It could be tank accompli tonight in Buffalo.
The Sabres will host the Hurricanes at First Niagara Center on Monday evening and, with a loss in regulation, will lock up 30th place in the NHL and the corresponding lottery odds for the 2015 draft lottery.
That, of course, means a 20 percent chance at the first overall selection, which Buffalo would (theoretically) use to select one of the two generational-type talents available: OHL Erie’s Connor McDavid or Boston University’s Jack Eichel.
The NHL’s 29th-place finisher this year has a 13.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick; the 29th-place team has an 11.5 percent chance. Heading into tonight’s action, Arizona appears to be in best position to finish 29th, as it has 56 points with just three games remaining. Edmonton, however, is still in the mix — losers of three straight, the Oilers are only three points up on the Coyotes with three games left as well.
But the real story for tonight — at least in terms of the McEichel Derby — is Buffalo, who could finish dead last in the NHL for the second consecutive season. That, like last year, would ensure that Buffalo could draft no lower that No. 2 overall and ensure itself of either McDavid or Eichel, the latter of whom is widely expected to be named this year’s Hobey Baker winner on Friday.
Like they’ve done all year, the Sabres are preaching hard work and a winning mentality in the face of all this losing. That message was relayed once again by head coach Ted Nolan on Monday — despite allegations of tanking, he said his club has been trying as hard as ever.
“The compete level is something you can’t ask for more,” he said, per the Buffalo News. “They’re giving everything they have to give and we ask.
“As a coaching staff, we’re very proud of that.”