After a season where they endured an 18-game losing streak, the firing of head coach Ralph Krueger, the trade of veterans Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, and Brandon Montour, and the uncertain future of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen, the Buffalo Sabres finally received some good news, winning the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery.
The Sabres had a 16.6% chance of winning the lottery after posting the league’s worst record at 15-34-7 and it marks the third time since 2016 that the team with the best odds has retained the top overall pick in the Draft Lottery (Toronto in 2016, Buffalo in 2018 and 2021).
Buffalo will select first overall for the second time in the last four years and ahead of the expansion Seattle Kraken and Anaheim Ducks and will be selecting first overall for the fourth time in the franchise’s 51-year history, having chosen Hockey Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault in the club’s inaugural season (1970), center Pierre Turgeon in 1987 and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in 2018.
Buffalo also selected Reinhart and Eichel second overall in 2014 and 2015 to make up the core group of the current roster but following their last place finish, both players expressed frustration with the club’s continuing struggles.
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Buffalo has a number of holes to fill, which puts Sabres GM Kevyn Adams in the position of selecting the best player available instead of an area of need.
“It’s critical (to select) the best player available. It’s not about who may be the best player now, you are looking to project ultimately who the best player becomes.” Adams said. “We need to improve in every area, so we are certainly not going to focus on a position or a need.”
The lottery win may make the search for a new head coach easier for Adams, with the prospect of leading a squad with the top pick and a young group of prospects that includes Dahlin, and forwards Casey Mittelstadt, Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn.
Adams indicated that interim coach Don Granato would be in consideration for the head coaching job for next season and could have the inside track after being effective in reaching and instilling confidence in the club’s youngsters, but prominent names like John Tortorella, Rick Tocchet, Gerard Gallant, and Bruce Boudreau may also be considered as candidates for the Sabres new bench boss.