For the fourth time in eight seasons, the Buffalo Sabres finished the regular season in last place of the overall NHL standings.
The 2020-21 season started off as bad as it could get for the Sabres with the team going 6-18-4 through the first half of the 56-game schedule. Following the team's 12th-straight loss in Game 28 of the season, Ralph Krueger was fired as head coach and Don Granato was promoted to serve as Buffalo's bench boss on an interim basis.
The final 28 games of the season didn't see much improvement in the standings, with the Sabres going 9-16-3 to end the campaign with a 15-34-7 overall record and just 37 points. However, Granato was getting more of a complete effort from his team night-in and night-out, especially from the younger players on the roster.
With the Sabres finishing 31st, it officially gave the team the best odds of winning the NHL Draft Lottery on Wednesday for the first pick of the 2021 NHL Draft on Friday, July 23. Buffalo currently holds a 16.6% chance of winning the first overall selection, while also having a 15% chance of winning the second overall pick.
Due to changes to the NHL Draft Lottery made earlier this season, only the top-two picks of the NHL Draft will be drawn in the lottery going forward. This means the Sabres would only drop as far down as third overall in the draft order if they fail to have the lottery balls fall in their favor.
There will also be a couple of different nuances for the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery on Wednesday.
The first is the inclusion of the league's 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken. Seattle will have the third-best odds of winning the first overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft at 10.3%. They have the same odds of winning the draft lottery as the New Jersey Devils, who finished the 2020-21 season with the third-worst record in the NHL.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Coyotes have a 3.1% chance to win the first pick in the draft lottery from the 11th overall slot this year. However, the team forfeited their 2021 first round selection due to pre-draft scouting violations. If the Coyotes happen to win either of the top-two picks in the lottery, there will be a re-draw for the pick.
The 2021 NHL Draft will be a bit different from years past, as there is no clear-cut No. 1 prospect at the top of the class. The 2021 draft class features a number of prospects with high-end potential near the top of the board, but there is, arguably, no player that can be seen as a "franchise-altering" prospect.
When NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings for the 2021 NHL Draft last Thursday, University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power was ranked as the No. 1 North American skater. The 6-foot-6 defenseman is one of three Wolverines ranked inside the top-10 of North American skaters, including forwards Kent Johnson (third) and Matthew Beniers (sixth).
Among other prospects ranked near the top of North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting includes forwards Mason McTavish (second), Dylan Guenther (fifth), Brennan Othmann (eighth), Matthew Coranato (ninth) and Cole Sillinger (10th), as well as defensemen Luke Hughes (fourth) and Brandt Clarke (seventh).
Meanwhile, NHL Central Scouting ranked forward William Eklund as the No. 1 International skater in their final rankings for the 2021 draft. Following Eklund in the International rankings includes Swedish defenseman Simon Edvinsson, Finnish forward Aatu Räty, and then a pair of Russians in forward Nikita Chibrikov and defenseman Daniil Chayka.
The NHL Draft Lottery is set to take place virtually again this year, starting at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The event will take place just before the 7:30 p.m. ET puck drop between the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their North Division playoff matchup.
Be sure to tune in for NHL Draft Lottery coverage on WGR starting at 7 p.m. ET with "Sneaky Joe" DiBiase on "The Nightcap".