Spoiler alert: The Buffalo Sabres will win tonight’s NHL draft lottery with the numbers 11, 5, 6 and 7. Your trusty correspondent knows this because he went to this really cool website that simulates the NHL draft lottery and it told him so.
Then he did it 99 more times because, like a certain potato chip, you can’t do it only once. The website, http://nhllotterysimulator.com/#/official, took on a new life on Friday when the NHL made public the lottery number combinations for each of the 14 teams in the event. Suddenly, fans everywhere could, with the click of a keyboard, determine where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will end up next season.
The website was the creation of a 24-year-old Buffalo-based web developer by the name of Rob Zaenglein, a Sabres fan who has suffered through a season where his team was the most inept in the NHL. “I did it mostly out of boredom,” Zaenglein said. “It’s been a pretty long season here.”
The website has more than one million page views since it was introduced just after the all-star break, but more than 200,000 of those have come since the league published the numbers on Friday. Perhaps he should have known this would happen. The hockey world has been obsessed with where McDavid will end up much of this season, with the intensity becoming white-hot since the end of the regular season. Still, Zaenglein never imagined his venture would be this popular.
“I kind of expected it around here because people were so crazy about the whole tanking thing,” Zaenglein said. “But it has been so much more popular in Toronto. I never expected that at all.”
It’s been so popular, in fact, that a Toronto golf club is advertising on the website, even though Zaenglein hasn’t cashed in on the increased exposure. “He gave me a free round of golf,” Zaenglein said. “I would say he’s getting a pretty great deal.”
Part of the issue is the use of NHL team logos. He was turned down by the league when he applied to use the team logos, but is able to use them as long as he doesn’t make any money off their use. But this was never about making a profit for Zaenglein. He admits he doesn’t understand why the site would have been popular before the NHL made its lottery numbers public, but says now that is has, “I can’t stop playing it.”
It is rather difficult to quit. For purposes of research, I drew four balls 100 times and the Sabres, who have a 20 percent chance of winning the lottery, had their numbers come up 17 times and the Arizona Coyotes, with a 13.5 percent chance, won 14 times. The Edmonton Oilers (11.5 percent) had 12 wins, while the Toronto Maple Leafs (9.5 percent chance) had just seven wins.
The Carolina Hurricanes have just an 8.5 percent chance of winning, but won the lottery 11 times, while the Dallas Stars, with just a 2.5 percent chance, took it six times. The Columbus Blue Jackets, with a six percent chance, won eight. The New Jersey Devils (7.5 percent chance), won seven times; the Philadelphia Flyer (6.5 percent chance) won five; the San Jose Sharks (five percent chance) won four, the Colorado Avalanche (3.5 percent chance) and Florida Panthers (three percent chance) each won three; the Los Angeles Kings (two percent chance) won two and the Boston Bruins (one percent chance) won one.
But the Sabres won the first one and when the balls fall tonight, that’s all that will count. (Just did it five more times and the winners were Toronto, Florida, Carolina, Toronto and Buffalo. See what we mean?) For his part Zaenglein would love to see the Sabres win, but they’ve already won in his mind because the consolation prize if they don’t win the lottery is Eichel and he’s fine with that. “If you’re going to predict, you’d have to say Buffalo because they have the best chance, but they don’t have a good chance,” Zaenglein said. “I’m taking a flyer on Columbus. At this point, I really don’t care anymore.”