Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The first round of the 2014 NHL Draft was about as predictable as could be player-wise with all the big fireworks coming in the form of the Ryan Kesler trade.
Vancouver shipped the disgruntled center to Anaheim for the 24th pick, a 2014 third rounder, Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa. That the Canucks couldn't get the Ducks other higher first rounder (No. 10 previously acquired from Ottawa in the Bobby Ryan trade) says a lot about who was in control in this trade.
Another trade, one that might have been relatively significant for the Buffalo Sabres was the NY Islanders trading two second rounders (Nos. 35 and 57) for the 28th overall pick.
For weeks leading up to the draft Sabres GM Tim Murray had been mentioning his desire to get back into the first round with any reasonable assets he had. Apparently one of Joshua Ho Sang whom the Islanders picked, Adrian Kempe (LAK, #29) and John Quennville (NJD, #30) weren't worth the currency.
Kempe, it should be noted, played for MODO of the Swedish Elite League, the same team that has Sabres prospects Linus Ullmark and Gustav Possler.
Other than that, Florida did what was expected by snagging a big, mobile, NHL-ready defenseman in Aaron Ekblad, leaving the two Sam's--Reinhart and Bennett--there for Buffalo at #2.
The "great fan debate" had been running for weeks as to which one would better serve the team moving forward, but the ultimate decision lay in the hands of the Sabres scouting department. Murray and Sabers AGM Kevin Devine had both mentioned that there already was a consensus pick should Ekblad be taken first.
Obviously that consensus was Reinhart.
"He was the first player on our list," said Murray. And when asked how long Reinhart was the consensus Murray said, "He was [first] on our list at our organizational meeting in May. We've tweaked those lists a couple of times, but we didn't tweak [number] one."
The scouts and hockey publications universally touted Reinhart as having off-the-charts hockey sense with the ability to see the whole ice, which is what Murray had seen while actively scouting him for Buffalo.
"[His] hockey sense. Seeing the play three or four seconds before it happens," said Murray of Reinhart's attributes. "He has such an ability to make wingers better."
Devine was on WGR a couple weeks back saying that he hadn't seen that kind of playmaking skills in 10 to 15 years.
Weeks prior to that Devine said, "[Reinhart's] got a very subtle game. If you watch him only once or twice you say 'What's the big deal?' but when you continue to watch him, you see how smart a player he is. He reads the play extremely well, he's always a step ahead."
After picking Reinhart, Murray said he was actively trying to move back into the first round. At one point he offered all three of their 2014 second round picks to do that.
"I made big offers," he said of trying to get back into the first round. "I went to the late teens and twenties thinking two seconds would do it. And I offered three seconds to seven teams."
This was Murray's first go-round at the draft as general manager. When asked how much he was holding his breath while Florida was on the board, he said "It was stupid, because you hear so many rumors. Dale [Tallon's] trading the pick. Dale's taking Ekblad. Dale's taking Reinhart. At some point you sit down and say whatever happens, happens."
Not that he was without a plan.
Had the Cats (or a trade partner) taken Reinhart, Murray said he talked to both teams directly below him at No.3 (Edmonton) and No. 4 (Calgary) asking what they'd give to move up. Just in case.
Murray heads into Round 2 today sitting atop the draft board. Although it's not the first-overall pick like Florida had yesterday, No. 31 may be coveted. "I remember some nights when we went back to our [hotel] suites saying we had to get back to No. 31." said Murray of past drafts. "Hopefully some [team] has somebody on the board, that their willing to overpay. That would be great."
Interesting to note that no goalie was taken in the first round. Perhaps Thatcher Demko the consensus top-goalie could be that "somebody" some team is willing to overpay for.
If not, Murray could be looking at one of the few players slated for the first round who ended up dropping like C, Ivan Barbashev.
The 6'0" 185 lb. center put up 68 points in 48 games for Moncton of the QMJHL last season and looked to be drafted in the lower third of the first round.
TSN's Bob McKenzie wrote that Barbashev, "Ivan is an outstanding leader. He leads by his actions and there is nothing he won't do to help the team win. Versatile, skilled and competitive and can play in many spots in your lineup. Simply put, a winner's mentality all the way through."
We'll see this afternoon as the Sabres hit the Wells Fargo Center to kick off the rest of the 2014 NHL Draft.
Until then, we'll leave with this from The Red Line Reports' Kyle Woodlief writing for USA Today on Reinhart:
"Off-the-charts hockey IQ. Sees plays developing that few in the game are capable of recognizing. First line centre potential. Calm demeanor coupled with outstanding puck protection, an ability to corral any pass and slip past contact in traffic set him apart. Extremely imaginative playmaker can thread the needle through the tightest of openings. Overall is barely an average skater, but seems to skate better with the puck on his stick than without. Still makes impressive plays when he should be off balance. Tremendous stickhandling ability - never turns the puck over in a meaningful situation. Puck explodes off his blade on a well-hidden snap shot release. Beats goalies in quite a variety of ways. Never gives up on a play at either end. Has unbelievable knack for stripping opposing players of the puck. On quiet nights still manages to end up with three points on the scoresheet."