Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Tim Murray 2014 BPA Draft Show

Reprinted with permission from

Early on when Tim Murray was hired as the Buffalo Sabres general manager, he laid out a definitive procedure for rating prospects. It was a system that he had used previously with Ottawa and was based on a 1-7 grading range.

He was quite adamant that the scouting staff follow his system, one that had worked very well for him.

Murray is a no-nonsense kinda guy. He's also a take control kinda guy. And over the course of the last five months since his hire, he invariably talks in the first person when addressing questions about the Buffalo Sabres.

The just concluded 2014 NHL Draft is finished and it's hard not to think that this was Tim Murray's draft. Yes, when it came to the first round, the word out of Washington St. was that Sam Reinhart was the consensus No. 1 player on the Sabres list.

After that, it was the Tim Murray Show. From trying to trade three second rounders for a first rounder to an eventual trade with Washington that netted the team yet another draft pick, this draft was about Murray.

It was hard to pick out a specific direction Murray was headed towards at the draft other than an emphasis on forwards and maybe a higher compete level.

At the trade deadline he went after size, yet at the draft, the tallest player was 6'3" goalie Jonas Johansson.

No other player selected was taller than 6'1" with three players coming in at 5'11". And second round pick Brendan Lemieux was the only draft pick to top 200 lbs.

The Buffalo Sabres website touts Murray as placing "an emphasis on skill."

Sure, Reinhart has supreme skill, albeit mainly as a set-up man. After the first round yesterday, Murray talked about surrounding him with quality wingers yet with the first pick in the second round, he passed on 6'1" 181 lb. left winger Ivan Barbashev.

It was a curious move as the Sabres are in desperate need of scoring. In addition, their top-rated prospect pool (according to Hockey's Future) is weak on left wing. Their top left wing prospect is 5'10" Daniel Catenacci who had 10 goals and 10 assists in 76 games for the Rochester Americans last year.

Murray also passed on another left wing--Adrian Kempe who was playing for Modo of the Swedish Elite league.

According to Murray himself, he had the opportunity to trade with the Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings and move to No. 29. The cost was the 31st overall and something else which Murray never mentioned.

Kempe played on the same team as Linus Ullmark and Gustav Possler last season so the Sabres got a pretty good look at what he could do.

Although Kempe wasn't deemed worth moving two spots up for, the Kings felt his game was worth their first round pick.

Murray did follow a theme with a couple of his latter picks.

He spent their fifth and sixth rounders on two high school players--LW, Max Willman who went undrafted last year, and C, Christopher Brown. Both will stretch out the prospect pool as they won't need to be signed for four years or so.

Murray also stretched out the system with 7th round pick Victor Olofsson.

The 17 yr. old right winger split time between Modo Jr. and the big club last season. In 11 games with Modo of the Swedish Elite League, he failed to register a point.

Those were all curious moves but overall he balanced things out with a pretty solid selection in 3rd round pick Brycen Martin.

The 6'1" 195 lb. d-man from Swift Current is going through some growing pains as he adds more of a defensive posture to his offensive game. Central Scouting had him ranked as No. 26 on their list of North American skaters.

And although 2nd round pick of Vaclav Karabcek seemed to come out of nowhere and might initially be looked upon as a reach, Central Scouting had him rated at No. 41 back in April.

The Czech-born left winger who played for Gateineau of the QMJHL and is a "pure goal scorer" according to Hockey's Future.

They continue, "Karabacek excels at finding the open spots in the offensive zone and bulging the twine. Though not a dynamic skater, he uses his frame well to protect the puck and get into position to make a play. Still needing to round out his game, especially in his own end, Karabacek has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of his first season in North America."

About the only thing that can be drawn from the Sabres picks this year is that they seemed to stick to their chart and as players dropped to them, they snatched them up.

Although Murray failed to get back into the first round, he did manage to land some first-round talent in the second round.

Both Lemieux, Martin and Eric Cornel (No. 44) were ranked as late first rounders.

Cornel had 25 goals for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL last season. Central Scouting had him as the 25th ranked North American Skater.

Assistant General Manager Kevin Devine said it best when he said that services like Central Scouting and ISS are pretty much a scouting department not unlike an NHL team has.

Their opinions are based upon the data their scouts compile over months and years.

The Sabres have a very large scouting department headed by a GM and AGM who have scouting backgrounds.

They have amateur scouts watching the present draft eligible prospects as well as scouts looking exclusively at prospect for the following year.

They have a good presence overseas as well as part-time scouts dedicated to high school players.

Some of the moves Murray made at his first draft as head honcho may have been questionable and some of the picks may have been head scratchers to us layman. As of right now he could be looked upon as a somewhat inconsistent rookie with all the tools to be a top GM.

With that in mind, you still must respect the experience of their scouting department. And if they stuck to their list, ya gotta love their commitment to their system.

This was a tough draft with very little top-end talent. Most draft "experts" looked at is at heavy with NHL'ers who in the least will be serviceable players in the bottom-half of a team's depth chart.

We won't know for few more years just how well Murray did this year. But we do know that the foundation laid by Devine over the course of the last two drafts may give the organization some wiggle room in this draft as our attention is now focused towards next year.

The 2015 draft is said to be talented and deep and the Sabres have three first round picks next year.

As we allow the 2014 draft to drift from our focus and as we start licking our chops for next year's draft, about the only thing that we might be to wrap our head around is that Murray is definitely in the driver's seat and that BPA is what he's riding for now.

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