The Buffalo Sabres finished last in the NHL this season and are now watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home for the 10th straight season. It’s not all bad, though; the odds are officially locked in with less than a month before the NHL Draft Lottery, and, you guessed it, the Sabres again have the best shot at the first-overall pick.
Before 2020-21, the Sabres had finished with the worst record in three of the last seven seasons, picking second overall in 2014 and 2015 and first overall in 2018. For their efforts, they landed Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, and Rasmus Dahlin. Yet, they’ve still failed to make the playoffs.
With the Sabres’ position locked in, here’s a look at the draft lottery implications as the organization moves into the offseason with lots of work to do.
Sabres’ Draft Lottery Odds
Of the 15 teams that missed the playoffs this season, the Sabres have the best odds of winning the draft lottery at 16.6 percent. They also have the best chance of landing the second or third-overall selections with a 15.0 percent chance and 68.4 percent chance, respectively.
The two teams with the next highest odds at winning the lottery are the Anaheim Ducks and the expansion Seattle Kraken, who will join their first-ever NHL draft this summer. The Ducks have a 12.1 percent chance at picking first and can drop no lower than fourth overall, while the Kraken has a 10.3 percent chance to pick first and can drop no lower than fifth.
The Sabres can drop to no lower than third overall, due to the NHL’s rule changes that will take effect this summer. In previous years, the Sabres could have dropped to fourth, like the last-place Colorado Avalanche (2017), Ottawa Senators (2019), and Detroit Red Wings (2020) have in recent years.
NHL Draft Implications
The 2021 NHL Draft Lottery will have two ball drawings instead of three to ensure a few things happen and a few things don’t. Not only does the change ensure that the Sabres can pick no lower than third, but it also ensures that teams will be restricted from moving up more than ten spots if they win one of the two draws, which means that the bottom 11 teams are eligible to win the first-overall pick, while the bottom 12 teams are eligible to win the second-overall pick if they don’t win the first.
Another new rule is that one team cannot win the lottery more than twice in a five-year span (we’re looking at you, Edmonton Oilers). Teams that have won the lottery before 2022 will not be counted toward this total, so the Sabres are ultimately unaffected by this change.
The draft lottery will take place on June 2 to determine the draft selections. The 2021 NHL Draft is scheduled for July 23-24, so Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and company should have ample time to prepare for any drafting scenario that might be thrust upon them.
Defensemen Owen Power and Luke Hughes and forward Matt Beniers are among the consensus top-three prospects heading into this draft, and if I was in Adams’ shoes, I would aim for Beniers to add to the young pool of forward prospects who are poised to take over the Sabres in the coming years. He’s won’t make an immediate impact at center in the NHL, but he could be ready in a few seasons’ time.
The Hockey Writers’ prospect and draft writers have done a great job covering all things NHL draft-related this season, so make sure to check out our official Draft Guide leading up to July 23.
Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres & San Jose Sharks Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15