The Buffalo Sabres followed a season filled with losses by finally winning something – the NHL draft lottery – and landing the No. 1 pick for the third time in franchise history.
The Carolina Hurricanes, who finished 21st in the league, vaulted into the No. 2 spot, and the Montreal Canadiens will pick third.
Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is expected to go No. 1 overall in the June 22-23 draft in Dallas.
The Sabres had the best odds — 18.5% — to land the No. 1 pick, but the best odds didn’t help them to win the last two times they finished last — in 2013-14 and 2014-15. In 2015, the Edmonton Oilers moved up two spots to grab Connor McDavid. The Sabres took Jack Eichel with the second pick.
The NHL had divided Saturday’s announcement into two parts to try to build up some drama.
The rest of the order from the lottery: 4. Ottawa Senators. 5. Arizona Coyotes. 6 Detroit Red Wings. 7. Vancouver Canucks. 8. Chicago Blackhawks. 9. New York Rangers.10. Edmonton Oilers. 11. New York Islanders. 12. Islanders (from Calgary Flames). 13. Dallas Stars. 14. Philadelphia Flyers (from St. Louis Blues). 15. Florida Panthers.
Dahlin is regarded as the top-ranked prospect and is listed first among European skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s final rankings. Russian forward Andrei Svechnikov is the top-ranked North American prospect based on him playing for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League.
Dahlin has the chance of becoming just the second Swedish-born player to be taken first after the Quebec Nordiques chose Mats Sundin with the No. 1 pick in 1989.
Scouting bureau director Dan Marr regards Dahlin as “the clear-cut No. 1, pro-ready prospect.” He has represented Sweden at the past two World Junior Hockey tournaments, including a silver medal finish at this year’s tournament held at Buffalo. And Dahlin also had an assist in two games at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February.
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist compared Dahlin to another star Swedish blue-liner, Tampa Bay Lightning stalwart Victor Hedman.
“Whoever’s going to take him is going to get a top-pair defenseman for a long time,” Hornqvist said.
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