Sabres to host McDavid-led Erie Otters game at FNC; NHL finalizes draft lottery rules, with worst team dropping no lower than No. 2 in 2015
So whether it's Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, it now appears both of the generational centers slated to be picked atop the 2015 NHL Draft will be playing at First Niagara Center this season in advance of the draft.
And if the Sabres finish last in the NHL again next season, the league has just announced Buffalo is pretty much guaranteed to get one of the franchise cornerstone players.
The Sabres have called a joint press conference for Thursday afternoon with the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters to discuss plans for an upcoming game featuring McDavid's team in downtown Buffalo.
Sabres president Ted Black and Otters general manager/managing partner Sherwood "Sherry" Bassin, a longtime fixture in Canadian junior hockey circles, will be making the announcement. (4:45 p.m. update: I've confirmed an Erie Times-News report that McDavid will attend the press conference along with new Otters assistant coach and former Sabres defenseman Jay McKee.)
Eichel, who is expected to play one season for Boston University, is slated to play here Sept. 25 in USA Hockey's All-America Prospects Game.
McDavid and Eichel have long been expected to be the top two picks in the draft June 26 in Sunrise, Fla. After finishing 30th overall last season, the Sabres had a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick but did not win the lottery and the Florida Panthers got the pick. Under the new rules that GM Tim Murray said were discussed during this year's draft in Philadelphia, the worst team will have a 20 percent chance -- but is still guaranteed to only fall to the No. 2 pick.
So if the Sabres finish last and don't win the lottery, they drop to No. 2 and ostensibly would then take Eichel.
The odds of earning the top pick have been completely revised for all non-playoff teams starting in 2015 and the Sabres will certainly pay close attention to other spots if the New York Islanders, whose pick is owned by Buffalo, land in the lottery as well.
Starting in 2016, the lottery will be used to assign the top three spots in the draft instead of simply No. 1. As a result, the worst team will no longer be guaranteed the No. 2 pick but could slip to as low as No. 4 in the draft.
Here's a look at the odds, courtesy of NHL.com: