The Edmonton Oilers bucked the odds Saturday night in Toronto by winning the NHL draft lottery for the No. 1 pick.
The former World Hockey Association franchise, which introduced Wayne Gretzky to the NHL in 1979, is in position to draft Erie Otters center Connor McDavid, who is described as a once-in-a-generation talent.
"I can't tell you how exciting it is for us to win this lottery," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said during a telephone conference call. "Any team would be just over the moon about winning the lottery. We're the same. It's a game-changer."
The Oilers had an 11.5% chance of winning based on their 28th-place finish this season. At 20%, the Buffalo Sabres had the best odds to win, followed by the Arizona Coyotes at 13.5% among the 14 non-playoff teams
The Sabres will pick second and the chance to land a highly touted consolation prize in Boston University freshman center Jack Eichel. Arizona will pick third.
McDavid was first and Eichel second in the final rankings of North American skaters issued by the NHL's Central Scouting bureau 10 days ago.
Oilers assistant general manager Bill Scott declined several chances to guarantee Edmonton would select McDavid at the NHL draft in Sunrise, Florida, on June 26. He explained he wants the player and his family to have the chance to enjoy the draft process and hear his name called.
MacTavish said there was "zero" chance he'd entertain trading the No. 1 pick.
"It's an amazing organization and a true honor to be going there," said McDavid said, who noted he was nervous while NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was revealing the draft order. "When they were pulling up the cards, I think that was as fast as my heart's ever beated. It was sure exciting."
This marked the second straight year Buffalo lost the lottery, after Florida won last year.
The Oilers will pick first for the fourth time in six years.
They drafted Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012.
At 6 feet and 195 pounds, McDavid is regarded as a more talented and creative play-maker than Eichel, who brings a more physical element to his game with a 6-2, 200-pound frame.
Central Scouting director Dan Marr called McDavid "a craftsman with the puck."
"His hockey sense with his vision, his anticipation, his sense of timing and the ability to do those things at top-end speed: You're looking at the best skilled player in the draft."
McDavid had 44 goals and 120 points in just 47 games with Erie this season. He still finished third in the Ontario Hockey League scoring race despite missing a few weeks with a hand injury, and another few weeks to help Canada win the world junior tournament in January. He has added 11 goals and 23 points in nine playoff games — including a five-goal outing April 10.
Overall, McDavid has 285 points (97 goals, 188 assists) in 166 career games with Erie.
Chicago Blackhawks rookie goaltender Scott Darling will start in place of Corey Crawford against the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of their NHL first-round playoff series. For Nashville, star defenseman Shea Weber will not make the trip to Chicago because of an injury suffered in Game 2.