Panthers jump up one spot to win first pick in NHL draft lottery
After missing out on the first pick in last year's draft, the Florida Panthers lucked out this year, winning the right to pick first in the upcoming NHL Draft.
With the second pick last year, the Panthers selected Aleksander Barkov.
Ed Mulholland / USA TODAY Sports
By Erin BrownFOX Sports Florida
Call it a reversal of fortune.
The Florida Panthers were awarded the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL draft to be held in Philadelphia on June 27-28.
Florida, which finished 29th in the NHL with a 29-45-8 record for 66 points, had an 18.8 percent chance of winning the draw.
"We are pleased to have won the No. 1 overall selection," Vice President of Hockey Operations Travis Viola said in a statement. "With the No. 1 pick, we will explore all of our team’s options and make the best decision that adds to our young nucleus of talent that includes Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau."
The Buffalo Sabres finished last in the NHL with a 21-51-10 record and had a 25 percent chance of hanging on to the first selection.
Last season, the Panthers finished last in the NHL, but were jumped by the Colorado Avalanche for the No. 1 pick. Colorado selected Nathan MacKinnon; Florida chose Aleksander Barkov with the second pick.
Heading into the draft, Florida will be seeking scoring help, especially on wing. The Panthers finished second-to-last in average goals for.
Rookie Nick Bjugstad led Florida in scoring with 38 points, the fewest by any team scoring leader in an 82-game season since Minnesota's Scott Pellerin in 2000-01.
Among the prospects eligible this year:
-- Samuel Bennett, a left wing who finished as the NHL Central Scouting's top North American player following a 36-goal, 91-point season with Kingston (OHL). -- Sam Reinhart, a center who registered 36 goals and 105 points in 60 games with Kootenay (WHL). -- Aaron Ekblad, a 6-foot-3, 213-pound defenseman with Barrie (OHL) who posted 53 points despite being regarded as a top shutdown defenseman. -- Leon Draisaitl, a German winger who posted 105 points with Prince Albert (WHL) and has drawn comparisons to Toronto's James van Riemsdyk and Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar.
"This draft in the front end is pretty good," Panthers GM Dale Tallon said. "There are some wingers who are very good."
This is the fourth time in franchise history the Panthers have held the No. 1 choice.
Florida drafted defenseman -- and current team captain -- Ed Jovanovski with the selection in 1994.
The Panthers twice won the lottery in the 2002 and 2003, but traded the selections on draft day.
The Columbus Blue Jackets moved up to select winger Rick Nash in 2002; Florida selected defensemen Jay Bouwmeester third overall.
The following year, Pittsburgh acquired the selection to draft goalie Marc-Andre Fleury; the Panthers chose center Nathan Horton third overall.