In case you were wondering, the NHL draft is 87 days away. But the draft lottery is two weeks from tonight. The Sabres would pretty much have to run the table to avoid finishing with the worst record in the league, which would insure Buffalo having no worse than the second overall selection in the draft.
The NHL Central Scouting Bureau held its final meeting of the season in Toronto last week and will release its final rankings of the top 210 North American skaters and top 30 goalies next week. The European Scouting Bureau will pass along its recommendations on the top 140 international skaters and top 15 net minders.
Four names have emerged as the most likely candidate for the top choice in the draft: Forwards Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl along with defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
Bennett, who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs in the Ontario Hockey League, had 36 goals and 91 points during the regular season. Both are significant improvements from his first season in the OHL where he ended up with 18 goals and 40 points. Bennett has four goals and eight points in Kingston's first round playoff series going into the seventh and deciding game with Peterborough tonight.
Reinhart's 105 points tied for fourth best in the Western Hockey League where he plays for Kootenay. He had 36 goals and 69 assists. Kootenay won its first round playoff series in large part to Reinhart who recorded five goals and 12 assists in six games.
Draisaitl also had 105 points while playing for Prince Albert in the WHL. The German native scored 38 goals to go along with 67 assists. The 105 points was a 47 point jump from his previous season. Prince Albert was eliminated in the opening round of the WHL playoffs. Draisaitl had a goal and two assists in four games.
Ekblad had a career year with Barrie in the OHL. The big blue liner led all defensemen with 23 goals which was six more than his total from the previous two seasons combined. Ekblad's 53 points was 5th best for defensemen. He added a goal and two assists in Barrie's first round series win over Sudbury.
In the CSB midterm rankings, Bennett was number one followed by Draisaitl, Ekblad and Reinhart. The draft lottery is April 15th and the draft is June 27th in Philadelphia.