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Leafs, Sabres had best chances

Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray was plenty frustrated about losing the draft lottery Saturday night.

Although Murray said his disappointment was more about the lottery process itself than losing out on the chance to draft Connor McDavid, his dismay will probably only grow when he learns how close the Sabres actually were to winning the draw.

Heading into the draw of the fourth of four ping-pong balls, in fact, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sabres had the best chance to win.

The video posted on its Web site by the NHL of the actual ball draw shows the first three numbers drawn in order were 5, 14 and 6.

At that point, a Buffalo News analysis of the 1,001 possible combinations reveals there were only five of the 14 non-playoff teams remaining who could win the draw on the final ball — Buffalo, Toronto, Edmonton, Carolina and Columbus.

The final ball drawn was 1, which belonged to Edmonton and thus gave the Oilers the No. 1 pick. Nos. 5-6-14 had already been drawn and were thus not available to be picked. The other possibilities go as follows:

• Toronto would have won the lottery had the final ball been 2, 7, 8 or 13.

• Buffalo would have won had ball four been 3, 11 or 12.

• Carolina would have won if it was 4.

• Columbus would have won if 9 was drawn.

• Edmonton would have also won with a 10, and had just a 2 of 11 chance going into the final ball come through.

After all the craziness of the Sabres’ season since last October, the entire lottery draw was done in a scant 43 seconds after the hopper rotating the balls was started.

According to Sportsnet, the Oilers will become the first sports franchise to have a No. 1 overall pick in four out of six drafts since the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals of the NBA did it in four of five from 1956-60. They took Sihugo Green in 1956, Hot Rod Hundley in 1957, Bob Boozer in 1959 and Oscar Robertson in 1960.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com