My wife just yelled at me.
I was sitting here, watching the NHL Draft Lottery selection show, when I learned that my beloved Sabres not only finished last, but also lost the 1st overall pick to the Florida Panthers. Honestly, the NHL just has a way of kicking the losers when they are down (except Edmonton, they just can’t figure it out). So, like any true hockey fan, I cussed because my team just got screwed again.
Buffalo has only drafted in the top 5, five times in their history and never higher than 2nd overall. And now, when they are the team most clearly in need of the top draft pick, they cannot win it. The lottery system is a joke, even though the Sabres had the best chance of everyone, it was still weighted 4 to 1 against. The city of Buffalo just cannot catch a break.
Even though the coveted Connor McDavid draft is still a year away, there are 3-4 elite talents to be had in this years draft. Aaron Ekblad (D), Sam Reinhardt (C), Sam Bennet (C) are all considered viable candidates for the top overall pick and each are extremely talented. As encouraging as this is for Buffalo, that the top few prospects are high quality, it will always feel as though they are getting Florida’s leftovers.
With that said, I will look at the #1 and #2 overall pics for the last 10 drafts, in order to compare the level of talent and difference between the top picks.
2013- 1st Nathan McKinnon (Colorado), 2nd Aleksander Barkov (Florida): While Barkov is going to be an elite talent, there is no doubt that McKinnon is already there (with room to grow) Winner: Colorado
2012- 1st Nail Yakupov (Edmonton), 2nd Ryan Murray (Columbus): Murray is benefiting from a far better team while Yakupov had a great rookie campaign, but has since struggled. If Dallas Eakin can find a way to get Yak’ playing hard again, he could still be a dominant forward in the leage. Winner: Columbus
2011- 1st Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton), 2nd Gabriel Landeskog: in 182 games (2011-2014) Nugent-Hopkins has scored 132 points (41-91) and is a fixture in the Oilers lineup. Landeskog has recorded 199 games and 134 points (57-77) in the same time, however in three short years, Landeskog has earned the Captaincy of the Avalanche. Winner: Colorado
2010- Taylor Hall (Edmonton), 2nd Tyler Seguin (Boston): While Hall has put up offense for Edmonton, he has not emerged as the dominant force that he was projected as. Seguin, on the other hand has been nothing short of phenomenal. Now playing for Dallas, the young forward seemingly scores at will. Winner: Boston
2009- John Tavares (NYI), 2nd Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay). Is there any question? Winner: Islanders
2008- Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay), 2nd Drew Doughty (Los Angeles). One is the most prolific goal scorer in the league, the other has raised Lord Stanley’s Cup and won an Olympic Gold. (Stamkos was selected to the same Olympic team, though) Winner: Draw
2007- Patrick Kane (Chicago), 2nd James van Reimsdyk (Toronto); While JvR is one third of the top scoring line in the NHL (alongside Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel), Kane is considered an elite goal scorer with a Stanley Cup. Winner: Chicago
2006- Eric Johnson (St. Louis), 2nd Jordan Staal (Pittsburghll), Neither player has lived up to superstar status or potential. Winner: Nobody
2005- Sydney Crosby (Pittsburgh), 2nd Bobby Ryan (Annaheim)…………..Winner: Do I have to ask?
2004- Alexander Ovechkin (Washington), 2nd Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh); Ovechkin wins scoring trophies, Malkin wins Stanley Cups. Winner: Pittsburgh
So what does this all mean? It means that unless you are drafting Crosby, Stamkos or Kane the number one pick is not a lock for the best player. This draft does not have Sid, Ovi or Kaner, so we should not be quick to quick to assume that Buffalo is going to miss out by drafting 2nd.
There are two strong centermen and an outstanding defenseman available at the top. Florida is projecting to draft one of the centers, leaving Buffalo with options to still find the best player in the draft.
Chin up Sabres fans, there is hope!