2021 NHL Draft Lottery
The ping pong balls bounced the way of the Buffalo Sabres and Seattle Kraken tonight. (Bruce Bennett/NHLI via Getty Images)

2021 NHL Draft Lottery Awards Top 2 Picks To Buffalo Sabres, Seattle Kraken

The last notable moment for every non-playoff team in the NHL during the 2020-21 season occurred on Wednesday evening with the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery. The lottery provides an opportunity for non-playoff teams to jump up (or stay put) and receive a top-two pick. Yes, that’s two lotteries for this year’s draft, down from three, which it was from 2016-2020. Other non-tanking measures, unlike limiting the number of spots a team can move up from a lottery to seven and preventing a team from winning more than two lotteries in a five-year span, will go into place next year.

In previous years, we’ve seen underdogs like the 2017 Flyers, 2018 Hurricanes, and 2019 Blackhawks make big moves up. But the 2021 Lottery played out largely as the percentages expected it to. No team that barely missed the playoffs had the ping pong balls bounce their ways. The only team to move up in the draft is the NHL’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken. Seattle was assigned the third-best odds for the lottery and leap-frogged Anaheim, who had the league’s second-worst record, for the number two pick.

Ultimately, the first overall pick went to the team with the league’s worst record, the Buffalo Sabres. This is Buffalo’s second time winning the lottery in the last four seasons. But good news, Sabres fans: you and everybody else gets a clean slate next year when the restriction on lottery wins within five years goes into place in 2022. It’s also their third time finishing last in the NHL since 2015; that year, they fell to number two in the lottery and took the currently disgruntled Jack Eichel.

In 2018, the club took Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the draft’s top selection. Dahlin did struggle mightily in 2021 (though he wasn’t the only Sabre to do so). But he’s shown promise in his young NHL career so far. The likely first overall pick this year is University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power. Power scored 16 points in 20 games as a freshman for the Wolverines; he projects as a top-pair defenseman with a skill-set that scouts have compared to Victor Hedman, as mentioned on TSN’s draft board.

If you’d like to read about NHL teams that made the playoffs, we’ve got you covered.

The draft itself will take place from July 23-24. Like last year, the draft is virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tonight’s lottery locks in the order of the top fifteen selections; the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will determine the rest. The good news for lottery losers is most analysts aren’t projecting much of a drop-off in the first five-ten picks. For now, Sabres and Kraken fans get to celebrate and fawn over all of the top prospects. The players at the top of TSN’s board include Power, defensemen Simon Evidsson, Luke Hughes, Brandt Clarke, and forwards Dylan Guenther and Matthew Beniers (not necessarily in that order though).

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