Sunday, June 30, 2013

NHL Draft Day, 2013--My favorite players for Buffalo

Kris Baker of has spent years covering the CHL and other prospect circuits in hockey.

He has a depth of knowledge and a keen eye. That's why he's been a go-to guy on WGR when it comes to the Sabres prospects and the draft.

He has earned every minute of media time he gets and continues to earn more with each passing month.

You can here him on WGR this afternoon from 3-6 pm, along with host Kevin Sylvester, live from the F'N Center covering the draft for Sabresnation.

His 1st-round mock draft for can be found here and his comprehensive draft preview can be found here.

If you haven't been to either yet, you can spend the next couple of hours prepping yourself for today's draft.

That being said, while going through his preview and mocks, along with traipsing through TSN, the Hockey News, and other hockey sights and while tapping into both ISS and Central Scouting, I've managed to come up with some favorites for the first three rounds of the draft today.

The Sabres do not have a 4th round pick today, and even if they did, any picks from that round and below are way out of my range anyway.

Buffalo heads into the draft today with the 8th and 16th in the first round, the 38th and 52nd in the second and the 69th in the third. we go.

--1st-round, 8th overall

Bo Horvat, C--Most have center Elias Lindholm slotted here, but I think he'll be gone. And even if he was still available I still like Horvat better. Horvat has been plying his trade on a smaller American rink with some mean S.O.B.'s ready to take his head off as he positions himself around the net. Lindholm has been overseas with a larger rink and facing different, less aggressive competition. Speaking of positioning, Horvat has a strong lower-body and it seems as if he positions his body perfectly for every situation he's in. He's great on his skates, moves with a sense of purpose with or without the puck, and seems to be able to find that small opening in high traffic. And he can finish too. I see a lot of two-way, Chris Drury in him. And he's a winner. Fits owner Terry Pegula's dictate to a "t":  "I want not only statistically good players, but winners, gritty players."

--1st-round, 16th overall

Adam Erne, LW--Most mocks have the Sabres taking at least one defenseman in the first round. Their organizational depth up-front needs much more attention that defense, even with the loss of Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and TJ Brennan. They need forwards. They need big, strong forwards. They need attitude. The Sabres could go a multitude of ways at No. 16 and have a multitude of postions and styles to choose from. Erne has size, he can finish, he can hit, he can be aggressive. As a possible top-six winger, one could see any center loving the tenacity and cornerwork of Erne and Marcus Foligno.

--2nd round, 38th overall

Justin Bailey, RW--At 6'3" 185 lbs. Bailey has projectable powerforward size. He will be a bit of a project as he grows into his frame, but as of right now he can skate real well and seems to be quickly grasping the nuances of the game. As of right now he has incredible puck control, can really weave through traffic and can really finish. Baker continually stresses that scouting departments need to project two to three years out. If Bailey can puts in the work, that determination along with his skills will make for a helluva powerforward.

--2nd round, 52nd overall

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW--I don't care if he's on the smallish side at 5'11" 165 lbs. I don't care if he's from Denmark either. What I do care about is his incredibly quick and accurate release. I care about how he looks/plays much bigger on the ice. I care about how he slickly moves through traffic, can bang along the boards and isn't affraid of hitting or being hit. Yes, the Sabres have some "smaller" players on the team and have the "smaller" Daniell Catenacci in the system. Bjorkstrand is in that vein, but he has mad skills, tenacity and a scoring touch. There's no reason why he can't spend the next few years slowly developing in the Sabres system.

--3rd round, 69th overall

Ryan Kujawinski, C--Bust out the pierogis and keilbasa. At 6'2", 205 lbs. Kujawinski certainly doesn't need to visit the Polish Villa. For a guy his size he's real strong on his skates, has some quickness and some speed. He's nimble enough to weave through traffic, has a nose for the net, likes it around the net, can find the puck at his feet in tight quarters and can finish. He has a quick, accurate release as well.

Much thanks to Baker for his work on the draft and for his videos as well.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013 NHL Draft: Mock Drafts

This page will be continually updated as mock drafts become available.

The 2013 NHL draft is coming and there's no shortage of "experts" taking their crack at how the first round will unfold. Specific attention will be paid to the Sabres and the two picks surrounding their present position.

The days leading up to and including the draft day are said to be ripe for movement, but one thing that may not change all that much is the overriding consensus that that top-five picks will include Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin, Alexsander Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin.

Here's how the scribes see the first round (more specifically the first 17 picks) unfold:

***Kris Baker of via mock:

Top-five intact, Sean Monahan 6th.

7.  Rasmus Ristolainen, D
8.  Elias Lindholm, C
9.  Bo Horvat, C

15. Curtis Lazar, C
16. Steve Santini, D
17. Ryan Pulock, D

Bakes has been covering "The future of the Blue and Gold" for a decade and his extensive Draft Preview is in-depth and a joy to read for Sabres fans.

It's safe to say that one of Ristolainen, Lindholm and Horvat will be available in the 8th slot. His pick is Lindholm based upon the organizational need for upper-end skill at forward, which is very sound.

Lindholm is a solid pick who has a strong, edgy two-way dimension to his game.

Bakes also, admittedly, reaches a bit for Santini. He likes his overall game and how the defensive defenseman projects out a few years down the road. Most, though, have Santini in the lower parts of the first round.

As mentioned here, it wouldn't be a bad thing for the Sabres to have three 1st-round picks this year. Should they land an extra pick in the 20's, perhaps they would go with another forward at 16 then go after Santini later in the round.

***Craig Button, TSN:

Top-five intact with Elias Lindholm 6th

7.  Darnell Nurse, D
8.  Valeri Nichushkin, RW
9.  Zach Furcale, G

15. Anthony Mantha, W
16. Mirco Mueller, D
17. Nikita Zadarov, D

Has Bo Horvat dropping to Detroit at No. 18.

Former GM Button has Nichushkin sliding to the Sabres at No. 8, and were that the case the Sabres brass would probably jump all over him at that spot. Not hard to envision Nichushkin's "balls to the wall" north-south game and corner work blending with fellow Russian, center Mikhail Grigorenko.

The Sabres have been known for drafting "puck-movers" on the back end for years. But they've said that they now want to get "bigger, faster, tougher." Can't see how a puckmover like Mueller, who's projected to go anywhere from lower-first to lower second, should supplant a mobile, gritty 6'5", 230 lb. defenseman like Zadarov.

***Kyle Woodlief, USA Today via

Top-five intact, Monahan 6th

7.  Bo Horvat, C
8.  Darnell Nurse, D
9.  Max Domi C,

Has Elias Lindholm going 11th to Philadelphia and Ryan Hartman 10th.

15. Curtis Lazar, C
16. Josh Morrissey, D
17. Alex Wennberg

Three weeks ago, Woodlief was enamored with the top-10 forwards in this draft. He has Lindholm ranked 6th ahead of both Horvat and Domi yet has him dropping to Philly at 11, saying Lindholm would be a great replacement for Mike Richards, who was traded.

Cannot see the Sabres passing up Lindholm in favor of Nurse, much less Lindholm dropping to 11th.

Nurse at No. 8 for the Sabres is very reasonable, although I tend to believe that they rank Ristolainen higher and would draft him before Nurse if they were going defense there.

In sticking with the belief that the Sabres still covet a Brian Campbell-like offensive-puckmover, Woodlief has them picking Morrissey at 16.

With all the forward strength as well an array of styles with which to choose from, it's hard to believe that they'd be going defense with both of their first rounders.

***Mike Morreale,

Top-five intact, Monahan, 6th.

7.  Darnell Nurse, D
8.  Elias Lindholm, C
9.  Hunter Shinkaruk, C

15. Max Domi, C
16. Mirco Mueller, D
17. Alexander Wennberg, C

Most see the Sabres as having many needs, and they'd be correct, and most have them going with some combination of a forward and d-man with their two picks.

Morreale's mock is pretty solid. Although he has Bo Horvat going 21st to Toronto. If Horvat is available at 16 for the Sabres, he'd be hard to pass up there.

Landing both Lindholm and Horvat--both generally regarded as top-10 picks--would really bolster the organization.

***Adam Kimelman,

Has Nurse going to Carolina at #5, Nichushkin dropping to #7 and Monahan at #6.

7.  Nichushkin, LW
8.  Hunter Shinkaruk, C
9.  Elias Lindholm, C

15. Valentin Zykov, LW
16. Ryan Hartman, RW
17. Max Domi, C

Although hailed as a "pure scorer" by Kimelman, Shinkaruk's skills may not translate fully to the NHL. His less than ideal NHL has kept his draft ranking in that 10-20 range.

Hartman looks to be a solid NHL'er, but Kimelman has the Sabres passing on Domi and defenseman Nikita Zadarov to pick him.

"Bigger, stronger, faster," Mr. Kimelman. That's how the Sabres are approaching their team building.

***Steven Hoffner,

Top-five intact, Monahan 6th.

7.  Darnell Nurse, D
8.  Ryan Pulock, D
9.  Hunter Shinkaruk, C

15. Bo Horvat, C
16. Adam Erne, LW
17. Kerby Rychel, LW

Pulock has good size, is mobile, can work the powerplay and has a cannon for a shot, but Hoffner has the Sabres really reaching for him with the 8th pick here. It's possible that the Sabres could be looking at him with the 16th pick, which is about where he's generally rated.

Erne would be a solid pick for the Sabres in that slot. He's got some serious power forward traits and had played with Mikhail Grigorenko last season on the Quebec Remparts.

Had he slotted Lindholm at eight and Erne at 16, I believe Hoffner would nail it for the Sabres.

***Kevin Allen, USA Today:

Top-five intact, Monahan, 6th.

7.  Darnell Nurse, D
8.  Elias Lindholm, C
9.  Hunter Shinkaruk, C

15. Adam Erne, LW
16. Bo Horvat, C
17. Josh Morrissey, D

I love this. Landing both Lindholm and Horvat without any trade up would be huge, as those are my two favorite players within Buffalo's reach. Allen has some interesting picks in the second half of the first round and if you want to roll through a slide show, complete with ads every three or four pages, go right ahead.

There's nothing more hated or annoying to me than lumbering through a slide show. You can have 'em (Bleacher Report.)

***The Hockey News

Top-four intact, Darnell Nurse to Carolina, Elias Lindholm 6th to Calgary.

7.  Sean Monahan, C
8.  Valeri Nichushkin, RW
9.  Max Domi, C

15. Nikita Zadarov, D
16. Ryan Pulock, D
17. Anthony Mantha, C

The Hockey News offers nothing earth-shattering in their mock. Pretty sure the Sabres would be pleased to land the north/south Nichushkin while Pulock is a highly regarded defenseman.

***Chris Peters, Eye On Hockey,

Top-five in place, Monahan 6th.

7.  Elias Lindholm, C
8.  Rasmus Ristolainen, D
9.  Max Domi, C

15. Anthony Mantha, RW
16. Adam Erne, LW
17. Ryan Pulock, D

Hard to argue with these selections for the Sabres. Ristolainen is said to be NHL-ready, playing an all-around game and Erne would be a solid pick.

Peters, like Baker, presents a solid mock draft with reasonable picks for each team.

***Patrick King,

Top-four in place, Lindholm at No. 5 and has Calgary taking G, Zach Furcale 6th in a major surprise.

7.  Sean Monahan, C
8.  Max Domi, C
9.  Darnell Nurse, D

15. Andre Burakowsky, LW
16. Hunter Shinkaruk, C
17. Alexander Wennberg, C

King blows up all expectations with this mock after his first five picks.

Yes, Flames GM Jay Feaster is fully capable of doing something crazy like drafting Furcale at No. 6, but even he's not that stupid. Domi to the Sabres at No. 8 isn't likely, see Kevin Devine's "bigger, stronger, faster" edict.

Mocking Valeri Nichushkin at No. 13 because of "the Russian factor" is a little low for top-five talent.

From No. 6 to No. 16, there's a randomness to Kings picks and although there will be surprises in that range, he's a little extreme here. But he does make it interesting.

***Fox Sports

Top-four in place, has defenseman Darnell Nurse at No. 5 to Carolina and Monahan No. 6.

7.  Valeri Nichushkin, RW
8.  Elias Lindholm, C
9.  Hunter Shinkaruk, C

15. Ryan Pulock, D
16. Max Domi, C
17. Curtis Lazar, C

Having Nurse going to the 'Canes is no real surprise as the defenseman is considered the second-best d-man behind Seth Jones.

Everything else pretty much falls in line in Fox's mock although Domi may not fall that low and the Sabres. Despite Domi's skill level, it's doubtful that Buffalo would add another smallish player to the organization with Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe and Daniel Catenacci already there, even at No. 16.

If the draft unfolds like Fox has it, the Sabres might be better off looking to Calgary in a trade back scenario landing the 22nd and 28th for the 16th, allowing the Flames to land Furcale.

***Sam Cosentino,

Top-five intact, Monahan 6th to Calgary.

7.  Nikita Zadarov, D
8.  Elias Lindholm, C
9.  Darnell Nurse, D

15. Samuel Morin, D
16. Mirco Mueller, D
17. Kerby Rychel, LW

Cosentino has a pretty straightforward mock without any real surprises and says that the Buffalo Sabres "will be overjoyed when Mueller falls to their lap here."

Mmmmm. Maybe.

Ryan Pulock, who he has going No. 20 to San Jose', may be more to the Sabres liking than Mueller. Then again, they might eschew both if they are in this spot and opt to trade down for an extra first rounder or in the very least another second-rounder.

Sabres director of amateur scouting Kevin Devine says that the 10-20 range, maybe even the lower-mid 20's, is the fourth cut-off point in the first round.

The Jackets and Flames both have three first round picks and both have two after the Sabres pick at 16--Columbus Nos. 19 and 27; Calgary Nos. 22 and 28--and both could be looking to grab top goalie prospect Zach Furcale in one of those spots.

To assure that they land him with their second 1st round pick, they may be interested in trading up with Buffalo (or someone else.)

Provides an interesting trade-down scenario for the Sabres.

***Allan Muir,

Top-four in place, Elias Lindholm 5th, Monahan 6th. Muir essentailly has Carolina trading out of the five-slot and that team picking Lindholm. Also of note, he has Seth Jones falling to Tampa with the third pick.

7.  Darnell Nurse, D
8.  Valeri Nichushkin, LW
9.  Max Domi, C

15. Zach Furcale, G
16. Samuel Morin, D
17. Alexander Wennberg, D

Another mock draft that has Nichushkin dropping to the Sabres at No. 8 and Muir doesn't break any new ground after the top-five, an area which has some interesting and very plausible twists.

With a forward at No. 8 and a defenseman at No. 16., Muir's mock follows a trend amongst "mocksters" that see the Sabres with a lot of holes and a balanced approach to filling them--one forward, one defenseman in no particular order in the first round.

What Kevin Devine and Co. are probably really looking at with the 16th pick is how many of those "fourth-tier" first rounders are on that board when they're up. That will tell them how many spots they could trade down while still getting a player within their rankings. He has alluded to a drop-off after the top-two, a drop-off after the 5th pick and another drop-off around nine or 10. He has also said that the next tier extends down to around 20 and has said that there may not be much of a difference between the 20th pick and the 10th or 11th pick.

Things can get really weird in the teens of a draft as well as GM's start to out-think themselves and their draft-board.

It's conceivable that Buffalo could drop six slots all the way down to No. 22 and still have two or three players on their draft board at that slot.

In that case picking up a latter first-rounder or another second-rounder would be a bonus.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Defending Pegula and Regier

Back in the summer of 2011 when new Sabres owner Terry Pegula was making waves by throwing big money at free agents, he was also investing heavily in other, less flashy areas of the organization. "There is no NHL salary cap on scouting budgets or player development budgets, " he said at his first presser declaring that he planned on increasing those budgets.

More scouts in the field and a Sabres Combine for draft prospects were amongst the areas receiving additional finances.

In direct contrast to the immediacy of his free agent splurge, the benefits of an increased focus upon scouting and player development wouldn't be seen for at least a few years down the road.

It looked to be a two-fold approach to their goal of the winning the Stanley Cup:  a direct influx of free agent talent for an immediate, short-term run into the playoffs while underneath the surface, a feeder group of prospects would be developing for long-term success.

Unfortunately for the team and it's fans, the short-term plan imploded. The team did not move forward with an augmented core, missed the playoffs two years running and had their worst finish in 10 years last season.

To make matters worse for an increasingly impatient media and fan-base, Regier, the GM who built the team, is now in charge of breaking it down and rebuilding it.

As the team gets ready for the draft, picking at the highest slot since 2003, the entire Pegula regime is under attack. And the source of this disdain is Regier with tertiary disgust being thrown at Pegula for keeping his GM on board.

The Buffalo News' Jerry Sullivan calls it "Trouble in hockey heaven" as he takes Pegula to task in a recent article. Sullivan and his understudy, Bucky Gleason, have never hidden their contempt for Regier and undeniably and unabashedly want to see his ass shown the door.

Sullivan has been railing against Regier, and at times directly attacking Pegula because of Regier, for a couple of years, "It has become a joyless, redundant exercise," he wrote, "to criticize the Sabres and their owner, Terry Pegula. You're whispering into a tornado of denial, helpless in the face of one man's refusal to entertain the wide-held notion that his general manager might be a problem."

The source for Sullivan's latest rant was Pegula's appearance on WGR's Hockey Hotline, a Sabres radio show with direct ties to the organization.

With these five words Pegula sent the media into a frenzy, "What has [Regier] done wrong?"

Pegula was said to be in hiding by his detractors. His team stumbled on the ice this season and he had not made a public appearance to talk about his hockey team since January when he announced Regier's contract extension. Everyone, especially the sports department at the Buffalo News, wanted answers.

In the interview on GR, they were instead treated to a somewhat smug rebuttle of Regier's critics. An obviously irritated owner was sticking by his GM.

What has Regier done wrong? Those in Sabreland have a littany of transgressions from which to choose from when it comes to his decisions over the last 16 years. But they forget that Pegula is looking only at Regier's job performance for the two-plus years he's owned the team. Pegula has stated this time and again.

A mere two days after Pegula made his appeareance, Regier held the Sabres annual draft presser and blew up every GM wannabe's dream scenario by stating simply and honestly, "to move [from 8th in the draft] up into those top [three-five] spots will be extremely difficult if not impossible."

This was yet another transgression. It dashed NHL-13 fantasies of trading goalie Ryan Miller, Mikhail Grigorenko and the 8th pick to Colorado for the 1st overall pick and a chance to draft Nathan MacKinnon.

Unlike other times when there was an outcry for honesty and transparency, the truth of Regier's statement was an unwelcomed bucket of cold water. A large portion of the fan base, it would seem, wanted to go on believing that there actually was a chance to move up and draft a potential superstar.

In an epic rant on WGR, afternoon co-host Chris "Bulldog" Parker blasted that mentality, "That's how bad it is?" he barked at host Mike Schoppsie. "You wanna pretend that something might happen that isn't really going to happen?"

"You wanted them to suspend belief for ten more days that they might be able to draft Nathan MacKinnon. That's what you were hoping for out of them?


Although the Sabres short-term plan was rocked like the Milan Lucic steamroll of Ryan Miller, the long-term team-building plan is still in place.

The fruits of this process are still well beyond Pegula's stated three-year Stanley Cup plan. But the foundation is beginning to take shape.

The Sabres' scouting staff has increased significantly including a larger overseas presence like the hiring of Fredrik Andersson who is scouring Europe to unearth latter-rounds goalie gems.

He found Linus Ullmark, last year's sixth round pick, who's rising fast on the Sabres depth chart.

Ullmark was one of many prospects brougth to Buffalo to attend the Sabres Combine, something that was a dream of head amateur scout Kevin Devine under the previous regime. With Pegula's financial resources and commitment to scouting and player development, Devine's dream became a reality. Draft prospects now hit the ice at the F'N Center while the organization gets a first-hand look at what they have to offer.

There has also been a fundamental change in the players that the Sabres want to build with.

At his first presser Pegula stated that he wants "not only statistically good players but winners, gritty players." Anyone who's watched the team since 2007 knows that this team was generally the opposite of that. The previous core could put up numbers, but they were routinely described as "easy to play against."

Two faces of Regier's old core, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville--both consistently amongst the top-three scorers on the team but lacking grit--were traded. The bellweather of the Sabres' philosophical change in players might be the trading of Roy for gritty winger Steve Ott in the 2012 off season.

In Pegula's GR interview this past week, he stressed his affinity for "hard workers" and pointed to Zemgus Girgensons who was drafted with the second of the Sabres two 1st-round picks last year, a pick Regier traded up for.

Johan Larsson, part of the Pominville trade, was also pointed to as a hard worker by Pegula.

Both Girgensons and Larsson look to be a big part of the team's "new core" going forward, a core that follows Pegula's stated desire to land "not only statistically good players, but winners, gritty players."

These are players targeted by Pegula's hockey ops team headed by Regier.

The media and fans have seen Regier's team-building prior to Pegula and it was a failure save for two seasons. Pegula, on the other hand, looks at what his GM has done in the two years since he took over the team. Regier was given his marching orders and has impressed his boss. That's what Pegula is looking at when he asked the question "what has he done wrong?"

In this battle between disenchanted fans/irate media members and Pegula, I choose to side with the owner.

I really don't think Regier's done much wrong since the decision was made to purge his core. To the contrary, I think he's pulled off some impressive trades.

If Regier's role and main focus right now is to acquire the assets that others within the organization deem fit to build with, great. I think he's done an outstanding job thus-far.

And if you choose to look at this defense of Pegula and Regier as coming from someone drunk from drinking the kool-aid. So be it.

I like the long-term building blocks and right now I don't care that Reiger's in charge. I hold no grudges, nor do I take anything personally when it comes to the team and how it's run.

The Sabres are on the right track. A slower track than anyone anticipated or desired, but the right one none the less.  Oct. 16, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

2013 NHL Draft--A ranking of 14 prospects within the Sabres reach right now

This is the last in a series of articles about the upcoming 2013 NHL Draft.

Having Sabres owner Terry Pegula on WGR's Hockey Hotline got the series off track for a bit, but we're back at it.

In this series we've covered 25 drafts bookended by what are widely considered the two best draft classes ever--1979 and 2003. Most think that the 2013 class could be the deepest draft class since 2003.

The Buffalo Sabres have two first-round picks--the 8th and 16th--and will have a plethora of options heading up to draft day including drafting right there. In looking at those 25 drafts, the Sabres could have a 60% shot at landing an impact player with the 8th pick dependent upon the depth of the top-10.

Although they've said they want to move up into the top-three of the draft this year, chances are slim that it will happen. Moving up to the 4th-6th slots is somewhat appealing, but historically, those spots haven't changed hands very often and looking at the players after the first four or five picks, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference in the players available just ahead of Buffalo and Nos. 6 and 7.

We've covered the LA Kings, 2012 Stanley Cup winners who had three 2003 draft picks on that championship team. And we looked at two ways the Sabres could improve their first round:  retaining the 8th and moving that 16th pick up into the top-10 or retaining both and landing a 3rd first-rounder.

What will Sabres GM Darcy Regier do? What can he do?

It's being said that the Sabres are aggresively pursuing a move up into the top-three this year. Unless Regier can come up with a package that will knock the socks off of Colorado, Florida or Tampa Bay, it would seem as if they'll be locked out.

Last year he went into the draft with two first-rounders and two second-rounders as well. The Sabres had a potential top-five forward, Mikhail Grigorenko, drop down to them at the #12 slot then Regier made a trade to move up to #14 and picked center Zemgus Girgensons.

Draft reviews had the Sabres possibly landing their top-two centers for years to come.

Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting, Kevin Devine, feels that this draft is deep with talent stretching down well past the Sabres second 1st-round pick and believes that they will get two good players in the first round.

As laid out here in this series, even the most pessimistic scouts feel there's a deep top-10 in the draft. In lieu of not moving up with the 8th pick, moving that 16th pick up into the top-10 would be one way to maximize the talent-level available.

And if this draft is similar to 2003, having three 1st-round picks this year could really lay a solid foundation for years to come.

The consensus top-five players--Seth Jones, Nate MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Alexsander Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin--and almost a sure-fire #6 pick in Sean Monahan for Calgary should be gone before Edmonton picks at #7.

All the trades possibilities covered in this series fall in the range of the 7th pick (Edmonton) to the 20th (San Jose'.)

Here are 14 selections in order of preference, plus a wild-card selection, for the Sabres:

Elias Lindholm, C--Kris Baker of at his mock draft sees him as a "total package with world class vision and two-way, game changing elements." For years the Philadelphia Flyers have drafted forwards like that and two of them, Mike Richards (LA Kings) and Patrick Sharp (CHI) were integral parts of Cup-winning teams. They also have traits that Buffalo has lacked since Chris Drury moved on.

***Wild Card:  Valeri Nichushkin--The big, Russian left-winger is a bonafide top-five pick. Sometimes wierd things happen at the draft and the KHL could make some teams leery about drafting a Russian. Should Nichushkin fall to the Sabres at No. 8, it would be hard to pass up a hard-charging, power forward with skill. Wouldn't hurt Grigorenko either.

Bo Horvat, C--Speaking of Drury, Horvat is also in that mold. Baker has him going 9th to New Jersey. What a coup it would be it Buffalo ended up with both Horvat and Lindholm. Horvat is fundamentally sound, postitions his body extremely well, often finds himself in the right spot at the right time and is highly regarded for his leadership qualities. Kinda like "Captain Clutch."

Rasmus Ristolainen, D--The big, Finnish d-man is said to be a complete package with a developing offensive game. And he's said to play with a serious edge. Added bonus:  He has a right-hand shot, which is a minor focus area within the organization.

Nikita Zadarov, D--Mocked somewhere in the early to mid teens in the draft, At 6'5", 230 lbs., Zadarov has more size than either Ristolainen or Darnell Nurse. But it would seem as if there's a significant drop-off in offensive production compared to those two. Would the Sabres want to a bigger version of Robyn Regehr? Of these three d-men, Zadarov has the best chance of being there when the Sabres pick 16th.

Darnell Nurse, D--Nurse is projected ahead of Zadarov and is a big, shutdown, top-pairing d-man with comparisons to Chris Pronger. At 6'5" and room to add more beef to his 190 lbs., he's surprisingly mobile. It's not hard to envision a "twin towers," shutdown pairing of Tyler Myers and either Ristolainen or Nurse.

Adam Erne, LW--Has nice size, can skate real well and seems to be able to find that soft spot around the net. A faster Marcus Foligno with softer hands, Erne would be a helluva bookend on the Sabres. Having both wingers charging the net should be a thrill for whomever is centering them.

Max Domi, C--Can Domi at 5'9", 193 lbs. tap into his famous father's fearlessness at the NHL level? If he can do that, his incredible puck skills, quickness and penchant for finding that open ice to weave through a tight defense might be of supreme use to a team trying break through a suffocating defense like the Bruins employ.

Curtis Lazar, C--Lazar has nice size and should fill out his 6', 193 lb. frame a bit more. Excellent on his skates, and tough on in the corners, it wouldn't be surprising to see him moved to the wing in the Sabres system should he be their pick. Add in a nice skill package and solid leadership and one might eventually see an heir to Steve Ott.

Hunter Shinkaruk, C--One would think that Shinkaruk would be an easy top-10 pick were it not for his size. He's 5'11", 175 lbs. and although he isn't exactly a midget, it's a bit undersized for the NHL. He will probably be taken at No. 10 or just outside it, well ahead of the Sabres second 1st-round pick. For some reason, I can't get images of Raffi Torres out of my head when it comes to Shinkaruk.

Valentin Zykov, RW--"Bigger, stronger, faster," the words of Devine at the 2012 draft. He also said recently that he's not opposed to drafting a player from the same country as one they have on the roster. Zykov rocks the wing at 6', 200 lbs and like fellow countryman Grigorenko, left Mother Russia to play junor hockey in North America.

Anthony Mantha, RW--For years Regier has drafted  a high skill level player with questionable compete in the first round. For a relatively big guy (6' 4", 190 lbs.) with room for growth, Mantha is said to be a "pure goal scorer" who plays a finesse game. With the Sabres now really focused upon compete in their players, landing Mantha with a third 1st-round pick (after picking a Lindholm or Horvat or Erne earlier) and allowing him to grow for a few years could pay off handsomely down the road.

Andre Burakowsky, LW--One of the weaknesses in the Sabres organization is skill on the wing. Like Mantha, Burakowsky is mostly about offense, whether scoring or setting up his linemates. He's got good size and loads of speed. Burakowsky, like Mantha, should spend a few years in the system and could turn into skilled top-six winger for the Sabres.

Kerby Rychel, C--Projected to be selected somewhere around No. 20 in this year's draft, Rychel brings a gritty package augmented by a nice scoring touch. Although skating might be an issue and might limit him to top-nine upside, having grit and determination in never a bad thing. Rychel has that and could be moved to the wing to maximize his size and style of play.

Steve Santini, D--Our friend Kris Baker brought Santini to the fore during his mock draft for Bakes has him as a right-handed, shut-down d-man with real good size and skating ability. He's not an offensive d-man at all, but is strong, solid and intimidating in his own zone. With all the "puck-movers" Reigier has drafted over the years, the organization needs more players like Santini on the blueline.

As mentioned, Darcy Regier has a history of picking skill first and grabbing grit and charater later on.

Combining Devine's declaration last year of getting "bigger, stronger and faster," with Pegula saying that he likes "hard workers" and looking at Regier and his moves, including last year's Ott for Roy trade, it would seem as if the organization is looking to flip and grab high character players with compete first, then skill later.

In not dismissing the skill aspect, forwards like Lindholm and Horvat or a defenseman like Ristolainen seem like good fits for the team at #8 as they seem to combine skill, smarts, character and compete.

Regardless of what the Sabres do, they'll have some real solid prospects staring them straight in the eye in the first round.

Just depends upon how many they want to draft.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"What has [Darcy] done wrong?"

Those five words from owner Terry Pegula on WGR's Hockey Hotline sent the Buffalo sports world into a tizzy. (for a good overview visit Jon Vogl of the Buffalo News)

If there's anything that will get the Buffalo sports community riled up it's questioning their view of a certain person, player or topic.

To answer Pegula's question, "what has he done wrong?" his GM, Darcy Regier, has done a lot of things "wrong."

Just like with any other GM you can nitpick a certain draft pick, trade or free agent signing to justify a point of view. You can say Regier is too loyal to his players, or that he overpaid a player or is too slow to change or that his coaching choices--keeping Lindy Ruff too long or not having an extensive coaching search--are suspect. And it could all be true.

All of that has been addressed here at one time or another.

But the issue with Regier, one single thread that has run through nearly all of those blogs, is his team-building philosophy. He has had a specific type of player in mind to fit his vision of how to build a winner ever since he was hired. Unforutnately for the organization and Sabres fans, over the past 16 years that type of player--and group of players--had success for just two seasons, the two seasons following the 2004-05 lockout.

He built, a Ferrari for a short-lived "no-touch" league and it was hailed as "the model for the new NHL."

Once the new-NHL was laid to rest (basically in 2007-08) his team missed the playoffs four times and was bounced in the first round twice as a Ferrari can't handle tough terrain.

Heres' a quick summary of his moves that lead to a team that couldn't compete in a tougher, post new-NHL era..

At the 1998 draft, with the 18th pick the Sabres selected puck-moving defenseman, Dmitri Kalinin. One pick later, the Colorado Avalanche selected gritty, stay at home defenseman Robyn Regehr, a player said to be coveted by Regier for years before landing him in a trade in 2011. Puck-movers would be a staple of Regier's blueline with very little love given to the tough, gritty, stay-at-home types.

Three years later, the beloved "hardest working team in hockey" was dismantled by Regier as he began his rebuild. Fan-favorite, Michael "Captain Crunch" Peca was traded to the NY Islanders, for a soft, highly-skilled, Tim Connolly.

In 2003 Regier acquired gritty center Chris Drury in a three-team trade, but had to give up 2002 first round draft pick, Keith Ballard.

Regier was said to be against trading his prized puck-moving defenseman, but team president Larry Quinn stepped in and the deal was consumated.

This pattern of gravitating towards the skill side of the hockey equation would continue as the Sabres faced a cap-dilema in the 2006 off-season.

Regier was forced to make a choice to remain under the cap. Either gritty winger JP Dumont or skilled winger Ales Kotalik would be re-signed. Regier chose keep the latter, remaining true to his team-building philosophy.

Later, after the team was manhandled by Ottawa in the 2007 playoffs, Drury--with bruised face from blocking a puck with it --would say that the team around him didn't know how to win in the playoffs.

The next six years would have the Sabres overladen with soft-but-skilled players who couldn't win when the going got tough. Hank Tallinder, Kalinin and Kotalik, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville, Ballard, Clarke MacArthur, Andrej Sekera, Drew Stafford, all of whom (save for Ballard) had long careers with the Sabres. All of them in Regier's mold.

Throughout three regimes prior to Pegula taking over, Regier's team-building model always favored skill (or percieved skill) over grit and tenacity. Outside of the "new-NHL" the Buffalo Sabres were considered easy to play against.

Yet Regier continued with this philosophy. His first transaction under Pegula was trade-deadline acquisition, forward Brad Boyes.

With the financial constraints gone Regier traded for Boyes a player who had a stellar season in the first post-lockout years then faded as the NHL got tougher. He turned out to be a perimeter player that could not get the job done when the going got tough. Just like the team Regier built.

In defense of the GM, he can get the job done more often than not. The returns for his "core" players in trades over the last two seasons have been exceptional, and well-documented, leaving Ken Sawyer to proclaim Regier as a "hockey genius."

Pegula has said time and again that he's not concerned with anything prior to his taking over as owner of the team. He likes Regier and looks soley at what his GM has done since he took over. Which is pretty impressive.

Pegula has given Regier his marching orders. In the GR interview, the owner alluded to what he likes--players who will not be outworked--and pointed to Zemgus Girgensons as that type of player. He mentioned Johan Larsson as well and also mentioned that head coach Ron Rolston in that same light. And we should also mention that tough, gritty Steve Ott came from Dallas in the Derek Roy trade.

These are pieces Regier has brought on board under the ownership of Pegula. And one would believe that there will be more of that in the weeks to come.

There's no doubt that Regier can land the pieces for whatever direction the team wants to go, which makes him pretty valuable. This draft will be a good indication of how they want to move forward and what types of players Regier will be using to rebuild with.

Last month Regier was on WGR talking about them. In summary, it seems he's finally figured out that it will take size and hard work to compete in the NHL today, "I do generally think the game is getting bigger and you [need] to have people who are willing to compete and you [need] to have size in your lineup." he said. "There's a shift in that general direction over what we saw coming out of the [2004-05] lockout."

By jove, I do believe he's got it.

Like it or not, the Buffalo sports community will have Darcy Regier as the Sabres GM, for now, and this draft will show just how much he'll be adhering to Pegula's mandate for "hard working" players.

There will be choices between a more skilled prospect as opposed to a more gritty, two-way prospect throughout the draft.

Which way will he go?

After 16 years, Regier may have finally learned what it takes to build a winner in the NHL. And it isn't his former core and core-like players.

Friday, June 14, 2013

2013 NHL Draft, Part 7--Loading up with a third 1st-round pick in a deep draft

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we've seen, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

Having four of the top 52 picks in the draft this year, especially if it's as deep as most predict, puts the Buffalo Sabres in a very good position to add organizational depth. And dependent upon how deep the top talent goes, the Sabres may even land themselves an impact player at #8.

Depth is good and an impact player is great, but an elite player would be much better and that's what Sabres GM Darcy Regier is aiming for as he tries to move up the ladder into the top-three. But, the odds of that happening are pretty slim as it stands right now.

Kevin Devine, the Sabres Director of Amateur Scouting was on WGR talking about the draft the other day.

In the interview Devine was directed towards the possibility of moving up in the draft which he addressed, "We have had conversations with Colorado... I think it’s how far they want to move back." (those intimations sent Jeremy White in a frenzy)

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post laid it out like a bucket of cold water saying that any move from eighth to the first overall pick, to him, is a pipe dream (sorry, Jeremy.) When Dater was GR's on Schoppsie and the Bulldog, he said that the 'Lanche are interested in one of the three top players and that's where the negotiation for the #1-overall pick begins.

Overall, Devine looks at the draft as having Seth Jones and Nate MacKinnon clearly up top with a couple of drop-off points after that in the top-10. The next drop-off point is a large grouping of players from the 10th or 11th pick down to the lower to mid 20's. Devine has stated before, and he reiterated again, that there probably isn't much of a difference between the 10th/11th and the 20th.

In the last segment we looked at the Sabres sticking at #8 with thier first pick and trying to pull up that 16th pick into the top-10.

Today we get greedy.

Trying to add a third 1st-round pick

Far be it for anyone outside a team's "war room" to try and anticipate any kind of trade, much less any particular pieces involved. Although it is fun to play arm-chair GM.

With the Buffalo Sabres in rebuild mode and their old core being dismantled piece by piece, it wouldn't be suprising to see one of Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek--maybe even both--being moved at the draft.

Both Miller and Vanek are core players and both have one year reamaining on their contract. They're the top-two players on the Sabres and two highly regarded, well paid star NHL'ers.

And both right now should be worthy of landing a first-round pick (amongst other things.)

If the Sabres want to load up with a third 1st-rounder in a deep draft, the trick is finding a team willing to move assets, including a first round pick this year, to land Miller or Vanek as either player could only be a rental for the upcoming season.

It should be noted that Miller has a limited no-trade clause where he can name up to eight teams that he can veto a trade to. Vanek does not.

Of all the teams between #7 and #20, there may be only a couple ways for the Sabres to land another pick in the first round.

Edmonton (7th,) Phoenix (12th,) Winnipeg (13th,) and the NY Islanders (15th) all could use a bonafide #1 goalie like Ryan Miller. Unfortunately, those four would probably be included in his no-trade list. They could also use a scorer like Vanek, but it's unlikely they'd forgo their rebuild for a one-year rental.

The Columbus Blue Jackets at 14th and 19th have a Vezina candidate in goal. They could use the scoring prowess of Vanek as well, but a one-year rental does not make a lot of sense for them either.

Ottawa (17th,) Detroit (18th) and even Dallas (10th) all represent possible trade-partners as does New Jersey at #9 and all are decent possibilities for either Miller or Vanek. For example, Ottawa has said they're willing to give up prospects (and presumably their first-rounder) to land a scoring forward like Vanek.

But the two best teams to trade with might be Philadelphia (11th) and San Jose' (20th.) And in both instances a cap-favor from Buffalo might be needed to get a deal done.

The Flyers have two potential cap-buyouts in goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and foward Daniel Briere and, as usual, they're at the salary cap ceiling. They wouldn't hesitate to use both this season in order to get cap-compliant.

But for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, having to buy out only one this year would be a better course of action.

As the Flyers continue their seemingly endless search for a #1 goalie, Miller, even at his salary and for possibly only one year could be appealing. Holmgren has never been affraid to go after a player, or position, he desires.

He went after, and landed, Bryzgalov as "the missing piece" in 2011 (saying goodbye to 2012 Cup-winners Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the process) but "Bryz" was below average in his first year (3.46 gaa/.887 sv% in the 2012 playoffs) and the team missed the playoffs last season. He has $34.5M left on that albatross of a contract.

Briere is a clutch veteran who excells in the playoffs, but is 35 yrs. old and is slowly being passed up by a strong group of young, talented forwards who count less than his $6.5M cap-hit. Which makes him a buy-out candidate.

Could the Flyers buy out Bryz and pull off a Briere plus the 11th pick for Miller trade? In that instance, the Flyers would free up nearly $6M in cap-space for next season and would get a #1 goalie. They would also have one more buy out that they could (and most likely would) use at a later date.

Would the 11th pick in the draft this year be worth it to them?

Over in San Jose', the Sharks made a strong run to Game-7 versus the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

With excellent goaltending, a rock-solid defense and top-line scoring from their star players, San Jose' looked to move past their status as "underachievers" in the playoffs and almost pulled off the feat.

Were it not for a lack of secondary scoring, they would've made it past Los Angeles. They scored 10 goals in the seven game series, three goals total in the final three games.

Up-front, top-six forward Patrick Marleau is on left wing. Raffi Torres and TJ Galiardi, two energy forwards, are behind him on the depth chart.

Having a player like Vanek on the top-line would bolster their top-six nicely.

The Sharks have had this core group of forwards together for quite a few years, but looking at the cap-chart for the Sharks, next season could be the last hurrah for this group as four key players will hit free agency.

GM Doug Wilson had this to say about the team and it's future, "There's something special about this group. We’re not a team that’s going to miss the playoffs for five or seven years and go into a rebuild. We don’t believe in that. We want to reset on the fly and it only works when you have players that understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish and participate in it.”

Vanek has a hefty $7.1M cap-hit and for a team like San Jose' that will surely be up against the cap to begin with, trading for him just won't work.


Forward Martin Havlat and his $5M come back as part of the return.

Havlat seems to have worn out his welcome in San Jose', has two years left at that cap-hit, and seems to be a buyout candidate.

Adding a $2M player to their cap doesn't seem like a fiscally responsible thing to do for the Sharks. But adding a top-line winger and proven playoff scorer like Vanek for the $2M difference makes a lot of sense.

They will need to do some juggling, possibly moving a spare part or two, (say Adam Burish--$1.85M cap-hit,) which is something they'd be looking at anyway.

Would the 20th pick in the draft, amongst other things, be worth it for the Sharks in order to go "all-in" this year? And can ridding themselves of Havlat's contract without buying him out make a trade like this work?

The variables involved in either the Flyers or Sharks situations are numerous (including no-trade clauses for both Briere and Havlat,) but the basis is there for a good match in either case.

The Flyers and Sharks can take these key pieces and move forward for at least the next season while shedding unwanted salary.

The Sabres could add (at the very least) another first-round pick in a deep draft this season and futher their rebuild.

Buffalo has the cap-space to bring in either buyout candidate (or even both) and would have two years to decide how they'd fit into the grand scheme of things.

With the future of both Miller and Vanek tenuous, the team in rebuild mode and a deep draft class staring them straight in the eye, loading up with three top-20 picks this year would be a solid consolation prize if Regier is unable to move up from either of their draft spots this year.

Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Next:  What Regier could, should and possibly will do leading up to the 2013 draft.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2013 NHL Draft, Part 6--Turning the 16th pick into a top-10

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we've seen, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

In the last segment we looked at the LA Kings and their team-building.

The Kings had three players from the vaunted 2003 draft who played significant roles in their 2012 Stanley Cup season:  Dustin Brown, whom they drafted, and two they traded for in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

The Buffalo Sabres already have two first round picks in what's said to be the deepest draft since 2003.

The Sabres also have flexibility this year with two second-rounders in the draft and they have an array of players that could be used as trade chips to either move up in the first round or grab another first round pick altogether.

Today we'll look at the possibility of moving up from the 16th pick overall.

Moving up from the 16th pick for two top-10 picks would be a safe bet.

As mentioned in oue 2013 Draft overview, while most scouts look at this draft as deep, even the most "pessimistic" scout sees this draft, in the least, having a "deep top-10" on top of an "OK" first round.

Sabres head of amateur scouting, Kevin Devine, leans towards the former in his assessment of the talent pool.

"It's a deep draft," he said, "it probably goes into the low 20's a team is going to get a very good player, and a player at 20 may be just as good as a player at 11."

In both instances, it would seem as if there's a cut-off point at the 10th pick.

With the top-four players in this year's draft all being said as interchangeable first overall picks, all four teams drafting in that range will have the opportunity to land themselves an elite player with elite talent. The odds of the Sabres trading up--their stated goal at the draft this season--are pretty slim.

Carolina has the 5th pick and Calgary the 6th. Both teams should have an NHL-ready player there for the taking and the odds of them moving down the draft are pretty slim as well. Plus, historically speaking, those picks don't usually change hands.

Ahead of Buffalo with the 7th pick is Edmonton. The Oilers and the Sabres will be able to draft comparable players who are said to be on the cusp of playing in the NHL. Behind them, the 9th and 10th picks represent potential on the level of the 8th pick, where Buffalo is set to begin the 2013 Draft.

Unless Sabres GM Darcy Regier works some magic to move up in the draft, it would seem as if the Sabres could be locked into the 8th pick.

With that in mind having three other picks in the top-52 after that spot isn't a bad thing. Especially in a deep draft. There are two ways they may be able to maximize their positioning in the draft this year after #8.

They can try to move up using thier 16th pick to land a second player in that "safe area" inside the top-10.

Or they can use their veteran assets--Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek (maybe someone else?)--to land another pick in the top-20.

In either scenario tapping into the strength of a deep draft like Los Angeles did when the assembled three players from the 2003 Draft on their way to their first Stanley Cup in 2012, could expedite the rebuild process while adding strong pieces to their foundation.

At the 2012 Draft, GM Darcy Regier also had two first-rounders and two second-rounders.

Regier was able to turn the 21st pick in the draft last year into the 14th by adding the Sabres second-round pick (#42) in a trade with Calgary.

He was able to land two centers with those first two picks:  Mikhail Grigorenko (12th) and Zemgus Girgensons (14th.)

Like they did last year, the Sabres could very well have the opportunity to move up into the 7th, 9th or 10th slot this season.

Sitting at #7 in the draft, the Edmonton Oilers have a wealth of talent up-front and could use some help on the back end. There are three defensemen considered in the second-tier behind consensus first overall pick, Seth Jones.

Kris Baker of, in his mock draft for, has defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen going to the Oilers with the 7th pick. He has Darnell Nurse going 11th and Nikita Zadarov getting picked 13th.

It should be noted that Edmonton has a very young team, and they've made some siginificant changes this off-season including a new coach in Dallas Eakins. The Oilers are said to be open to trading the pick.

Team President Kevin Lowe said, 'Because the draft is deep, as you move along, if someone offered us something we felt could fit in with our group, a different age and a certain type of positional player we need, we wouldn’t be opposed to moving the pick.'

"A big center," according to Jason Brough of, "as well as a goalie to push Devan Dubnyk" are said to be pieces the Oilers are looking for.

Sitting in the 9th slot is the New Jersey, the host city for the draft this year.

The Devils have a lot of roster holes to fill and have a 28th-ranked prospect pool, yet only have four picks in the draft this year. In addition, they forfeited their first round pick next year as a penalty for the Ilya Kovalchuk signing in 2010.

Although GM Lou Lamoriello hasn't mentioned trading their first round pick, there are a few scenarios where the Sabres may be able to move into that 9th slot.

First off, it's being said that the Devils are interested in picking a scoring forward at #9. Baker has New Jersey selecting fast-rising Bo Horvat in that spot.

The Devils might be interested in the Sabres 16th overall pick and a player, either a roster player or an NHL-ready player that's in the minors right now. Do the Sabres have a "scoring forward Lamoriello might be interested in?

Or could he drop down to the 16th slot and find that type of player while adding an additional 2nd-rounder in this draft and maybe even add one of the Sabres three 2nd-rounders next season.

In Dallas, head scout Les Jackson doesn't seem to see a ton of value in having the 10th pick and is said to be open to moving down.

Perhaps the reason for Jackson's luke-warm reception to drafting there starts with the probable best player available at #10.

The Stars have organizational depth at defense and if the 2013 draft unfolds the way most think, impact forwards will be gone leaving Dallas looking at a defenseman as the best player available.

Dallas also has a new GM that grew accustomed to picking in the latter half of the first round (or mostly starting in the second round) in Jim Nill.

Nill was the director of amateur scouting with Detroit. In his 15 years with the organization, the Wings never missed the playoffs and never drafted higher than #19 (Jakub Kindl, 2005.)

Dallas also has nine picks in the draft this year including a second first-rounder acquired from Boston and an extra second-rounder.

With that kind of organizational depth, and those many picks, using the Sabres 16th pick and an additional second rounder probably wouldn't be that appealing to Nill.

They would probably be leaning more towards a roster player or a forward prospect on the cusp of the NHL in a trade down scenario.

There's also the possibility that they would move that pick straight up for a upper-level roster player.

Which leads us to the next segment:  Loading up with a third first-rounder in a deep 2013 draft.

Monday, June 10, 2013

2013 NHL Draft Part 5--The LA Kings model

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we have seen, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

There's not a hockey person on this planet who will disagree that having two superstars on a team dramatically increase the odds of hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Two teams who were bad at the right time and lucky enough to grab elite top-three picks two years running were Pittsburgh and Chicago.

The Penguins actually stunk four years in a row to collect four consecutive top-two picks:  Marc-Andre Fluery (1st overall, 2003,) Evgeni Malkin (2nd, 2004,) Sidney Crosby (1st, 2005) and Jordan Staal (2nd, 2006.)

The Blackhawks managed to land three top-three picks during a stretch of four years:  Cam Barker (3rd, 2004,) Jonathan Toews (3rd, 2006) and Patrick Kane (1st, 2007.)

Both teams hoisted the Cup in the era between lockouts:  Pittsburgh, 2009; Chicago 2010, and both made it to their respective conference championships this year with the Blackhawks advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals beginning on Wednesday.

Prior to the 2013 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres have not had a pick higher than #12 and when it comes to team-building, right now the Sabres are neither the Penguins or the Blackhawks.

But the two other conference finalists this year took different approaches that involved fewer years of "suffering."

The Boston Bruins (2011 Stanley Cup winners) and LA Kings (2012 Stanley Cup winners) both made it to their respective conference finals with the Bruins advancing to meet the Blackhawks for the 2013 Stanley Cup.

The Boston Bruins were built mainly outside of the draft, which is a route that Buffalo will eschew for the time being.

Of their top-nine forwards, only David Krejci (#63, 2004,) Patrice Bergeron, (#45, 2003,) Milan Lucic (#50, 2006) and Brad Marchand (#71, 2006) are homegrown.

The rest of the team was built via trades and free agent acquisitions, including their goaltenders, Tuuka Rask, who was picked up from Toronto in a 2006 trade and 2011 Conn Smythe winner, goalie Tim Thomas, a free agent signing in 2005.

They missed the playoffs the first two seasons after the 2004-05 lockout and had two top-ten picks--Phil Kessel (#5, 2006) and Zach Hamill (#8, 2007.) Both were traded.

The Los Angeles Kings present an interesting model to use as a guide for the Sabres as they rebuild via the draft. Their roster has four top-nine forwards, 2012 Conn Smythe winner--goalie Jonathan Quick--franchise defensman Drew Doughty and emerging defenseman Slava Voynov all drafted by the team.

A look back at how Los Angeles built their Cup-winner, has the Kings making the playoffs three straight seasons beginning in 1999-'00, but never making it past the second round getting bounced in the first round twice.

The next three seasons saw them miss the playoffs, yet the team ended up drafting outside the top-10. Their picks:  Dustin Brown 13th, 2003; Lauri Tukonen 11th, 2004; Anze Kopitar 11th, 2005.

GM Dave Taylor was fired after the 2005-06 season and was replaced by Dean Lombardi who began cleaning house and starting a two year drive to the second worst record in the league in 2007-08.

Lombardi's first pick was outside the top-10--goalie Jonathan Bernier 11th, 2006. While bottoming out the Kings landed two top-five picks in consecutive years:  D Thomas Hickey (4th, 2007) and Doughty (2nd, 2008.)

From there, their ascension to the Stanley Cup began.

To augment his young group of homegrown talent, Lombardi acquired Cup-winners Rob Scuderi and Justin Williams in 2009, along with Willie Mitchell in 2010. They made the playoffs in both those seasons, but were bounced in the first round each time.

With it's homegrown core and a few wily veterans anchoring the team, Lombardi then tapped into the 2003 draft to land two key forwards that would help propel them to the 2012 Cup.

In the 2011 off season, the Kings acquired gritty two-way forward Mike Richards (24th overall, 2003) then traded for sniper (and Richards' friend) Jeff Carter (11th, 2003) in December. Both were drafted by, and played for Philadelphia (with Carter being traded to Columbus in the 2011 off season.)

The Kings had a great mix of skaters in front of goalie Quick with three 2003 first round draft picks at the fore of their Stanley Cup season--Brown, Richards and Carter

Would the Kings have won the Cup without those final pieces, Richards and Carter?


But the fact remains:  with the 2003 draft possibly being the best draft class ever, having three from that class significantly increased the top-end talent on the team.

How does that relate to the Sabres this off season?

Buffalo has drafted outside the top-10 dating back to 2004. They have a top-10 pick this year for the first time since 2003 and have two picks in the draft:  #8 and #16. Both picks in a deep draft could be top-end anchors as the team rebuilds for the future.

But, sometimes it may be good to be greedy and if it's true that either Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek are on the trade block, there's no reason that they shouldn't be able to garner another team's 2013 first round pick in the deal (provided they have one.)

It took the LA Kings eight years to tap into the deep 2003 draft and assemble three key pieces to their Championship season. It took some star-alignment as well in that both Richards and Carter were available.

It also took some prime assets to get those two, like Jack Johnson (3rd overall, 2005,) Brayden Schenn (5th overall, 2009,) Wayne Simmons (61st, 2007) and a first round pick (2013.)

In looking at the 2013 draft, even the most pessimistic prognosticator has the top-10 as top-notch and most believe that strength stretches all the way down to the 20th pick or so.

In a worse-case scenario, if two picks in the top-16 are good, two in the top-10 would be even better. In a best-case scenario, if two top-20 picks are good in a deep draft, three is even better.

Move up or load up?

Next:  Using the 16th overall pick to get into the top-10

Saturday, June 8, 2013

2013 NHL Draft Part 4--Moving up the ladder, a look at the 4th thru 6th picks

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we see here, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

In looking at 25 drafts from 1979 to 2003, having a pick in the 7-9 area of the draft wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Hall-of-Famers and All-Stars were there for the pickin' in those slots, especially in deep drafts or those with a strong top-9.

Moving up in the draft obviously increases the odds of landing an impact player (HOF, All-Star.) Just how much will be looked at today.

The #4-6 picks yeild quality in nearly all draft classes.

The Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning had the three worst records in the NHL last season and own the first three picks in the 2013 NHL draft. Seth Jones, Nate MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin had stellar junior seasons displaying superstar/elite talent and it would seem as if those three players will go to those three teams.

The consensus for this year's draft is that the first four or five picks all would garner 1st-overall pick consideration in last year's draft and that as many as eight players could be NHL-ready for the 2012-13 season.

The jury's still out on just how deep this draft is, but even the pessimist believes that there's a "deep top-ten" this year even though they see just an "OK first round."

With obvious strength in the top-three it would be hard to imagine any of those teams moving out of that slot, so it's the 4th thru 6th picks where things can get interesting.

Teams in that range are in various team-building stages and are looking to add an impact player there. They're also in a very good position to move up into the top-three if they have a trading partner, the assets to do so and are willing to make a "knock your socks off" type offer.

Or, if they think they can get the same type of player a few picks lower, they can trade down and get an extra pick.

It depends upon the team, where they are in their team-building process and how the previous season unfolded.

Teams in that range might be solid and consistent team like Nashville (4th-overall pick) but had an off season. Or they could be like the Calgary Flames (6th) who are in full-fledged rebuild mode.

The Carolina Hurricanes have the fifth pick and they have strength in some areas yet big holes in others.

All three of those teams in the 4-6 spots can find an impact player to fill their need in the draft this year.

Nashville needs scoring. Alexsander Barkov, considered by some as a top-three talent this year, is a big center who can put the puck in the net and will be there at #4 unless one of the top-three drop. In any scenario the Preds will be getting an impact player who's NHL-ready if they stay put.

If Carolina wants impact on defense, one of three d-men will be there for the taking. Or if they want a power forward on the wing, Valeri Nichushkin, who's also said to be NHL-ready, should be available.

And as Calgary begins their rebuild, there will be a number of players to chose from at #6 including big, highly regarded centerman, Sean Monahan, "the forgotten man," according to The Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief (USA Today.)

Those picks in the 4-6 range have routinely provided an elite/impact player with significant upside, especially in a deep draft.

In the five drafts we've focused upon (1979, 2003, 1983, 1988, 1990) those 15 picks in the 4-6 range yeilded two HOF'ers (Mike Gartner, 1979; Steve Yzerman, 1983,)  one sure fire HOF'er (Jaromir Jagr 1990,) and six All-Stars.

Only one year--1988--would be considered a bust in that draft range with Darrin Shannon (#4, Pitt) playing more than 500 NHL games (506.).

The chances of landing an impact player (HOF'er, All-Star) is 60%.

Additionally, between 1979 and 2003 that 4-6 range yeilded four more HOF'ers:  Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey (1980,) Ron Francis (1981,) Scott Stevens (1982) and one future HOF'er in Peter Forsberg (1991.)

All totaled, those 25 draft years from 1979 to 2003 yeilded six HOF'ers plus 20 All-Stars to date for a total of 26 impact players in the 4-6 range. A 35% chance overall for a team to land an impact player in those spots.

Comparing the 4-6 range with the 7-9 picks, both ranges yeilded a 60% chance of landing an impact player in the five drafts encapsulated in this series.

The odds of landing an impact player overall using the 1979-2003 draft classes increase from 24% in the 7-9 range to 35% in the 4-6 range.

Maybe because of that, most teams retain those picks.

Looking at those 25 years, the 4-6 pick has changed hands seven times-1980, 1981, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002--or 9% of the time.

Recent draft history shows even a lesser chance of a team moving out of the 4-6 slots. From 2004-2012 those picks have changed hands twice--2004 and 2008--or 7% of the time.

For the Sabres and GM Darcy Regier, chances are that the 1-4 spots this year are off limits, a severe overpayment will be necessary to move into the 5 and 6 slots, and the 8th pick should be just as good as the 7th pick.

Which means that Buffalo will probably start the 2013 draft with #8. And even though the 8th pick normally doesn't produce a superstar, elite talent can be had there. That pick, along with a second first rounder (#16,) should add two significant pieces to the Sabres "new core."

Two is good, but adding a third 1st-round pick in this year's draft might even be better.

Next:  The LA Kings model

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

2013 NHL Draft Part 3--There is quality at #8, dependent upon the class

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we'll see later, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

In Part-2 of this series we looked at five draft classes over the course of a 25-year period that stood out above the rest. Although varying in depth, one common thread running through them all is quality down to the eighth pick.

If the 2013 draft class is as good as many are saying it is, it puts the Sabres in a decent spot with the opportunity to land an upper-eschlon talent with the eighth overall pick.

A deep draft class could make for a strong pick at #8

It takes a solid scouting departement to land an elite player at 8th overall although having a strong, deep draft class to select from tends to make it a bit easier.

The five drafts encapsulated in the previous installment have produced some impressive picks in and around #8. Looking at the 7-9 picks from those five drafts here's what they offered:
  • 1979:  HOF Ray Bourque (8th)
  • 2003:  All-Stars Ryan Suter (7th) and Dion Phaneuf (9th)
  • 1983:  All-Star Russ Courtnall (7th) and HOF Cam Neely (9th)
  • 1988:  All-Star Jeremy Roenick (8th) and probable HOF'er Rod Brind'Amour (9th)
  • 1990:  All-Stars Daryl Sydor (7th) and D Derian Hatcher (8th)
Two HOF'ers in Bourque and Neely, a probable HOF'er in Brind'Amour, two US HHOF'er in Roenick and Hatcher, perenial All-Star Suter, and a multi-Cup winner in Sydor.

Not too shabby a group.

At #8, and with a draft-class this year that's said to be in the mix with some of the deepest in history, the Sabres should be able to do well in that spot. Using the previously mentioned five draft classes, the Sabres have about a 60% chance of landing an impact player in the eighth spot should they not be able to move up.

Take away depth in draft, though, and the odds of landing an impact player drop considerably.

Looking back historically at the other drafts between 1979 and 2003, there were all-out busts in the #7-9 spots three times:  1989, 1992, 2000.

Three other drafts produced at least one serviceable player:  1980 (Mike Bullard,) 1987 (Luke Richardson,) 1999 (Taylor Pyatt.)

Draft classes with at least two serviceable players include: 1982, 1985, 1991, 1994, 1998.

There have been seven classes with one at least one All-Star coming in picks #7-9 including:  1984 (Shayne Corson,) 1993 (Jason Arnott,) 1995 (Shane Doan,) 1996 (Ruslan Salei,) 1997 (Sergei Samsonov, Nick Boynton,) 2001 (Mike Komiserak) 2002 (Joffrey Lupul)

There were two HOF'ers in that 7-9 range, Grant Fuhr (1981,) and Brian Leetch (1986.)

Twenty draft classes, 60 picks, two HOF'ers, eight All-Stars.

The odds of landing an impact player outside of the "top-five" classes used in this series:  6%.

To encapsulate. The odds of landing an impact player in a deep draft with quality stretching down to at least the 9th pick is 60%. In weaker draft classes that percentage drops to 6%.

All-in-all over the course of all 25 drafts from 1979-2003, the 7th-9th slots have produced four HOF'ers and 14 All-Stars--a 24% chance (18/75) of landing an impact player in those spots.

If the perceived depth of this class holds true, the Sabres should be able to find themselves an impact player with the 8th overall pick.

Many are looking at the top six or seven players this year to be in that "elite" classification which makes the odds of landing an impact player in the 4-6 range this year even higher.

The Sabres are said to be interested in trading up in the draft. Moving into the top-3 would be ideal, but perhaps they may only be able to get to the 4-6 range.

Next:  Moving up the ladder, a look at the 4-6 draft slots.

2013 NHL Draft Part 2--Five classes with talent and varying degrees of depth

The 2013 NHL Draft will be upon us soon. The Buffalo Sabres, for the second season in a row, have four picks in first two rounds. They have the #8 and #16 in the first round, #38 and #52 in the second.

Many believe that the team should do anything they can to get into the top-3 this year to land a "franchise player." Sabres GM Darcy Regier is actively trying to move up, but going from 8th into the top-3 is nearly impossible, and as we'll see later, not many picks in the 4th-6th spots get moved.

Chances are the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting somewhere around #8.

The following series looks at past drafts from 1979-2003, bookending what are widely considered the best drafts ever over that 25-year span, and what that might mean for the Sabres in this year's draft.

In Part-1 of this series we looked at an overview of this years draft class. The consensus is that there is a strong top-three or four, an additional two or three game-changers just below them and quality, top-end talent down to the 10th slot or so.

A potential group of solid NHL'ers stretches into the low-20's while some see a group of solid prospects possibly going into the early part of the third round.

Where will this draft class stack up against the others?

Today:  Five draft classes lead by 1979

There are two draft classes that are widely regarded as the best ever--1979 and 2003.

In the 23 years between, there's an array of draft classes ranging from poor (1992, 1994, 1999) to top-heavy (1981, 1985, 1997.)

There was the 1984 draft that featured a "once in a generation player," Mario Lemieux, with a solid group featuring one HOF'er and a decent amount of All-Stars picked after.

Vincent Lecavalier (1998) was clearly the cream of his draft class with a significant drop-off to mostly serviceable players at #2 and below. Wendell Clark (1985) and Chris Phillips (1996) were at the head of a class that lacked stars, yet produced a large group of servicable NHL'ers with long careers.

While comparisons with 2003 abound, it's unlikely that the 2013 draft class will reach that standard and, consequently, will not reach the heights of the 1979 class.

If 2013 is as deep and talented as most say it is, the class will likely be tucked in just below those two.

Opinions vary as to which years come next, but for the sake of historical perspective, we'll be taking a look at the 1983, 1988 and 1990 draft classes chronologically, each of which are characteristically different and at least a notch below 1979 and 2003.

One common thread running through these five drafts is quality down to the eighth spot where Buffalo picks this year.


The 1979 draft class is widely considered the best draft class ever for quality and depth as it basically incorporated two classes into one. The NHL lowered the draft age that year from 19 to 18 yrs old.

That class lists three HOF'ers--Mike Gartner (#4 overall,) Ray Bourque (#8) and Michel Goulet (#20)--and boasts 12 All-Stars amongst the 21 players selected in the first round.

First overall selection Rob Ramage lead a list of 11 first round picks who played over 1000 NHL games. Four players had over 1000 points (Gartner, Bourque, Goulet, and #14, Brian Propp) while five scored over 400 goals (Gartner, Bourque, Goulet, Propp and #5 Rick Vaive.)

The first round also included players like Mike Foligno (#3,) Keith Brown (#7,) Laurie Boschman (#9,) Mike Ramsey (#11) and Brad McCrimmon (#15) who had long, productive careers. For posterity sake, Lindy Ruff was drafted by the Sabres with the 32nd pick in 1979.

Duane "Dog" Sutter (#17-overall) made strong contributions to the NY Islander dynasty of the early-80's. He was lucky enough to be drafted by the Isles and has the distinction of winning four Stanley Cups in his first four years in the league. Kevin Lowe (#21) was a cog in Edmonton winning five Stanley Cups in 13 seasons with that franchise.

Oh, and there was some guy named Wayne Gretzky who would have been in the draft via the WHA/NHL merger that year, but instead a deal was made where the Edmonton Oilers kept him and agreed to draft last in every round.

Picks in that 1979 draft also included All-Stars Pelle Lindberg (#35,) Mats Naslund (#37,) Dave Christain (#40,) Dale Hunter (#41,) Neal Broten (#42,) and the Captain's Captain, Mark Messier (#48.)


The 2003 draft class may end up surpassing the 1979 class when all's said and done. The players drafted that year are all in their primes right now and are making significant contributions on Stanley Cup winners and contenders.

Of the 32 first round picks, eight already have their names on the Cup:  G Marc-Andre Fleury (#1-overall,) C Eric Staal (#2,) Nathan Horton (#3,) Jeff Carter (#11,) Dustin Brown (#13,) Brent Seabrook (#14,) Ryan Getzlaf (#19,) Mike Richards (#24,) and Corey Perry (#28.)

The 2003 class also boasts 16 All-Stars of 30 first round picks including Thomas Vanek (#5,) Milan Michalek (#6,) Ryan Suter (#7,) Dion Phaneuf (#9,) Zach Parise (#17,) Brent Burns (#20,) and Ryan Kesler (#23.)

In the second round, Loui Eriksson (#33) was an All-Star for Dallas,  Boston's Patrice Bergeron (#45) has his name on the Cup as the Bruins top-line center, and Nashville's All-Star defenseman Shea Weber (#49) is considered one of the best defensemen in the league.

About the only thing separating 2003 from 1979 is time. Ten years from now, especially with the LA Kings (Brown, Carter and Richards,) the Boston Bruins (Horton and Bergeron) and the Chicago Blackhawks (Seabrook) perenial Cup-favorites, and with Suter, Weber, Perry and Parise as perenial All-Stars, this class has the potential to eclipse the number of HOF'ers from the 1979 class.


Although the 1983 lacks the depth of 1979 and 2003, there are three HOF'ers in the top-nine:  Pat LaFontaine (#3-overall,) Steve Yzerman (#4,) and Cam Neely (#9.)

The first-overall pick of the draft, Brian Lawton, had a spotty career, but high-school drafteeTom Barrasso (#5) won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and John McLean (#6) was alternate captain with the New Jersey Devils when they won their first Stanley Cup in 1995 and had a long, productive career.

Russ Coutnall (#7) and Dave Gagner (#12) both were All-Stars and had very long careers of 15-plus seasons.

Pound-for-pound, the top-nine has players to rival that of 1979 and 2003, but there's a severe drop-off in talent beyond those nine until you get to the second round. And even then, it's spotty.

The 26th pick in that draft, which would still be in the first round today, was 1995 Conn Smythe winner, Claude Lemieux. Philadelphia's Peter Zezel (#41) would score at a .70 pts/game clip for 15 seasons. Bob Probert (#46) would protect fellow Red Wings (including Yzerman) and Blackhawks for 19 seasons and was an All-Star.


The 1988 draft class is top-heavy, like 1983, but stretches one pick farther in depth. It's a stronger group and boasts more 1000-game players (seven) than 1983 (three) in the top-10 picks.

Three players from that draft class will likely make it into the Hall of Fame:  Mike Modano (#1-overall,) 2013 HOF-elligible, Rod Brind'Amour (#9) and Teemu Selanne (#10.) A fourth, Jeremy Roenick (#8) scored 513 goals and had 1216 points in 1363 games, albeit without a Stanley Cup ring like the other three.

After Sellane at #10 this draft falls off the edge of a cliff until redemtion is found at the top of the fourth round. Only two made any kind of contribution to the NHL--Tim Taylor (second round, #36) played in nearly 800 NHL games while Steve Heinze (third round, #60) played 694.

Fourth-rounders Mark Recchi (#67) and Rob Blake (#70) both have their names etched on the Cup, with the latter a possible candidate for the HOF. Tony Amonte (#68) was a perennial All-Star from 1997-2001 and scored over 30 goals six years straight (1995-2001) in the "clutch and grab" era of the NHL. He had the misfortune of being traded late in the 1994 season from the eventual Stanley Cup winning NY Rangers.

Pick #70, it should be noted, is in the upper portion of the third round today. Also of note, the Sabres' third-round pick this year will be the 69th.


There's a mini-battle as to which draft class is better--1988 or 1990.

Although the first round of the 1990 NHL draft doesn't boast the four potential HOF'ers like 1988, there was a lot of depth in the first round with a total of nine players playing at least 1000 games.

The 1990 draft also has five All-Stars in the top-eight picks, with one sure-fire HOF'er in Jaromir Jagr (#5-overall.)

Other All-Stars include Owen Nolan (#1,) who played 18 seasons in the league and had the misfortune of being traded early in the season the year the Colorado Avalanche won their first Cup. Keith Primeau (#3) played 15 productive years mainly with Detroit and Philadelphia, unfortunately without a Stanley Cup.

Daryl Sydor (#7) won a Stanley Cup with Dallas while Keith Tkachuk (#19) had a robust, 19-year career amassing over 500 goals and over 1000 assists.

Were it not for injuries and a change in the NHL that left him as a "pylon," 8th overall pick Derian Hatcher, would garner a lot more attention for his leadership and physical play. Sandwiched between fellow bad-asses Scott Stevens and Chris Pronger during his playing days, Hatcher captained the Dallas Stars to the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 1999.

The gem of the draft was Martin Brodeur (#20,) considered one of the best goalies of all time. Brodeur, like Jagr is still playing and will be a sure-fire, first-ballot HOF'er once he completes his stellar career.

Other notables include Felix "The Cat" Potvin (#31) who played 16 years in the league and Doug Weight (#34) who has his name on the Cup as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The 1990 draft class had plenty of quality and depth, although not quite the first-line quality and depth of 2003. In a few years, after HOF elligible players are elected to the hall, this class may end up being veiwed as the third-best behind the 1979 and 2003 draft classes.

As mentioned in part 1 of this series, the overall consensus is that the 2013 draft class has a lot of depth with elite/top-end talent stretching as far down as the 10th pick.

Using the five drafts encapsulated above, if this holds true, it would seem as if Buffalo has a good chance of landing a top-end player in the 8th spot should they be unable to trade up.

Next:  The 8th-overall picks from 1979 to 2003.