Panthers have 15th overall pick in 2018 NHL draft

The Carolina Hurricanes vaulted into a position to land one of the top three picks of this year’s NHL draft.

They’re joined by the Montreal Canadiens and the last-place finishing Buffalo Sabres as the three teams still in the running after the league unveiled picks No. 4 through 15 as part of the NHL draft lottery conducted in Toronto on Saturday night.

The order of the top three selections will be announced later during the second intermission of Game 2 of the second-round playoff series between the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks.

The Hurricanes entered the lottery with the 11th-best chance (three percent) of landing the No. 1 pick after finishing 21st in the standings. Montreal is also making a move up after having the fourth-best shot at landing the No. 1 selection.

The Sabres won at least one of the three lottery drawings after finishing last in the standings and having the best odds (18.5 percent) to land the No. 1 pick.

The Hurricanes and Canadiens moved ahead of Ottawa and Arizona. The Senators dropped from the second slot to having the fourth pick, and Arizona dropped from third to fifth.

The Florida Panthers, who narrowly missed out on the postseason, have the 15th overall pick in the draft.

This year’s draft will be held at Dallas on June 22-23.

Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is regarded as the top-rated prospect and is listed first among European skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s final rankings. Russian forward Andrei Svechnikov is the top-ranked North American prospect based on him playing for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League.

The Hurricanes have never selected first since the franchise entered the NHL as the Hartford Whalers in 1979. The team is also in a state of flux under new team owner Tom Dundon.

Carolina is searching for a general manager after Ron Francis was reassigned to another front-office position last season. Last week, coach Bill Peters announced his resignation and was then hired by the Calgary Flames on Monday.

Carolina’s move up the order mirrors the draft lottery results from a year ago when Philadelphia made the largest jump in the lottery’s history by going from the 13th slot to winning the second pick.

The Sabres are attempting to finally win the lottery after finishing last for the third time in five seasons and extending their franchise-worst playoff drought to seven years. Buffalo lost the lottery the last two times it finished last in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and settled for picking second, which was the furthest teams could drop under the previous format.

In 2016, the NHL expanded the format by holding three separate lotteries to determine each of the first three picks.

The last-place team has won the lottery to retain the No. 1 pick just seven times since the lottery was introduced in 1995.

The Canadiens moved into a position to have a top-three pick for the first time since 2012, when they selected Alex Galchenyuk at No. 3. Montreal hasn’t had the No. 1 pick since 1980, when they Canadiens selected Doug Wickenheiser.

Dahlin has the chance of becoming just the second Swedish-born player to be taken first after the Quebec Nordiques chose Mats Sundin with the No. 1 pick in 1989.

Scouting bureau director Dan Marr regards Dahlin as “the clear-cut No. 1, pro-ready prospect.” He has represented Sweden at the past two World Junior Hockey tournaments, including a silver medal finish at this year’s tournament held at Buffalo. And Dahlin also had an assist in two games at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist compared Dahlin to another star Swedish blue-liner, Tampa Bay Lightning stalwart Victor Hedman.

“Whoever’s going to take him is going to get a top-pair defenseman for a long time,” Hornqvist said.

The next step for the prospects will be attending the pre-draft combine in Buffalo from May 27 to June 2.

The lottery settled one more selection with Philadelphia landing the 14th pick to complete a trade in which they sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis in June. The Blues had the option to retain this year’s first-round pick but only if it landed among the top 10 spots.

The Senators are expected to retain their selection and instead send their 2019 first-round pick to Colorado. Ottawa held the option to keep its pick if it landed in the top 10 as part of a three-team deal in which the Senators acquired Matt Duchene from Colorado and sent Kyle Turris to Nashville.

The remaining 16 draft positions will be determined based on playoff results.

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