It's been 20 years since the Florida Panthers headed to the NHL Draft with the No. 1 selection, but they will do so this summer in Philadelphia.
The Panthers will pick first in the 2014 NHL Draft after winning the lottery Tuesday. As the 29th-place team in the final 2013-14 NHL standings, the Panthers entered with an 18.8 percent chance (second best) of getting the No. 1 pick.
The Buffalo Sabres had the best chance to win the lottery (25 percent) based on their 30th-place finish but will pick second.
The draft will be held June 27-28 at Wells Fargo Center, with the Philadelphia Flyers as host. It will be the first time the Panthers have the No. 1 pick since 1994, when they selected defenseman Ed Jovanovski. Florida won the lottery in 2002 and 2003 but each year it traded the pick prior to the draft.
"It means a lot to us, we're very excited," Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola told TSN. "We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high."
The Panthers could use the first pick on defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who had 23 goals and 30 assists in 58 games for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League this season, his third with the team.
"It's kind of hard to say what's going to happen come draft day, but nonetheless I'm pretty excited," Ekblad told TSN. "It's going to be a pretty fun week down there in Philadelphia."
Many scouts believe Ekblad is ready to play in the NHL next season. Five of the top six picks from last year's draft played in the NHL in 2013-14.
"The goal is always to play in the NHL, ever since you were a little kid," Ekblad said. "I'm going to keep working as hard as I possibly can over the summer so I can hopefully achieve that goal."
Center Sam Reinhart is an option for Florida; he had 105 points (36 goals, 69 assists) in 60 games for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League.
Florida finished with the fewest points in 2012-13, but the Colorado Avalanche won the lottery and selected right wing Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick. The Panthers took center Aleksander Barkov at No. 2.
The Sabres haven't had the No. 1 pick since 1987, when they selected center Pierre Turgeon.
"I'm not disappointed," Sabres general manager Tim Murray told The Buffalo News. "We had a 25 percent chance driving up here. ... It's kind of what I was expecting.
"We probably have a better chance of getting the guy that we have [at No.] 1 than we had a chance today of getting the first pick."
There's a chance Buffalo could have two of the top five picks. The New York Islanders, who hold the fifth pick, have the option to keep their selection or transfer it to the Sabres as part of the in-season trade involving forward Thomas Vanek. Should the Islanders hold on to the pick, Buffalo will get New York's first-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.
"Staying at five, there's a better possibility of us getting their pick versus if they had moved to one," Murray said.
The weighted odds of winning the lottery were determined by the regular-season point totals for teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After Florida, the remaining 12 teams that were eligible to win the lottery are slotted in reverse order of their point totals.
Here are the top 13 picks:
1. Florida Panthers
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Edmonton Oilers
4. Calgary Flames
5. New York Islanders
6. Vancouver Canucks
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
9. Winnipeg Jets
10. Anaheim Ducks (from Ottawa Senators)
11. Nashville Predators
12. Phoenix Coyotes
13. Washington Capitals
The New Jersey Devils did not make the playoffs but were not be eligible to win the lottery due to punishments relating to salary-cap circumvention. The Devils will select 30th in the first round.
The first-round drafting positions of the 16 playoff teams (picks 14-29) will be determined by the results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which get underway Wednesday.
The drawing was conducted at the NHL office in Toronto.
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