The Buffalo Sabres finally hit the NHL Draft Lottery jackpot
on April 28th when they were awarded with the first overall pick at
this summer's event on June 22-23 in Dallas, Texas. Buffalo had the best
overall odds of landing the number one pick at 18.5 per cent after finishing
dead last in the 31-team league this season with a record of 25-45-12. This is
the third time the Sabres have held the first overall pick after selecting
Gilbert Perreault in 1970 and Pierre Turgeon in 1987. It's expected the club
will be choosing Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin this time around.
The Sabres missed out on winning the draft lottery in recent
years while stars such as Aaron Ekblad, . Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews
were all taken with the first overall pick. However, Buffalo did manage to land
forward Jack Eichel with the second-overall selection after McDavid in 2015.
The Sabres are hoping Dahlin will be as good as fellow countrymen Nicklas Lidstrom,
Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman and is expected to make the roster straight out
of training camp later this year. There's no doubt the club could use an
excellent young blueliner after finishing the 2017/18 campaign with just 62
The Sabres haven't made the postseason in seven years with
their last playoff series win coming 11 years ago. In addition, they've never
won a Stanley Cup since entering the NHL as an expansion franchise in 1970, but
did reach the Final in 1974/75 and 1998/99. They're now just the second team in
the last seven years to win the draft lottery after finishing in last place.
The Toronto Maple Leafs also won it after placing last two years ago and
selecting Matthews in 2016. The Carolina Hurricanes moved up a total of nine spots
in this year's lottery and will draft second while the Montreal Canadiens moved
up a spot and will select third.
The NHL announced the order of the top 15 draft picks for
June during the lottery which consisted of the 15 teams which didn't make this
season's playoffs. The order is: 1-Buffalo Sabres, 2-Carolina Hurricanes,
3-Montreal Canadiens, 4-Ottawa Senators, 5-Arizona Coyotes, 6-Detroit Red
Wings, 7- Vancouver Canucks, 8-Chicago Blackhawks, 9-New York Rangers,
10-Edmonton Oilers, 11-New York Islanders, 12-New York Islanders, 13-Dallas
Star, 14-Philadelphia Flyers, 15-Florida Panthers. The rest of the picks will
be determined following the playoffs.
With Dahlin expected to go first overall there are some other top prospects who
could go in the first five or six picks. These include left-winger Brady
Tkachuk of Boston University, right-winger Filip Zadina of the Halifax
Mooseheads, defenceman Evan Bouchard of the London Knights, defenceman Noah
Dobson of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, defenceman Quintin Hughes of the
University of Michigan and fellow blueliner Adam Boqvist of Swedish junior
league club Brynas.
The NHL also announced this year's finalists for the Hart
Memorial Trophy which is awarded to the player deemed most valuable to his
team. The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas on
June 20th. The finalists are forwards Anze Kopitar of the Los
Angeles Kings, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Taylor Hall of
the New Jersey Devils. The 26-year-old Hall finished sixth in league scoring
this year with 39 goals and 54 assists for 93 points and helped New Jersey
reach the postseason for the first time since the 2011/12 campaign. No New
Jersey player has won the Hart before.
The 30-year-old Kopitar led the Kings in offence with 92
points on 35 goals and 57 assists which was good enough for a seventh-place tie
in league scoring with Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kopitar helped
the Kings reach the postseason after missing it last season. He's the first Kings
player to hit the 90-point mark since 1993/94 when Wayne Gretzky had 130.
Kopitar was also named as a finalist for this year's Selke Trophy as the
league's best defensive forward and won the award in
2016. This is the first time Kopitar's been a finalist for the Hart Trophy with
Gretzky being the only Los Angeles player to ever win it.
The 22-year-old MacKinnon racked up 39 goals and 58 assists
for 97 points in 74 games this season to finish fifth in the NHL scoring
parade. His averaged 1.31 points-per-game to finish second to McDavid's 1.32.
MacKinnon had 12 game-winning goals to finish in a first-place tie with Brayden
Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning and also tie the Avalanche franchise record.
The youngster helped Colorado reach the playoffs and improve by 47 points this
season after finishing in last place in 2016-17. He's hoping to become the
third member of the franchise to win the Hart Trophy after Peter Forsberg in
2003 and Joe Sakic in 2001.
Labels: Ian Palmer