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NHL Draft: Panthers win lottery, right to pick first overall in June

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Sam Bennett is seen by Central Scouting as the top prospect. (Getty Images)
Sam Bennett is seen by Central Scouting as the top prospect. (Getty Images)

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After a rough season that saw them finish 29th out of 30 teams, the Florida Panthers were rewarded with a nice consolation prize on Tuesday night; an NHL Draft lottery win and the right to pick No. 1 overall in June's draft.

The Panthers finished the season with the second-worst record in the NHL this season after finishing with the worst mark last year. They didn't win the lottery and picked second overall last year, taking Aleksander Barkov after the Avalanche selcted Nathan Mackinnon. Well this year their luck came through (after a terrible season, it should be reminded once more). A small bit of justice after losing last year, at least.

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo was pretty happy about Tuesday's developments.

Before getting too excited about the Panthers and the No. 1 overall pick, remember that they also had the right to pick first in both 2002 and 2003 but traded out of the top spot. The last time the Panthers actually picked first overall was way back in 1994 when they selected Ed Jovanovski.

For the Buffalo Sabres it was just one final loss to one of the worst seasons in memory. They had the best chance to win the top pick at 25 percent but at this point what's one more loss? They will still get a good player at No. 2 and with the Islanders still having to forfeit a first-round pick either this year or next, could have two picks in the top five.

This is actually the third straight lottery where the team with the second-best odds to win the lottery did win. Teams should remember that next season when the sweepstakes to select Connor McDavid really pick up.

With Florida's win, this is how the draft order will look at the top half.

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 (via Ottawa Senators)
11. Nashville Predators
12. Phoenix Coyotes
13. Washington Capitals
......
30. New Jersey Devils

This year's draft class does not have the same hype we saw last season and there isn't the clear, sure-fire prospects at the top that we've seen in recent years. That doesn't mean, though, that there aren't some very good players atop this draft where Sam Bennett is the top North American skater according to NHL's Central Scouting. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forward Sam Reinhart are also seen by some as the best prospect so the Panthers will have a few players to choose from here.

The draft this year will take place in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center and will take place June 27-28.

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