Congratulations to the Buffalo Sabres. You finally won the draft lottery! What are you going to do next? Well, you're going to draft Rasmus Dahlin.
The Sabres' awful record is going to do them some good, as Dahlin offers the team an additional pillar of support to alleviate the crushing weight Jack Eichel has been forced to carry. Dahlin does not instantly change things for the Sabres, but he helps the franchise take a very important step forward as it attempts to emerge from the quagmire that has tested fans' patience.
While Dahlin is the top prize, this draft is going to be a strong one. It's particularly exciting for teams that have a top-nine pick.
We often talk about drafts in terms of tiers. Dahlin has one all to himself, but then there's a strong second tier led by Andrei Svechnikov, with Filip Zadina and Brady Tkachuk occupying space not far behind him. One could make a case for Oliver Wahlstrom to be right with that group due to his elite scoring ability. Then there's a tier of top-level defensemen who can move the puck extremely well and have top-four potential. That includes Adam Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson and Quinn Hughes.
After those names go off the board, things get a little tougher to predict. A scout recently expressed to me how close everything gets from No. 10 all the way down to No. 50. There's a little more consensus for the middle third of the first round, but things really do open up. It's hard enough to predict what teams will do, but with the depth that exists between the first and second rounds this year, there are just so many different ways it could all go.
We'll make sure to revisit the mock as the draft gets closer, but here's a look at what the first round could look like following the draft lottery. Picks 24-31 are derived from expected playoff success with consideration to regular-season point totals and division winners. Let's have some fun.
1. Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Dahlin, D, Frolunda (Sweden)
Age: 18 | Shoot: L | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 181
41 GP | 7 G | 13 A
The Sabres finally get lucky and will have the chance to land the franchise cornerstone defenseman they've been missing. Adding Dahlin fills the position of greatest need while also adding a key piece to a new young core around which the Sabres can more reliably rebuild. Eichel alone could not save the Sabres, but having Dahlin there is going to help Buffalo a great deal. The draft will be the easy part, though, as Jason Botterill has a lot more work to do on this franchise.