Florida Panthers Win NHL Draft Lottery, Earn First Overall Pick

The Florida Panthers have been the Miami Heat of sucking for as long as most hockey fans can remember. But alas, it would seem that all that constant sucking has paid off, because the Panthers won the lottery and have earned the right to the first overall pick in the next NHL draft.

The Cats weren't even the favorites going into Tuesday night's NHL lottery. That dubious distinction was reserved for the equally horrid Buffalo Sabres. But the Panthers were handed the upset, and the hockey gods handed the franchise the chance to nab the best NHL prospect in June's draft.

See also: Florida Panthers Submit Another Proposal Asking for Public Money

The Panthers were the favorites to land the number-one overall pick in last year's lottery but ended up picking second, losing out for number one to the Colorado Avalanche. Florida took Aleksander Barkov with that pick.

This year, the Sabres entered the night with a 25 percent chance of landing the number-one spot, with the Cats coming in as the second favorite at 18 percent.

And, as luck would have it, the numbers fell Florida's way. The Panthers finished the season 29th in the NHL, with a 29-45-8 record for 66 points. Like we said, it was well-earned.

The Panthers' vice president of hockey operations, Travis Viola, sent out a statement immediately after his team won the right to the first overall pick.

"We are pleased to have won the No. 1 selection," the statement reads. "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 or talent that includes Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau."

The Cats need help in a lot of areas, but where they've most been lacking has been on the scoring end of things. With a dire need for a goal-scorer, the Panthers could be looking at someone like top prospect center Sam Bennet, who scored 36 goals and amassed 91 points last season with Kingston in the OHL.

Unless they trade the pick away -- which doesn't seem likely -- this will be second time the Panthers will draft first overall. The last time was in 1994, when they took defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who is currently the team's captain.

Overall, this will be the fourth time in five seasons that the Panthers will have a top-four draft pick. Hopefully Bennet -- or whomever they choose -- can start to lead them away from that trend.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph