Florida wins ’14 NHL draft lottery, will pick first overall


A year after losing out on the No. 1 pick, the Florida Panthers flipped the script.

Florida won the 2014 NHL Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, edging out Buffalo for top spot despite the Sabres holding superior odds for the first overall pick. Last year, the Panthers were on the other end of this scenario — they lost out on the first pick to Colorado, who jumped up from No. 2 and selected this year’s likely Calder Trophy winner, Nathan MacKinnon.

Travis Viola, the Panthers’ VP of Hockey Operations, was on hand for the decision. When put on the spot by TSN’s James Duthie as to who the club might select, Viola declined comment.

This will mark the second time in Panthers history that they’ve selected first overall. In 1994, the club took Ed Jovanovski with the No. 1 pick — Jovanovski, now 37, is the club’s current captain.

As for the remainder of the picks, here is the draft order and lottery result in full:

1st: Florida Panthers (moved up one spot)

2nd: Buffalo Sabres (moved down one spot)

3rd: Edmonton Oilers (retained)

4th: Calgary Flames (retained)

5th: New York Islanders (retained)

6th: Vancouver (retained)

7th: Carolina (retained)

8th: Toronto (retained)

9th: Winnipeg (retained)

10th: Anaheim (retained)

11th: Nashville (retained)

12th: Phoenix Coyotes (retained)

13th: Washington Capitals (retained)

New Jersey, who was part of the draft lottery, wasn’t eligible to get a top-14 pick due to punishment from the Ilya Kovalchuk contract situation. The Devils will draft 30th overall, the final pick of the opening round.

While there’s no consensus No.1 overall pick, draft pundits have identified a trio of players that’ll likely vie for the spot: OHL Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, WHL Kootenay forward Sam Reinhart and OHL Kingston forward Sam Bennett, who finished atop the final NHL Central Scouting rankings for the ’14 draft. Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle, Nick Ritchie, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jake Virtanen, Kasperi Kapanen and Haydn Fleury are considered other potential top-10 picks.

One thing to note: New York, awarded the fifth overall pick, must now make a decision to forward it to Buffalo as part of the Thomas Vanek trade, or retain it and send a 2015 first-rounder to the Sabres. Islanders head scout Trent Klatt, who was on hand at the lottery, said the team had yet to make up its mind as to which pick it’ll send.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.