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Sabres Notebook: Botterill examines Europe; winning combinations

Presumptive No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Dahlin isn't the only Swedish defenseman set to come to Buffalo. The Sabres have reportedly agreed to terms with award-winning Lawrence Pilut, too.

Because Pilut is still part of the Swedish national team as it prepares for next week's World Championship, the Sabres can't confirm the signing. General Manager Jason Botterill did acknowledge the team is looking everywhere to bolster its blue line.

"We know where we're at as an organization," Botterill said. "We're trying to find skill, and we're trying to find players in a lot of different avenues. We did that with NCAA free agents, and it's also a scenario where we've continued to look over to Europe for different players."

The 22-year-old Pilut seems to add skill. He won the Salming Trophy, named for Hockey Hall of Famer Borje Salming, as the best Swedish-born defenseman in the Swedish Hockey League. Pilut paced all blue-liners with 38 points in 52 games, scoring eight times and adding 30 assists.

As the Sabres' Victor Antipin showed this year, acclaimed European players need time to get used to the North American game. Pilut would likely start in Rochester, which has also added Will Borgen for next season.

"The back end is certainly something that we're trying to improve on," Botterill said, "not only at the National Hockey League level but adding depth to our entire organization."


The combination was: 1-4-6-14. Those were the numbers that came up first in the NHL Draft Lottery and may have changed the course of Sabres history.

Of the 1,001 combinations possible among the 14 lottery balls, 1-4-6-14 was combination No. 138. It belonged to the Sabres. The NHL has revealed the results of the lottery draws for the first, second and third overall picks, and the Sabres actually won two of three with their 185 combinations.

For the first overall pick, 1-4-6-14 gave Buffalo the right to choose Dahlin on June 22 in Dallas. The Carolina Hurricanes, who had only 3 percent odds of the No. 1 pick and 30 combinations, moved from No. 11 to No. 2 when 1-2-5-14 was drawn.

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Then things got jumbled. Combination No. 36 was drawn next – a 1-2-6-12 quartet that also belonged to the Sabres. Since Buffalo had already won, those numbers were returned to the hopper and a new combination was drawn. That was 4-5-6-8, which made a winner of Montreal for the No. 3 pick.

The Sabres became the eighth team with the best odds to retain the No. 1 pick in the lottery and the second in three years. The Toronto Maple Leafs won with the best odds in 2016 and selected Auston Matthews during the draft in KeyBank Center.

Other teams to win the lottery from the top spot were Edmonton in 2010 (Taylor Hall), the New York Islanders in 2009 (John Tavares), Tampa Bay in 2008 (Steven Stamkos), St. Louis in 2006 (Erik Johnson), Boston in 1997 (Joe Thornton) and Ottawa in 1996 (Chris Phillips).

The complete draft order will not be finalized until the completion of the playoffs, but the Sabres are expected to draft first overall, 32nd (second round), 94th and 117th (fourth round), 125th (fifth), 156th (sixth) and 187th (seventh). They traded their third-round pick to Minnesota last year in the deal that brought defenseman Marco Scandella and right wing Jason Pominville.


Though the excitement of landing Dahlin has eased the sting of a last-place season, the Sabres were still at the bottom of the NHL in nearly every category. It's prompted them to re-evaluate their assistant coaches.

Phil Housley has Davis Payne as his associate coach, Chris Hajt and Tom Ward as assistants and Andrew Allen as the goaltending coach.

"I've talked to Phil Housley about that, and we continue to evaluate the situation," Botterill said. "But those are conversations that Phil and I will continue to have."

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Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt was left off the U.S. team for the World Championship with a groin injury. Botterill said the 19-year-old's ailment is not serious.

"It's disappointing for him and for ourselves because we felt this was going to be a great opportunity for him," Botterill said. "Casey sometimes you watch him on the ice and you’re very impressed, but he's also just a young kid. He was excited to play with Patrick Kane. He was excited to play with these NHL players.

"It's a groin, but it shouldn't be anything more than a couple weeks. But obviously with the tournament starting next week, it just didn't make any sense for him to go over there."

Roll the highlight film: Here is Rasmus Dahlin in action

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