The Sabres could draft Sam Reinhart this June. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres can’t keep top pick during lottery, will draft second in June

BUFFALO – Chalk up one more loss for the Sabres this season.

The rebuilding club couldn’t retain the No. 1 overall pick during Tuesday’s NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto. Instead, the Florida Panthers moved up one spot to the top selection.

The Sabres will pick second in June. Thanks to their 30th ranking this season, the Sabres had a 25 percent chance of keeping the top pick, more than any other team. The Panthers had an 18.8 percent chance.

Earlier Tuesday, Sabres general manager Tim Murray said he wanted “to win the lottery.”

“I want to win something here,” he said inside the First Niagara Center.

The New York Islanders, who must give the Sabres their first-round pick this year or in 2015 as part of the Thomas Vanek trade, kept fifth selection Tuesday.

Murray acknowledged he wanted the Isles to move up so GM Garth Snow had a tough decision. Snow must decide by June 1. The 2015 draft has Connor McDavid, perhaps the best prospect since Sidney Crosby in 2005.

The Sabres, of course, will still get a very talented youngster at No. 2 this year. Given the dearth of top forwards in the organization, many assume the Sabres will select one early.

Murray, however, said the Sabres “have to take the best player available.”

NHL Central Scouting has center Sam Bennett ranked as the No. 1 prospect, defenseman Aaron Ekblad No. 2 and center Sam Reinhart No. 3.

Goalie Matt Hackett, whose right leg bent awkwardly in a scary collision Saturday, likely needs knee surgery, Murray said. Hackett is using crutches.

Murray also said:

– Goalie Michal Neuvirth has a nagging hip injury. The Sabres sent him to a specialist.

– Defenseman Henrik Tallinder has an ankle bulge.

“I told the trainer just to send him up to me,” Murray joked. “I got a sharp knife and we can get that done quick.”

– Winger Marcus Foligno might have shoulder surgery.

Defenseman Jake McCabe will represent Team USA at the upcoming world championship. Assistant coach Joe Sacco has been named to Peter Laviolette’s U.S. staff.

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