Friday, August 22, 2014

Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters to play in Buffalo. Plus other notes

Reprinted with permission from

The Buffalo Sabres and Erie Otters held a joint press conference this afternoon to announce that the Otters will be facing off in an OHL tilt against the Niagara Ice Dogs on Wednesday, October 22 at 7pm at the First Niagara Center.

Tickets for the event are $15.

Sherry Bassin, general manager and managing partner of the Otters called the event "an exciting moment for hockey fans in Buffalo and in Erie. They’ll have the chance to see the hockey stars of tomorrow play in a future NHL home like First Niagara Center. It’s a special opportunity for the Ontario Hockey League, as a hockey town like Buffalo will provide great exposure for the top junior hockey league in the world.”

The "hockey stars of tomorrow" Bassin is talking about begins with the Otters own No. 97, Connor McDavid.

"If you haven't heard the name Connor McDavid," said Bassin, "and you're a hockey fan, then you're dead. You need a mortician."

McDavid is expected to be the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

The Buffalo Sabres are looking at another tough year ahead and could end up finishing near the bottom again giving them a decent shot at McDavid.

The 6'0" 185 lb. McDavid had 99 points in 56 games for the Otters last season and has been drawing "once in a generation" comparisons to Sidney Crosby.

It's a nice, tight package for all parties involved.

This announcement comes on the heels of the NHL taking their Scouting Combine to Buffalo for 2015 and 2016 and precedes the official opening of HARBORCENTER this fall.

HARBORCENTER, which is attatched to the First Niagara Center via a walkway, was designed as a "hockey mecca" to encourage growth and development of the game. It will be home to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres and Canisius Griffins.

Now the area is bringing the OHL in for a night.

"The Sabres organization has made a real commitment to develop and grow hockey at every level,” said Sabres president Ted Black. “This will be a great chance to give the OHL a bigger platform to showcase their exciting brand of hockey. We are looking forward to a great game between the Otters and IceDogs and expect a great crowd to be on hand here in Buffalo.”

HARBORCENTER is the third hockey venture for Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

After selling his East Resources company he immediately went to his alma mater, Penn State, and gave the school an $88M donation to start a Div. I hockey program.

In February, 2011 Pegula closed on a $189M purchase of the Buffalo Sabres. HARBORCENTER is a project valued at $172M.

Buffalo has always been regarded as a hockey hotspot but was constantly falling prey to external forces. Through ownership changes that included an indictment of the Rigas' back in 2002 and league control, the franchise has been struggling to gain a foothold and grow.

Even under Pegula the team endured on-ice setbacks that lead to a major overhaul of the front office and coaching staff.

Through it all, though, Pegula and his charges have been building a foundation that looks to be lasting.

The Sabres rebuild is now in "build" mode as last year's 2nd-overall draft pick, Sam Reinhart, joins a bevy of prospects accumulated over the course of the previous two drafts.

McDavid is seeing firsthand what type of organization that may be awaiting him next June.

When the Otters come to town in October, he'll be competing on an NHL rink in front of a large NHL crowd. It should be noted that nearly 9000 fans came to the First Niagara Center in July for the 2014 Development Camp scrimmage.

"I've been to a couple of Sabres games," said McDavid post press conference. "The fans are crazy here. They're great.

"I'm really excited to be playing here with my team."

Tickets for the game will be on sale at 9 a.m. on Sept. 13 and can be purchased at the First Niagara Center box office or online at Prices for 100-level and 200-level seating will be $15 and $10 for Sabres season-ticket holders.


The Buffalo Sabres bottomed out just in time.

As expected the NHL just announced that "phase-2" of their draft lottery adjustments which will be implemented for the 2016 draft.

The first phase involves an adjustment of the odds for winning the lottery.

According to the NHL, these changes "more appropriately reflect the current state of competitive balance in the League."

Previously, the worst four teams in the league were allocated roughly a 68% chance of getting the top overall pick. In order the 30th place team had a 25% chance, the 29th with 18.8%, 28th with a 14.2% and 27th, 10.7%.

In addition, and a fact that's pretty important to the Sabres, the worst team in the league will drop no lower than 2nd in their draft position.

For 2016 the worst four teams odds drop to 54.5% with the 30th place team only having a 20% chance of winning the lottery.

In a major change, the lottery will be used to determine the top three spots:  the 1st Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting first overall, the 2nd Lottery draw will determine the Club selecting second overall and the 3rd Lottery draw will determine the club selecting third overall.

The last place team now could drop as low as 4th-overall in the draft.

From 1995, when the lottery began, until 2012, the odds were the same as last year, but a team winning the lottery could only move up four slots.

For instance, in 1995, the Los Angeles Kings won the lottery but were only allowed to move from 7th to 3rd.

This format allowed the five worst teams a shot at the #1 overall pick.

In those 18 years, the team with the worst record won the lottery six times. Three of those occurrences happened consecutively from 2008-2010.

Not sure what politics were involved, but the Sabres bottomed out just in time. It's not hard to imagine them being at the bottom of the league once again this season, thus assuring the team of a top-two pick.

It's the "Connor McDavid Sweepstakes" this year with the "consolation prize" being Jack Eichel.

The Buffalo Sabres front office shuffle has continued and with it the answer to the question of the whereabouts of Randy Cunneyworth and Kevin Devine.

In a press release yesterday, the team announced that several changes in the hockey department: Jason Long will serve as coordinator of player development; Corey Smith has been named video coach; Jim Kovachik has been named a pro scout; and Seamus Kotyk and Victor Nybladh have been named amateur scouts.

Cunneyworth is continuing his role as player development coach, but now will oversee the entire organization in that area.

It's good to that Devine is still with the team.

Back in early August GM Tim Murray named Mark Jakubowski as an assistant general manager and hired Rob Murphy as director of scouting and Greg Royce as director of amateur scouting. It left questions as to where Devine fit in the organization.

Scouting had always been Devine's area since he joined the Sabres 16 years ago. He had been a pro scout then worked his way up from amateur scout to director of amateur scouting to assistant general manager.

Yesterday he was named as the Sabres director of player personnel.

The Sabres have yet to lay out the organizational "chain of command" regarding the role's prominence, but it's irrelevant.

Devine is a hockey guy who has a real good eye for talent.

That he's still on board in a prominent role after a major organizational shift shows what the organization thinks of him.


Here's a little primer for those headed to the First Niagara Center to see McDavid.

I had the opportunity to take in a game this past February as Erie dominated the London Knights 7-2. Sabres prospects Nikita Zadorov and Brady Austin were on London with Austin scoring a goal for the Knights.

McDavid had five assists.

Here's a quick glimpse of what to expect when McDavid hits town.

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