What happened inside the room as Sharks won NHL draft lottery draw

San Jose beat out the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks, among others, for the top overall pick on Tuesday.

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Editor's Note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California’s Sharks coverage. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.

SECAUCUS, N.J. — The biggest moment in San Jose Sharks history might not have happened on the ice but instead in a small, nondescript NHL Network conference room.

The NHL held the actual draft lottery draw about 60 minutes before the made-for-TV reveal, which happened close to 7 p.m. ET, in a two-story building the league shares with MLB Network.

Twenty-one people crammed into the roughly 12 foot-by-24 foot room. Among them were NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Ernst and Young auditor Scott Clarke and Smartplay International employee Will Markham.

Only one NHL team representative, Pittsburgh Penguins director of hockey operations and legal affairs Vukie Mpofu, attended the draw. Teams really don't send reps to either the actual draft lottery or the TV reveal anymore -- that was more of a pre-COVID thing. The Sharks, for example, didn't send anybody, even with former Jr. Shark Macklin Celebrini the prize of this draft lottery.

As for media, I was there, along with ESPN's Greg Wyshynski and NHL.com's Mike Morreale. Otherwise, league executives and staffers filled the room.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who revealed the draft lottery order on TV, wasn't in the room for the drawing. None of us were allowed out of the room for any reason until the reveal was complete, except for a couple key exceptions.

Celebrini, the presumed No. 1 overall pick, was in the building but not for the actual lottery.

At about 5:30 p.m., we all were ushered into the conference room and asked to place our phones in a sealed envelope. Laptops either were to be left unopened or in a backpack. There would be no leaks of the result before the on-TV announcement.

At 5:38, Bettman kicked off the proceedings by holding up two newspapers -- today's New York Times and the Wall Street Journal -- to certify it indeed was May 7, 2024. He then explained the draft lottery ground rules, and introduced team and media members who were in the room.

It took Bettman over five minutes to get through all the rules, but they were relevant in the end, as we were about to witness two significant, historic draft lottery events.

Fourteen lottery balls, numbered 1 through 14, were dropped into a Smartplay lottery machine, then mixed, by wind, in a clear chamber. Markham, who operated it, said the NBA, among others, uses their machines, and this exact machine is headed to Chicago for Sunday's NBA draft lottery.

From these 14 balls, four separate balls would be drawn to make a four-number combo. That combo -- 1,001 different ones are possible, all assigned to an individual team, except for one -- would be used to determine the NHL draft lottery winners. 11-12-13-14 would mean a redraw, to keep the winning calculations to a simple 1,000. The Sharks had 185 possible winning combos of the 1,001.

Two draws -- one for the No. 1 pick and another for the No. 2 pick -- are held.

"Draw!" NHL vice president of events Thomas Meaney shouted for the first draw, to determine which team would pick No. 1 overall. 

Current rules only allow teams to move up 10 spots in the draft lottery, so had any of the No. 12 through No. 16 teams won the draw, the Sharks automatically would have been given the No. 1 pick.

"10," Bettman announced as the first ball was revealed.

Meaney shouted for a draw every 20 seconds.


Each media and team member furiously tried to keep up by flipping through a five-page handout with all the possible winning combos and the corresponding team.


Perhaps the most important person in the room at that exact moment was Clarke, who has audited NHL draft lotteries since 2015. He also scanned the sheet, and he'd be the first to announce the winner.

At this point, with a 2-7-10 draw, the Sharks had five chances to win the lottery (with a 4, 9, 11, 13 or 14).

The No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks were a "3" away from leapfrogging the Sharks for the top pick.

The No. 6 Utah Hockey Club was just an "8" away.

The No. 7 Ottawa Senators were a "12" from it.

The No. 8 Seattle Kraken were a "5" from it.

The Minnesota Wild were a "1" and a "6" from moving up 10 spots from No. 13, which would give the Sharks the No. 1 pick, per the rules concerning No. 12 through No. 16 teams.



"2-7-10-11," Clarke said. "San Jose."

"San Jose will have the first pick in the 2024 NHL Draft," Bettman announced at 5:50 p.m.

In mere minutes, one of the most intense moments in Sharks history -- on or off the ice -- was over, and for once, they were the victors.

It was the first time the Sharks ever had won the No. 1 pick. But more history and drama still was in store.

What about the No. 2 pick?

Earlier in the afternoon, ESPN host John Buccigross stepped into it by revealing, from the NHL Network set, a rehearsal draft lottery order that showed the Sharks at No. 1 and the new Utah club at No. 2.

That certainly fueled internet conspiracy theorists, baselessly convinced that the NHL rigs the lottery, that the fix was in.


"2-4-8-11 is San Jose."

This forced a redraw because the Sharks' pick already had been decided. After all, they couldn't win the lottery twice.

The Sharks also had the No. 14 Pittsburgh Penguins' 2024 first-round pick -- albeit top-10 protected -- which they acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade, but that selection couldn’t rise any higher than No. 4. So the No. 2 pick wasn't in play there either.

Bettman revealed this was the first time as commissioner that he'd ever witnessed a redraw.

2, 8 and 4 were the first three numbers announced, so Utah had no four-number combination to move up. Pittsburgh also had no four-number combo to move up.

Then came the redraw.

"3-9-11-14 is San Jose."

"Wow," Bettman said with a smile.

Bettman, the NHL's commissioner since 1993, now had seen two redraws in the same day.

14, 11 and 3 were the first three numbers announced, but Utah needed a "7" to move up. Pittsburgh again had no chance to move up.

On to the second redraw.

"3-6-11-14 is Chicago."

6, 11 and 3, however, were the first three numbers pulled, so both Utah and Pittsburgh had no chance to move up.

What a relief for Buccigross -- and the NHL.

"Chicago has the second selection in the 2024 NHL Draft," Bettman announced, then he smiled. "Thank you all for being here this evening, and you're not allowed to leave the room until the announcement is made on television."

NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer left the room to transport the results to the broadcast, and Bettman appeared with Buccigross on the ESPN draft lottery show.

It was 6:01 p.m., about a half-hour before the beginning of the show. So, for about 45 minutes, less than two dozen people knew just how much the Sharks' world had just changed.

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