With the 2014 NHL Draft just a few days away, the Sabres will be making the second highest selection in franchise history that should serve as a major piece of their current rebuild. While the Sabres’ 30th place finish this year ensured them a top-two selection at the draft, the real prize sits atop the 2015 NHL Draft when Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are set to be picked first and second (not necessarily in that order).
While Tim Murray hasn’t come out and said it, the Sabres aren’t expected to compete for much more than the right to pick one of those two elite talents as yet another building block on the way to a Stanley Cup. Murray and the Sabres are in a good position for 2015 as they hold three picks in the first round, giving them that much more of a chance to score the first pick. While St. Louis’ pick (acquired as part of the Ryan Miller trade) won’t have any sort of effect on Buffalo’s lottery chances, it’s possible that the Islanders’ pick does provide some additional support. Ideally the Islanders would suffer through an ugly season and give the Sabres a massive boost towards snagging first overall. The worst case scenario is that they sneak into the playoffs and give the Sabres two picks in the bottom 15 selections of the round.
There won’t be any change made to the NHL Draft Lottery for next season, so the 30th place club will have a 25% chance to get the first pick with the odds decreasing with each subsequent finisher. So the Sabres could wind up in the exact position they’re in now. No matter how teams are posturing today doesn’t prevent five clubs from finishing between 25 and 30 in the standings and holding the top odds for a very valuable lottery.
I’ve taken the time to run through each club and give my opinion on the current trend they’re following (up, down or neutral), if they own their pick next season and the threat they are to wind up in the lottery. The lottery threat scale goes from one-to-five, with one being the most likely a team is to wind up at the bottom of the league and the top of the draft. Each team’s trend is more subjective as many teams were considered neutral despite having very different circumstances.
Buffalo’s own ranks would give them a downward (perhaps neutral) trend with a level one threat as a major player in the lottery. The Sabres will certainly make some moves this offseason but I don’t foresee anything on the horizon that will drastically turn the team’s fortunes around. The Sabres will certainly be a player for the first pick next year, although the odds certainly weigh against them landing McDavid. Continue reading