Just because the Buffalo Sabres are virtually assured of finishing last overall doesn’t mean they are heavy favorites to win the draft lottery and select first overall in June.
The Sabres have just a 25 percent chance of winning the draft lottery and getting first pick. Their most likely outcome for Buffalo is to select second overall. That would happen if any of the other 13 non-playoff teams won the draft lottery and moved up to first pick.
The NHL altered the draft lottery odds last year allowing all 14 teams a chance at winning first pick. In previous seasons, only five teams had a chance at first pick, meaning the team finishing 30th had a 48.2 percent chance of gaining first pick, either by winning the lottery or having teams sixth worst to 14th worst win the lottery.
Buffalo’s magic number to finish 30th is two. Any combination of two Buffalo losses or Edmonton wins in the remaining eight games secures last overall for the Sabres.
The lottery will take place in the first couple of days after the regular season ends April 13. The 2014 draft is June 27-28 in Philadelphia. There’s a group of four prospects at the head of the class this year. They are Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay center Sam Reinhart, Kingston left winger Sam Bennett and Prince Albert center Leon Draisaitl.
Regardless of where New Jersey finishes, its first round pick will slip to the 30th spot as part of the penalty for the team trying to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a contract that circumvented the salary cap. The Ottawa pick belongs to Anaheim as part of the Bobby Ryan trade last year.
The following chart lists each team’s chances for winning first pick and most likely outcome in the lottery, as of today’s standings. We’ll update this again as the season comes to an end.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN