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Report: NHL Draft lottery changes likely to come in 2015

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Tim Murray probably won't be happy that the NHL Draft lottery will change. (USATSI)
Tim Murray probably won't be happy that the NHL Draft lottery will change. (USATSI)

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One of the major items up for discussion during Thursday's NHL Board of Governors meeting was making alterations to the NHL Draft lottery procedure. The league still has to clear it with the NHLPA, but the board did approve changes to the lottery process according to John Shannon of Sportsnet. Those changes could go into effect prior to the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

The details of what the changes would look like were unclear as of Thursday, but Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray, who addressed the media ahead of Friday night's first round of the NHL Draft, shed some light on what they may look like.

According to Murray, the odds of the last-place team getting the No. 1 overall pick will drop from 25 percent, as it was this year, to something closer to 19 to 20 percent in 2015. As is the case now, if the last-place team in the league loses out on the first overall pick, it can drop no lower than second in the draft.

Among the other changes, it sounds like more teams will be eligible for the lottery than in previous years and there could be some further movement around the draft boards as a result. That was laid out a bit by Shannon as well:

The timing for such changes is rather curious. Why? Well, it just so happens that the 2015 NHL Entry Draft is slated to include two of the most exciting prospects in recent memory, led by Erie Otters wunderkind forward Connor McDavid and future Boston University forward Jack Eichel.

The Sabres are highly unlikely to finish much higher than the last few spots in the league in 2014-15. As they found out this year, the No. 1 pick is certainly no guarantee for the worst team in the league. The Sabres lost out in the draft lottery, with the Florida Panthers jumping up to No. 1 thanks to the fortuitous bounce of the ping pong ball. The Sabres will select second Friday night in Philadelphia.

By many accounts, McDavid and Eichel have the potential to be franchise-altering players and stars in the league. Every team is going to want to get their hands on one of them, with McDavid most likely the top choice at this early point in time.

Murray had been vocal about his opposition to the draft lottery changes being so immediate in recent weeks. Obviously, that has a lot to do with where the Sabres are in their rebuild (not very far). He had advocated for changes to go into effect five years down the line so that it isn't clear which teams would be as affected by these changes.

At this point, it's pretty clear that the Sabres are a long ways away from competitiveness and very well could finish last in the league. If everything stayed the same as this year, they finished last in 2014-15 and ended with the best odds for the No. 1 pick, they'd still have a 75 percent chance of not getting the No. 1 pick. Now it will be closer to 80 percent.

The Sabres do, however, also hold two additional first-round picks in 2015, which could improve their chances a little bit. They have the first-round selections for both the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues, so anything can happen there.

Nabbing a player like McDavid or Eichel, which the Sabres still may have a chance to do anyway, will go a long way in their rebuilding process and perhaps even lead to a contending team sooner than later. Either way, they'll be at the mercy of the ping pong balls and their own record next year.

Again, the NHL and NHLPA have to agree on the changes before they become official.

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