Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Most scouts and draftniks look at the 2014 Draft as one that isn't particularly star-studded yet they invariably say that it's filled with many players that will be solid NHL contributors.
Those players expected to be NHL'ers come in a wide array of shapes and sizes. As "best player available" begins to give way to needs, teams will be able to look at their depth chart come the second round and be able to fill a need by grabbing a player whose skill level is similar to those around him.
The Buffalo Sabres need scoring up-front which they'll address in the first round mainly with either Sam Reinhart or Sam Bennett (or even Leon Draisaitl or Michael Dal Colle.)
Bennett came out on top here in the battle of the Sam's because of his speed, scoring touch and tenacious attitude. That's not to say that Reinhart is chopped liver, but as laid out previously, the Sabres have a Herculean task in front of them and Bennett seems like the type of player that will, in the words of Bruce Cockburn, "kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight."
The Sabres are also trying to move back into the first round.
My favorite player is Nikita Sherbak a winger who's expected to be drafted somewhere in the lower half of the first round. He's a strong skater who passes and shoots with a sense of authority. Sherbak also has chutzpah or a supreme self-confidence that's borne out of his innate skill and his child-like love for playing hockey.
At the top of the second round defenseman Anthony DeAngelo is an offensive defenseman the likes of which the Sabres haven't had since Brian Campbell was traded. He has a supreme skill level, an attitude that borders on cocky and can get that puck where it needs to go whether it be on the breakout or in the back of the net.
As we head into the middle of the second round, the Sabres probably won't have one or both of their 39th and 49th pick as those two will be currency to move back into the first round.
But, should they retain them, though, here are a couple of possibilities.
G, Alex Nedeljkovic
Nedeljkovic is from Parma, Ohio a suburb of Cleveland known more for it's pierogis than it is for producing hockey players. In fact, the area hasn't produced a draft pick since John Albert in 2007 (175th overall.)
Big goalies are the trend in the NHL these days and the only thing holding Nedeljkovic back from being a sure first rounder is his 6'0", 195 lb. frame.
The kid can play, though.
Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com said Nedeljkovic "carved himself out a reputation as a winner" and he was named the OHL Goaltender of the Year.
Nedeljkovic moves very well, has strong instincts for a developing play and finds the puck.
Although the Sabres have pretty good depth in net, they need to keep the system full.
Tabbing a goalie who may be considered the best in his class with one of three second round picks is a worthwhile venture.
F, Hunter Smith
As the NHL evolves away from the enforcer having a pugilist on the fourth line who can actually skate and contribute on a regular shift is becoming a bit of a commodity.
With many different sizes shapes and skill levels targeted for bottom-six duty in this draft, 6'7" 210 lb Hunter Smith has garnered some attention and is expected to go somewhere in the second round.
Smith had 16 goals and 24 points for the Oshawa Generals last year skating on their top line. He also had seven fights.
Although there may be many who balk at a "John Scott Jr." being selected with a second round pick, Smith may eventually make every Sabres fan happy. He plays a tough game and should he prove to be able to skate an the NHL level, he has enough on-ice awareness and offensive acumen (albeit somewhat limited) to be a quality role player for the team moving forward.