Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – For the fourth time in franchise history, the Buffalo Sabres will select with the first overall pick in the NHL Draft. Buffalo has taken Gil Perreault (1970), Pierre Turgeon (1987) and Rasmus Dahlin (2018) with the first overall pick.
“It’s a great moment for our franchise," said Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams right after Wednesday's NHL Draft Lottery. "It’s obviously been a tough year for a lot of different reasons, and we’re here. We’re very excited and proud to have this selection, and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Adams and Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis were teammates with the Carolina Hurricanes for parts of three seasons.
“I was on the split screen with 'Ronnie' Francis, a former teammate and good friend of mine, so it’s the only time I’ve ever beaten 'Ronnie.' I’m excited about it.”
When the Sabres won the lottery to selected Perreault in 1970, it was just between the two expansion teams - the Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks. Buffalo got Perreault and the Canucks took Dale Tallon. The Boston Bruins had the third and fourth picks and took future Philadelphia Flyers stars Reggie Leach and Rick MacLeish. The Toronto Maple Leafs grabbed Darryl Sittler with the eighth overall pick.
When the Sabres took Turgeon in 1987, Brendan Shanahan went to the New Jersey Devils at No. 2, while Boston took Glen Wesley at No. 3. Joe Sakic went to the Quebec Nordiques at No. 15 overall.
In 2018 when the Sabres took Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov went to Carolina at No. 2, while the Montreal Canadiens selected Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the third overall pick. Brady Tkachuk went to the Ottawa Senators at four, and Quinn Hughes was taken by the Vancouver Canucks at seven.
Many feel that University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power will go first overall. Power's stock was starting to slip, but he's played very well for Team Canada at the World Championship in Latvia.
Other defenseman high in the rankings are Brandt Clarke from Barrie Colts of the OHL, Simon Edvinsson from Frölunda in Sweden, and Luke Hughes, who’s headed for Michigan in the fall.
The Sabres already have some good young defensemen in Dahlin, Henri Jokiharju, Will Borgen, Mattias Samuelsson, Jacob Bryson, Oskari Laaksonen and Ryan Johnson. Adams said he will not be looking at that.
“I think it’s critical to take the best player available, and not just the best player now, you’re looking to project ultimately who the best player becomes," the Sabres general manager said. "So for us, we need to improve in every area, so we’re certainly not going to focus on a position.”
Michigan also has Kent Johnson and Matthew Beniers up front coming out of the draft this year. Winger Dylan Guenter played with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL, while the Peterborough Petes feature center Mason McTavish.
Since Darcy Regier talked about suffering following the 2012-13 season, the Sabres have taken Rasmus Ristolainen at No. 8, Nikita Zadorov at 16th overall, Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel at No. 2, Alex Nylander and Casey Mittelstadt at No. 8, Dahlin, Dylan Cozens at No. 7 and Jack Quinn at No. 8.
Getting the No. 1 pick is a giant step, and Adams said it was something the team needed and that they are excited about.
Many experts feel this is a draft where nobody will play in the NHL next season.
“There are clearly players that can step in depending on your team’s situation, but one thing for us whether we had the first pick, second pick or the third pick is we’re not going to put a player in a position that we don’t feel is best for their development," Adams said. "Whether that means on our team or somewhere else, that’s OK. We’re not going to rush the player."
The only teams that changed positions in this year’s lottery were the Anaheim Ducks and Kraken.
The 2021 NHL Draft order after the lottery is as follows:
1.) Buffalo Sabres
2.) Seattle Kraken
3.) Anaheim Ducks
4.) New Jersey Devils
5.) Columbus Blue Jackets
6.) Detroit Red Wings
7.) San Jose Sharks
8.) Los Angeles Kings
9.) Vancouver Canucks
10.) Ottawa Senators
11.) Chicago Blackhawks
12.) Calgary Flames
13.) Philadelphia Flyers
14.) Dallas Stars
15.) New York Rangers
The Arizona Coyotes forfeited their first round pick this year and second round pick in 2020 for illegal physical fitness testing of draft prospects.