Drafting Skills: Buffalo Sabres

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

Buffalo Sabres

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Joel Armia (RW) 16th overall – Armia was traded with Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and Brendan Lemieux, plus the 1st round pick in 2015 for Zach Bogosian, Jason Kasdorf and Evander Kane. Looking at just the pick, Armia has finally developed into an everyday NHL player, scoring 19 points in 57 games this season. He was picked slightly early by Winnipeg, with better forwards taken after him including Phillip Danault, Vladislav Namestnikov and Rickard Rakell all taken later in the 1st round.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to St. Louis for Brad Boyes. The Blues picked Joel Edmundson with this pick, who played a full season again this year, while Boyes has since moved on from the NHL. The Sabres would be much better off with Edmundson in the fold, as their blueline needs help as-is.

Round 3 – Daniel Catenacci (C) 77th overall – Catenacci has only played in 11 NHL games to-date, which happened back in 2015-2016. He’s since been traded for fellow AHLer Mathew Bodie. There were 6 other players taken after Catenacci in that 3rd round who have played more NHL games, 3 of which have played over 100 games. Safe to say the Sabres would like a re-do on this one.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Mikhail Grigorenko (C) 12th overall – Grigorenko has not developed into the force they had hoped he would, being taken so early in this draft. He was dealt out as part of the package that brought in Ryan O’Reilly thankfully for Buffalo. He’s sitting at 64 points in 217 NHL games, which is not ideal for an early 1st round pick.

Round 1 – Zemgus Girgensons (C) 14th overall – Traded the pick 21st overall pick (from Nashville for Paul Gaustad) plus their 2nd round pick to move up to 14th overall. Girgensons hasn’t panned out as they had hoped, as he’s only scored 86 points in 277 games. Girgensons is their second pick of this first round that the Sabres would love to re-do, as there are better players to come after him in the draft.

Round 2 – Jake McCabe (D) 44th overall – Traded Paul Byron, Chris Butler to the Flames for Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and this pick. McCabe has turned into a serviceable d-man for Buffalo, playing in 76 NHL games this year scoring 20 points. He can play a physical game, and plays well in his own end. He’s a great pick in the middle of round 2 for Buffalo, in what turned out to be a weak draft class.

Round 3 – Justin Kea (C) 73rd overall – Kea won’t develop into an NHLer for Buffalo, as he has yet to play in a game, and is still playing the majority of his time at the ECHL level. Taken right after him was Esa Lindell, who looks like he’ll have a good NHL career. Miss here by Buffalo, as there were 6 other players taken after him who have played at least 25 NHL games, and look like they’ll have good, and some great NHL careers.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Rasmus Ristolainen (D) 8th overall – Ristolainen put up another 40+ point campaign, with 45 in 79 games. He’s the number 1 d-man on Buffalo, and while many question whether he has the skillset to be that player, he’s the best Buffalo currently has. He had a better year this year defensively, as he continues to work on his game. Buffalo wouldn’t change anything about this pick.

Round 1 – Nikita Zadorov (D) 16th overall – Received this pick from Minnesota with other pieces for Jason Pominville and a 4th rounder. I don’t like this trade for Minnesota, especially with losing Pominvile for essentially Zadorov. He was then traded as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade, which turned out great for Buffalo. Looking at just the pick of Zadorov, he was a good pick if you were looking to add a defenseman at this point in the draft.

Round 2 – JT Compher (C) 35th overall – Received this pick in the Sekera trade, along with Jamie McBain. Another pick given up in the O’Reilly deal, and another under-performing player Buffalo shipped out. He hasn’t developed into any sort of everyday NHL player, and could barely produce for the worst team in the league this year. A miss here by Buffalo with an early 2nd round pick.

Round 2 – Connor Hurley (C) 38th overall – Still playing college hockey, Hurley had a good year for Notre Dame with 16 points in 21 games. He’s been consistent in his years there, and could be a future player, depending on how he transitions to the pro-game in the next year or two. He’s a big-body with skill, something all NHL teams covet in a centre.

Round 2 – Justin Bailey (RW) 52nd overall – Traded Jordan Leopold to the Blues for this pick plus a fourth round pick. Bailey has split time recently in the AHL/NHL, putting up good numbers at the AHL level, but next-to-nothing at the NHL level. He’s still only 21 years old, and stands at 6’3” 214 lbs. He’ll likely have a great chance of making the team out of camp, and could be effective in a 4th line role providing physicality. Decent pick late in round 2 for Buffalo.

Round 3 – Nick Baptiste (C) 69th overall – Made his NHL debut this year, with 4 points in 14 games. Those aren’t great numbers, and the Sabres will likely want to replace him with a more effective player for next season. He’s likely a depth call-up ideally, but if he has a strong chance he could be part of the bright future in Buffalo.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Sam Reinhart (C) 2nd overall – Reinhart has a ton of skill, but has taken a while to adapt fully to the pro game. He’s small in size, and has struggled to put up points consistently. He’s now paired with one of the best young centres in hockey with Eichel in town, and will need to improve his consistency if he hopes to stick around and be part of the future. The Sabres would likely go a different way with a re-do of this pick with any of Draisaitl, Nylander or Pastrnak providing more offence.

Round 2 – Brendan Lemieux (LW) 31st overall – Part of the Myers/Bogosian trade, Lemieux is a tough customer, but lacks any tangible skills that will make him an NHL player. Bad pick by Buffalo here, taking grit over skill.

Round 2 – Eric Cornel (RW) 44th overall – Traded the 2nd round pick they received from Washington in the Matt Moulson trade for this pick, as well as a 3rd rounder. Played in the AHL this year, putting up a measly 14 points in 67 games, and didn’t put up a crazy amount in junior. Could he develop into an NHL player? Maybe, but doesn’t look likely right now.

Round 2 – Vaclav Karabacek (RW) 49th overall – Received this pick in the Pominville trade. Not a good pick here, and looks even worse considering Pominville is still a very good winger. Karabacek played this season between the AHL/ECHL. In the ECHL, he scored 11 points in 9 games, which are great numbers, but he’ll need to show that kind of poise at the AHL level before he can be considered a legitimate prospect.

Round 3 – Jonas Johansson (G) 61st overall – Johansson had great numbers in Sweden this year, with a GAA of 2.26 and SV% of 0.912. Those are stellar numbers for a young netminder, and while he struggled slightly in his brief stint in the AHL, he has great promise to become a good goaltender. He will start next year in the AHL, where he can work on getting used to the quicker game on the smaller ice surface.

Round 3 – Brycen Martin (D) 74th overall – Received this pick in the trade with Washington. Martin played most of the year in the ECHL, putting up small numbers, but has never been known to put up great offense. He will need a couple years of grooming before he can be viewed as a legit prospect, but looks right now like he’ll at most be a depth call-up.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Jack Eichel (C) 2nd overall – Eichel is basically already seen as the captain of the Sabres, only 2 years into his career. He was by far the best pick available after McDavid. No other explanation needed, great/easy pick by the Sabres.

Round 2 – Brendan Guhle (D) 51st overall – Buffalo traded their own 2nd rounder in the deal that brought in Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn, in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko and JT Compher. Great trade for Buffalo, as O’Reilly has become one of the best forwards for Buffalo. They received this pick from the Islanders with Matt Moulson for Tomas Vanek. Guhle

Round 3 – Pick was traded to Washington with Jaroslav Halak for Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla. The pick eventually went to the Rangers, who took Robin Kovacs who has yet to develop. This trade didn’t work out as the Sabres expected, as Neuvirth only played 29 games for Buffalo before moving on.

Buffalo has missed on most of their first round picks, save Jack Eichel. They need to be better in regards to drafting, as that’s the path most teams are taking now to build championship teams. They’ve got a good foundational core to build around, but need to be better if they hope to keep adding to their core.

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