The Sabres are going to sit home during the postseason for the fourth straight year, so fans might not remember what a playoff atmosphere is like. They’ll get a subtle reminder Thursday.
The meeting between the 30th-place Sabres and 29th-place Arizona Coyotes might not be championship-caliber on the ice, but the feeling inside First Niagara Center could be electric. With attention high regarding the Sabres and their spot in the NHL Draft, we’re delivering our inaugural mailbag.
These are questions submitted by readers on Twitter or via email. Submit your own for the next mailbag at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at #AskVogl.
Question: Lots of talk about No. 1 and No. 2 picks. How about the next handful of players expected to be high picks?
Answer: There’s a trio of players getting the most attention behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
Dylan Strome, a teammate of McDavid with Erie in the Ontario Hockey League, is a 6-foot-3, 187-pound center who has 45 goals and 129 points in 68 games. Forward Mitch Marner (5-11, 164) has 44 goals and 126 points in 63 games with London of the OHL. Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin (6-3, 205) has five goals and 23 points in 36 games as a freshman.
Q: If the Sabres finish 29th or 28th, what’s the worst they could pick in the draft?
A: The furthest a team could drop is one spot. The only position up for grabs in the NHL Draft Lottery is the No. 1 pick, and the remaining selections go in inverse order of the standings. So if the 24th-place team wins the lottery, then No. 30 would draft second and No. 29 would select third. If the 30th-place team wins the lottery, then No. 29 retains the second pick.
Q: Is Matt Hackett still going to start five more games?
A: It’s unlikely unless he goes on a hot streak or fellow Sabres goaltender Anders Lindback gets hurt. The question refers to the fact that Hackett becomes an unrestricted free agent rather than a restricted one if he fails to meet certain playing criteria.
Q: How important is it that the Sabres are still trying and competing each night?
A: The level of importance depends on the player. Tyler Ennis has four years left on his contract, so it’s a good sign that a key piece of the team’s future is still trying to win. Andrej Meszaros won’t be part of the Sabres moving forward, so it’s nice for his career that he’s trying, but it has little impact on Buffalo’s attitude in coming years.
Q: Scenario: Arizona drafts No. 1, Edmonton No. 2, then Buffalo. Is Eichel on Edmonton’s radar or does that scenario make a trade possible?
A: A trade is possible with the Oilers but not for the No. 2 pick. Though they have plenty of young forwards in their system, it’s highly unlikely any team would pass on the opportunity to nab McDavid or Eichel. The prospects are just too good.