NHL draft lottery: Senators, Habs in mix to land Swedish star Rasmus Dahlin
Draw takes place Saturday with Sabres holding best odds
The Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes are set to go.
The fate of the flashy Swedish defenceman — the consensus choice to be selected first overall in the NHL draft in June — will be decided at the NHL draft lottery on Saturday night in Toronto.
The Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers are among the 15 non-playoff teams with a shot at the top pick.
But while some fans urged their teams to Reek For Rasmus to boost their chances, last year's lottery shows that even finishing last overall no longer guarantees a top pick.
For a second year, there will be draws for the top three picks. Last year, New Jersey won the right to select Nico Hischier first overall despite having only the fifth-best chance, while Philadelphia jumped from 13th to get the second pick (Nolan Patrick) and eighth-seeded Dallas landed the third pick (Miro Heiskanen).
The Colorado Avalanche, who finished last overall, were bumped to fourth.
This year, the last-place Buffalo Sabres have the best odds at 18.5 per cent followed by Ottawa at 13.5 per cent, the Arizona Coyotes at 11.5 per cent and Montreal at 9.5 per cent.
Canucks and Oilers linger
The Canucks have the sixth-best chance at 7.5 per cent with the Oilers, who have won four of the last eight lotteries, ninth at 5.0 per cent.
Teams that don't get the first pick may still have a shot at some excellent prospects at second or third overall, including Barrie Colts winger Andrei Svechnikov, who had 40 goals in 44 Ontario Hockey League games, Halifax Mooseheads slick forward Filip Zadina or more physical Boston University winger Brady Tkachuk.
But the six-foot-two Dahlin, whose dazzling moves for Frolunda in Sweden's top league have circulated on social media all season, is said by scouts to have enough talent to transform an NHL franchise.
For the Sabres, winning the lottery could put the crowning piece on a rebuild that has seen them land Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, Alex Nylander and Casey Mittelstdt with first-round picks in their last five drafts.
Buffalo is due, having finished last overall but losing the lottery in 2014, when Aaron Ekblad went first to Florida, and 2015, when Edmonton got Connor McDavid, back when the lottery was only for the first pick.
Then again, only seven last-place teams have won since the first lottery in 1995, although some still got the top pick because, until 2012, the winner could move up a maximum of four spots in the draft order.
Pair of Swedes
Landing Dahlin would be a relief for Ottawa, which is agonizing over whether it can re-sign star defenceman Erik Karlsson. Imagine how quickly the puck would move with Karlsson and Dahlin on the blueline?
Arizona has the same questions about defence veteran Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Montreal has a gaping hole on defence since the departure of Andrei Markov. Dahlin could slip into the left defence spot next to Shea Weber and fix that.
The Canucks are already awaiting the arrival of Elias Pettersson, who set the junior-aged scoring record in the Swedish league this season. Adding another Swedish star, to go with 21-year-old phenom Brock Boeser, would make things interesting indeed.
There will be groans everywhere except northern Alberta if the Oilers win yet another lottery. But if it happens, the 30 other teams can contemplate how to stop a Dahlin-McDavid combination.
The Calgary Flames would have had a 2.5 per cent chance, but they sent their first pick to the New York Islanders in the Travis Hamonic deal. The Isles also have their own pick, which carries 3.5 per cent lottery odds.
Other teams with a shot are Detroit (8.5 per cent), Chicago (6.5), the New York Rangers (6.0), Carolina (3.0), Dallas (2.0) Philadelphia (from St. Louis, 1.5) and Florida (1.0).