Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
...and where the Sabres might be able to land them in the first round.
For a new general manager entering his first NHL Draft with a team that just finished miles from the pack in last place, pretty much anything goes.
Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray heads to the City of Brotherly Love on June 27th with a large quantity of prospects already in the system and eight picks in the 2014 Draft. Although you can see a Cheshire grin on his face as he glances at a strong 2015 draft with at least three first rounders in his pocket, the focus now is upon the present group of draft eligible prospects.
The Sabres have the 2nd overall pick in the draft as well as three second-rounders (31st, 39th, 49th) and a the first pick (No. 61) in the third round. They have no fourth round pick as it was sent to Minnesota in the Jason Pominville trade.
Word at the foot of Washington St. is that the Sabres want to get back into the first round. The target area has been loosely defined as the middle of the first round which would encompass, by definition, picks 11-20.
All of their picks are in play to jump back into the first round and if need be most any of the players without direct ties to Murray could be in the mix as well.
The player list might include F, Luke Adam, G, Matt Hackett, as well as defensemen D, Chad Ruwhedel who are all restricted free agents. Young roster players like F Marcus Foligno and D Jamie McBain, who are also RFA's, and G, Jhonas Enroth could be on the move as well.
None of the aforementioned would get you into the first round alone, but packaged with a second-rounder or two, it might be enough to get you into the mid-lower portion of it.
Probably the most interesting name floating around is that of veteran defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. There may be at least a team or two that would take a long, hard look at acquiring him as well. Ehrhoff with a second rounder or two would have the most value for a move up.
Even if they fail to crack that 11-20 range, the Sabres will still have assets to get into the lower first round.
Here are a few scenarios where the Sabres could move back into the first round. A small range is given as to where they might move to with a prospect they might be looking to draft. There's also potential trade partner within that range and what assets they might be looking for to get the deal done.
Although a move into and around the top-10 would be ideal, it's probable that those teams will look to keep the pick and draft a quality player.
The best place to start may be in the 14-17 range and the player they might be looking at is Dylan Larkin.
Larkin is a 6'1" 190 lb. C/LW (that may project out as a LW in the NHL) who scored 31 goals and 56 points as a second line center behind 2015 draft eligible Jack Eichel.
The speedy forward is considered one of the best skaters in the draft and creates a lot of space using that speed and quickness. Larkin also is a pretty heady player.
Said USNTDP coach Danton Cole, "He has the offence, can score and skate, but he's also learned the little subtleties needed to play the center position," Cole said. "He's taken an unbelievable mature approach; kind of an NHL-repertoire approach to practices and games. He's training to be really good at it and his progress has been great.
He's probably one of the best skaters we've had come through in a long time but he's also diligent; he's interested in his defensive zone. He wants to be a Steve Yzerman-type player."
Larkin plans on attending the University of Michigan where he'll be teaming up with Sabres prospect and Big-10 Freshman of the Year, JT Compher (2013, 35th overall.)
With the amount of players that Murray needs to sort through over the next year or two, adding a college commit creates time and space and he'll be moving some quantity for quality.
Teams with the picks in that range: Dallas 14th; Detroit 15th, Columbus 16th; Philadelphia 17th.
Dance partner: Detroit. The Red Wings have been looking at Vancouver d-man Alexander Edler for a while. In that light they may be comfortable with Ehrhoff. They could also recoup the second round pick they sent to Nashville in the David Legwand trade.
The Wings keep pumping out prospects from an deep, seemingly endless well. What they haven't been able to do is replace the retired Niklas Lidstrom. Not that Ehrhoff would do that, but he could be that #2/3, all-situations d-man with powerplay acumen who will help replace the HOF'er by committee.
Detroit is also a place that Ehrhoff, who has a limited NTC, would (should) look favorably upon.
In the 21-24 range, MODO forward Adrian Kempe should pique the interest of the Sabres brass and may be the most likely target for the team in a trade-up scenario.
Kempe has size (6'2", 185 lbs) and can skate very well. He plays the game with intensity and speed.
"He's a big, strong, bullish forward who can play center or wing," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He likes to drive hard for the net, using his strength and skating to his advantage. He plays the body and is aggressive when forechecking. He has a good defensive game for a player with his offensive skills; mobile, solid and strong."
If the Sabres make a move for Kempe it will be anything but a shot in the dark as Kempe played with Sabres prospects Linus Ullmark and Gustav Possler this season in Sweden. Buffalo's European scouts would have plenty of time to watch while checking in on their own.
Although 5 goals and 11 points looks rather week one must remember that Kempe played against men as a 17 yr. old all year.
And he's also one of the youngest players in this year's draft
Teams with the picks: St. Louis 21st, Pittsburgh 22nd, Colorado 23rd, Anaheim 24th
Dance partner: Pittsburgh. The Pens have traded away a lot of prospects during their Cup-window and need to replenish their system. The big club was done under, in part, due to a average defense and some weakness up front and their window, although still pretty wide open, is beginning to close a bit. Immediate help and extra picks could help on both levels.
Ehrhoff would fit into the equation to help on defense as would Foligno on the wing. One of those two plus a pick or two might make it work.
Power forward Nikita Scherbak is probably my favorite player in the mid-lower first round area and could be a steal in the 26-29 range.
Scherbak has the size, skating and skill plus an animated enthusiasm reminiscent of Alexander Ovechkin.
The kid can really handle the puck and when it comes to shooting or passing, he'll do either with a strong sense of conviction.
A talent like him with average NHL size should go higher than this and it's possible that "The Russian Factor" is coming into play.
Scherbak is 6'1" 175 lbs with plenty of room to fill out. He's slick with the puck whether darting towards the net or slithering a feed to a waiting teammate. He lead all WHL rookies last season with 28 goals and 78 points.
Sabresprospects.com's Kris Baker wrote that Scherbak made a strong adjustment to his first year in the CHL with "strong skating, intelligence and willingness to learn the two-way game."
Scherbak has chutzpah, but he has the skill and grit to back it up. Continued Baker, "Scherbak’s grit and versatility produced some dominant stretches, and being the marquee player for a Saskatoon team that was near the bottom of the standings all season long afforded him opportunities to adapt to different situations, often against the opposition’s top defensive pair. Scherbak sees the ice extremely well, and as the season progressed, the Russian used his size and acceleration more and more to dig in and take the puck to the net himself."
Teams with the picks: Montreal 26th, Chicago 27th, NY Rangers, LA Kings
Dance Partner: Montreal. Les Habitants can use some size and a player like Marcus Foligno might prove to be very interesting to them. They also may be looking to move the salary of a player like Daniel Briere who's in the last year of his deal and could be bought out.
With plenty of assets to work with and plenty of targets, all Murray needs is a dance partner to get the team back into the first round.
June 27th and the days leading up to it should be a pretty fun time for Sabres fans.