The hype that has been building up surrounding the identity of Connor McDavid‘s next hockey home reached it’s zenith on Saturday night with the holding of the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery in Toronto, ON. Fourteen NHL clubs, all of whom missed the playoffs this season, had a shot at landing McDavid, but only one team would head home a happy group.
The Buffalo Sabres were the worst team in the NHL in the 2014-15 season and had the best chance at landing the Erie Otters’ offensive phenom, albeit at a less than sure 20% probability. And, as it turned out, the odds weren’t on the side of Sabres’ General Manager Tim Murray, who was not all that shy about his admiration for McDavid’s abilities.
Instead, for the fourth time in six years, the Edmonton Oilers will take the podium first at the NHL Draft to, in all likelihood, select McDavid. The Sabres could fall no further than one position, so they’ll enter the draft with the second pick, which will almost certainly be used on Hobey Baker Award winner, Jack Eichel.
Oilers’ Assistant General Manager Bill Scott, who attended the draft lottery, expressed both pleasure and relief after having gone through the process of viewing the drawing of the lottery balls.
“Pretty unbelievable, that’s for sure,” enthused Scott. “When the balls were drawn, we had all the charts and lists out there of what the number combinations were. When ours came up, a little shock, a little disbelief – you look at the numbers a few times over and over again, and make sure that six isn’t a nine, or anything like that.”
The responses from well-wishers flooded into Scott quickly, but he was also quick to acknowledge the team’s long-suffering followers.
“It’s a very exciting time, my phone’s blowing up for sure, lots of text messages and calls,’ said Scott. “An exciting time for our organization. And we’re obviously very excited for our fans, too, that have stuck with us over a number of years where we haven’t had the success, and that’s why we’re in this position now. We obviously feel very happy about the future and where this team is going. We’re certainly going to get a tremendous player with the first overall pick this year.”
For an obviously disappointed Murray, he too had his team’s fans on his mind after the lottery results were announced.
“I feel for the fans – we went through a tough year, and I think that they were extremely excited about Connor, certainly, because he plays in Erie,” said the Sabres’ GM. “A lot of fans that are Buffalo Sabres fans watched him play in Erie, so I’m sure they were excited about it, and I do feel bad for them.
“On the same token, we have to play the hand we’re dealt and get ready for it.”
Edmonton General Manager Craig MacTavish, who joined the post-lottery press conference via phone, acknowledged that the hand he has been dealt now that his team will be adding McDavid should help change the perception of the team around the NHL.
“It sure turns the focus squarely on the Oilers as a team to be reckoned with in the future,” said MacTavish. “Offense wins hockey games, and we’re going to be loaded with it, and this is another piece we’ve added. It’s so important for our franchise on so many fronts.”
The center of attention for the evening’s festivities was McDavid, who was in attendance at the draft lottery along with teammate Dylan Strome and Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, two more top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft.
McDavid seemed relieved that some of the mystery had been removed from the process, and spoke guardedly about the potential of playing with the Oilers’ stable of top draftees.
“I think they have a great, young group of talent there,” acknowledged McDavid. “I think obviously, names like Hall, Eberle, Hopkins, Yakupov, and Schultz. They have such a good group there, that it’s hard to pick anyone. That’s getting a little ahead of ourselves, obviously, the draft hasn’t even started. We’ll see what happens.”
When asked if there was any way that the Oilers would deal the first pick in the draft, Scott made it clear that dealing the first overall selection was an unlikely scenario.
“I don’t think we’re going to make anything official right now,” Scott said with a grin. “You’d have to talk to Craig MacTavish about any trade possibilities, but I can say that it would take a whole lot for us to consider any type of trade with the players available at No. 1, that’s for sure.”
The first round draft order for the 14 teams that missed the NHL playoffs stands as follows:
1. Edmonton Oilers
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Arizona Coyotes
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Carolina Hurricanes
6. New Jersey Devils
7. Philadelphia Flyers
8. Columbus Blue Jackets
9. San Jose Sharks
10. Colorado Avalanche
11. Florida Panthers
12. Dallas Stars
13. Los Angeles Kings
14. Boston Bruins
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