It's that time of year again, when the fate of a franchise can change with the bounce of a ping pong ball.
The NHL Draft Lottery will be held tonight in Toronto to determine the order of the first 15 picks in this summer's draft. The Sabres have the fifth-best odds at obtaining the No. 1 pick at 8.5 percent.
The results will be announced during an hour-long special on NBCSN beginning at 8 p.m.
Got questions? We have answers.
So, how does this work?
There are three lotteries - one for each of the top three picks, with all 15 non-playoff playoff teams eligible to win them. The odds for remaining teams will increase proportionately after each draw.
The 12 teams that do not receive a top-three pick will be assigned picks 4 through 15 in reverse order of their regular-season point totals. So, if one team jumps ahead of the Sabres into the top three, the Sabres will pick sixth. The lowest they can pick is eighth.
Fifth-best odds? When's the last time that worked out?
Actually, fairly recently. The New Jersey Devils jumped from fifth to first when they won the lottery to select Nico Hischier in 2017. The Philadelphia Flyers moved up 11 spots that year to pick second.
The Chicago Blackhawks had the fifth-best odds when they won to select Patrick Kane in 2007, as did the New York Islanders when they earned the top pick and drafted Rick DiPietro in 2000.
Even last year, when the Sabres won the lottery with the best overall odds, the Montreal Canadiens jumped from fifth to third to select Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He played 79 games this season as an 18-year-old rookie in the NHL.
Well, now I'm cautiously optimistic. So, what's at stake?
Center Jack Hughes and right wing Kaapo Kakko are the consensus top two players in this year's draft. Hughes spent this season captaining the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team, scoring 86 points (23+63) in 41 games.
Hughes is rated as the top North American skating prospect by NHL Central Scouting Services, which provided this analysis to NHL.com earlier this month:
"He's a unique player. He has an unbelievable motor, great speed, but a stride not too dissimilar from Jack Eichel in that he generates speed with a lot of motion and a good core. His ability to be elusive in traffic is similar to what Connor McDavid does; he's not afraid to challenge that opening that others may not be able to get through because he sees beyond with the opportunities there."
Kakko is the top-ranked European skater, and some believe he began to bridge the gap with Hughes during his standout performance at the World Junior Championship in January. He tallied five points (2+3) in seven games to help Finland win gold, then completed his Liiga season with 38 points (22+16) in 45 games.
Here's what Central Scouting told NHL.com regarding Kakko:
"Kaapo is a big power forward who plays effectively on either wing (he is left-handed) where he showcases his strong playmaking ability. His hockey sense and skills, when combined with his size and strength, allow him to be an impact player in all situations."
Thanks, that was helpful. Now, please end this article by posting the full odds for tonight.
Colorado Avalanche (from OTT): 18.5 percent
Los Angeles Kings: 13.5 percent
New Jersey Devils: 11.5 percent
Detroit Red Wings: 9.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres: 8.5 percent
New York Rangers: 7.5 percent
Edmonton Oilers: 6.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks: 6.0 percent
Vancouver Canucks: 5.0 percent
Philadelphia Flyers: 3.5 percent
Minnesota Wild: 3.0 percent
Chicago Blackhawks: 2.5 percent
Florida Panthers: 2.0 percent
Arizona Coyotes: 1.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens: 1.0 percent