Andrei Svechnikov.

“The second tweak is we shouldn’t reward sustained failure,” Burke added. “So if you pick No. 1 overall you cannot pick No. 1 overall for three years. The best you can pick is four, you cannot pick in the top three, and if you pick twice in the top three you are relegated to no better than fourth for the next three years.”

This type of change would be a complicated one to implement. It would, however, prevent what we’ve seen with a team like the Oilers this decade. Edmonton picked first in 2010, 2011 and 2012 then won the rights to Connor McDavid in 2015.

The 2019 NHL Draft Lottery is scheduled for April 9 in Toronto, one day prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If it were up to you, what changes if any would you make to the NHL Draft Lottery? Let us know in the comments.

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