Brandon wrote a really nice 1st round preview a few weeks ago here at Sabres Hockey Central. If you read it, and the comment you’ll notice that not everyone is of the same opinions, least of all me. Well upon reading the guru of all Sabres’ drafting Kris Baker’s blog post, I’m happy to say that he and I agree about quite a few thing.
Now it’s my turn, keep in mind a couple of things: I did most of this scouting from my office chair as I don’t have the resources or live in an area that is conducive to scouting NHL talent.
Also, like I said, opinions differ and I may be looking for something different from many other bloggers out there.
And with that being said here is what I’m looking for:
Center: Size, with Luke Adam in the system you likely have a nice second line center if he stays there, otherwise the next best top-6 guy is the inconsistent Steven Shipely. The other thing I’m looking for is hockey smarts, passing and creativity. Think Tim Connolly minus the glass bones.
The Sabres have some impressive goal scoring prospects in the pipeline, now they need some players who will dish them the puck. Being solid defensively will also be important, we saw this post season what defensive centers are truly capable. Toughness will be considered as well as the Sabres Left wing prospects could use some protection.
Wingers: Balance, this is the big one for me, there is currently some serious balance in the Sabres’ farm system and keeping it that way will be a very good thing for the future. A gamebreaker or two, even if it’s a project gamble in the later rounds would be good. The Sabres have plenty of players who project that way now, but there is not telling if Zack Kassian will be a 1st liner or a 4th liner at the NHL level. The Sabres have some depth for the depth spots so they can gamble a little in the later rounds.
Defense: Size, responsibility and nastiness. This is something that the Sabres will need a few years from now. They can take their time with these players and really develop them. They have some good offensive prospects in their camp already. Getting a shutdown player who can play with Pysyk or Myers in the future will be a decision for the front office.
Goaltending: Pass. Resign David Leggio and sit this year out. Unless there is really just someone too good to pass up you can let this go.
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Here is a look at what a roster comprised of Buffalo’s current prospects might look like in a few years. I have also included the players that will likely be around for the foreseeable future.
LW C RW
Tyler Ennis Zack Kassian
Nathan Gerbe Luke Adam
Marcus Foligno Kevin Sundher Corey Tropp
Maxime Legault Riley Boychuk
Tyler Myers Mark Pysyk
Brayden McNabb Jerome Gautier-Leduc
Drew Schiestel T.J. Brennan
Jhonas Enroth David Leggio
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Hopefully you can garner what the most pressing needs are from this little chart. Obviously this is nowhere near what the Sabres will look like, but if you can completely fill in a future NHL roster with projections of players in your system and feel good about it your scouting department and drafting team are doing something right. Now lets look at the potential picks for the Sabres in round 1.
Buffalo’s brass has admitted that there are about 15 players they feel are going to project well in the first round before a large dropoff in the talent pool. If all 15 of those players are gone before 16 or they feel many of the early teams are reaching you could see them trade down. If Mika Zibanejad falls into the 14-15 range they may trade their 3rd round pick to reach up and grab him. If they stay at 16 overall here are some players that have me excited:
RC – Mark Scheifele – Barrie (OHL) – 6’3″ 200 lbs.
The tall centerman from Kitchener, Ontario is exactly the type of player that could compliment Buffalo’s other young prospects in Tyler Ennis and Zack Kassian. Good size and playmaking ability make him an ideal choice.
He is young and has a very high ceiling for his game which make him a potential game breaker. He will need to work on his strength and shooting, but he could make the Sabres’ very happy with their pick if he is still on the board at 16. Comparable Player: Jonathan Toews
RC – Mark McNeill – Prince Albert (WHL) – 6’2″ 210 lbs.
Another big, center prospect, but he is very different from Schiefele. This kid is strong, really strong. He finished in the top 3 of almost every strength category at the combine. He goes to the front of the net and you will not be able to move him.
He has very good speed as well and can produce offensively as he proved this season with 81 points in 70 games. He has some grit too, willing to drop the gloves when he needs to. He projects to a 2nd or 3rd line center, but how can you pass up a player who plays like Ryan Getzlaf? Comparable Player: Getzlaf
LW – Matthew Puempel – Peterborough (OHL) – 6’0″ 190 lbs.
A pure goal scorer in the vein of a Thomas Vanek or a Jeff Carter. The kid can shoot laser beams and he knows when to pull the trigger. Health will be a question as he goes forward. His connections to Zack Kassian could make this a very interesting pick. Comparable Player: Carter
If the Sabres trade down to get a 2nd round pick somewhere between 20-24 overall:
RW/RC – Zack Phillips – Saint John’s (QMJHL) – 6’1″ 181 lbs.
A jack of all trades, ace of none. Zack Phillips is another potential “safe” pick in the middle to end of the 1st round. He is a great defensive player and has the potential for some breakout offensive upside. 2nd line center at best. Comparable Player: Mikko Koivu
RW/LC – J.T. Miller – USNTDP U18 (USHL) – 6’1″ 198 lbs.
Miller had a coming out party at the World U18 Championships this year. He skates well and works hard. With those two tools in play the only question mark was hockey smarts and he seems to have answered it.
This is the exact type of player that good coaches love to get their hands on and if Buffalo can do that they could have a very good player in the future. Comparable Players: Joe Pavelski
LD – Jamiesen Oleksiak – Northeastern (NCAA) – 6’7″ 240 lbs.
Some people may be saying: “Are you kidding!? Another defenseman?” No, I’m not kidding. If I was going to move back, this is the kid I would do it for. First off take a look at the height and weight again. This guy is a monster. He is huge and strong, second only to McNiell.
I still haven’t given up on my dream of an enormous first pairing and Myers and Oleksiak could make that a reality. Oleksiak is a stay at home guy, but could develop some offensive upside. Even if he doesn’t his skating is great for a big guy and he is already a very proficient shutdown defenseman. Could be a steal at the end of the first round. Oh, and he’s from Buffalo… Comparable Players: Hal Gill
If the Sabres get into the 2nd round they could benefit from any of RW Tyler Biggs, RW Ty Rattie or LW Brandon Saad, LW Reid Boucher.
In round 3 I like C Joseph LaBate, LW Shane Prince, LW Olivier Archambault, C Tobias Rieder, LW Travis Ewanyk, RD Tyler Hansen or RW Josh Leivo.
In round 4 C Nick Cousins, LD Zach Yuen, RW Shane McColgan, C Steven Fogarty
I will stop at round 4, because it becomes guessing for me at that point. I will say that there are also some rather appealing Free Agents/Camp invitees out there once the dust settles. I will point out UW-Madison (AKA Wisconsin for you out of staters) standout Mark Zengerle. I saw him play this year and my sister (who is a Sabres and Badgers blogger) has been raving about him all year.
Let us know who you think the Sabres should draft with your respectful (or otherwise) comments below.