# Can Chicago Blackhawks beat the lottery odds again? The math says a Macklin Celebrini-Connor Bedard pairing isn’t so far-fetched.

Connor Bedard and Macklin Celebrini will play together in the near future — for Team Canada.

Both were named to the team that begins competing Saturday in the IIHF World Championship in Prague.

As for the young cornerstones having a future together as Chicago Blackhawks? Well, that’s a whole other matter.

The Hawks would have to win Tuesday night’s NHL draft lottery (5:30 p.m., ESPN) to land Celebrini, the consensus No. 1 pick, which means they would have to beat stiff odds. Again.

Last year the Hawks had the third-best chance (11.5%) to win the first pick — and the right to draft Bedard — and they beat those odds.

This year their 23-53-6 finish awarded them the second-best odds (13.5%), but what are the chances lightning strikes twice?

Not as crazy as you think.

The odds are long but nowhere near Mega Millions kind of astronomical.

“You multiply those (13.5% and 11.5%) together, that gives you the probability of winning both,” said Brendan Kumagai, a data scientist at Zelus Analytics, a sports analytics company. “That’s (a) 1.55% (chance) of winning both lotteries.”

Davidson College mathematics and computer science professor Tim Chartier, who wrote the book “Get in the Game:
An Interactive Introduction to Sports Analytics,” agrees with that figure.

“So what does 1.5% mean?” he told the Tribune via email. “If the Blackhawks had exactly these odds year after year, in a century of NHL lotteries, they’d only have back-to-back No. 1 picks one or two times.

“Try flipping a coin three times. You are more likely to get three tails than the Blackhawks winning the No. 1 pick.”

However, there’s a flip side to that math. The lottery isn’t like running simulations, in which probabilities are more likely to manifest themselves with each try.

“It isn’t a matter of flipping three times and seeing if you get three tails, (where) if you don’t succeed, just try again and again,” Chartier said. “The lottery is just once. So part of that luck is having those odds fall ever in your favor just once, when the winner is decided.”

Kumagai added that in the world of statistics, any first-draw winner of the 16 eligible teams would amount to a “reasonable” outcome.

And the teams with the 11 highest chances (particularly the top seed) gain even more of an edge because lottery rules restrict teams to moving up a maximum of 10 spots, eliminating the other five from contending for the No. 1 pick.

The top-seeded San Jose Sharks have been assigned 18.5% odds to win the top pick, but it’s really a 25% chance when you factor in the excluded teams.

Looked at another way, however, that also means that “three out of four times, the Sharks aren’t going to win, right?” Kumagai said. “(The odds) kind of balance it out where if anyone wins, it’s still reasonable.

“It’s not like you’re looking at someone having like a 1,000-to-1 shot going into the lottery or someone having a 90% chance of winning. From a probabilistic standpoint, looking at any one of these teams, it’s tough to say they stumped the odds, that anything would be shocking.”

Winning back-to-back lotteries has happened once in the NHL and twice in the NBA:

• Florida Panthers: won in 2002 (moved up from third to first; had 14.2% lottery odds) and 2003 (fourth to first; 10.7%).

• Cleveland Cavaliers: won in 2013 (third to first; 15.6%) and 2014 (ninth to first; 1.7%).

• Orlando Magic: won in 1992 (second to first; 15.5%) and 1993 (11th to first; 1.52%).

“So (the Panthers) were kind of in this similar situation” to the Hawks, Kumagai said. “Chicago had the third-best odds last year and second this year. Florida had the third-best odds their first year, then fourth the next year.”

According to Kumagai, the Edmonton Oilers most recently had the best chance of going back-to-back. It was a time when the lottery format showed greater favor to the last-place finisher, and teams could move up only four spots.

The Oilers won the top pick in 2010 with the best odds (25%), but the same odds couldn’t secure a repeat in 2011.

“That’s a 12.5% chance that they win those two lotteries in a row,” Kumagai said.

The Oilers did win it again in 2012 with 18.8% odds, which were second-best at the time.

In 2007 the Hawks won the lottery with 8.1% odds and selected Patrick Kane, a centerpiece of their Stanley Cup wins in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

The next year their odds were just 1.5%.

“The chance of back-to-back with those chances is 0.1%,” Chartier said. “That means in 1,000 years of the draft, it would happen only once.”

Indiana University professor emeritus of decision sciences Wayne L. Winston looked at the whole league (not just the lottery teams) to determine the probability of a team winning the lottery twice in a row.

He picked a random year between 2009-10 and 2022-23, and a random team, and ran 10,000 simulations based on the odds of each team winning the lottery

“I would just say, looking at the behavior of teams’ performances year to year and the way the NHL determined the lottery odds, I would say, on average, we would have expected one team to win the lottery back-to-back from 2009 to the present,” Winston said. “And there’s a reasonable chance that it could have happened two times,” once each to two teams.

“The chance that it would have never happened is 37%,” he said. “The chance it would have happened exactly once, it’s 37%. The chance that it would have happened twice (consecutively) is 18%. And three times it’s almost no chance. … If the Blackhawks do it, that would mean it happened (two consecutive years), but that would have had an 18% chance of happening.”

He joked, “I would’ve thought that meant it was fixed.”

As for Tuesday’s lottery reveal, Kumagai, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, said he’ll be happy with whoever ends up with the winning combination of lottery balls. There will be two winners from two draws that will determine the order of the draft, which takes place June 28 at Sphere in Las Vegas.

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“I’ll definitely be tuning in to it,” he said. “I just enjoy everything hockey. … I love nerding out about this stuff.

“(As a) hockey fan, I think it could be exciting if Chicago wins to see Celebrini and Bedard in the same play together.”

That is, if the Hawks went that route. Last month Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson wore a playful smirk when it was mentioned that everyone knows Celebrini is a lock to be the No. 1 pick.

“Do we? We went through this last year too,” he said. “As painful as the losses and this season was, we look forward, and what’s ahead next on the calendar is the lottery. And so we’ve got a 13.5% chance, and hopefully we win and hopefully we move up.

“But even if we don’t, even if we slide back, we’re going to get a really good player. And it’s about collecting talent, collecting pieces, and we’re certainly going to do that in a very meaningful way with our first pick.”

The No. 1 pick would go a long way toward that end.

Whoever it turns out to be, “to see that first overall pick and Bedard play together could be a super-exciting tandem to watch for years to come,” Kumagai said.