Before Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announced it on national television, the Chicago Blackhawks won the NHL draft lottery and Connor Bedard.
In a small NHL Network studio, Bedard, hockey’s top prospect since Connor McDavid, was selected 80 minutes earlier. The Anaheim Ducks took the second pick.
Three media agencies attended the possibly franchise-changing drawing, including the Associated Press. The league archived it.
The inside story:
Before the drawing, Daly, Bettman, and numerous league executives lingered about. One TV screen displayed the lottery odds of every non-playoff team, while another displayed an Excel table with the top 16 picks.
Daly left the room unaware of his findings.
A briefcase of lottery balls was on a table next to the blue machine with the 2023 NHL draft lottery logo. Senior executive vice president Steve Mayer said draft lotteries were most dramatic between the third and fourth balls. Final preparations for the event needed sequestering and technology blackouts at 6:40 p.m. EDT to prevent lottery results leaks. Before the proceedings began, Bettman said, “If anyone’s not planning to stay in the room, now is the time to leave.” Phones were collected in manila envelopes and stored.
Bettman began the proceedings by saying it was 6:45 p.m. and showing the Bergen Record, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times from May 8, 2023.
Bettman detailed the lottery, from the draws for the top two picks to the 2021 adjustments that limited how many clubs could move up to No. 1. To calculate the winner’s odds, he listed 1,001 combinations, one of which is an automatic redraw.
League worst Anaheim Ducks had 185 winning combinations but 255 because no team may go up more than 10 slots. Columbus had 135 winning combinations and Chicago 115.
Bettman introduced Ernst & Young accountant Scott Clarke and Smartplay International lottery technician Martin Gorbachik with 11 teams and clear guidelines. Bettman cited Arizona’s Alex Meruelo Jr. and Philadelphia’s Tom Minton, as well as media members who were instructed to wave to the camera.
“Any questions?” Bettman asked. “No questions. No hands raised. I suggest proceeding.”
Gorbachik placed each lottery ball, numbered 1-14, in the machine. Bettman then instructed NHL VP of events Thomas Meaney to face the wall, turn his back to the machine, and shout for a number every 20 seconds.
No. 5 was drawn first by Meaney. 13 followed, then 4.
The third and fourth balls came out of the machine within seconds, but several teams still had a chance at Bedard. Anaheim, Columbus, San Jose, Washington, St. Louis, and Arizona would have received the No. 1 pick if it was 6, 7, 10, or 11.
9 o’clock. Clarke announced the Chicago Blackhawks as the winner. Bettman simply said, “The Chicago Blackhawks will have the first selection of the 2023 NHL draft,” and requested Gorbachik to reload the machine. He from 1-14.
The second choice yielded 9, 8, 10, and 6. Clarke notified Bettman at 7:02 p.m. that combination belonged to the Anaheim Ducks, who lost their final 13 games to finish lowest among 32 clubs.
“So we have Chicago with the first pick, Anaheim with the second and sequenced down,” Bettman added. The drawing concludes. Please be quiet until the results are announced.
Bettman and grandson Matthew remained in the room with the other witnesses for an hour after the top two picks were drawn.
NHL executive VP of events Dean Matsuzaki and others created cards with the proper team logos for the picks from No. 16 down. Bettman was requested to double-check the work before 7:30 p.m.
After a few minutes, Clarke and Daly moved the stack of cards into the studio for the live broadcast. Daly revealed picks 16–3 at 8:12 p.m.
Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson remembered the order of clubs and understood they were still in it when it came down to the final three.
“I was happy we got that far,” Davidson added. “I was mentally preparing for 4, 5 because that’s what the odds kind of said would happen, so prepare for that but hope for the best, and things broke our way.”
Daly displayed the Columbus Blue Jackets logo for the third choice at 8:21 p.m. Anaheim GM Pat Verbeek replied, “Turn the card.”
“Let’s kill the suspense here and get after it,” Verbeek said afterward.
Daly revealed the Blackhawks’ first pick and the Ducks’ second.
Verbeek exclaimed, “We picked 2.” “We can pick a great player.”
Other top-five prospects include Canadian forward Adam Fantilli, Sweden’s Leo Carlsson, and Russia’s Matvei Michkov.