The Edmonton Oilers won the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.
The Oilers’ card was pulled by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, as a team with the third worst record and an 11.5-percent chance to win the lottery took the top spot and the chance to draft the OHL super prospect.
“It’s going to affect your entire lineup, and getting the No. 1 pick is certainly going to fill a big hole in our lineup,” said Bill Scott, assistant general manager.
Taylor Hall is ready.
The Buffalo Sabres will draft No. 2 overall, where center Jack Eichel awaits. But the meticulous dive to the bottom of the standings for Buffalo targeted McDavid, and this lottery loss will sting – especially given Edmonton’s good fortune in the lottery.
It will be the fourth time in six years the Oilers will draft first overall, having drafted Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan-Nugent Hopkins (2011) and Nail Yakupov (2012) – all of them great offensive talents, none of them on the level of McDavid.
McDavid is an 18-year-old dynamo, a generational talent at center for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. He has 285 points in 166 games in the OHL, and is considered the best NHL prospect since Sidney Crosby was drafted in 2005.
Jack Eichel of Boston University is expected to be second overall – another generational talent at center, and a consolation prize well worth winning. He captured the Hobey Baker Award for the best NCAA men’s hockey player this season.
The chase for the top pick in the draft was a multi-year ordeal.
The Buffalo Sabres began clearing the decks in 2013-14 in preparation of the McDavid draft. The NHL, sensing that the Sabres wouldn’t be alone in eyeing the bottom of the standings, changed its draft lottery rules ahead of the 2015 draft – instead of a 27-percent chance, the No. 30 team had a 20-percent chance at the top pick. They were, however, guaranteed at least the second overall pick.
During the season, the Sabres twice traded away their starting goalie and made a blockbuster with the Winnipeg Jets that included forward Evander Kane, who was injured and out for the season.
Not to be outdone, the Arizona Coyotes traded their two leading scorers – Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette – at the deadline. They pushed the Sabres until the end of the season, matching loss-for-loss, but the Sabres bottomed out at 23-51-8. (Ironically, the Sabres had a better record than in the 2013-14 season.)
But while they finished with the two worst records, there were no guarantees that they’d end up with the top pick. Every team that missed the playoffs was eligible, from the Sabres at 20 percent all the way down to the Boston Bruins (1 percent) and the Los Angeles Kings (1 percent).
In the end, it was the Edmonton Oilers winning the lottery, again. But this time it’s a set-for-life jackpot.
The final order, with their 2015 lottery percentages:
1. Edmonton Oilers 11.5%
2. Buffalo Sabres 20.0%
3. Arizona Coyotes 13.5%
4. Toronto Maple Leafs 9.5%
5. Carolina Hurricanes 8.5%
6. New Jersey Devils 7.5%
7. Philadelphia Flyers 6.5%
8. Columbus Blue Jackets 6.0%
9. San Jose Sharks 5.0%
10. Colorado Avalanche 3.5%
11. Florida Panthers 3.0%
12. Dallas Stars 2.5%
13. Los Angeles Kings 2.0%
14. Boston Bruins 1.0%
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