With the regular season complete, the next event on the Sabres’ schedule is the NHL Draft Lottery. Whichever team wins will have a chance to pick a player with Buffalo ties.
NHL Central Scouting released its final prospect rankings Tuesday, and Nolan Patrick retained the top spot. The 18-year-old is the son of former Sabres first-round pick Steve Patrick and the nephew of longtime Buffalo defenseman and assistant coach James Patrick.
Central Scouting tabbed Nolan Patrick as the best draft prospect despite an injury-plagued season. The forward for Brandon of the Western Hockey League missed a total of 39 games, including the Wheat Kings’ four playoff outings. He still managed to put up 20 goals and 46 points in 33 games.
“He's got a good understanding of the game, has been taught good fundamentals from a young age," Matt Ryan of NHL Central Scouting said. “There are a lot of guys who don't seem to have that understanding of the effort it takes to play at a high level with and without the puck. Nolan Patrick does."
Patrick’s production continued a stellar junior career. He started with 30 goals and 56 points in 55 games in 2014-15. He finished fifth in the WHL last season with 102 points, including 41 goals, in 72 games. He’s also been a playoff performer, recording 21 goals and 45 points in his last 40 postseason appearances.
"He has more than proven over the last three years that he is the real deal, and he will be an impact NHL player," said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting.
The Sabres finished 26th in the 30-team NHL and have a 7.6 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick. The first three selections in the draft are done via lottery, and Buffalo has a 23.4 percent chance of moving into the top three.
The lottery will be held April 29 in Toronto. Colorado has the best chance at the No. 1 pick (17.9 percent), followed by Vancouver (12.1 percent), Vegas and Arizona (10.3 percent each), New Jersey (8.5 percent) and Buffalo.
The Sabres used the No. 20 overall pick in 1980 on Steve Patrick. The forward spent parts of five seasons in the organization, recording 21 goals and 55 points in 152 games. James Patrick played defense for the Sabres from 1998 to 2004 and was Lindy Ruff’s assistant from 2006 to 2013.