Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Buffalo Sabres Draft Recap--Mind officially blown

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The 2015 NHL Draft weekend was a mind-blowing experience for Buffalo Sabres fans, there's just no other way to put it, as some wheeling and dealing and a second-overall pick combined to make for a heightened sense of awareness and the promises of a very bright future beginning as early as next season.

Back in early February, the team was looking at three first round and two second round selections in the draft to go along with four other picks in rounds 4-7. On February 11th, Sabres GM Tim Murray traded one of the first rounders away in the blockbuster for top-line LW, Evander Kane. On Friday morning news came out that Murray traded another of his first rounders for 23 yr. old Ottawa goalie, Robin Lehner and just after they made Jack Eichel the second-overall pick in the 2015 draft, commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Sabres had sent the 31st overall pick to Colorado as a part the Ryan O'Reilly blockbuster trade.

Other pieces were involved in all of the trades but when the Sabres settled in and around their draft table after the trade for O'Reilly, they were now looking at five selections and they'd be waiting until the middle part of the second round on Saturday to get their amateur scouts rolling.

Monday, June 29, 2015

On the Robin Lehner trade and why, at worst it may be only a footnote

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

What is the cost for a Wayne Gretzky rookie card? Or Mickey Mantle rookie? Or even that of an Evander Kane rookie?
The book value is one thing, but the person buying it is the one who will put the true value on it.
Much has been made concerning Tim Murray’s wheeling and dealing as Buffalo Sabres GM. He’s been on the job for less than 18 months yet has managed to pull off three blockbuster trades. One of them, the Ryan Miller to St. Louis trade, looked to have already been in the works when he came on board, but the two other ones—Kane/Tyler Myers In February and Ryan O’Reilly at the 2015 NHL draft—were all on him.
Both trades done exclusively by Murray ended up looking like hockey trades with both sides ending up pieces that they wanted and/or needed. Can one claim they got the better of the deal? After four months or less the answer is indubitably, no.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sabres draft-day makeover: Jack Eichel, Robin Lehner, Ryan O'Reilly

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

There was a time earlier this calendar year when Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray had three first round picks heading into the 2015 NHL draft and five total stretching from the second overall down to pick No. 51. Then came the blockbuster trade for Evander Kane on February 11th that saw one of those picks, the lower of the two not Buffalo's, head to Winnipeg.

Even so, he still landed in Fort Lauderdale armed with two first-rounders (Nos. 2 and 21) and two second-rounders (Nos. 31 and 51) in what's being considered as a very deep 2015 draft. Odds were slim that he wasn't going to use all those picks as the Sabres had accumulated many picks and prospects over the last few years. When he came on board 18 months ago, the Sabres had already been stocking their cupboard and he added to that with his moves around the 2014 trade deadline. He continued adding at the 2015 deadline saying, "our time is the future."

That future came pretty quick. After finishing in 30th place and finding out where they would be from the draft lottery the theme went from "our time is the future" to the future begins now.

Murray gave us a preview of what might happen on the draft floor during the first round. At a pre-draft press gathering held at First Niagara Center he said he was looking to do something with the 21st pick--either move up or use it for a young veteran. One of his ideal scenarios would have "a team call and they're having problems with one of their players, that are having problems with their cap situation," he would say that day, "and they offer us a 23- or 24-year-old top-six forward or top-three defenseman or No. 1 goalie, and they'd be willing to take [the 21st pick] for that."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 NHL Mock Draft

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

1. Edmonton Oilers--C, Connor McDavid. New Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, enlists indie-alt band King Missile to update Jesus is way cool to McJesus is even cooler. FBI agents contact RCMP in regards to thousands of pounds of palm fronds taken from Florida presumably headed for Jerusalem Rexall Place.
2. Buffalo Sabres--C, Jack Eichel. Eichel was seen at Mickey Rats Beach Club chugging what looked like an iced tea. In response to all the McDavid talk, he slams his red solo cup and with a snarl, barks out "Edmonton, I'm comin' for ya!!! You too Babcock!"
3. Arizona--C, Dylan Strome. Tough choice between D, Noah Hanifin and Strome save for the fact that they already have a budding superstar d-man in Oliver Ekman Larsson. Bettman prevents owner Andrew Barroway from wearing a rhinestone studded leisure suit with the Yotes logo on it.
4. Toronto--D, Noah Hanifin. New head coach Mike Babcock will know just what to do with the smooth-skating, 6'2" lb. 200 defenseman. Was overheard asking Brendan Shanahan "who the hell is this Hyman guy again?"
5. Carolina--RW, Mitch Marner. Best player on the board which is way cool. Marner can man the right side with Jeff Skinner on the left and Eric Staal at center while Elias Lindholm can take his rightful place as No. 2 RW. That is, of course, unless Skinner is traded.
6. NJ Devils--C/LW Pavel Zacha. Devils need a lot and best place to start is with 6'3" 210 lb. powerforward Zacha who can acclimate himself to the Devils and the NHL under the guidance of fellow countryman, Patrick Elias.
7. Philadelphia Flyers--LW, Lawson Crouse. Ed Snider meddling-alert! Snider somehow mistook Lawson for LeClaire and is caught drooling over the thought of a powerforward prospect like Crouse on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jacob Voracek. Passing on BPA makes Columbus very happy.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets--D, Ivan Provorov. GM Jarmo Kekalainen does cartwheels to the stage throwing barbs at Mike Reilly all the way. After selecting Provorov, Kekalainen yells, "Zdravstvuj!, Nikita Filatov. Hope you're doing well! Wherever you are!"
9. San Jose Sharks--D, Zach Werenski. Sharks think long and hard about trading out, extending streak to nine years without a top-10 pick but then decide they should end that streak, which coincides with another streak that just ended--10 consecutive playoff appearances until missing them last year.
10. Colorado Avalanche--RW Mikko Rantanen. GM Joe Sakic fights of constant intrusions from coach Patrick Roy to trade this pick for Mikhail Grigorenko and selects the replacement for both Alex Tanguay and, for all intents and purposes, Ryan O'Reilly.
11. Florida Panthers--RW, Timo Meier. In the fifth year of Dale Tallon's rebuild, the Cat's prospect-pool is pretty full save for a hole on wing created by the defection of Zack Hyman. Meier fills the need and is BPA as well. People are still wondering who this Hyman guy is.
12. Dallas Stars--D, Gabriel Carlsson. Off the board pick alert! GM Jim Nill is still adjusting to picking this high in the draft. Has visions of Carlsson with the poise and maturity of a young Niklas Lidstrom. Head Coach Lindy Ruff is reminded of Henrik Tallinder and Bill Hajt. It's enough to make the Stars reach for Carlsson.
13. LA Kings--C, Matthew Barzal. Kings forward ranks are stacked with talent, but Barzal drops to them and there's nothing they can do about it. GM Deam Lombardi has a huge smile on his face as he knows LA won't see a pick this high for at least another five years.
14. Boston Bruins--C, Kyle Connor. In an effort to up-stage Boston native Jack Eichel, Connor chugs a pint of Guinness but instead of blurting out "Jack, I'm comin' for ya," he throws up. Seems as if Brad Marchand spiked it with Jameson.
15. Calgary Flames--C, Travis Konecny. GM Brian Burke brings truculence to Alberta, grabs an aggressive Konecny and promises to beat Brendan Shanahan up for taking over his throne on Mount Maple Leaf.
16. Edmonton Oilers (from Pittsburgh)--D, Jakub Zboril. Oilers fans are giddy with excitement after Chiarelli's pick of defenseman Zboril and start a palm branch fight that draws the attention of the FBI and RCMP.
17. Winnipeg Jets--RW, Nick Merkley. Merkley is placed right atop the prospects at right wing. Former Sabre Joel Armia is ticked-off, scores 25 goals in 25 games for the Moose before being called up to Winnipeg.
18. Ottawa Senators--D, Thomas Chabot. Sabres GM Murray was told by his new assistant coach uncle Terry Murray that Murray's other uncle and Murray's brother Bryan was going after Chabot. Bill Murray chimed in with, "That's a fact, Jack!"
19. Detroit Red Wings--RW, Denis Guryanov. Former Wings head coach Mike Babcock once asked, "Who's gonna replace Pav [el Datsyuk]?" His fomrer GM Ken Holland replies with "Dylan Larkin, Gustav Nyquist and, now, Guryanov." Holland was also overheard saying, "No, Mike, we don't want Phaneuf....noooo...we don't want Tyler Bozak or Phil Kessel either."
20. Minnesota Wild--D, Jeremy Roy. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher beginning to line up replacements for Ryan Suter who just turned 30 this year. Hey, it's never too early. Thomas Vanek is super-psyched thinking it's former linemate Derek Roy and plunks 100-big on him scoring 40 goals.
21. Buffalo Sabres--D, Oliver Kylington. Murray says he's disappointed that he was at 21 and not 20 saying that zero in this case is better than one, which is better than two, and reiterates he'd rather be in the middle of nowhere scouting than attending events like this. Tells Kylington, "no worry, my boy, we got your back, take your time."
22. Washington Capitals--LW, Evgeny Svechinkov. GM Brian McClellan and the Caps are out to prove that the "one or none Russian on a team" philosophy is ridiculous. Denies rumor that they talked with Vladmir Putin after his eight-goal outburst last month.
23. Vancouver Canucks--RW, Michael Spacek. The 'Nucks land a right wing to bolster a deficiency. GM Jim Benning, who was in Buffalo when the team was after namesake Jaroslav, finally gets himself a "Spatcho."
24. Toronto (from Nashville)--G, Mackenzie Blackwood. Leafs throw everybody a curve by jumping on Blackwood. Team Pres. Shanahan feels a kinship with the Thunder Bay, ON native in that their names flow well together (say them together a couple of times.) Feels Blackwood's calm demeanor for the piranha infestation that is the Toronto media.
25. Winnipeg Jets (from Buffalo)--C/RW, Colin White. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thrilled with White dropping to them. It's a consoling pick for fans who just went through the Kane saga as he's Kane's opposite in one definite and obvious way.
26. Montreal Canadiens--D, Brandon Carlo. Les Habitants have the look of Lilliputians in the NHL so they decide to add a 6'5" 196 lb. defenseman to the mix. Carlo immediately takes French lessons, says his dream is to coach the Canadiens one day. Nobody knows what to make of it.
27. Anaheim Ducks--LW, Paul Bittner. GM Bob Murray is glad he's away from the "Murray-madness" in and around Buffalo, yells out "go big or go home!" before choosing the 6'4" 204 lb. Bittner.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NY Rangers)--G, Ilya Samsonov. How much easier can it get? What they liked in Andrei Vasilevskiy they'll find in Samsonov who's three years younger.
29. Philadelphia Flyers (from Tampa Bay)--LW, Jake DeBrusk--Hextall is still mad at himself letting Flyers Chairman Snider talk him into passing on Provorov for Crouse. Yet doubles down the pick of Debrusk, a competitive left-winger with a husky last name.
30. Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago)--C/RW Jack Roslovic. AGM Darcy Regier thinks he's found his Zemgus Girgensons in Roslovic and didn't even need to trade up for him. Team still suffering from "No-Jack syndrome" after losing the lottery but gets another Jack.


31. Buffalo Sabres--RW, Jeremy Bracco. Owner Terry Pegula is trying to turn Buffalo into the Center of USA Hockey. US braggadocio is generally condemned by their chill, Canadian counterparts and one of the main reasons Bracco falls. Pegula doesn't care. Says he wants more of it and has been yelling, "McDavid who?" throughout the draft proceedings thus far. Is ready to slam a beer with Eichel before wife Kim steps in and slams one for both of them.

Other mocks and who they have the Sabres taking 21st-overall after Jack Eichel is selected by Buffalo with the second-overall pick:

Mike Morreale, nhl.com: D, Oliver Kylington
Adam Kimelman, nhl.com:  RW, Nicolas Merkley
Kevin Allen, USA Today:  D, Kylington
Kyle Woodlief, redlinereport/USA Today:  D, Kylington
Brendan Ross, McKeen's:  D, Jakub Zboril
Craig Button, TSN:  D, Kylington
Damien Cox, sportsnet.ca:  LW, DeBrusk
Gare Joyce, sportsnet.ca:  G, Ilya Samsonov
Sam Cosentino, sportsnet.com:  LW, Jake DeBrusk
Jeff Marek, sportsnet.com:  C, Jansen Harkins
Michael Finewax, rotoworld:  G, Samsonov
Mike Zeisberger, Toronto Sun:  D, Kylington
Nicholas Goss, NESN:  LW, Evgeny Svechnikov
Minnesota Examiner:  D, Kylington
DraftSite.com:  LW, DeBrusk
csnne.com:  LW, Svechnikov

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--Sabres Mock Draft

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Barring a trade for the likes of Ryan O'Reilly, Cam Talbot, Eddie Lack, Logan Couture, or whomever else tweety-bird world has the Buffalo Sabres trading for these days, GM Tim Murray, and his band will hit the BB&T floor in Sunrise, FL with four of the top 51 picks in the NHL entry draft.

Which is a good thing as the 2015 draft is real strong on two fronts.  Not only is it most definitely top-heavy--lead by franchise centers Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel--but it's plenty deep. Kyle Woodlief of USA Today and the RedLine Report was on WGR550 yesterday morning drawing some parallels from drafts past. "That draft in 2004 with [Alexander] Ovechkin and [Evgeni] Malkin," he told host Howard Simon, "that was a pretty special group. You look at what those two guys have gone on to achieve in the NHL, they're both two of the top-five forwards on the planet these days. It's tough to get better than a draft like that from the top-two."

"[2015] is a special draft not only because of the top-end, marquis talent," continued Woodlief, "but also the depth of this year's crop. You go back, 2013 was a deep crop, 2003 was a very deep crop and this crop is as deep as we've seen in the past decade. There are players we have ranked in the mid-40's in this year's draft who'd be in the mid-20's on our rankings last year."

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--Dilemna in goal heading into the draft?

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The Buffalo Sabres head to Sunrise, FL for the 2015 NHL Draft with a loaded cupboard in a few positions. After they (presumably) pick Jack Eichel second-overall, the center position will be top-to-bottom the deepest and most skilled in the system. They have plenty of size and depth on the right side as well as a number of players with top-six potential. Although they have plenty of size and grit on the left side, once you get past the top-two in the organization it gets pretty thin in the skill category. No worries, though, many of the centers they've been drafting since 2012 can easily slide over to the left side.

Behind the blueline the defense-corps is young and talented and although organizational depth has taken a bit of a hit, the procession of quality youngins headed up to the big-club in the near future is rock-solid for the next few years.

The big "worry" for everyone right now seems to be between the pipes as the general consensus is that the Sabres don't have a true NHL starter in their system--from the big club on down. It's a very puzzling notion, worrying about the goaltending situation for a team that has come off of back-to-back last place finishes. Nearly every hockey person has the Sabres in desperate need of goaltengind and will have them sending a first-round pick-plus for some teams back-up and/or will have them reaching for a goalie in the upcoming draft. Yet they'll be doings so knowing full-well that the goaltenders, and knowing where they'll end up during their career can generally be described as the "riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." And drafting one is the crapshoot within the crapshoot know as the entry draft.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--Of Timo Meier and Denis Guryanov

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

"I think there's a consensus of what players will be available No. 3 through No. 10, but in what order is the big question. From that No. 11 pick on, that's where we'll do our homework and make our money."
--Greg Royce, Buffalo Sabres director of amateur scouting

Greg Royce has 18 seasons under his belt as a scout for NHL clubs having spent six seasons in Ottawa as an amateur scout under Tim Murray. After Murray got settled in as the new Sabres GM one of his first front office moves was to bring Royce in to head his amateur scouting department. "Greg has a good eye for young talent and I have full confidence in his ability to identify amateur talent," Murray told NHL.com's Mike Morreale last week. "He had tremendous success working in the trenches as a scout when we were together with the Ottawa Senators and I know that success will now translate to the Sabres."

The tandem will sit down in Sunrise, FL this Friday with four of the first 51 picks (Nos. 2, 21, 31, 51) in the draft barring any trades beforehand. Murray had sat down last week in a pre-draft press gathering saying pick-21 was in play. His desired return is high and probably unattainable but he's in a situation where all of his options are favorable. "[If] a team calls and they offer us a 23- or 24-year-old top-six forward or top-three defenseman or No. 1 goalie, and they'd be willing to take [the 21st pick] for that," he said at the pre-draft presser. "[it] would be optimal for us, [yet]the chance of either scenario happening, right now for me, is slim-to-none."

If there is a trade to be consummated involving the 21st-overall pick, chances are it will be something Murray does to move up in the draft.