There's a significant jackpot awaiting the winner of the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).
The team winning the lottery will be able to choose between two players projected to be generational talents eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft: Erie Otters center Connor McDavid and Boston University freshman Jack Eichel. The draft will be held at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., June 26-27.
McDavid, who had 44 goals and 120 points in 47 regular-season games this season, is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of the top North American skaters eligible for the draft. Eichel, winner of the 2015 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player, is ranked No. 2.
"Every year the ranking order for the NHL draft has the favored candidates and often there are two, three or four names in the mix for consideration to go first overall," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "But for 2015 it is far more exciting when looking at the two frontrunners because both Eichel and McDavid are remarkable young hockey players. A big part of what makes them remarkable is the consistency and results in their level of play.
"Both continually raised the bar on themselves and met and often exceeded expectations. And for NHL scouts, it has been a treat to watch these two in action."
The 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, a weighted system used to determine the order of selection in the first round for the 14 teams not qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs or for teams having acquired the first-round position of a non-playoff team, will be held in Toronto prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round series between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.
"Drafts are always exciting for the NHL clubs who are building for the future and for the prospects and their families as it caps off an important milestone year, but this year I get the sense there is a lot of excitement for the draft lottery due to the new lottery process," Marr said. "For many the suspense of the draft order being determined will be similar to the suspense traditionally felt when the first overall pick on draft day is announced."
Balls numbered 1 to 14 will be put into a lottery machine that selects four balls to provide a four-number combination. That will be matched to a chart containing all possible four-number combinations that have been assigned to each of the 14 teams on the basis of their percentage chance to win the lottery.
The Buffalo Sabres, who finished with the fewest points in the regular season, have a 20.0 percent chance of winning the lottery. If they don't win the No. 1 pick, they are guaranteed No. 2, because the rules dictate no team can move back more than one spot.
The Arizona Coyotes (13.5 percent), Edmonton Oilers (11.5 percent), Toronto Maple Leafs (9.5 percent) and Carolina Hurricanes (8.5 percent) round out the five teams with the best odds of winning the No. 1 pick.
"This year it will seem like the first selection of the draft will be known at the time the draft order is announced," Marr said. "The draft is always exciting because you never really know who will be the next selection announced."
The last time the Sabres held the No. 1 pick in the draft was in 1987 when they chose center Pierre Turgeon. He was a premier blue-chip prospect who had 69 goals and 154 points in 58 games with the Granby Bisons of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1986-87.
He made an immediate impact, with 14 goals and 42 points in 76 games as a rookie in 1987-88 to help the Sabres qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
The Sabres, who this season missed qualifying for the playoffs a fourth straight year, are hoping for similar results if they win the No. 1 pick this year.
The NHL announced changes to the draft lottery format in August. The changes included adjusting the odds of winning the first selection. The 10 highest-finishing non-playoff qualifying teams received higher (better) draft lottery odds than they had previously. The four lowest-finishing teams received lower (worse) odds.
The Florida Panthers won the draft lottery in 2014 and selected defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who had 12 goals and 39 points in 81 games and is a potential Calder Trophy finalist as NHL rookie of the year.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer