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.