Not much has gone right for the Buffalo Sabres in recent years, so they could do with some luck when the NHL Draft Lottery takes place later tonight.
The Buffalo Sabres enter tonight’s lottery on the back of a league-worst 15-34-7 record, finishing bottom in the temporary East Division and plenty of questions hanging over the much maligned franchise once again.
The Taylor Hall experiment did not work as expected, and the team is looking to figure out how to move forward and build a team capable of reaching the post-season for the first time since the 2010/11 season.
While the future of star centre Jack Eichel is in question, the Sabres will have a momentary distraction from their existing roster problems when the NHL announces which teams will be selecting in the top three of the 2021 Draft.
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Having finished with the worst record in the NHL, the Sabres unsurprisingly have the best odds at landing the coveted first-overall selection.
According to Tankathon, the Sabres have a 16.6% chance of landing at the top, while having the best odds at coming second (15%) or third (68.4%) should luck not go their way. However, the team will be desperate for something to go their way after ten years of struggles, both on and off the ice.
This year’s draft is far from clear cut compared to previous editions, with the number one player in the draft still largely unknown at this stage – thanks in part due to the level of talent available but also due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic making it difficult for teams to scout prospects, or for prospects to even play this season.
For the Sabres, landing the top pick could provide them with two very distinct opportunities to help move the franchise forward. For one, if they land the top pick, they will have free reign to select whoever they like the most from this year’s class and build up the pool of talent they hope can develop into legitimate NHL players over the next few years.
Alternatively, the Sabres could ransom the first overall pick to another team in exchange for multiple picks this year and beyond, stockpiling assets and their ability to add quantity, as well as quality, to their prospect pool.
As well as their first rounder this year, the Sabres have two picks in the second round and two picks in the third, giving them a chance to add a multitude of prospects that could one day develop into NHL players.
Along with Dylan Cozens, who featured in the NHL this year, the Sabres do have some promising young players in their system in the form of Jack Quinn, Ryan Johnson and John-Jason Peterka, so even if the team opts to keep the first overall pick this year, there will be a number of other players being added to this pool this year.
Building up a young, talented core should be the target of the franchise, so whichever route the Buffalo Sabres management decides to go, it will benefit the team in the long-term.
In order to have this luxury, however, the team needs to hope that luck is on their side and that they land the first overall pick, or at the very worst land in the top three and do not find themselves slipping out of the lottery picks.