The blues classic “Born Under A Bad Sign” has the line “if it wasn’t bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”. That phrase might be applicable when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres, who after missing the NHL’s expanded Stanley Cup Playoff format by a single victory had their draft pick fall to eighth overall in the NHL Draft Lottery on Friday.
One of the eight teams to be eliminated in the league’s play-in round beginning next month will have a 12.5% chance of selecting Canadian junior star Alexis Lafreniere, while the Detroit Red Wings (who had the NHL’s worst record at 17-49-5) will select fourth and the Ottawa Senators (who had a combined 25% chance at winning the lottery with theirs and San Jose’s first-rounders) will pick third and fifth.
With the exception of winning the top pick and choosing defenseman Rasmus Dahlin at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas, misfortune at the lottery has been a constant for Buffalo. In spite of having the worst record in the NHL for two straight seasons, the Sabres fell to second overall in 2014 (Sam Reinhart) and 2015 (Jack Eichel), missing out on top picks Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid.
The club under new GM Kevyn Adams will draft eighth for the fourth time in eight years, and that particular draft slot has not been kind to Buffalo. Rasmus Ristolainen has been a solid performer since being chosen in 2013, but the big blueliner has made no secrets about wanting out of town and has been on the trade block for two years. 2016 top pick Alex Nylander played just 19 games over three seasons before being traded to Chicago for Henri Jokiharju last July, and 2017 first rounder Casey Mittelstadt was rushed to the NHL at 19 and after struggling last season was sent to the American Hockey League.
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After the firing of GM Jason Botterill, assistants Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley, their entire minor league coaching staff and a large portion of their scouting department earlier this month, the Sabres began to reassemble their organization under Adams by promoting pro scout Jeremiah Crowe to Director of Scouting and Director of Analytics Jason Nightingale as Assistant Director of Scouting on Friday.
Crowe served as a pro scout with Buffalo the last three seasons and spent two years with the US National Team Development Program, and will head a more efficient scouting department more dependent on utilizing analytics and video scouting. Crowe’s history and experience with the NTDP might provide a clue to who the Sabres select at the draft in October, as American defenseman Jake Sanderson (son of former Sabre Geoff) is ranked in the top 10 of most draft lists.