TORONTO – With only a 20 percent chance of winning, Tim Murray expected the Sabres would lose the NHL Draft Lottery tonight. The general manager was right. Sorry, Buffalo, Connor McDavid is going to the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers, with only an 11.5 percent chance, snagged hockey’s most coveted prospect.
The Sabres, of course, received a pretty nice consolation prize, slick Boston University center Jack Eichel. The 18-year-old Boston native would likely be the No. 1 pick in any other draft.
Eichel, the Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player, scored 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games as a freshman.
By finishing last, the Sabres guaranteed themselves the first or second pick.
The Sabres went hard after a slim chance at McDavid, selling off assets and fielding an awful team this season.
The 18-year-old is the greatest draft prospect since Sidney Crosby in 2005, perhaps a generational talent. Counting 11 goals and 23 points in nine playoff games, McDavid has 55 goals and 143 points 56 total games this season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters.
The Sabres have only had the No. 1 pick twice: 1970, when they selected Gilbert Perreault; and 1987, when they picked Pierre Turgeon.
They also picked second last season, when they lost the lottery to the Florida Panthers and selected center Sam Reinhart.
Some quick updates from Eichel and Murray:
Eichel wouldn’t commit to turning pro.
“It’s tough to be thinking about that when you’re playing and you’re competing for a championship,” he said. “For me, I’m going to take a week or so to wind down and reflect on my season. I haven’t really put much thought into it.”
A decision will be made after the draft.
“I’m sure a decision will be made at the right time,” he said. “Right now, I have a long way to go. With that being said, it’s a dream. I’d love to play in the National Hockey League.”
Murray said he feels for the fans.
“I mean, we went through a tough year, and I think that they were extremely excited about Connor, certainly because he plays in Erie,” he said. “ … I do feel bad for them.”
Murray’s happy with Eichel.
“We’ve said along there’s two top-end, impact players, if not franchise players, in this draft,” he said. “They both play the right position, in opinion, for rebuilding. As disappointed as we are in not having the No. 1 pick, we’re extremely happy to be able to pick two still.”