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Evaluating the Sabres Draft Day



blog-0289256001372709565.jpgThe citizens of Hockey Heaven are still ready to jump off the cliff because Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller are still Buffalo Sabres. To those people I say calm down, still a long way to go. I still believe Buffalo will do everything in their power to keep Vanek in blue and gold. However I mainly want to focus this on what did happen Sunday in Newark. The Sabres flirted early in the day with making a move to the 5 spot in a trade with Carolina. Rumors were swirling of Myers going to the Canes for the 5th pick, which turned out to be totally false and Sekera was the Sabres player in question there. Sekera would eventually find his way to the hated Canes later in the day, I'll get to that later.

First lets take a look at the Sabres 1st round selections at 8 and 16. Personally I was hoping for the Russian power forward Valeri Nichushkin. I thought he would be a great fit with Grigorenko and his 6'4 size on the wing would be just what the Sabres need. However I can understand them staying away with the KHL question looming thus causing the big Russian winger to fall to Lindy Ruff and the Stars at 10. Kind of ironic looking back at Ruff's not so great history with Europeans especially Russians (see Afinogenov, Kozlov, and Grigorenko). Instead the Sabres went with Finish blue liner Rasmus Ristolainen. The 6'3 Finn is known to be hard to play against and physical in his own zone. He brings a heavy shot from the point and could be a great PP QB in the future. Riso has a decent chance of making the opening night roster. To be honest I didn't spend a lot of time looking into Ristolainen because I expected the Sabres to go forward at 8, I'm still doing my research.

At 16 I again expected the Sabres to look at a player like Adam Erne or Hunter Shinkaruk, they went to the blue line again selecting punishing London Knights defender Nikita Zadorov. The 6'5 Russian was labeled as perhaps the meanest player in the draft this year. Zadorov is more known for his hitting and size than his skill. I can see him projecting out as a Robyn Regehr type player with more speed. He's not going to wow you with his skill, but he will be strong in his end and punish the opposing forwards in the corner. A player who is hard to play against is always a plus. The Sabres need to make teams not want to come into the First Niagara center.

The second round I think is where the Sabres earned the excellent draft grade a lot people are giving them. Darcy again was back to robbing his opposing GM's when he traded Andrej Sekera to Carolina for Jamie McBain and the 35th pick. I liked the way Sekera played however to many puck movers on the Sabres blue line and Regier did a good job flipping an asset. McBain is a good pick up with his potential. However I'm more excited about the player Buffalo picked at 35 J.T. Compher from the USAHL. Compher could of gone in the 1st round in a less stacked draft. He has the potential to be a strong two way center who is hard to play against (see the theme here). Compher can be the replacement Sabres fans have been looking for since Drury left. Compher may not score as much, but has some of Drury's same tools. I know the kid is 18 and I might be getting carried away however I love the pick. Also it was nice to see the Sabres select Buffalo's own Justin Bailey with their third 2nd round pick. Bailey is 6'3 190 lbs and has the reputation of being a hard worker and again hard to play against. The Sabres would later pick up another home grown talent in Sean Malone in the 6th round.

All in all I give the Sabres an A yesterday. Regier did a good job stocking the cupboard with size and tough prospects. I know they didn't get that exciting forward however they still have Miller, Stafford, and Vanek as chips to deal this offseason. I'll be back later this week with a look at Free Agency for the Sabres. Who could be a surprisingly active team, but not for high end UFA's.

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Good read. I don't think I'd give the Sabres an A on the day due to passing up Nichushkin, but I do like what they did later in the draft by getting Bailey, Compher, Hurley, Baptise, Malone, and Peterson. They really stock piled on guys with a lot of upside.

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