BUFFALO, N.Y. — You all know I love hockey and I love covering the sport, but the NHL continues to act like a garage league and the first phase of the NHL Draft Lottery embarrassed the league again.
If the playoffs do go off as planned, a team that makes the playoffs will draft first overall. That just can’t happen. The lottery should’ve been the seven teams that didn’t make the playoffs and that’s it. Yes, the NHL gets two events out of this as Phase 2 will give us another lottery with the eight first-round playoff losers. Each team will have equal odds of winning.
No team had ever jumped farther than from fifth to draft first overall, but this year it came from the number 12 position. The odds? 2.5%.
With the number 12 team leaping up to first, the Sabres dropped one place and will draft eighth overall. In their history, Buffalo has drafted eighth overall three times and none of the three players have lived up to it, Casey Mittelstadt, Alex Nylander and Rasmus Ristolainen.
I’ve never liked the draft lottery. Detroit came in with the best odds at 18.5 percent and dropped to fourth overall. The Red Wings by far were the league’s worst team and just shouldn’t drop all the way to fourth. Ottawa started in two and three. They won the lottery for the third spot, but their second position dropped to number 5.
I think they should forget about the lottery and invert the standings. I don’t get all the concern with tanking and if they want to avoid tanking? Wait until you see some teams tank the first round of the playoffs if they think they have no shot at the Stanley Cup.
I know you’re asking what kind of player can the Sabres get at No. 8? The time has to be now. Drafting for the future has to end now. They don’t need a player that will be ready in three years, they need a center to play behind Jack Eichel and Jason Botterill miscalculated badly trying to get one for just Ristolainen.
The No. 1 pick has to be in play for a trade. If you combine the pick with Ristolainen, you may be able to get that player to make your team quite a bit better. Buffalo can’t play next season with Marcus Johansson at center. He was not good and it wasn’t his fault. He was asked to play out of position because Botterill got enamored with his players and didn’t get that player last year.
Other general managers around the league will try to fleece rookie GM Kevyn Adams and he does have the luxury of waiting for better offers than the garbage that will get thrown his way to start. This will be a very long offseason and he can’t get this trade wrong.
If Adams does make the pick, three players that could be available to him at eight are winger Alexander Holtz from Djugardens, winger Lucas Raymond from Frolunda and forward Cole Perfetti from Saginaw.