TORONTO – The Buffalo Sabres will pick second in the 2015 NHL Draft and have the opportunity to select a top player from one of the deepest draft pools in recent memory.
The Sabres entered the lottery with the best odds of winning it at 20 percent, but randomness favored the Edmonton Oilers, who jumped up two slots to pick first overall.
Buffalo holds two picks in the first round – the second overall pick and either the Islanders or Blues pick.
The 2015 NHL Draft will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray would prefer to be selecting first, but knew all along that there was an 80-percent chance that the Sabres would not win the lottery.
“We’ve said all along there are two top-end, impact – if not franchise – players in this draft,” he said after the results were announced. “They both play the right position in my opinion for rebuilding. As disappointed as we are for not having the No. 1 pick, we’re extremely happy to be able to pick 2 still.”
THE TOP TWO
The 2015 draft class has been touted as the deepest since 2003. Along with the 1979 NHL Draft, it is one of only two drafts to see nine players named to an end-of-the-year All-Star team.
NHL Central Scouting released their final rankings on April 8 and named Erie Otters center Connor McDavid the top North American skater. Boston University freshman Jack Eichel was ranked No. 2.
McDavid and the Otters are set to open a series Thursday against St. Sault Marie in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. McDavid has 11 goals and 12 assists in nine postseason games.
This season, Eichel became the first freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate hockey player since Paul Kariya in 1993. In 39 games, he recorded 26 goals and 70 points en route to an appearance in the national title game.
“They’re both exciting players,” Murray said. “To be in a position to get one of them has to make us happy.”
Murray said he thinks that Eichel could play in the NHL next season.
“He’s as ready as 99 percent of the 18-year-old kids that have jumped into the National Hockey League,” Murray said. “You could say Sidney Crosby was more ready. You could count them on one hand, I guess, that you could have an argument of guys that were maybe more ready than he is today.”
Last year, Buffalo picked second overall and took Sam Reinhart. Whomever they select this year will certainly add to the depth of highly skilled forwards in the organization.
“We drafted a centerman last year. We’re going to draft a center this year again,” Murray said.
“You have to be strong down the middle, you have to be good down the middle in this League because you’re going against, for the most part – the forwards – the best players on the teams you’re playing against – you’re going to match up against top-end center iceman. And we have to have guys that can do that.
“We feel now that we have two guys in the organization that, as they grow and as they get bigger and stronger and better, we’re going to be in a position where teams are going to talk about us in the same way I’m talking about Pittsburgh or other teams. That’s a tough team to go in and match up against those two center icemen and that’s what we have now.”
Murray said it's extremely unlikely that they'll move out of the top two, but didn’t rule out the possibility of exploring a trade with Edmonton for the top pick.
“I guess we’re going to regroup tomorrow and discuss that,” he said.
CHANGES IN THE PROCESS
This year, the Draft Lottery process was tweaked once again.
The changes included adjusting the odds of winning the first overall selection. The 10 highest-finishing non-Playoff qualifying teams will receive higher (better) Draft Lottery odds than they received previously with the four lowest-finishing teams receiving lower (worse) odds.
Fourteen balls, numbered 1 to 14, were placed in a lottery machine. The machine then randomly selected four balls. The resulting four-number series (without regard to selection order) was matched against a chart that showed all possible combinations and the Clubs to which each is assigned.
The results were then revealed on national TV. Edmonton was the only team that changed positions after the lottery was conducted. It is the fourth time in six seasons the Oilers will pick first.
Here is the order for the first 14 picks in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft:
1. Edmonton Oilers
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Arizona Coyotes
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Carolina Hurricanes
6. New Jersey Devils
7. Philadelphia Flyers
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
9. San Jose Sharks
10. Colorado Avalanche
11. Florida Panthers
12. Dallas Stars
13. Los Angeles Kings
14. Boston Bruins