Sabres win No. 1 pick in 2021 NHL Draft in lottery

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The Buffalo Sabres have the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft after winning the NHL Draft Lottery on Wednesday.

The Seattle Kraken won the No. 2 pick, and the Anaheim Ducks have the No. 3 pick.

The Sabres, who at 16.6 percent had the best chance of winning the lottery, would pick No. 1 for the fourth time, the first since selecting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in the 2018 NHL Draft.

“It’s a great moment for franchise,” Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams told NBCSN. “It’s obviously been a been a tough year for a lot of different reasons, and we’re here. We’re very excited. We’re proud to have this selection, and it’s a step in the right direction, and I got a text a couple of minutes ago from our owner saying ‘Smile,’ so now I can smile.”

The first round of the draft will be held July 23 and rounds 2-7 are July 24.

The lottery included the 15 teams that failed to qualify for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the expansion Kraken, who begin play next season.

The odds for the 15 existing teams were based on the inverse order of the regular-season standings. To accommodate the addition of Seattle, the odds of those 15 teams were reduced proportionally from the odds used in the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery.

The Kraken entered the lottery with the third-best odds, as the Vegas Golden Knights did in their inaugural draft lottery in 2017. Seattle had the same odds (10.3 percent) as the New Jersey Devils, who had the third-worst regular-season record and will pick No. 4.

Unlike previous years, only the top two picks were determined by the lottery, and teams were limited in how far they could rise or fall, based on their regular-season standing. This is the third time in the past 11 draft lotteries that the team with the worst record received the No. 1 pick.

Picks 16-31 will be determined by the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Arizona Coyotes must forfeit their 2021 first-round pick for violating the NHL Combine Testing Policy during the 2019-20 season.

Video: How the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery unfolded

The Sabres this season set an NHL shootout-era record (since 2005-06) of 18 games without a win (0-15-3). Buffalo has not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 10 straight seasons, which is tied for the longest drought in NHL history.

Center Jack Eichel scored two goals in 21 games before his season was ended by a neck injury, and coach Ralph Krueger was fired March 17 and replaced by Don Granato.

“I think we need to get better in every area every way,” Adams said. “So, we’re excited to dive into this process, and obviously we’ve been talking a lot about it, we knew kind of the range we were going to be in, but now we can specifically drill deeper, and I really enjoy this process too. I love the amateur side and looking forward to the next few weeks.”

The No. 1 pick could be defenseman Owen Power, who was No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters. He scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) and was plus-18 in 26 games this season for the University of Michigan and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.

“He became a more physical player and learned to pick his spots better when jumping in from the start of the season,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “His all-around game improved, his pivoting, play without the puck. We want to play fast, and at times you have to let the puck do the work. He adjusted a little bit and played at a quicker pace but was really good.”

William Eklund, who was No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters, is another option after the left wing scored 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) averaging 15:29 in ice time with Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League.

Eklund played most of the season on a line with Alexander Holtz, who was selected No. 7 by New Jersey in the 2020 NHL Draft.

“He’s a fantastic player with amazing playmaking ability and hockey sense,” Holtz said of Eklund. “He battles hard all the time, is very creative, and now he’s starting to get a really good shot too.”

Two other top defenseman prospects are Simon Edvinsson, No. 2 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters, and Luke Hughes, No. 4 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.

Edvinsson scored six points (one goal, five assists) in 14 games for Frolunda in Sweden’s junior league. He had one assist in 10 games with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League, and scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games for third-place Sweden at the IIHF 2021 Under-18 World Championship.

Hughes scored 34 points (six goals, 28 assists) in 38 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team of the United States Hockey League. He is the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and Devils forward Jack Hughes, and is committed to play at Michigan next season. The 17-year-old has resumed skating after he had a lacerated tendon in his foot from a skate cut March 7.

2021 NHL Draft order

1. Buffalo Sabres

2. Seattle Kraken

3. Anaheim Ducks

4. New Jersey Devils

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

6. Detroit Red Wings

7. San Jose Sharks

8. Los Angeles Kings

9. Vancouver Canucks

10. Ottawa Senators

11. Chicago Blackhawks

12. Calgary Flames

13. Philadelphia Flyers

14. Dallas Stars

15. New York Rangers

Picks 16-31 will be determined by the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Arizona Coyotes have forfeited their first-round pick.

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