For the past two drafts the Buffalo Sabres have been laying a pretty good foundation for the future.
The 2012 draft was a good haul as six of the eight players drafted that year are signed with the club.
Twenty year old Zemgus Girgensons will be heading into his second NHL season and fellow first-rounder Mikhail Grigorenko will be in his third season with the club. After bouncing around, Grigorenko will be settled in to Rochester to continue his development.
Three other 2012 draftees--D, Jake McCabe (44th overall,) F, Justin Kea (73rd) and D, Brady Austin (193rd)--will begin in Rochester this season having signed their entry-level contracts.
Goalie Linus Ullmark (163rd) is on a sliding ELC and will remain in Sweden for another year before coming to North America next season.
And if this off-season is any indication, the 2013 draft class may be even stronger.
World Junior Development Camps concluded late last week as five countries gave the invite to select players to compete against their peers.
More evaluation will take place throughout the first part of the upcoming season, but this was an opportunity for invitees to make a strong first impression.
The Sabres had a large presence at the camps. Between the US, Canada, and Sweden, the Sabres had a total of nine prospects invited, five of which were from Buffalo's 2013 class.
The U.S. invited forwards JT Compher (35th,) Connor Hurley (38th,) and Sean Malone (159th) along with D, Anthony Florentino (143rd) while Canada tabbed F, Nicolas Baptiste (69th) for its camp.
Two other from that draft class should be in Montreal and Toronto this December as well.
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov (16th) is a lock for the Russian squad. He stayed home while the team evaluated other players. While Swedish forward Gustav Possler (130th) is still nursing an injury, the same one that kept him out of the Sabres Development Camp in July, he should be in the mix for team Sweden.
Granted, not all will make the tourney, but it's still a pretty impressive group.
Some players with the inside track:
- Baptiste had a strong showing for Canada and should he continue to play well this season, he'll be skating on the Canadian team.
- Compher was on his way to making the U.S. squad last year before taking a shot to the leg for the Michigan Wolverines. He had a strong camp and barring injury should be a lock.
- Florentino worked his way up the depth chart after entering very low. The 6'1" 210 lb. defenseman got some regular playing time and was a sound defensive presence in his two games. He also registered an assist.
Put the two drafts together and those two classes are providing a deep pool of players with which to form a strong nucleus.
Sprinkle in some skill from previous drafts, a 2014 2nd overall pick in Sam Reinhart and three first-rounders in a deep 2015 class and the Sabres have the makings of a pretty strong, young core moving forward.