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Posts Tagged ‘NHL’

Sabres 2013 Mock Draft

Full Mock – 1st through 7th rounds

This mock draft was finalized between June 18th and June 28th.  It was originally done in reverse order from the 7th round to the 1st round.

 

1.8

Selecting 8th overall in the draft isn’t the greatest spot for the Sabres. They will need a team drafting before them to go off the board a bit, taking either Valeri Nichushkin or Darnell Nurse to possibly allow Buffalo to select either Elias Lindholm or Sean Monahan. Failing to land Lindholm or Monahan won’t be the end of the world. I am going to include Lindholm and Monahan among the five players for the 8th spot, although I am not expecting them to be around when the Sabres pick. The other three players are the ones that are pegged to be taken about 8th, namely Rasmus Ristolainen, Darnell Nurse and Valeri Nichushkin. Just missing the cut are Hunter Shinkaruk and Nikita Zadorov.

 

Elias Lindholm – 6.0 190 / Center / Brynas (Elitserien) Sweden / Final CSS Ranking 3 – European
GP – 48, 11 goals, 19 assists, 30 points, +1, 2 PIM

Lindholm was relied upon greatly by his team this past season. He played in the Elitserien or better known in North America as the “Swedish Elite League” for Brynas. To be an 18-year-old center playing in a top European men’s league and given as much responsibility as Elias was, you know you have a pretty special player on your hands here. He was the third leading scorer on his team. Lindholm likes to be in the play anywhere on the ice. He’s very strong in movement in the offensive zone, finding spots to shoot or set up teammates. He’s not a big player but he will get near the paint to fight for a shot or rebound. Lindholm’s skating is pretty strong and combined with his excellent stickhandling it makes him a force for the other team to deal with. He can skate backwards very well and does this on occasion in the offensive zone towards the corner giving him a full view of the ice to find a teammate for a pass. Elias is a pretty resilient player in all zones. He’s diligent on the backcheck and doesn’t shirk from defensive duties. He does break up plays to create a counterattack. Lindholm will skate clear across the ice to deliver a strong check to the boards in an effort to dislodge the puck from the opposition. He plays with intensity and often looks like the hardest working player out on the ice. His work ethic would certainly never be questioned because you see Lindholm near the puck most of the time… he’s not taking off shifts or out for a leisurely skate.

Elias is under contract with Brynas for one more season. He briefly was Sabres prospect Johan Larsson’s teammate with Brynas during the 2011-12 season. Lindholm played a dozen games for Brynas that season, while spending most of his time with the J20 team… and tearing that league up, notching nearly 50 points in 36 games.

I like Lindholm’s game as he plays very determined, very good mindset for the game and has great two-way skills at the center position. He won’t slack off and even though only around 190 pounds, I don’t see him getting checked or abused by the opposition. He seems to be the one delivering some strong checks. Elias is a pretty elusive skater and cycles the puck real well, so he avoids a lot of contact that way. A couple things I noticed that I didn’t like was his speed towards the goalie sometimes is a bit average and the other team’s defensemen can catch up to him. He also will occasionally send / force a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone that you know will get broken up or intercepted. He needs to cut down on sending those kinds of passes and work a bit on developing a more explosive stride when going one-on-one with a goalie.

Whether Lindholm is around at 8th overall, we shall see. There’s much talk of Carolina through Edmonton (5-7) taking Lindholm. If he were to drop to 8, the Sabres would have to give heavy consideration to selecting him. Carolina might balk but I don’t think Edmonton will pass up the opportunity to draft him. If Carolina were to take Nichushkin, then I can see the Oilers drafting Lindholm as it seems Calgary is nearly set on taking Sean Monahan. Probably the only way Lindholm would drop to 8 is if the Oilers selected Darnell Nurse or traded out of the pick because some other team is going to go slightly off the board for a player at 7th overall.

 

Sean Monahan – 6.2 185 / Center / Ottawa 67’s (OHL) / Final CSS Ranking 5
GP – 58, 31 goals, 47 assists, 78 points, -18, 24 PIM

Monahan was the centerpiece of a very weak Ottawa 67’s team this past season. Ottawa could only muster 16 wins as they are going through a rebuilding project. They have lost talented players the past couple of years, mostly due to graduation from the OHL, aka Tyler Toffoli among several others. Monahan pretty much had to do everything for the 67’s this year, leading the team with 78 points. The nearest competition were two players who hit 40 points, one being NHL drafted defenseman Cody Ceci who was traded to the Owen Sound Attack late in the year.

Sean is quite the complete package for a centerman. He is one of the best shooters in the draft in terms of accuracy. He can pick spots with a laser-like wrist shot. Monahan is a decent skater who works very well in the cycle. He’s very patient with the puck and waits for plays to open up. Sean finds open space in the slot for passes that often lead to goals. He positions himself very well and has a high hockey IQ, as he reads the ice as well as just about any draftee this year. Monahan has an aspect to his game that the Sabres would be highly interested in and that is winning face-offs. He’s great at the dot and allowing the 67’s to keep puck possession after a face-off. Sean is good defensively and is very willing to play a full three zone game. He’s not the most aggressive player (in the form of others listed in this mock), but it doesn’t hinder his overall game. He finishes checks and his work ethic would never be questioned. A lot of scouts bring up “intangibles” about Monahan. Reading into that made me think of Chris Drury of course. There are some similarities between their games. Sean has great leadership qualities and didn’t pout about being on a real lackluster team this past season.

He probably projects out to a second line center, and a very good one at that. Monahan’s skating is decent, as said before, but not explosive. That may hold him back as far as top-line duty in the NHL. In any event, Sean is a very safe pick who would be a fantastic second line center. Buffalo’s only fear in this case is the continued buzz about the Calgary Flames selecting Monahan at the 6th overall spot. If Sean dropped to 8, he’d be difficult to pass up, unless Elias Lindholm was still available as well. While the former is slightly possible, the latter is a totally unlikely scenario. The Sabres may be staring at two defensemen when their pick at #8 is on the clock.

 

Rasmus Ristolainen – 6.3 210 / Defenseman / TPS (SM-liiga) Finland / Final CSS Ranking 4 – European
GP – 52, 3 goals, 12 assists, 15 points, -7, 32 PIM

Ristolainen has played two full seasons for TPS in the top men’s league in Finland… the same one that Joel Armia plays in. Ristolainen is a strong skating two-way defenseman. There’s completeness to his game that is often lacking in draft eligible defensemen. Rasmus isn’t the kind of defenseman an NHL team will be waiting a few years or more to develop. If Ristolainen were to somehow get out of his contract with TPS, he could make the transition to the NHL this fall or at the very least an apprenticeship in the AHL for one year or less. Ristolainen excels at many aspects of the defensive position. He keeps opposing forwards along the wall and exhibits pressure on them in an effort to stifle any offensive flow in the opposing team. He’s very good on the penalty kill, as once again he pressures opponents and has a very quick stick, breaking up plays and getting the puck into the neutral zone. Ristolainen finishes his checks and plays a pretty aggressive game. He’ll do whatever he can to be a thorn in the side of the opposing team as he never lets off the gas pedal in any zone. Rasmus is very strong offensively and is very good along the blueline when TPS is on the power play. He’s very patient with the puck and moves well, looking for openings for a pass or to unleash a pretty hard slap shot. This is another player with very good hockey sense, yet another player who reads the ice incredibly well. Scouts say there’s a high level of maturity to his game, as though he’s been playing in the pro leagues for several years. He carries a calm presence on the ice and doesn’t get flustered or make mistakes. He makes the safe plays when needed and doesn’t force a bad play in his own zone.

The only concern I read about was an occasional tendency to pinch a bit too strongly in the offensive zone which can lead to an odd-man breakout going the other way, but that’s something that can easily be corrected. Among the defensemen in the draft, Ristolainen is arguably the most NHL ready of the bunch, even more so than Seth Jones. A Sabres selection of Ristolainen would be viewed as “unsexy” but he ranks among the best players that Buffalo can take. I have no qualms about his being selected at 8. What you get is a very dependable defenseman who can be in your top pairing down the road. Once again, he excels in all facets of the game. There’s nothing not to like here.

 

Darnell Nurse – 6.4 190 / Defenseman / Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) / Final CSS Ranking 4
GP – 68, 12 goals, 29 assists, 41 points, +15, 116 PIM

Nurse had a very strong and productive sophomore campaign in the OHL. His forte’ is that of a rough and tumble defenseman who checks very hard along the boards and due to his size he can shove opposing forwards off the puck and help clear the zone. Nurse is particularly nasty in front of the net where he is very aggressive in clearing out the front so his goaltender can see the shooting lanes more clearly. That style of defenseman is clearly lacking in the Sabres organization. Nurse is a very good skater for a player his size. He moves around well, and positions himself well either in the defensive or offensive zones. He has a decent shot from the point, but not spectacular. He will trail a play into the slot for a goal scoring chance. He had very respectable offensive numbers this year, but at the pro level, he will excel more as a defensive defenseman, as that is his bread and butter. Because he is a good skater, he can get back into the play and position himself pretty well in the defensive zone, and keep opposing forwards at the perimeter. The aggressive game Nurse displays sometimes leads to some fights, and he certainly handles things well in the pugilism department. There’s a couple of knocks on Darnell’s game. One is that he needs some work on passing the puck. He needs to have more tape-to-tape passes and less passes into a teammate’s skates. That’s a drill that he will need to work on. A few scouts wonder about his hockey sense to some extent. They prefer that he play a simpler game and work more on the defense aspects and not get overly involved in all zones. There’s a tendency for the puck to be a hot potato when Nurse is at the opposing team’s blueline on the power play. Scouts say he should devote more time to working on his craft in the defense zone. I look at it as a kid with a lot of potential, and I don’t view him as a project. He’s a very fluid skater for a kid his size and he already is an imposing force in his own end. As I said previously, the Sabres could use a player like Nurse, and especially when he fills out and gains another 20 or so pounds. He will probably max out at about 6.5 or 6.6 and 225 pounds. As long as he doesn’t lose much of his skating stride, he could be the Zdeno Chara that the Sabres blueline really needs.

 

Valeri Nichushkin – 6.3 200 / Left Wing / Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL) / Final CSS Ranking 2 – European
GP – 18, 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points, +6, 0 PIM

Nichushkin has been tabbed the “enigma” of this draft. Much of that was labeled as a fear of him remaining in the KHL, but that changed in past weeks when Valeri said he’d be more than happy to play in the NHL. He moved his way up the Russian leagues, putting up good numbers in the MHL, then the VHL, and finally a promotion to the KHL. Nichushkin has a very powerful skating stride as he works up speed quickly and is able to glide at a quick pace as he goes to the net. He’s very strong and able to maneuver through opposing defenses, stickhandling his way to the net. He can turn on a dime to gain open space in the offensive zone, to either find a better scoring chance or dish the puck off to an open teammate. Nichushkin often draws a few opponents to him, leaving his teammates available for scoring opportunities. Valeri works well along the wall and can keep puck possession going for quite some time, frustrating his opponents. One thing you have to like about Nichushkin is his willingness to play defense. If the opposition is setting up into the offensive zone, Nichushkin skates hard to get back into the play… sometimes he is back in the d-zone before his defense mates are. He’s very alert in all zones. The knock on Russian players in the past, especially those who are either goal scorers or playmakers, is that they would passively help out on defense. Nichushkin wants to be near the puck in any zone. Valeri had a couple of highlight reel plays this past season… he had a memorable assist at the WJC where he skated end to end around the entire US team… lastly, gliding around Seth Jones, cutting to the net, putting the puck on net and allowing a teammate to get an easy rebound for the goal. Valeri scored a similar styled goal that was the bronze medal winner at the WJC, skating hard along the wall, getting past the opponent’s defense by cutting to the net and putting it past the goalie. Interesting to think how well Nichushkin could mesh with fellow Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko. Would it work, or would it be a disaster that should certainly cost Darcy Regier and the scouting staff their jobs? Slightly risky choice… glad I am not the one making it.

 

 

1.16

One player who I would like to see as an option at 16 would be London Knights defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Unfortunately, I don’t think he will last till the 16th pick. As much as I would like to see him as an option, I’m not sure it’s worth moving up to select him. There are other players just as worthy to be selected at 16. If I thought Zadorov was a viable selection at 16, I would have included him. Instead I have listed Prince Albert Raiders defenseman Josh Morrissey as the lone defenseman at this spot. I think his game is more developed than Ryan Pulock’s. Pulock has a few slightly negative aspects to his game that made me leave him out for the 16th spot. I wanted to focus on offense at this pick because the Sabres need a large amount of help there.

 

Adam Erne – 6.1 200 / Left Wing – Right Wing / Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 26
GP – 68, 28 goals, 44 assists, 72 points, +11, 67 PIM

The thing that you first notice about Adam Erne is how quick he is on his skates for a kid who looks like he’s built like a little tank. He has a very powerful stride and can get past defensemen along the wall as they sometimes misjudge his speed. Erne loves cutting to the net from the outside and his puck possession skills are fantastic, which allows to him to get right to the paint for a goal scoring chance. He’s very adept at being the trailer on a play to get a one-time shot on net from the slot. Scouts view Erne as a hybrid playmaking – scoring winger / power forward. His upside in the pros would be as a top-2 line scoring winger who plays a pretty aggressive game and can throw some hard checks whether along the wall or in the open ice. Erne works hard along the boards and usually wins most battles for the puck. He is able to keep possession for long periods of time, allowing teammates to position themselves for a good shot on net. His passing abilities are very strong. He can distribute the puck quickly and likes to play a high tempo game for the Remparts. He is no slouch defensively as he has a great ability in breaking up plays, creating timely turnovers and starting up the attack into the opponent’s zone. The Sabres will have some familiarity with Erne since he was / is a teammate of Mikhail Grigorenko. I would love to see the Sabres select Adam Erne at 16. He’s the type of forward that’s missing from the organization.

 

Bo Horvat – 6.0 200 / Center / London Knights (OHL) / Final CSS Ranking 15
GP – 67, 33 goals, 28 assists, 61 points, +3, 29 PIM

Horvat jumped onto the Buffalo fan radar this season playing a very strong two-way game and seeing his ranking flirt with the Sabres pick at 8th overall. Bo has slid back some and probably won’t be selected in the top 10. Horvat has very few weaknesses in his game. He’s a tireless worker on the ice in any zone. His back-checking is excellent and he is a threat to steal a puck in the neutral zone and create a breakaway opportunity. He’s very thick bodied and skates really well, he has a very strong stride. Horvat can score goals from anywhere on the ice. He has a very strong wrist shot and will force his way to the net to get a goal. Very competitive player who doesn’t give an inch in regards to any part of the game, whether it’s offense, checking or his defensive work. Plays each shift hard and won’t be outworked by his opponent. Horvat was named the MVP of the OHL playoffs. He turned his game up a few notches, scoring 16 goals in 21 playoff games. I like how he plays the game and his work ethic is top notch. The Sabres would be drafting themselves a very dependable two-way forward who is always in the play, never slacks off. At the 16th pick, he would be a great addition to the Sabres organization… a player with few, if no negatives.

 

Curtis Lazar – 6.0 200 / Center / Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 20
GP – 72, 38 goals, 23 assists, 61 points, +25, 47 PIM

Scouts refer to Lazar as the right-handed shot version of Bo Horvat. They do have some similarities in their games, but Lazar is always looking to score goals and doesn’t have the playmaking skills that Horvat does. Curtis is incredibly smart in the offensive zone as he finds soft / weak spots in the opposing team’s defense and exploits them really well. Over and over he is open for quick one time shots that go in the net. He’s pretty dominating close to the net. He’ll fight for territory in front of the goalie until a rebound is scored. Lazar is a very determined player who takes as much pride in excellent defensive performances as he does in scoring goals. Like Horvat, Lazar has a very strong work ethic and can be a factor in every shift he has on the ice. He blocks shots and is a force for the Oil Kings in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. One slight knock on Lazar is that he doesn’t have much of a burst in his skating. Overall his skating ability is more than adequate, he’s just lacking that next gear, although up to this point it doesn’t seem to be holding him back. As a pro, Lazar should project to a two-way center who will be strong in all zones. He has a lot of leadership and character qualities that NHL teams would be happy to have in a player. If the Sabres don’t select Adam Erne or Bo Horvat, I think Lazar would be a very good pick at 16th overall.

 

Anthony Mantha – 6.4 185 / Left Wing – Right Wing / Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 10
GP – 67, 50 goals, 39 assists, 89 points, +21, 71 PIM

Mantha led the Quebec junior league with 50 goals. He has a very fast shot, and it’s very accurate. Mantha will shoot the puck from any angle when there’s an opening. Obviously, he’s dangerous on the offense when he bears down towards the net. His goal totals jumped from 22 in the 2011-12 season to 50. He’s quick for a big kid and looks for open space to be able to take a good shot. Mantha is strong in most aspects of the offensive game as he is good at passing the puck, but his modus operandi is to score goals. There are weaknesses with Mantha’s game as he is not overly aggressive for someone his size. He doesn’t necessarily shy away from contact but he’s not out there initiating it for the most part. Some scouts say that he is a bit lazy at times, that his work ethic is questionable. Mantha will dominate some games and put up a big stat line, other games he’s just another player out on the ice. This obviously raises some red flags, and I would most certainly take Erne, Horvat or Lazar before I would select Mantha. Despite that, he is pretty determined in the defensive zone where he breaks up plays to get a counterattack going. A little bit of a “boom-bust” scenario with this kid. Either you are enamored with his goal-scoring ability and great hockey sense in the offensive zone, or you see another talented slacker out on the ice. I think a selection of Mantha is a bit risky, but cannot deny his ability to put the puck in the net.

 

Josh Morrissey – 6.0 185 / Defenseman / Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 27
GP – 70, 15 goals, 32 assists, 47 points, +14, 91 PIM

Morrissey may have felt like half a person when it was revealed his final ranking was at 27. All he can do at this point is stretch out and wait for Sunday’s draft. Josh is an offensive defenseman who is also very good in his own end. He’s a good skater, has good, strong strides that allow him to get to various spots on the ice quickly. Morrissey quarterbacks the Prince Albert power play and does an excellent job of it. He maneuvers well along the blue line and towards the half wall, keeping the attention of his opponents. He has a strong slapshot from the point and will jump into the slot for scoring chances. He’s quite aggressive in the offensive zone. He’s a smart defenseman who knows where his teammates are, reads the ice very well and will dish off good passes for scoring opportunities. Defensively he will hound the opposition along the wall and create turnovers. With his good speed, he can lead a transition out of the defensive zone and be a part of the Prince Albert offense, with four players bearing down on the opponent. Josh can deliver a thundering hit and he’s quite good at lining up some unfortunate soul for a clean, hard check, whether it is along the boards or open ice. He’ll throw the body around a fair amount, and he can become even better at that if he fills out and gains another 20 pounds. His game in some respects reminds me of Christian Ehrhoff, especially the willingness to unleash a slapshot at the point, his movement around the opposing team’s blueline and that he is a factor in the team’s offense. Morrissey plays a more aggressive game than Ehrhoff. He should develop into a strong two-way defenseman as a pro, and should be a player who will be part of a team’s top-4 rotation down the road.

 

 

2.38

 

J.T. Compher – 5.11 180 / Center – Left Wing / USA U-18 Development Team / Final CSS Ranking 34
GP – 55, 18 goals, 31 assists, 49 points, +12, 53 PIM / Committed to Michigan

 

This past season, Compher was the captain and pulse of the US development team. He is strong in all facets of the game. He’s depended upon more than pretty much any other player on the US team. Compher excels in all zones. He’s another forward with excellent skills and ability in the defensive zone. He will antagonize the opposition in the neutral zone, leading to turnovers by the opponent. He’s particularly dangerous to the opposing team’s power play. His “hockey IQ” is very high. He reads and anticipates plays very well. Compher is very good at the face off dot, will block shots, checks well, is very good at cycling the puck and has a number of different, accurate shots he can use on offense. Overall, J.T. can be counted on to be effective in any game situation. He’s among the “safer” picks in the draft but that certainly isn’t a drawback in any case. He gives more than an honest effort most every shift. Compher is the kind of forward that every NHL team wants to have in their employ… a player who takes the initiative to succeed on the ice and is a leader on and off of it.

 

Laurent Dauphin – 6.0 165 / Center – Right Wing / Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 28
GP – 62, 25 goals, 32 assists, 57 points, 50 PIM

This past season was Dauphin’s first in the Quebec junior league. He’s a skinny, quick skater who will fight through traffic for scoring opportunities. He has a very fast stick and handles the puck very well. Dauphin will go to the paint for chances and shows a lot of resiliency in the offensive zone. His quick maneuvering allows for open shots and an ability at times to set up his teammates. He is able to maintain pressure in the offensive zone with good cycling, wearing out the defense with twists and turns and has a willingness to keep things going in that area. Some say he’s a bit of a puck hog, and at times he does look like that kind of player, although when playing “keep away” from the opposition he is often looking to dish off a pass for a goal scoring chance. Despite not being the biggest player out there, Dauphin will play hard on defense, tying up opponents and puts forth a determined effort on defense. He’s particularly good at poking the puck away from the other team with stick checks. He is diligent in effort along the boards, always looking to break up a play and start the transition going for the offense. As a late injury replacement for the annual CHL Top Prospects game, Dauphin was arguably the most impressive player in the game, scoring a goal and an assist. He should be picked around the time the Sabres are picking at 38. Dauphin would project to becoming a scoring forward at the pro level, probably a second line player. Really like his skills and his high level of effort.

 

Jacob De La Rose – 6.2 190 / Center / Leksand (Allsvenskan) Sweden / Final CSS Ranking 7 – European
GP – 38, 6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points, +8, 31 PIM

De La Rose sticks out to you when viewing him because he plays a more North American style of game than his teammates do. He looks for the big hit and is very aggressive along the boards… a true checking forward. De La Rose is a north-south skater who likes to initiate contact along the boards to pry pucks loose to help feed his teammates a pass. He can deliver nasty open ice hits at times. Really likes to throw the body around and give the opposition something to think about. He’s viewed as a two-way forward that is strong in all zones of the ice, although I would lean towards De La Rose being better in the defensive end. He’s a tireless worker and a very good skater. He always wants to be around the puck. Offensively he has a bit of work to do. He shows flashes of offensive skill from time to time and is very good at cycling the puck and keeping the play going in the offensive zone. At the next level De La Rose will probably become a very reliable checking forward with some spurts of offense. His (extreme) upside is as a second line forward, but it’s probably safer to say he will end up a very strong third line player. One thing he will never be faulted for is lack of effort.

 

Ian McCoshen – 6.3 210 / Defenseman / Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) / Final CSS Ranking 24
GP – 53, 11 goals, 33 assists, 44 points, +35, 48 PIM / Committed to Boston College

McCoshen finished his third season with the Waterloo Blackhawks and is rounding himself out as a strong defenseman in both the defensive and offensive zones at the junior level. McCoshen may have put up 44 points this past season, but as time goes on, at the pro level he will be projected as a shutdown defenseman. Here is another defenseman with very good size and is quite a good skater. He’s yet another defenseman in this mock draft who positions himself well and forces the opposing offense to work for scoring opportunities. McCoshen is more than adequate in taking out opposing forwards along the wall and in front of the net. There’s a level of grit to his game, but it wouldn’t hurt if he increased his intensity at times. He’s a smart kid, makes the smart plays when he has to. If he’s out of options in the defensive zone, he’ll get the puck off the glass and down the ice to alleviate the pressure. Offensively he has a good shot from the point, but his hockey sense for offense isn’t that strong, and that is why he projects to more of a shutdown, defensive defenseman as time goes on. Ian should be selected either very late in the first round, or certainly in the first half of the second round… a safe, smart player who could end up a 3-4 d-man in the pros.

 

William Carrier – 6.2 200 / Center – Left Wing / Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 18
GP – 34, 16 goals, 26 assists, 42 points, -14, 41 PIM

Carrier most likely would have been a first round selection in the draft this year had he not been injured. In 34 games he accumulated 16 goals and 26 assists. For the 2011-12 season he scored 23 goals and had 47 assists. He has most of the attributes of a power forward. Carrier has a hard slapshot and a lightning quick wrister. His shot is very accurate. Carrier’s skating is quite good for a big kid. He can control play in the offensive zone and is a very important part of the power play. Scouts say that Carrier is one of the best puck possession players in the Quebec junior league. In some ways, that’s saying quite a bit considering the lackluster talent on the Cape Breton team. The Screaming Eagles could only find their way to a paltry 14 wins this past season. Despite only playing 34 games, Carrier was the second leading scorer on the team. Cape Breton has won just 55 games in three seasons. One of Carrier’s negatives is a lack of motivation at times… is that an inherent quality or a product of Cape Breton’s poor performance for a number of years now? Maybe it’s both. Carrier needs more work in the defensive end because he’s lackluster in that regard. He’s an intriguing player, not so much a boom or bust type, but maybe one who can reach his ceiling with a bit more hard work. A change of scenery to a better team in the Q wouldn’t hurt either.

 

 

2.52

 

Emile Poirier – 6.1 185 / Left Wing / Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 39
65 GP – 32 goals, 38 assists, 70 points, 101 PIM

Poirier led the way offensively for a Gatineau team that struggled to score goals. Poirier blossomed this past season, registering 32 goals and 70 points which ended up being a sizable jump in numbers from the previous year. Emile is a very fast skater with quick acceleration and the ability to go wide on the defense to create scoring chances. Offensively he can pretty much do everything. His speed allows him to gain open space and separation from the other team’s defense. He has a variety of good shots in his arsenal. Emile is another player who reads the ice very well and can find teammates to create scoring opportunities. He’s a very good puckhandler, and combined with his speed it allows him to undress defensemen for scoring chances and also exploit the defense into committing to him too quickly, opening up a teammate to find space for a good shot. Poirier is quite good in regards to defense. He’s an important part of the Gatineau penalty killing unit. His hockey sense is strong in all zones. Poirier showed a greater willingness to exhibit a more physical style in his game this past season. He finished more checks and did get into a few scraps along the way. Emile seems to be rounding out into a “do everything” type of forward. The only knock on him is a bit of laziness at times when the opposing team has the puck in the Gatineau zone. Scouts say he needs a bit of tweaking in that department, to be more diligent in effort, but it is not a glaring problem. Poirier should be selected in Buffalo’s range around 52, maybe a bit higher.

 

Adam Tambellini – 6.3 190 / Center / Surrey Eagles (BCHL) / Final CSS Ranking 42
52 GP – 36 goals, 29 assists, 65 points, 26 PIM / Committed to North Dakota

Adam is the son of former Edmonton Oilers executive Steve Tambellini. His brother Jeff played in the NHL for a number of years. Adam has played in the BCHL for the past two seasons and has been a dominating offensive force during his time in the league. In about one year’s time, Tambellini has gone from a 6 foot, 170 pound forward to 6.3 and 190 pounds. In that time he hasn’t lost any of his speed. The competition level in the BCHL wasn’t all that great for him, allowing him to dominate other teams’ defensemen. He’s a very strong skater whose main game is offense and scoring goals. It’s difficult to gauge where he stands in terms of talent because of his ease in exploiting weaker BCHL defenses. It would have been nice to see how his abilities would translate in the WHL. One of Tambellini’s drawbacks is a lack of physical play / aggression and most of the time he’s not going to win battles along the boards. Scouts say he needs to add a grittier element to his overall game. He will be playing with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux in the fall of 2013. The NCAA level should show if Tambellini can make the jump to the pro level.

 

Dillon Heatherington – 6.3 200 / Defenseman / Swift Current Broncos (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 31
GP – 71, 4 goals, 23 assists, 27 points, +25, 80 PIM

Dillon is a big defenseman who is very smart with the puck in his own end and is a very good skater for his size. He is excellent at breaking up plays from the opposing team’s offense, whether it’s a stick check or a blocked shot. He’s very good along the wall, tying up his opponent and winning the battle for the puck. Heatherington’s game is more of a simple defensive defenseman style… put out the fires in your own end and send an outlet pass to a teammate to begin an offensive charge into the opposing team’s zone. Very tireless skater, always moving and doing what is needed to clear the defensive zone. Dillon has a strong work ethic, a player with good stamina, pretty relentless in his own end. On occasion he’ll get into a fight, often cause of a hard or nearly late hit he threw. His fighting skills are ok at best. I think Heatherington would be a good pick at 52 for Buffalo. They could use a reliable, big bodied defenseman who plays a safe game in his own end and plays a rather mistake-free game.

 

Tristan Jarry – 6.2 180 / Goalie / Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 3 – Goalie
GP – 27, 18 wins, 7 losses, 1.61 GAA, .936 Save %, 6 SO

Jarry is ranked quite high in this draft and he wasn’t even the starter on his team. Laurent Brossoit has been between the pipes for the Edmonton Oil Kings for three seasons. Jarry has had to bide his time up until now and will become the starting goalie for the Oil Kings in 2013-14. Even though he has been playing for a very strong team in the WHL, Jarry has performed real well in limited opportunities. Even with the lack of ice time, he’s put up some excellent numbers and obviously shakes off any rust he might have very quickly. If you look at the game-by-game opportunities he had, it would seem very difficult to get into any kind of groove. There were several instances where he had two-week gaps in his starts. The lack of starts makes him an even more intriguing selection. Overall, Tristan is a pretty sound goaltender. He’s very quick on his skates and very good at the angles, not allowing the shooter much space. The one aspect of his game that needs improvement is rebound control. I’m not overly keen on the Sabres taking a goalie in the first two rounds, but if Jarry is available at 52 and he’s one of the best options out there, I’d think the Sabres will consider him at the very least.

 

Samuel Morin – 6.7 200 / Defenseman / Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 23
GP – 46, 4 goals, 12 assists, 16 points, +10, 117 PIM

Morin’s second season in the Quebec junior league, he improved markedly over his rookie year. Morin is a very tall, lanky defenseman who plays aggressively in his own end and is quite a good skater, able to take the puck away from his opponent with relative ease and get things moving up ice. His stick checks work incredibly well for him, due to his height and he breaks up a lot of plays that way. He will cordon off an opponent to the boards and take the puck away, moving quickly into the neutral zone. Morin will jump in to the high slot for shots on net. He reminds me of Tyler Myers in some aspects, but he is much more aggressive and nasty to play against, compared to Myers. Morin will happily drop the gloves, and he administered a few big time beatings to some unlucky opponents this past season. I like his aggressiveness, and his skating is very good for a big kid. He will line up an opposing player for a highlight worthy hit on occasion. Morin is the kind of defenseman that the other team needs to be wary of. He could use some improvement in positioning at times, but he’s able to slightly compensate any problems there by being a good skater. Like fellow defensemen Jonathan Diaby and Dillon Heatherington, Samuel Morin would be a nice addition to the Sabres prospect stable. EDIT: I would move Morin up to 38. He looks to be a late riser. I think some are getting overzealous moving him up as far as they have.

 

 

3.69

 

With the 3rd round selection, the draft becomes more interesting as more viable talent will appear for the Sabres. With no 4th round selection, there’s a sizable gap between their picks from the 3rd to the 5th rounds, 60 selections all told. In the 3rd round I would like to see them take a gritty end-to-end workaholic, and / or a player who will intimidate the opposition… get under their skin. Of course, I want a player with skill as well and not just a 4th liner. A player with a high level of competitiveness who doesn’t take off any shifts would be appropriate.

 

Jonathan Diaby – 6.5 225 / Defenseman / Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 37
GP – 67, 4 goals, 22 assists, 26 points, +12, 117 PIM

Call Diaby a “Poor Man’s Darnell Nurse” if you like. Diaby is a tough, nasty defenseman who will throw borderline dirty hits along the wall at times and is an intimidating presence on the ice. When you see him originally, you don’t think he’d be a good skater because he looks to be built like a tank, but he’s very good at positioning himself between his goaltender and keeping the opposing offense to the outside. Some scouts believe he can develop into a very good physical, shutdown defenseman over time. He’s still a bit of a work in progress, but really blossomed this past season, his second full season in the Quebec junior league. To get to the next level he will have to refine his game, become better with outlet passes, keep it simple and use his strength and decent skating ability to overpower the opposition along the wall and in front of the net. Diaby is more than happy to drop the gloves. He will defend a teammate who takes a nasty hit and he can throw rock hard punches with both hands. The Sabres need this kind of defenseman in their system to offset the many pacifists in the prospect portion of the blueline.

 

Nick Baptiste – 6.1 190 / Right Wing / Sudbury Wolves (OHL) / Final CSS Ranking 61
GP – 66, 21 goals, 27 assists, 48 points, -1, 44 PIM

Baptiste is a player who can pretty much do everything. He’s a very good skater with a powerful stride and quick acceleration into the second gear. His hockey smarts are top notch, he reads the ice incredibly well creating open space for himself and allowing him to either feed his teammates for a scoring opportunity or keep the pressure going against the opposing team’s defense. Nick is very strong along the wall, fighting for loose pucks, keeping possession and creating more offensive opportunities. He is also very smart and aware on defense, able to break up plays and start a counterattack into the other team’s zone. He’s another player with a very strong work ethic, near the puck a lot, always engaged in the play. Baptiste is a very complete forward who excels in basically all aspects of the game. Although he didn’t fare too well, he had the balls to get into a fight with the much bigger Darnell Nurse. Nick would be a fine addition to the Sabres organization. I like how he plays the game, an honest hardworking kid.

 

Vincent Dunn – 5.11 175 / Center – Left Wing / Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 73
GP – 53, 25 goals, 27 assists, 52 points, +21, 98 PIM

Dunn is a very intense two-way forward whose game is very aggressive at both ends of the ice. He’s not a big player but he plays big, gets under the skin of the opposition with hard checks, sometimes late ones and is willing to fight anyone. His hockey skills are decent, although he doesn’t carry the attributes of your typical offensive forward. Dunn will get his nose in front of the net for tip-ins, drive to the net hard to either score or disrupt his opponents in front of the net to allow a teammate to cash in on a rebound. There’s nothing flashy to his game at all. Point totals jumped from 13 to 52 this past season. Plays the game like his hair is on fire, relentless along the boards, hitting any opposing player that has the puck. He gets a bit out of control at times and received a suspension during the season for some taunting and foul language. Dunn is one of the nastiest players in this draft, and his style could raise some eyebrows among the Softies. He will play for Gatineau in the Quebec league next season. Dunn is a very rugged kid who is going to need to get a bit bigger to be a better factor at the next level.

 

Brett Pesce – 6.3 175 / Defenseman / New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East) / Final CSS Ranking 40
GP – 38, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, +6, 10 PIM

Pesce is the highest ranked collegiate player entering the draft. He is another defensive defenseman who excels in his own end. His positioning is very good, he keeps the shooters to the outside and is adept at breaking up plays with his stick and moving the puck up to his forwards to begin the transition. Pesce is a good skater and has decent size (height-wise), although he will fill out more in the next few years. He plays a simple, strictly defensive game. He doesn’t have many offensive attributes. He needs to learn more about the offensive game, at least become somewhat proficient at the opposing team’s blueline. Brett was a true freshman on the New Hampshire defense unit. He moved up from the Atlantic Youth League right into the Wildcats lineup. Could use a bit more aggression in his game, but if he keeps improving and refining his defense traits he would be a solid addition to the Sabres’ group of prospect defensemen. Defensively aware blueliners are needed in the system.

 

Marko Dano – 5.11 185 / Center / HC Slovan Bratislava (KHL) / Final CSS Ranking 12 – European
37 GP – 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, +4, 26 PIM

Dano is a speedy center who plays a high energy game and is a very effective player in the offensive zone. He is good at finding open areas in the offensive zone to score quick goals. He has a good shot and quick hands. Always moving on his skates and engaged in the play. While playing for Bratislava in the KHL, Dano was teammates with former Sabres Miroslav Satan and Milan Bartovic. As an 18 year old on a veteran laden KHL team, Marko led the entire team in plus / minus. He has an edge to his game at times that you like to see. Dano also played on the Slovakian WJC team this past season. He had four goals and five assists in six games at the tournament.

 

 

5.129 / 5.130

 

Myles Bell – 6.0 210 / Left Wing / Kelowna Rockets (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 46
69 GP – 38 goals, 55 assists, 93 points, +46, 68 PIM

Bell is one of the more interesting players entering this year’s draft. This is the third time that Bell is draft eligible. He has already played four full years in the WHL, both with the Regina Pats and now the Kelowna Rockets. Myles played on defense his first three seasons but was converted to a forward this past year. He seemed to adjust very well as he finished 6th overall in WHL scoring, eight points ahead of prospective first rounder Hunter Shinkaruk. Being an offensive defenseman previously made for an easy transition for Bell. He possesses a hard shot, (nearly 100 MPH) and does play an aggressive game, especially along the wall. In the 5th round it’s worth taking a gamble on a player like this. He was passed up in previous drafts, purportedly, due to some off- ice issues.

 

Sven Andrighetto – 5.9 190 / Right Wing / Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) / Not Ranked
53 GP – 31 goals, 67 assists, 98 points, +25, 45 PIM

Like Bell, Andrighetto is an overaged player born in 1993. Andrighetto is somewhat of a “Poor Man’s Drouin”. The Swiss born forward is one of the fastest skaters in this draft and relies heavily on his speed to zoom past defenders. He owns a combination of great puck handling skills, a variety of fantastic shots with a high speed, accurate wrist shot at the forefront. In two years in the Quebec junior league, Sven has accumulated 67 goals and 105 assists. Teams shied away from drafting him the past two years due to his diminutive stature and being the recipient of some big hits along the boards. CSS didn’t give him a ranking this year, despite nearly hitting the 100-point barrier in just 53 games. Perhaps they feel “longevity” won’t be a part of Andrighetto’s hockey career. Again, being that this pick would be in the 5th round, I see no problem taking a chance on a boom or bust type player. There’s a lot of upside to this player. The Sabres need scorers, so go ahead and take a 5th round flier on this guy.

 

Brendan Harms – 6.0 175 / Center – Right Wing / Fargo Force (USHL) / Final CSS Ranking 93
64 GP – 25 goals, 45 assists, 70 points, +33, 45 PIM / Committed to Bemidji State

Another strong puck possession player, forward Brendan Harms is adept at cycling the puck in the offensive zone and feeding quick passes to teammates for scoring opportunities. Harms is a very smart, patient player who waits for offensive situations to open up. Although not a big player, he sticks his nose in front of the net for scoring chances and will work hard along the wall to free loose pucks and keep offensive momentum going. Harms is a decent skater, not a great one, but his willingness to never take off a shift, block shots and be an offensive force makes him the kind of player every team wants. This is a lunch bucket guy with a high level of skills and hockey smarts. Brendan is projected to be picked in the mid rounds of the draft.

 

Zach Sanford – 6.3 185 / Left Wing / Islanders HC (EJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 60
37 GP – 12 goals, 24 assists, 36 points, 22 PIM / Committed to Boston College

Sanford is a big forward who made the jump from New Hampshire high school hockey to the EJHL this past season. It took some time to make adjustments to the better level of competition, and Zach ended up flourishing later in the season, moving him up in draft rankings. He’s projected to be taken somewhere around the 4th and 5th rounds. He is a tall forward who skates well and has very good puck handling skills. Sanford is geared towards the offense and will crash the net to cash in on opportunities. Scouts say he’s still a bit raw but were impressed by the improvement he showed over the past season. Zach will play in the EJHL next year and then jump to Boston College in the fall of 2014.

 

Marcus Hogberg – 6.4 200 / Goalie / Linkoping J20 (SuperElit – Sweden) / Final CSS Ranking 4 – European
23 GP – 13 wins, 9 losses / 2.41 GAA / .917 Save % / 2 SO

Hogberg is a big goalie with quick reflexes. He’s ranked as the 4th best European goalie for the draft, but he had to share time with a goalie that blossomed on the Linkoping J20 team (Jacob Johansson). When the first round of the J20 season ended and the “Top 10” portion started, Marcus took over the starting role and was one of the top two or three goalies during that portion of the league schedule. Hogberg is the classic butterfly style goalie and is very good with rebound control. His quickness is in all aspects, pads, glove and waffle. With the Sabres having three selections in the 5th round, it wouldn’t hurt to take a goalie with one of the picks. Buffalo’s goaltending stable is improving, but adding another netminder to increase the competition in the system would be a good idea.

 

 

5.143

 

Matt Buckles – 6.2 210 / Center – Right Wing / St. Michael’s Buzzers (OJHL) / Final CSS Ranking 117
50 GP – 40 goals, 31 assists, 71 points, 107 PIM / Committed to Cornell University

Matt is in the mold of a power forward, a center / winger playing in the OJHL, which is the same league that the Buffalo Jr. Sabres play in. Buckles is a big, strong goal scorer with great puck possession skills and has some grittiness to his game… he owns the typical attributes of a power forward. He works well along the boards in the offensive zone, maintains possession very well and has a nasty slap shot that finds the net. Buckles was the fourth highest goal scorer in the OJHL this past season, registering 40 goals. Many players in the OJHL are two and three years older than Matt, and most are not NHL prospects. His defensive work needs some refining but he’s a talented player with a strong work ethic. Buckles ranges anywhere from a third to fifth round pick in the upcoming draft.

 

Teemu Kivihalme – 5.11 160 / Defenseman / Burnsville H.S. (Minnesota) / Final CSS Ranking 64
25 GP – 9 goals, 21 assists, 30 points, 22 PIM / Committed to Colorado College

Kivihalme is one of the better skaters in this draft. A fast and elusive defenseman, he runs the offense for his team and quarterbacks the power play. Teemu will occasionally go on an end-to-end rush to throw off the opposition and quickly set things up for his teammates and maintain offensive pressure. Despite all the accolades for his skating and offensive prowess, Kivihalme lacks awareness and positioning in his own end and he is slight of stature at 5.11 and 160 pounds. Although not completely passive in the defensive end, due to his lack of size he doesn’t exactly punish his opponents. As he fills out he can become more of an asset in the defensive zone. He is a very talented player with many tools to make an impact at the next level. After a likely stint with the USHL’s Fargo Force this upcoming season, four years in the NCAA certainly won’t hurt his development.

 

Avery Peterson – 6.2 195 / Center / Grand Rapids H.S. (Minnesota) / Final CSS Ranking 77
31 GP – 23 goals, 31 assists, 54 points / Committed to Minnesota

Reports vary on Peterson who is projected to be picked in the fourth or fifth rounds. He’s a lanky centerman who sets up plays for his teammates. He was far and away the leading scorer for his team, playing in the Iron Range league in Minnesota. Avery is a good passer who sees the ice well and has very good puck handling abilities. The one knock on him is that he is only an adequate skater. Peterson also played for the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL, notching a goal and three assists in eight games.

 

Carter Verhaeghe – 6.1 180 / Center / Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) / Final CSS Ranking 102
67 GP – 18 goals, 26 assists, 44 points, -12, 22 PIM

Verhaeghe is a defensive forward for the Ice Dogs and is a very important part of the team’s penalty killing unit. Like Peterson, Verhaeghe is only an adequate skater but a high energy guy who doesn’t take a shift off. He is kind of a Jack of All Trades with a strong work ethic. He more than likely projects to being a defensive forward at the next level, but saw a sizable jump in his offensive numbers this past season. Prior to his tenure with Niagara, Verhaeghe played for the Hamilton Jr. team in the league that the Buffalo Regals are a part of. Verhaeghe’s offensive numbers were much stronger with Hamilton. A bit of a project, but he won’t be discounted for lack of effort.

 

Tyler Lewington – 6.1 190 / Defenseman / Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 66
69 GP – 2 goals, 24 assists, 26 points, +14, 131 PIM

Reports are mixed on Lewington. Some say he needs to progress in all elements of the game, yet CSS ranks him at 66th overall. At the scouting combine he finished first in the bench press, push-ups and a push strength competition. Lewington certainly has strength and stamina engaging in fights with bigger players. Overall, he’s viewed as more of a defensive defenseman who keeps things simple and doesn’t project to running a team’s power play. Lewington is a tough kid who sticks up for his teammates and loves to initiate fights, even if he loses about half of them. He will verbally entice an opponent into a scrap. He fought a few players bigger than him. Lewington would add some much needed grit to the Sabres prospect system.

 

 

6.159

 

Jason Salvaggio – 6.0 190 / Center / South Kent Prep (Connecticut) / Final CSS Ranking 97
54 GP – 49 goals, 36 assists, 85 points / Committed to New Hampshire

When it comes to the final few rounds of an NHL draft, it doesn’t hurt to take a shot on a kid who put up some big numbers in a league that isn’t the CHL. Was the leading scorer on the 17th ranked (nationally) South Kent Selects U-18. Obviously scoring 49 goals, he has a nose for the net. Judging from video, he’s an offensive first type player and waits for the defensemen to feed him the puck to create a break into the other team’s zone. Salvaggio will play for the Indiana Ice next year in the USHL and got in a few games with them at the end of their season. Salvaggio’s South Kent coach was an assistant with the Indiana Ice prior to coaching South Kent.

 

Zach Glienke – 6.3 190 / Left Wing / Eagan H.S. (Minnesota) / Final CSS Ranking 160
25 GP – 30 goals, 30 assists, 60 points, 19 PIM / Committed to Maine

Glienke registered at least 3 points in 13 of his team’s 25 regular season games in a Minneapolis suburban high school league. He has committed to the University of Maine and was drafted by the USHL’s Omaha Lancers.

 

Patrik Bartosak – 6.1 180 / Goalie / Red Deer Rebels (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 8 – Goalie
55 GP – 33 wins, 14 losses, 5 OTL / 2.26 GAA / .935 Save % / 5 SO

Bartosak is a 20-year-old goalie who has been passed over the last two years in the entry draft. He had a 1.97 GAA in the playoffs for Red Deer. Could be a bit of a late bloomer and picking him in the 6th round would be a sufficient spot for him. It never hurts to add another goalie to the stable, especially one who logged a lot of ice time and had very strong numbers. Bartosak could be this year’s drafted version of Andrey Makarov.

 

Connor Rankin – 6.0 195 / Left Wing / Tri-City Americans (WHL) / Final CSS Ranking 98
71 GP – 32 goals, 26 assists, 58 points, +9, 34 PIM

Connor Rankin (not related to Amerk Evan Rankin) finished up his third season in the WHL, although this is his first draft-eligible year. Rankin is a two-way forward who plays a pretty simple game and is quite dependable on defense. He is one of Tri-City’s best penalty killers. Connor registered more goals this past season in comparison the previous. He still doesn’t project to be a scoring forward at the next level. His upside is that of a pretty reliable defensive forward.

 

Wiley Sherman – 6.6 210 / Defenseman / Hotchkiss School (Connecticut) / Final CSS Ranking 104
26 GP – 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points / Committed to Harvard

Wiley is a big, smooth skating defenseman. He also plays an aggressive game in his own end, punishing the opposition into the wall or in front of the net. Sounds like a combination of Nikita Zadorov and Darnell Nurse. The thing with Wiley Sherman is he’s a raw, project player. He plays a simple defensive game, doesn’t take risks. He won’t project to being any kind of offensive force. Various scouting reports say he plays a pretty mistake-free game. His level of competition isn’t the OHL, like it is for Zadorov and Nurse.

 

 

7.189

 

Alex Kile – 5.11 190 / Left Wing / Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) / Final CSS Ranking 136
56 GP – 30 goals, 30 assists, 60 points, +8, 60 PIM / Committed to Michigan

Eligible for the draft last year, Kile produced bigger numbers for Green Bay this past season. That alone will garner some attention of becoming a late round pick. Alex nearly doubled his offensive stats in 2012-13. Displays good offensive traits, puck handling, sets up his teammates with good passes and owns a good shot. He is not an overly aggressive player, but won’t shy away from contact. Prior to the USHL, Alex played for the highly regarded Honeybaked team in Detroit.

 

Timotej Sille – 6.3 185 / Right Wing / Skalica U-20 (Slovakia) / Final CSS Ranking 42 – European
38 GP – 31 goals, 38 assists, 69 points, +41, 10 PIM

Sille is the highest rated Slovakian player for the upcoming draft. He made the jump from the U-18 team in 2011-12 to the U-20 team and didn’t miss a beat. Slovakia hasn’t been churning out many highly ranked NHL draftees for a few years now, but at this late in the draft, doesn’t hurt to pick a player like Sille, a player who puts up good numbers and has good size.

 

Nolan De Jong – 6.2 190 / Defenseman / Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) / Final CSS Ranking 111
51 GP, 5 goals, 19 assists, 24 points, 16 PIM / Committed to Michigan

De Jong is a defensive defenseman who is a project player, albeit one with some talent. He doesn’t initiate play, but thwarts the opposition when they press into the Victoria zone. De Jong is adept at breaking up passes and making the simple plays that are the quality of a defensive defenseman. He is a decent positional player and adequate skater. Offense is not the name of his game. He’s better suited to develop his game in the defensive zone, which is his strong point.

 

Willie Raskob – 5.10 185 / Defenseman / Shattuck St. Mary’s H.S. (Minnesota) / Final CSS Ranking 178
57 GP, 9 goals, 40 assists, 49 points, 28 PIM / Committed to Minnesota-Duluth

Offense has been the name of the game for Raskob’s four-year tenure with the Shattuck St. Mary’s program. Raskob is a talented, albeit slight of stature defenseman. Is an asset on his team’s power play as he can dish the puck very well and has very good vision, playing a high tempo game. He is a very good puck handler and quick, elusive skater. Just on talent alone he’s worthy of a late round selection.

 

Jaimen Yakubowski – 5.11 200 / Left Wing / Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL) / Not Ranked
66 GP – 32 goals, 18 assists, 50 points, -6, 126 PIM

Yet another 30+ goal scorer among the last two rounds of the mock. Yakubowski is different from the others as he’s a hyper-aggressive forward who would like to label the opposition with a big check or get into a scrap as much as scoring a goal. It wouldn’t hurt the Sabres to add more sandpaper into the organization. Yakubowski was draft eligible in 2012. Jumping from 16 goals to 32 will get the attention of NHL teams. Add in the aggressive nature of his game and he could end up being selected towards the end of the draft.

 

 

http://sabresfans70.proboards.com/thread/33213/sabres-full-round-mock-draft

A Deadline Review

For Sabres fans, Deadline Day was quite the roller coaster. Three pm arrived and virtually nothing of interest had been reported. The Wild and Oilers had exchanged defensemen, the Leafs and Bolts had swapped prospects and the Kostistsyn brothers were reunited in Nashville, but no transactions had been called in from Western New York. Most of the Sabres coverage on TSN’s Trade Center was the show’s panel ripping on General Manager Darcy Regier for asking too high a price, a first round draft pick, for center Paul Gaustad.

Then, not a minute past the deadline bell, news broke that the veteran of seven NHL seasons was in-fact on the move, off to a Predators team building for a Cup run; in exchange for the club’s first round pick. Darcy had played the market, gotten his return and things were looking up. Several minutes later, however, Bob McKenzie announced that Derek Roy was staying put and hopes for another big move seemed dim. But the Sabres still had assets, and some contenders, namely Vancouver still had deals to announce. As Twitter sources checked off the teams that were done for the day, the Sabres remained live. With Roy off the board, perhaps a team looking to bolster its defense was moving on Leopold?

Twenty two minutes later, a rumor surfaced that permanently changed the tenor of the afternoon. A poster on the Sabresfans forums has submitted a thread on a potentially blockbuster move between the Sabres and Canucks, a deal that would send center Cody Hodgson to Buffalo and power-forward Zack Kassian out West. When the Trade Center confirmed that Kassian was indeed a Canuck, initial skepticism gave way to waves of surprise, excitement and outright shock. Fans were disappointed to lose a prospect that had long been billed as the answer to the division’s goons, but couldn’t resist getting excited over a former top-ten pick with a ridiculous pedigree, from a draft class that had already given the team three of its most promising young players.

The excitement is justified. The Hodgson deal communicates two fundamentally important things about the Sabres’ outlook going forward. First they aren’t afraid to sell high on a guy they aren’t sure of. Regier is famous for holding onto his prospects, until they bust and considering Kassian’s potential both on the ice and as a fan-favorite, this move is a welcome break from tradition. Secondly, Darcy understands that only centers can solve this team’s deficiencies down the middle. This trade is an incredibly risky move for both franchises, and Regier probably isn’t signing on if he thinks that he has the solution to the Sabres’ dearth of pivots somewhere on his roster or prospect pool. Darcy agreeing to this deal displays his comprehension of the importance of high potential centers; a trait unforeseen in previous transactions and a trend that hopefully continues through the draft.

One place where Regier could have done more, however, was in replacing some of the grit the team shipped out. While Gaustad wasn’t exactly an imposing presence, and Kassian hasn’t shown the mean streak that gets Milan Lucic booed at First Niagara Center, both guys still contributed some sandpaper to the lineup that was not replaced with their departures. Swinging a mid round pick for an enforcer like Matt Carkner would’ve rounded out the day nicely, especially considering Hodgson’s relatively small stature and injury history.

At the end of the day, Regier’s break from the ho-hum of flipping second round picks for mediocre forwards was a welcome sight. The Sabres got great value out of Gaustad, and turned Kassian’s enigmatic potential into the future top-six center the team has been searching for since 2007. While the Sabres failed to bulk up at the deadline, Regier had emphasized the need for the team to get bigger even when Kassian was on the roster, and it is expected that the GM will look to add grit in the offseason.

All in all, the Sabres were one of Monday’s biggest winners.

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Sabres Select Daniel Catenacci in 3rd round

The Buffalo Sabres used the 77th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft to select left shooting center Daniel Cetanacci. Cetanacci is listed at 5’9″ and 186 pounds. He led the Sault in assists and points last season (45 and 71). He’s an extremely fast skater, he took that honor in the 2011 top prospects game. His father played for the St. Louis Blues, his brother in the OHL. Catenacci is a good all around player with good ability to create offense.

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Friday’s craziness

The hangup with Robyn Regehr looks to have come to an end.  We are to assume that Regehr will be coming to Buffalo along with shoot-out champion, and former Sabre, Ales Kotalik.  Supposedly the Sabres are moving Paul Byron, Chris Butler and a second-round pick in 2012 to Calgary.

With that soap opera behind us, the Sabres and fans can now devote more attention to the draft today, as it ended up being obstructed Friday with the Regehr trade being in limbo for most of the day and evening.

When the Sabres did make their pick at #16, they took Finnish RW Joel Armia.  Armia played in Finland’s top league with Assat Pori.  He scored 18 goals and had 29 points.  Armia has good skating ability for a big kid (6’3, 195) and finds ways to make room for himself in the offensive zone.

Armia’s best quality is his shot.  He has an excellent wrist shot that finds the net.  His bread-and-butter in pro hockey, and has been up to this point, is scoring goals.  The Sabres need more offense and Armia can be a player down the road to supply that.

He’s not afraid to get into traffic when in the slot or near the net.  Definitely has an eye for scoring goals and doesn’t seem to shy away from the high traffic areas in that regard.

Looks a bit like a swift-skating Dave Andreychuk.  Armia gets some garbage goals at times, but how often have the Sabres in recent years been surrounding the opposing net, only to be possessing an uncanny inability of parking home goals?  Maybe Armia will help in that area.

Armia’s drawbacks are occasional lacks of intensity, motivation and not owning much of a sense for any form of defensive hockey.  Sounds a bit like Thomas Vanek when he was at the University of Minnesota, and was tagged a one-dimensional offensive player.

Overall, the Armia selection is a good pick.  He would have been drafted in the next 3-5 selections had the Sabres taken another player.   Buffalo should be focusing on centers today, and also their BPAs on their lists.  Sabres head scout Kevin Devine has insinuated that the team may move up to the second round today.  There’s several quality offensive players (centers) to be had in the second round.  Let’s see if Buffalo gets creative.

Remembering Sabres drafts

I saw two days ago that the Eric Lindros draft at the Aud took place 20 years ago.  20 yearrrrrrrrrrrrs.  Seriously, 20?  Seems like yesterday where big, fat Eric stood next to an uncomfortable looking Quebec Nordiques GM Pierre Page, and refused to put on the blue fleur-de-lis adorned jersey.  Lindros was booed by the crowd at the Aud, and for the only time in Pat Falloon’s lackluster NHL career, he received cheers from the spectators as he donned the new aqua-colored San Jose Sharks jersey.

Drafts come and go, but each leaves a memorable mark, good or bad.  Find yourself a copy of the Sabres’ “Decade of Excitement”, the first 10 years of Sabres hockey, and watch Scotty Bowman announce the sage selection of European forward Jiri Dudacek in the first round of the 1981 draft.  The video uses the Dudacek selection as an admirable jump into the 1980s.  Dudacek became the kind of fodder that Sabres fans today reserve for Artem Kryukov.

Speaking of Kryukov, who could forget Buffalo’s horrid selection of the Konkussion King in the first round of the 2000 entry draft.  Artem who?  How much beer was being downed the previous night, Messrs. Benning, Luce and Regier?  That was a darkhorse’s darkhorse pick.  Artem is still fumbling around somewhere in Russia, probably with a placard along the Trans-Siberian railway, “Will play for gruel”.

How about Pierre Turgeon?  Buffalo’s horrid 86-87 campaign allowed them to draft first overall in 1987.  Quickly, comparisons between Turgeon and Gilbert Perreault took hold in the media.  Pierre attempted to quell the excitement some by saying, “I CAN ONLY BE PIERRE, NO CANNOT BE GILBERT!!!”  Those words proved true as #77 spent a few decent years with the Sabres before being traded to the NY Islanders in the fall of 1991.

Joel Savage?  Brad May?   Barely any remembrance there.  For some reason I do remember the Sabres drafting David Cooper in the first round of the 1992 draft.  Cooper was supposed to be a big, offensive defenseman with great skills, fast skates, a hell of a shot and the next power play quarterback for Buffalo.  That didn’t exactly happen.

The Sabres kind of redeemed themselves the following few years with selections like Wayne Primeau, Jay McKee, Marty Biron and Curtis Brown.  Then there’s Erik Rasmussen.  We’ll conveniently skip that.

And let’s conveniently skip a number of years.  Let’s even go beyond the crooked lockout lottery that saw Illuminati favorite Pittsburgh get the first overall pick and draft Sidney Crosby in 2005.  Buffalo, playing the role of NHL Court Jester, settled for Marek Zagrapan… no let’s not dwell on that.

How about the awesomeness of the 2008 draft for the Sabres?  Already receiving great production from the two Tylers, Myers and Ennis… and possibly contributions from Luke Adam (if he isn’t sent packing today in a trade for Calgary’s Robyn Regehr), that’s three big components on the team in one draft.  That harkens back the days of Punch Imlach when he was assembling great talent through the first five drafts in Buffalo’s history.

The Sabres have filled the prospect pipeline quite well over the last few years.  Along with the aforementioned Tylers and Adam are Zack Kassian, Marcus Foligno, Jhonas Enroth, Drew Schiestel, Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb, T.J. Brennan, Corey Tropp, Kevin Sundher, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Paul Byron… just to name a few.  The depth is there.  Now it’s time for the Sabres to focus on offense, specifically centers.  Who will the Sabres take tonight if they keep the 16th pick?  Mark McNeill, Mark Scheifele, Sven Bartschi, Zack Phillips, Boone Jenner?  Will they consider Jamie Oleksiak?  Go off the board for Rocco Grimaldi?   Will the selection turn out to be a Tyler Myers or a David Cooper?  Time will tell.

 

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Sabres vs. Soviet Wings: January 4, 1976

1976 Super SeriesIt was the height of the Cold War. The NHL and Russia had an unofficial war over bragging rights for the best hockey program in the world, the echoes of which can still be heard today. The Soviets burst onto the international scene in the mid-fifties and dominated in tournaments held on international ice surfaces using international rules. The Soviets teams were largely professionals who played together year round, most were drafted into the Red Army so they were under the control of the Soviet government.

The Soviets main adversaries, Canada and the United States,  met the Soviets in various tournaments with largely amateur teams. It was rarely the Soviet’s best against Canada’s best, America’s best or the NHL’s best. The NHL fumed at the prestige the Soviets took from the NHL without ever having faced an NHL caliber team. The first clash of the NHL’s best and the Soviets was the famed Summit Series in Moscow of 1972. Paul Henderson scored the “goal heard around the world” to lift Team Canada to victory in the last minute of the eighth and final game. Although many people, myself included, think that victory was tarnished by a delibertate act by Bobby Clarke to break Valeri Kharlamov’s ankle.  Canda’s assistant coach John Ferguson would admit to it. Regardless, it was the first time a professional team from North America had defeated the vaunted Red Machine.  In 1974 the upstart WHA decided to try their luck against the Soviet.  The NHL did not allow its players to play with WHA talent so the rematch between Canada and the Soviet Union consisted solely of WHA talent. The Soviets came out on top, again under a cloud of controversy, this time over the treatment of team Canada on and off the ice.

In 1975-76 NHL owners agreed to arrange a tournament between the Soviets’ best and various teams in the NHL. The Soviets sent the vaunted Central Red Army team and the Soviet Wings team to North America to face selected NHL opponents, a list that included the Buffalo Sabres.  The Central Red Army team went into New York and clobbered the Rangers 7-3 on December 28, the Wings went into Pittsburgh and thumped the Penguins 7-4 the next day. On New Years Eve the Red Army went into the forum of Montreal and held the Canadiens to a tie(the Habs would win the Stanley Cup that year). The Wings prepared for their next game on January 4, 1976.

Enter the Buffalo Sabres. “I don’t know what the Sabres had for a game meal, but they came out mean and tough. Jerry Korab was a man on a mission…. He took it to their big stars, once almost putting Yakushev right through the Zamboni doors. I don’t recall a penalty on the play either.” Ron Wicks NHL referee

The Aud was filled to capacity that night. In school we talked about the game quite a bit. The Sabres were a year removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance and in the 70′s we were taught to quite literally hate the “evil commies”.  It was a big game, an important game politically and in terms of hockey prestige (most NHL players at the time were Canadian and they were out to prove the Canadian style of play and the Canadian player were the best in the world).  The air along the Niagara Frontier was electric and the Aud rocked as only that grand old building could do. The Wings uniforms were ill fitting, their equipment appeared shabby and tattered but it was a trap. The Soviets’ equipment was top notch, the Soviet government spared no expense for such a propaganda tour. The Soviets wanted to give the appearance of an ill prepared team.  Although the Wings were a step down from the Central Red Army in terms of talent they were still a powerful team (they would beat  the Pens 7-4, The ‘Hawks 4-2 and the Islanders 2-1). The Sabres themselves were at their height in terms of the mix of finesse and brute power with a hulking defensive corps. Buffalo wanted to show the world what NHL hockey, the Buffalo Sabres and the French Connection were all about. Punch Imlach wanted to beat the Soviets badly, he had the Sabres prepared and on edge, especially Jerry Korab.

“The feeling on the way down the QEW to Buffalo wasn’t good. We hadn’t fared well against the Soviets. We should have known better. With Punch Imlach in the background, it was bound to be a battle. For my money it was an outstanding game, probably the best one the Sabres ever played. It had to be a career game for Jerry Korab and for some reason Don Luce sticks out in my mind. I don’t think he was a goal scorer, but he was at his very best. Heading back up the QEW we knew we’d seen a game to remember” – Frank Selke Jr VP Hockey Night in Canada

On January 4, 1976 the Soviet Wings hit the ice in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. It was a small rink and an extremely loud building.  The Sabres came out banging and hitting, a style the Soviets were not used to playing. At 6:10 of the first period the Sabres got on the board with a goal by Josh Guevremont and they never looked back. A minute later Gilbert Perreault blasted a Korab pass into the net. “I remember the Soviet Wings game as if it was yesterday. Imlach told us in no uncertain terms he wanted this game – a lot. Well, he couldn’t have wanted it any more than each and every player on the team did. We had seen the 3-3 tie in Montreal on New Year’s Eve, and it only made us more determined. Punch said we were going to intimidate them. That was the key” – Jerry Korab

The French Connection scored 4 goals and notched five assists. Danny Gare netted a pair of goals and Fred “yes the office furniture guy” Stanfield had a goal and 3 assists. The Sabres outshot the Wings 46-21. By the end of the first period the Sabres led 4-2, by the end of the second the score had ballooned to 9-4. The Sabres won the game 12-6.

The player of the night was the man nicknamed Kong. Korab punished the Soviet players anytime they came into the Sabres zone and his checks set the tone for the game. By the end of the first period the Soviets were reluctant to cross the Sabres blue line, they were that intimidated by the hard hitting Sabres. After four games against the Soviets the NHL’s record was 1-1-2.

The Soviet teams would bounce back to win against the Bruins, Islanders, Blackhawks. The final game was the Red Army against the Philadelphia Flyers. In perhaps the strangest game of my life as a hockey fan I actually cheered the broad street bullies as they manhandled the Red Army for the NHL’s second win of the tournament. The Flyers took a page from the Sabres game plan and unmercifully beat the Red Army. It led to the Soviets leaving the ice in protest of the Flyers’ style of play, although they would return when they were told they would not be paid if they did not finish the game.

The games in Buffalo and Philly made a lasting impact on how North American players viewed the Soviets. The Soviets were now stuck with the label of soft, afraid to hit and would melt in a physical game. It’s a stereotype that has largely lasted even to today as European players are now a large part of the NHL. No matter the great accomplishments of these players they still can’t distance themselves from the beatings handed to the Soviets by the Sabres that in 1976.

Sources

Brewitt, Ross.  26 Seasons in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium.  TFB Press, 1997.

“Canada-Soviet Hockey Series”. CBC Digital Archives. <http://archives.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/topics/318/>.

Joyce, Gare (December 28, 2007). “John Ferguson, 1938-2007″.   (ESPN).  <http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=obits/ferguson/071227. Retrieved May 21, 2008>.

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How NHL Teams Selected Their Names

How NHL Teams Selected Their NamesAnaheim Mighty Ducks: Disney CEO Michael Eisner named the team after the hit Disney movie “The Mighty Ducks”.

Atlanta Thrashers: derived from Georgia’s state bird – the Brown Thrasher and the logo was designed to put forth a feeling of speed.

Boston Bruins: Businessman Charles Adams wanted his new franchise to have brown and yellow team colors to match his stores as well as a name equated with strength and power. A fan named the team in a contest.

Buffalo Sabres: The management held a contest and chose Sabres. Team officials wanted a fresh new name not being used in the pros, and something other than buffalo/bison variations.

Calgary Flames: Given to the team when it was in Atlanta to commemorate the burning of the city in the Civil War. When the team moved to Calgary, management held a contest/vote, and the fans chose to keep the Flames name, which also relates to Alberta’s petroleum industry.

Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes commonly make landfall in the North Carolina.

Chicago Blackhawks: Original owner Frederic McLaughlin named the team in honor of the Black Hawk Battalion he served with in WWI. The unit was named after a Chief Black Hawk. The name was merged to Blackhawks several years ago.

Colorado Avalanche: COMSAT gave Colorado fans a list of eight names to choose from and let the public respond. Avalanche was the most popular nickname among fans. The Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche on August 10, 1995.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Fan contest. Officially the Blue Jackets state the name has to do with celebrating patriotism, pride and the rich Civil War history in the state of Ohio and, city of Columbus. There was speculation the name could have also come from the fact the owner’s favorite color was blue, an insect with attitude logo had already been unveiled or perhaps to honor a Shawnee chief of the same name (there are various legal suits in the United States about the use by sports teams of native nation names and imagery.

Dallas Stars: Dallas is in Texas, the Lone STAR state. Also, when the team was in Minnesota, hockey fans chose the Minnesota state motto “Etoile du Nord” (Star of the North).

Detroit Red Wings: Then team president James Norris named it in honor of a team he had played with – the Montreal Winged Wheelers. The logo was perfect for the Motor City.

Edmonton Oilers: The management held a contest and chose Oilers, reflecting the importance of the oil industry. They kept the name when it moved from the World Hockey Association (WHA) to the National Hockey League.

Florida Panthers: H. Wayne Huizenaga wanted to draw attention to the Panther, an endangered native wildcat of Florida.

Hartford Whalers: When originally in the WHA, club was named New England Whalers for two reasons: (1) Massachusetts seaport towns connected to whaling; (2) the name had WHA in it (WHAlers). Name later changed to Hartford Whalers.

Los Angeles Kings: Two possible reasons: (1) The management held a contest and chose the name; (2) Jack Kent Cooke named them the Kings via executive decision, giving no specific reason.

Minnesota Wild: named in a contest. Six finalists named for new NHL franchise: Minnesota Blue Ox, Minnesota Freeze, Minnesota Northern Lights, Minnesota Voyageurs, Minnesota White Bears and Minnesota Wild. The state of Minnesota is well known for vast stretches of open wilderness, especially in the northern part of the state.

Montreal Canadiens: Representing the nationality of the players on the team. Originally, the team had only French Canadian players.

Nashville Predators: On September 27, 1997, held a season ticker holder event “Ice Breaker Bash”. Fans were surveyed and voted on the “Predators”. The name is linked to the area via fossils found in 1971 of a saber-toothed tiger, extinct for over 10,000 years.

New Jersey Devils: Comes from a legend: a witch allegedly gave birth to a demon known as “Jersey Devil” in 1735. The Jersey Devil was alleged to be a half-man, half-beast that stalked N.J.’s Pine Barrens or the area surrounding Lake Hopatcong for 250 years, causing fear and terror and basically mutilating his victims in an extreme display of guts and gore. Others say the Devil was the 13th child of Mother Leeds, jinxed by gypsies.

New York Islanders: The team is based in Uniondale, Long Island, N.Y.

New York Rangers: MSG President Tex Rickard’s team unofficially known as Tex’s Rangers (a play on Texas Rangers police), but Rangers was the official name.

Ottawa Senators: In honor of old Ottawa Senators hockey team that won 6 Stanley Cups. Originally: as Canada’s capital, the nickname for 1901 amateur team.

Philadelphia Flyers: After 25,000 entries, a committee chose Flyers, although the winning entry by a kid was spelled Fliers, because it went phonetically with Philadelphia.

Phoenix Coyotes: Management held a name the team contest, coyotes are/were fairly common in the desert south west United States.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The management held a contest and chose Penguins, partly because the team is in PENnsylvania.

Quebec Nordiques: Committee named them Nordiques (then in the WHA) because they were the northernmost team in pro hockey at 52 degrees North, 72 degrees West.

St. Louis Blues: Then owner Sid Salamon, Jr., drew inspiration from the famous song by W.C. Handy.

San Jose Sharks: Out of 5,000 entries, officials picked Sharks. 7 varieties in Pacific Ocean, several shark research facilities in area. One part of Bay Area is known as Red Triangle due to its shark population.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa Bay is the lightning capital of the world.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Two possible reasons: (1) Then owner Conn Smythe drew inspiration from an old Toronto team called the East Maple Leaves; (2) when Conn Smythe bought the Toronto St. Patricks, his first act was to rename the team after the Maple Leaf Regiment of the First World War, as well as for the maple leaf on the Canadian flag. Originally, the team was known as the Arenas, then renamed St. Patricks, supposedly to attract the Irish.

Vancouver Canucks: The nickname was taken from a Canadian folk hero. The legend says that Johnny Canuck was a great logger, and was a skater and a hockey player in his spare time.

Washington Capitals: Washington, D.C. is the Capital of the U.S.

Winnipeg Jets: Then owner Ben Hatskin asked his pal Sonny Werblin, then owner of the National Football League’s New York Jets, for permission. The current team (the Atlanta Thrashers franchise) has yet to be officially named.

Sources:

Les Canadiens Magazine, Magazine #6: 1991-92 Season Postings on the Internet Newsgroup rec.sport.hockey

Various history sections on official team sites.

Sabres April Fools Jokes

Originally posted on 4/1/2001

The Sabres have a long history of practical jokes – from drafting a made -up Japanese player to this gem of an April Fool’s broadcast.

OK, coffee is having its impact. The Sabres have been a somewhat cheeky franchise from their inception. As the saying goes, hockey is a game and games are supposed to be fun. Thankfully the Sabres have had some employees with some great senses of humor

I don’t claim this is a complete list of practical jokes, just one that’s been around since the old history site. But it’s a good many of them, most involved Paul Wieland or John Gurtler.

Perhaps the most famous practical joke in Sabres’ history happened in the 1974 draft. This joke was the masterpiece of the Sabres all time practical joker Paul Weiland, who worked in the Sabres’ public relations department for a couple of decades until the 90′s. In ’74 teams would call in their picks to Clarence Campbell, the NHL’s president at the time. Drafts were very long, and after the tenth round Wieland thought it would be funny to force Campbell to spell a long, foreign name. Wieland drove past a Japanese restaurant called  Tsujimoto’s nearly every day. Wieland got in touch with the International Institute and was provided the Japanese name for Saber – Taro. Thus with the 183rd pick in the 1974 draft the Buffalo Sabres drafted Taro Tsujimoto. Wieland didn’t tell the Knox Brothers he made Taro up merely because he was bored; he essentially burned a draft pick for a joke. So Wieland held his tongue. Taro made it to the training camp roster was provided a stall and equipment. In the St. Catherines hotel the team stayed in for training camp, coach Floyd Smith and Wieland had Taro paged by the hotel. The Knoxes saw a man enter the lobby who looked Japanese to them. They introduced themselves but finally clued into the joke when Wieland, Smith and others filled the lobby with laughter. I wonder if anyone would have the courage to try that joke in modern times? We may take our sports too seriously now.

In 1976, the USS Little Rock was decommissioned. This is the same ship that sits today in Buffalo’s Naval Museum. In ’76 the Sabres issued a press release that stated the Sabres were purchasing the Little Rock for the official team yacht. CBS spoke with Punch Imlach about the purchase. Punch stated the paperwork wasn’t final and the Sabres were still considering other vessels for the team yacht. Imlach issued no denial; the Sabres duped the media in this instance

In 1987 the Sabres issued a press release about the creation of Sabre Meadows, a 43,000 unit housing development the team would build behind Sabreland in Wheatfield, NY. WBEN called the Sabres about the release only to be asked by then assistant public relations director Budd Bailey (and in my opinion the greatest historian on the team) if 43,000 didn’t seem like a lot of units? And did WBEN take note of the date? The release was issued on April first.

Wieland was the force behind the Sliderex hoax. The Sabres informed the league they were replacing the Aud’s ice with Sliderex, a revolutionary plastic surface. The team listed the Prime Minister of Canada as the inventor of Sliderex and issued the release in March with a “hold for April 1″ on it. However, the media once again proved… let’s say, gullible. Sliderex was announced on the Buffalo 11 p.m. news and it was even reported the only flaw in Sliderex was that a lit cigarette could burn a hole in it.

Wieland also came out with lifetime leases to one square foot of Aud ice, an interview held in German with Dieter Weber about German players, complete with subtitles, and interviewed Whalers’ Greg Malone – whom Wieland called the NHL’s leading hooker, complete with hooking demonstrations (think Slapshot and not in the gutter!).

John Gurtler, perhaps most famously known for GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL and making people’s brains hurt after he took over for Ted Darling as the Sabres’ play by play man on television broadcasts was another practical joker. In 1988 Gurtler made up a character named Wink Dickerson, the “Ted Knight” of sports broadcasting. Dickerson was on the broadcast to showcase the Sabres Shopping Service which offered such things as Puppa Scoopa, Sabres Cologne to make you smell like a hockey player, and Benoit Hogueee sandwiches. Gurtler even had Wieland and Bailey call in to pretend to be customers purchasing products.

In 1989 the Sabres offered an interactive game. Fans could call in and vote for such things as the starting goaltending for the game, if then coach Ted Sator should change his lines more often, or if Christian Ruuttu should answer questions in English or Finnish. Mike Robitaille mentioned “the results” during the game and results scrolled on the TV as well. Robitaille even commented that interactive hockey would be the death of hockey as it was a coach’s job to figure these things out. At intermission Gurtler was shown going to the coach’s office to tell him the results. Sator and Barry Smith were shown playing table hockey. Fans wanted Ruuttu to answer in Finnish so Robitaille reminded Darling that he had spent ten days in Finland after he was traded to Vancouver because he was so depressed. So Robitaille handled the Finnish portion of the Ruuttu interview.

In 1990 the Sabres’ broadcast, linked above, featured “actors” playing the roles of the broadcast team.  The Youtube clip speaks for itself.

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The Birth of the Franchise

The Knox Brothers

The Knox Brothers in the "owner's" box

The Sabres started as a chance remark from Charlie Mulcahy, a Vice President of the Boston Bruins, to Seymour Knox II during a golf game in March of 1965. When Mulcahy mentioned the NHL would be expanding soon and it seemed, given the price, to be a good investment. Knox replied that he didn’t have any personal interest in such an investment but maybe his sons Seymour III and Northrup (Norty) might have an interest. All this came with the backdrop of prosperity combined with looming trouble for the NHL. Attendance in the six NHL cities was at an amazing 95%, but there were nagging issues for the league. There were only six NHL teams: Chicago, New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal and Detroit. There were vast farm systems for each team but with only 120 jobs in the big league young players were quitting the game in droves unwilling to serve the long apprenticeship in the minor leagues. Even after paying dues in the minors, a young player would be lucky to get even a one game shot with the big club. Above all, there was the lure of television and the vast sources of revenue that could be generated from sponsors and network contracts.

In the past the NHL’s strategy to deal with financial shortcomings was to expand the length of schedule. Since the 1949-50 season, the league had been running on a 70 game season. With only six teams, owners worried fans might become bored with the lack of variety in the games. If the league was to tap into the potential that television offered it would need to expand its presence on a national scale in the United States. That meant growing into the “major league” cities, specifically the large television market of Southern California. Minor league owners were beginning to mull over the possibility of expanding their own operations, something to similar to the NFL/AFL feud for the NHL’s comfort. The answers to the league’s problems of stagnation, loss of talent and exposure seemed to point to one panacea – television. Television would increase the league’s exposure, revenues and hopefully its fan base.

A couple months after the Knox/Mulcahy golf game in South Carolina, another golf game would take place, this one with lasting impact on the possible future of the NHL in Buffalo. Fred Hunt, a former hockey player and GM of the Buffalo Bisons, played a round with Dr. George Collins. After the game the two men, both of whom were hockey fans, spoke about the rumored NHL expansion. Hunt advised Collins that expansion was going to happen and that Buffalo should prepare a bid. When asked by Collins what was needed for such a bid, Hunt advised that Buffalo would need a credible group with solid finances in place when the league would finally announce expansion. Collins thought this over quickly in his mind and quickly thought of his friend Seymour Knox III, someone to whom the idea might appeal. Collins arranged a golf game with Hunt the following week, this time his friend Seymour Knox would join the duo. It didn’t take much prompting from Hunt to sell Knox on the idea of heading an expansion bid for Buffalo. Knox made it clear it was the NHL and nothing less, he had no interest in investing in the Bisons.

The NHL announced its expansion plans in June of 1965. Six more teams would be added to the original six for the modest expansion fee of $10,000. Fred Hunt, along with Bisons owner Ruby Pastor, made inquires about a Bisons-led bid for an expansion team. Friends in the league reported back that while the Pastor bid was formidable, it was flawed in one key respect – the bulk of the financing behind the group came from downstate interests and not local interests as outlined by the NHL. Hunt thought the matter over and recalled his meeting with Seymour Knox III: Knox represented the local money that the NHL wanted. The Pastor group merged with the Knox brothers forming the Niagara Frontier Hockey Corporation. The Pastors would retain 15% of the corporation while the rest of the partners would share equally the remaining 85%. To show their sincerity and solidarity, the group submitted their application immediately to the NHL at the leagues annual meetings in Montreal over the All Star game.

The Knoxes flew out to Montreal with the intention of meeting the league Governors, basically a fact-finding reconnaissance to gauge league reaction to the possibility of a Buffalo bid. Using their considerable connections, the Knoxes were able to arrange meetings with Senator Hartland Molson of the Canadiens, Charlie Mulcahy of the Bruins, Bill Jennings, the Governor for the NY Rangers, Bruce Norris of the Red Wings and league President Clarence Campbell. The results of the meetings were encouraging. Seymour Knox impressed the league’s hierarchy with his calm demeanor and impressive business skills. Knox flew back to Buffalo wary but hopeful, and the possibility of an NHL team seemed closer. An arena would be needed, so the Aud would need to be expanded to meet the leagues 12,500-seat minimum. Political leaders would need to be approached; their support and that of local civic groups was crucial. If Buffalo was to land an expansion team, it would need to present a united front on every level.

The Knoxes retained the services of Robert Swados to serve as the group’s attorney. Swados was well known by Western New York politicians with experience in tax law and represented Buffalo’s bid for baseball franchise in the Continental League in 1960. Seymour Knox met with Buffalo Mayor Frank Sedita who was enthusiastic in his support of a Buffalo NHL bid. Studies were done on expanding the Aud, the population of the Niagara Frontier, sizes of television markets and all the data needed to present a thorough and comprehensive bid to the NHL. Knox then met with Weston Adams Sr., chairman of the board for the Boston Bruins. Adams was harder on Knox than the principals Knox had met with in Montreal and questioned the image of Buffalo as a “major league” team. Seymour Knox pleaded the case of his home convincingly and when he left Boston, he left with Adams in his corner.

Bruce Norris arranged a meeting between Seymour and Norty Knox and his older brother James Norris, chairman of the NHL board of governors and leader of the Chicago Black Hawks. The meeting was strained to say the least; Seymour failed to find any common ground with the gruff elder Norris. Norris was still bitter over a failed grain operation in Buffalo that cost him $2,000,000 back in 1954. Hours into the meeting Norris finally blurted out a statement that briefly sunk Buffalo’s hopes. “Buffalo is a bush town. You might as well forget it right now, boys. Buffalo will never get into the NHL as long as I’m involved.”

The Knoxes left Chicago deflated, the trip had been a mild disaster. The Knoxes were buoyed shortly thereafter, however, with a surprising reaction from Toronto. The Leafs, only 98 miles from Buffalo, were viewed as the biggest obstacle to an expansion team. The Knoxes made it clear they were very willing to bend to protect the Leafs television market and were pleasantly surprised that the Leafs seemed willing to not only listen to the Buffalo pitch but also support it.

Buffalo’s opposition for an expansion team was Los Angeles, Oakland-San Francisco, Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Cleveland and Minneapolis-St. Paul. The Buffalo group had the support of local politicians, solid financial backing and the Aud could be expanded to 16,080 which would be second only to Chicago if Buffalo was accepted into the NHL. The word from the Knox’s sources was that the Buffalo bid was viewed to be the strongest, best prepared and nearly a sure deal. St. Louis, with ties to Norris, didn’t have a group behind the bid. The West Coast cities were certain to get in; the Vancouver bid was disjointed and poorly organized. Cleveland was a token bid and the Philadelphia bid had been placed just two weeks prior to the expansion meeting and thus not viewed as a legitimate threat. Pittsburgh was well financed and had a building in place; the Baltimore group was a threat but had problems in the background. The Knoxes led the presentation of the Buffalo bid on February 7th and all seemed well. Later that evening Bill Jennings phoned Seymour Knox and informed Knox that Buffalo was in, it wasn’t official yet but things looked good.

The Knox group celebrated the good news and went to the league meeting the next day in high spirits, certain they would be named as one of the expansion cities. On the way into the meeting Bill Jennings grabbed Seymour Knox and pulled him aside, a grim look on his face. “He did it to you,” Jennings said. At first Knox misunderstood thinking Jennings was congratulating him but Jennings repeated himself giving a thumbs down gesture. Knox was dejected. Minutes later the league announced the list of expansion cities: LA, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Baltimore was the first alternate, Buffalo the second alternate. In the aftermath of the disappointment the Knoxes were able to piece together what happened. Bruce Norris regretfully informed the Knox brothers that he always voted with his brother and he had done so this time. Toronto ended up voting against Buffalo and Montreal sided with their fellow Canadians as the two cities had always supported one another. Bill Jennings offered this suggestion to the Knox brothers:

“Your presentation was great, but why do you have to represent Buffalo? Why don’t you select another city?” Jennings named three cities that he thought would be sure bets for the next round of expansion. Knox’s answer should be one every Sabres fan should have etched in their memories.

“Buffalo is our home and that’s where our hockey team will play,” Knox replied.

The Knox group was persuaded to join with the Bisons organization to lend business support to the sagging club. The Knoxes formed an executive group with Bob Swados, Paul Schoellkopf, John Galvin and Joe Stewart. It was later expanded to include John Walsh, Hazard Campbell, Nelson Graves and Dr. George Collins, the man whose golf game had gotten things going in the first place. The Bisons struggled, their agreement with the Black Hawks expired and things looked bleak. The Pastors had two options open to them: sell to the Leafs and become the Leafs farm team (thus eliminating any chance of a competitor growing on the Leafs back door) or accepting an agreement with the New York Rangers. Pastor gave right of first refusal for sale of the club to the Knox brothers in acknowledgement of all the Knox brothers had done and their desire to bring the NHL to Buffalo. The Bisons accepted the agreement with New York; the move brought new life to the Bisons. With new head coach Fred Sherro, the Bisons charged to first place in the 1968-9 season bringing the eyes of the NHL back to Buffalo. The stage was set for a second attempt, this time by a far wiser and more determined Knox group

After the initial league expansion, the Knoxes concentrated, along with their group, on the daily running of the Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons were winning on the ice as well as the turnstiles as Buffalo hockey fans came back to support their team after the disappointment of not being awarded an NHL expansion franchise. The Knoxes, however, did not back away from efforts to secure an NHL team for Buffalo. The expansion teams did better than the “experts” predicted in their first season, at least in the standings. The expansion teams played in their own division and from top down things were highly competitive with one exception – the Oakland Seals.

The Seals struggles on the ice were eclipsed only by their problems off the ice. An ownership group headed the Seals with some 52 limited partners besides Barry Van Gerbig, the figurehead of the group. Fans weren’t attending the games, instead they stayed at home and the few who cared about the hockey team watched the games broadcast on television. LaBatt’s Breweries made a loan to the Oakland ownership of $680,000 on March 17, 1968. The loan had to be repaid on June 15, 1969 if the franchise did not relocate to Vancouver by that date. CBS, the NHL’s new television partner, made it clear that the league had to maintain a presence in the Oakland area and its large television market. This stalled the move to Vancouver in the league meetings but the Seals group continued to look for partners to help the franchise out of the financial mess it was in.

Although not successful in their initial bid for an NHL franchise the Knox brothers made all important contacts and a lasting impression with the powers of the league. The fact that the AHL Bisons drew more fans and made more money than the Oakland Seals was not lost on the leaders of the NHL. The league leaders began to ask questions. Who had put on the best presentation at the 1966 expansion meetings? Who had a good organization, television market and financing? The answer was Buffalo. Oakland was quickly becoming an embarrassment to the NHL, if the team was going to move why not move it to Buffalo instead of Vancouver? The Knox brothers had shown what they could do and there was little doubt among the NHL leaders that under the Knox brothers the franchise could not only be saved but also lifted.

Bill Jennings made the first move. Jennings called Knox and informed him of Oakland’s troubles telling Seymour Knox that it was an opening that could be used to get a team into Buffalo. The Knoxes along with their attorney Bob Swados quickly assessed the situation and realized that Jennings was correct. This was an opening that could be exploited; it could accelerate the process of getting a team into Buffalo. After various calls and meetings an agreement was finally reached. Buffalo would provide working capital for the Seals to cover the season then would apply for the sale and transfer of the team to Buffalo the next winter. If the transfer was turned down Buffalo would become team investors. Unfortunately the story broke in the papers and the LaBatt’s group, who had already invested in the Seals, was furious. It had been assumed by the Buffalo group that the league could work out the prior commitment from LaBatt’s but that was not the case. After months of wrangling the Buffalo group had to revise its position.

The Knoxes agreed to go and operate on the West Coast in order to eliminate the dual problems of the 52 member Seal group and the LaBatt’s issue. The Knoxes would run the Seals, finance them in return for a promise of light at the end of the tunnel – a team for Buffalo in the next expansion. The original plan was to move the Oakland team to Buffalo and award Oakland with a new franchise. This was quickly dismissed by the league that was afraid of alienating the small pocket of fans they had earned in Oakland. Instead the league decided to leave the Seals in Oakland and promised to give Buffalo another team in the next round of expansion. On January 20, 1969 the league governors met to decide on the next expansion. They voted down the LaBatt request to transfer the Seals to Vancouver, thus eliminating that hurdle. The league then told the Buffalo group that they could acquire and operate the Oakland franchise but refused to make any promises on a team for Buffalo. The league was giving the Knoxes a chance to become part of the league and press their case from the inside.

It was not an ideal solution but one the Knox group felt they had to accept along with the $4.5 million risk in buying the Seals. In the meantime another group entered the picture – the Trans National Communication group led by Woody Erdman. The Knoxes agreed to sell most of their interest in the Seals in return for the right to name the league representative for the Seals. However, word filtered back to the league offices and this was not a proposition the NHL was willing to accept. The league stated that the Knoxes would hold 20% of the Seals stock and not the 30% agreed upon with TNC. Further the league would accept Seymour Knox but only as an alternate governor, closing him out from the inner circle of the league. After more negotiations this was the deal that was accepted; Knox was an alternate governor, the Knox group held 20% of the Seals stock and had veto power of league issues.

The front office situation was temporarily cleaned up and the result showed on the ice. The Seals (no longer the Oakland Seals but now the California Golden Seals) had a great season and earned the final playoff spot. Seymour Knox spent countless hours building relationships with the league governors, paving the way to earning a team for Buffalo. In September of 1969 it was announced the league would expand by two teams, unfortunately the entry fee was a staggering $6 million. Frantic months of negotiations and headaches followed but on December 1, 1969 the league informed the Knox group that they were awarding Buffalo a franchise. The Knox group would now have to deal with two issues: the first was selling their interests in the Seals and attempting to regain their investment in that franchise, the second would be far more gratifying. They had won a franchise for Buffalo, now it was time to start building a team.

Here’s a column written in the Toronto Telegram on November 3, 1969

“…I don’t know whether Buffalo had made formal application to the NHL, but I believe it soon will. The gentleman who will, in all probability, make the application will be Seymour Knox III…”

The column then goes on to detail how the Governors determined the entry fee for the new franchises.

“…It seems as though the Governors were sitting around in Toronto discussing the “tab” they were going to put on the new clubs. One suggested $3 million, another $5million.

‘Do you think they will pay that?” asked a governor.

‘Why don’t you ask them’ was the reply.

‘Would you pay $6 million Seymour?’

He said he would…

Then the columnist gave his opinion of expansion

“I felt that Mr. Knox would be an asset to the game, and everybody I have talked to has endorsed him as being a real gentleman. The NHL could use a few more men like Mr. Knox. It might help their image. If Mr. Knox has any visions of recuperating his money, there had better be another 16,000 hockey nuts in the Buffalo area…”

The columnist’s concerns in that area were ill founded, there were indeed hockey nuts by the tens of thousands in the Buffalo area. The columnist’s name? An out of work former coach and general manager, a man who had his name inscribed four times on the Stanley Cup. George “Punch” Imlach.

Now that they had a franchise, the Knox group turned its full attention to building a team. To build any organization you have to start from the top down so the top man can build from the ground up. Confusing but true, its exactly what the Knox led group decided to do for their new team. After asking a few questions and getting few answers from their new colleagues in the league offices the Knoxes came up with a short list of general manager candidates. First on that list was the out of work former head coach of the Maple Leafs and current newspaper columnist George Punch Imlach. Imlach had a towering reputation in hockey circles; he was the kind of man who polarized reactions to him. You either loved him or hated him, there was no in between and that is a reflection of the man himself. Imlach was the coach and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs for most of the 1960′s, winning four Stanley Cups and legions of fans. Imlach was a shrewd trader and a no nonsense man.

“When you asked a question (of Imlach) you got an objective, knowledgeable answer. In short, to use the vernacular, a no-bull guy. That’s what first impressed me.” – Bob Swados on his initial reaction to Punch Imlach

There was some concern about Imlach’s reputation for favoring older players over younger talent and the Knoxes did not want their draft picks thrown away. They wanted to build a team that would compete for years not just be a “one shot” wonder. Imlach had turned down other jobs from other NHL teams, mainly because Imlach saw himself as a general manager not just a coach. Imlach was impressed with the Knox brothers’ enthusiasm and commitment. Buffalo offered him the challenge of building an entire staff but that building could be done in his image. Buffalo also offered Imlach the most important thing of all: a chance to show the NHL and in particular Toronto that he still had “it”.

“They asked me a lot of questions and I answered them straight up. After all, some people like you and some people don’t. It’s the ones that don’t that do all the talking: and the Knoxes had heard these stories, so they asked a lot of questions. I don’t blame them. They had to find out if I was the son of a bitch they had heard I was. But I had nothing to lose answering their questions honestly and directly. I didn’t have to go to work, so it wasn’t a case of my pitching for the job or worrying about stepping on anybody’s toes, and I just told it the way it is. And money wasn’t a problem. When I get into a tax bracket where I have to pay the government more money out of a dollar than I get out of it, then I think it’s time for me to quit. I don’t mind being in a partnership but I hate like hell being at a disadvantage to them. …So it was the challenge that attracted me. I have to be nuts, and my wife said I was crazy to take this job when I could have something much easier. But I’m closer to Toronto, and it will be easier for me to stick it down their throats. That’s what motivates me.” Punch Imlach on why he took the Buffalo position.

On January 16, 1970 it was publicly announced that Punch Imlach would lead the Buffalo team in the upcoming season. Buffalo had its general and he was more than prepared to lead his team into Pittsburgh on October 10th. The front office was filled in led by Dave Forman, Fred Hunt was named assistant General Manager of the new team. A selection committee was formed for the most important of tasks – naming the new team. A contest was held and the public flooded the Buffalo offices with suggestions for the new team name. Ownership wanted a name that would splash on the newspapers but disassociate the new team from the normal Buffalo sports names (ex the Bisons etc.). On the list of losing names: Bees, Mugwumps, Flying Zepplins, Knoxen, Herd, Border Riders, and Comets. Four people submitted the name Sabres and a drawing was held to see which 2 of the final 4 would be the winners of the contest. Mayor Sedita oversaw the drawing and Robert Sonnelitter Jr was designated the man who named the new Sabres.

Imlach assembled his scouting staff and scoured the Junior ranks for talent but the first choice in the coming 1970 entry draft was a no brainer as far as Imlach was concerned. If Imlach could win that first pick for the Sabres the player he wanted was a young center playing in Montreal named Gilbert Perreault. It was decided by the league to determine drafting order by a series of coin tosses. Imlach first won a small victory by getting the league to allow the Sabres to participate in the intra-league draft, giving the young team access to the league’s veterans. Second Imlach was able to get the date of the coin tosses moved to June 9th, the day before the draft. Imlach felt this extra day would allow him to arrange more trades and deals.

On June 9th in the Grand Salon of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel the league converged for the all-important tosses. The Sabres won the first toss over the waiver draft. Then a carnival wheel was brought forward and league president Clarence Campbell explained the rules. Vancouver would have the number from six down, the Sabres eight up and seven would be a respin. The first spin was for first rights in the expansion draft. The number eight came up and the Sabres would get first choice. Then the room grew quiet, the next spin was the most important, the right for the first pick overall in the amateur draft. At first Campbell announced the winning number was one but after taking another look at the wheel he corrected himself and announced that the winning number was not one but eleven. Buffalo had just won the first pick in the draft and the Sabres group erupted in cheers. They would have their young superstar; they would get Gilbert Perreault.

Now for trivia buffs everywhere the next sequence of events can win you a few contests. Imlach left the room for a few moments to collect his thoughts. When he returned he noticed Pittsburgh was trying to slip goalie Joe Daly through waivers. Imlach used his new won rights and claimed Daly off the wire. It was Joe Daly and not Gilbert Perreault who was the first Buffalo Sabre. Imlach then selected Kevin O’Shea, Cliff Schmautz, Brian McDonald and Billy Inlgis in the intra league draft. The next day during the expansion draft held on the 10th Imlach took: Tom Webster who he promptly traded to Detroit for Roger Crozier. Al Hamilton, Donnie Marshall, Tracy Pratt, Jim Watson, Phil Goyette, Reggie Fleming and Francois Lacombe were also selected. Then the amateur draft took place and Imlach stood up and announced “Buffalo claims Gil Perreault”. In the span of less than a year the Knox brothers had given Buffalo an NHL team, staffed it, named it and now Punch Imlach had begun to place the players who would become the foundation of the Sabres and legends who would cast long shadows for every player who followed.

 

Sources

Bailey, Budd. Celebrate the Tradition, 1970-1990: A History of the Buffalo Sabres. Boncraft, 1989.

Brewitt, Ross. A Spin of the Wheel: Birth of the Buffalo Sabres. Vantage Press, 1975.

Brewitt, Ross. 26 Seasons in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. TFB Press, 1997.

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2011 Buffalo Sabres Mock Draft

Sabres’ Draft Picks in 2011 NHL Entry Draft

  • 1st round, 16th
  • 2nd round, 46th (traded to St. Louis for Brad Boyes)
  • 3rd round, 77th
  • 4th round, 107th
  • 5th round, 137th
  • 6th round, 167th
  • 7th round, 197th

Sabres’ Mock Draft

1.16 C – Mark Scheifele – Barrie Colts – 66-22-53-75 -22 35                                 6.3 185, shoots right, 3.15.93, CSS ranking (16)

Scheifele’s first season in the OHL was quite successful. He finished second on his team with 75 points. As the season progressed, the Barrie Colts leaned on Scheifele more and more, and he did not disappoint. The Colts were the worst team in the OHL this past season, winning just 15 games out of 68. Their team will be depending on Scheifele heavily for the next couple years. Scheifele possesses a strong work ethic, is a good skater with quick hands, moves well for a big center and is defensively responsible. Scheifele has very good hockey sense and an ability to find the open man in the offensive zone, as can be attested by his 53 assists. Schiefele steadily rose up the ranks as the season went on and now finds himself as a top 20 pick for the draft. There’s a decent chance he won’t be around at #16 when the Sabres pick, but if he is available, it’s probably as good a selection as Buffalo can make at that spot.

3.77 C – Joseph Labate – Holy Angels Academy (MN) – 25-27-22-49 +27 42
6.4 195, shoots left, 4.16.93, CSS ranking (51)

There’s a good chance Labate will be drafted in the second round or early in the third (the draft spots for high school players are often unpredictable), but if he were to fall to the Sabres’ third round selection, Labate’s a player the Sabres should consider. Labate is a big center with good skating ability. He’s offensively geared with a good shot and has no fear of getting into the high-traffic areas and says he models his game after power forwards / centers like Joe Thornton and David Backes. Labate will be playing as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin this fall. He would help fill the prospect pipeline gap at center, especially among the lack of larger centers.

4.107 C – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Gatineau Olympiques – 67-32-47-79 +23 22
5.9 165, shoots right, 11.11.92, CSS ranking (not ranked)

Diminutive center in the Quebec junior league that quickly reminds you of Danny Briere. A very fast skater with a nose for the net, Pageau possesses a nasty wrister and he has pin-point accuracy on the shot. His speed allows him to skate around the defense from the blue line in and go one-on-one with the opposing team’s goalie. Despite being a small player, has no fear going into the slot, to the net, or high-traffic areas. For some reason or another, Pageau was not ranked by the CSS, however he has seen his stock rise dramatically in the past few weeks. Pageau led his team to a surprising run in the Quebec playoffs, leading the way with 13-16-29 in 24 games.

5.137 G – Benjamin Conz – SC Langnau

46 GP / 19 W, 26 L / 2.98 GAA / .906 Sv%
5.11 205, right glove, 9.13.91, CSS ranking (4*) *European Goalies

Conz has gone undrafted the past two seasons, however it looks as though the third time will be the charm for the Swiss goalie. Conz has been the starting goalie for the Swiss U-20 team the past two seasons. He was the named the “All-Tournament” goalie at the 2009-2010 WJC. He made a very good impression at the Buffalo WJC tournament this past winter. He faced more shots than any goalie at the Buffalo junior tournament and registered a 3-3 record along with a 2.97 GAA and .918 save percentage. He made 46 saves on 49 shots in a loss against Team Canada, and played very well in a 2-1 loss against the U.S.A. Draft projections have Conz being selected anywhere between the fourth and seventh rounds. The Sabres do need to draft at least one goalie. Conz would be a good enough fit to challenge or surpass the likes of Connor Knapp.

6.167 C – Thomas Tynan – Notre Dame – 44-23-31-54 +21 36
5.9 170, shoots right, 2.25.92, CSS ranking (not ranked)

Tynan was draft eligible last year but was passed over. He committed to Notre Dame and led the Fighting Irish in scoring in his freshman season. Tynan was tied for third in overall scoring in the CCHA this past season. Tynan was an integral part of a Notre Dame team that ended up making it to the Frozen Four. He has been invited to the U.S. National Evaluation camp as a candidate for the WJC U.S. U-20 team. Tynan’s name has been thrown around as a probable 6th round selection in the NHL draft. The Sabres could make out quite well here in stockpiling more offensive talent at the center position. If they can grab at least four centers in this draft, the cupboard will certainly no longer be empty.

7.197 D – Edward Wittchow – Burnsville H.S. (MN) – 25-9-14-23 +11 28
6.3 190, shoots left, 10.31.92, CSS ranking (111)

Wittchow reached a CSS final ranking of 111 after being left off the mid-term list. The Sabres need to spend at least one pick on a defenseman. Good size, quite a good skater. He’ll round out above 200 pounds down the road… played at a large Minneapolis area high school.  Wittchow was selected 4th overall in May’s USHL draft.  He’s the property of the Waterloo Blackhawks and will likely spend the 2011-12 campaign there.

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