Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 Buffalo Sabres Draft Recap--Mind officially blown

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The 2015 NHL Draft weekend was a mind-blowing experience for Buffalo Sabres fans, there's just no other way to put it, as some wheeling and dealing and a second-overall pick combined to make for a heightened sense of awareness and the promises of a very bright future beginning as early as next season.

Back in early February, the team was looking at three first round and two second round selections in the draft to go along with four other picks in rounds 4-7. On February 11th, Sabres GM Tim Murray traded one of the first rounders away in the blockbuster for top-line LW, Evander Kane. On Friday morning news came out that Murray traded another of his first rounders for 23 yr. old Ottawa goalie, Robin Lehner and just after they made Jack Eichel the second-overall pick in the 2015 draft, commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Sabres had sent the 31st overall pick to Colorado as a part the Ryan O'Reilly blockbuster trade.

Other pieces were involved in all of the trades but when the Sabres settled in and around their draft table after the trade for O'Reilly, they were now looking at five selections and they'd be waiting until the middle part of the second round on Saturday to get their amateur scouts rolling.

Monday, June 29, 2015

On the Robin Lehner trade and why, at worst it may be only a footnote

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

What is the cost for a Wayne Gretzky rookie card? Or Mickey Mantle rookie? Or even that of an Evander Kane rookie?
The book value is one thing, but the person buying it is the one who will put the true value on it.
Much has been made concerning Tim Murray’s wheeling and dealing as Buffalo Sabres GM. He’s been on the job for less than 18 months yet has managed to pull off three blockbuster trades. One of them, the Ryan Miller to St. Louis trade, looked to have already been in the works when he came on board, but the two other ones—Kane/Tyler Myers In February and Ryan O’Reilly at the 2015 NHL draft—were all on him.
Both trades done exclusively by Murray ended up looking like hockey trades with both sides ending up pieces that they wanted and/or needed. Can one claim they got the better of the deal? After four months or less the answer is indubitably, no.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sabres draft-day makeover: Jack Eichel, Robin Lehner, Ryan O'Reilly

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

There was a time earlier this calendar year when Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray had three first round picks heading into the 2015 NHL draft and five total stretching from the second overall down to pick No. 51. Then came the blockbuster trade for Evander Kane on February 11th that saw one of those picks, the lower of the two not Buffalo's, head to Winnipeg.

Even so, he still landed in Fort Lauderdale armed with two first-rounders (Nos. 2 and 21) and two second-rounders (Nos. 31 and 51) in what's being considered as a very deep 2015 draft. Odds were slim that he wasn't going to use all those picks as the Sabres had accumulated many picks and prospects over the last few years. When he came on board 18 months ago, the Sabres had already been stocking their cupboard and he added to that with his moves around the 2014 trade deadline. He continued adding at the 2015 deadline saying, "our time is the future."

That future came pretty quick. After finishing in 30th place and finding out where they would be from the draft lottery the theme went from "our time is the future" to the future begins now.

Murray gave us a preview of what might happen on the draft floor during the first round. At a pre-draft press gathering held at First Niagara Center he said he was looking to do something with the 21st pick--either move up or use it for a young veteran. One of his ideal scenarios would have "a team call and they're having problems with one of their players, that are having problems with their cap situation," he would say that day, "and they offer us a 23- or 24-year-old top-six forward or top-three defenseman or No. 1 goalie, and they'd be willing to take [the 21st pick] for that."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 NHL Mock Draft

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

1. Edmonton Oilers--C, Connor McDavid. New Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, enlists indie-alt band King Missile to update Jesus is way cool to McJesus is even cooler. FBI agents contact RCMP in regards to thousands of pounds of palm fronds taken from Florida presumably headed for Jerusalem Rexall Place.
2. Buffalo Sabres--C, Jack Eichel. Eichel was seen at Mickey Rats Beach Club chugging what looked like an iced tea. In response to all the McDavid talk, he slams his red solo cup and with a snarl, barks out "Edmonton, I'm comin' for ya!!! You too Babcock!"
3. Arizona--C, Dylan Strome. Tough choice between D, Noah Hanifin and Strome save for the fact that they already have a budding superstar d-man in Oliver Ekman Larsson. Bettman prevents owner Andrew Barroway from wearing a rhinestone studded leisure suit with the Yotes logo on it.
4. Toronto--D, Noah Hanifin. New head coach Mike Babcock will know just what to do with the smooth-skating, 6'2" lb. 200 defenseman. Was overheard asking Brendan Shanahan "who the hell is this Hyman guy again?"
5. Carolina--RW, Mitch Marner. Best player on the board which is way cool. Marner can man the right side with Jeff Skinner on the left and Eric Staal at center while Elias Lindholm can take his rightful place as No. 2 RW. That is, of course, unless Skinner is traded.
6. NJ Devils--C/LW Pavel Zacha. Devils need a lot and best place to start is with 6'3" 210 lb. powerforward Zacha who can acclimate himself to the Devils and the NHL under the guidance of fellow countryman, Patrick Elias.
7. Philadelphia Flyers--LW, Lawson Crouse. Ed Snider meddling-alert! Snider somehow mistook Lawson for LeClaire and is caught drooling over the thought of a powerforward prospect like Crouse on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jacob Voracek. Passing on BPA makes Columbus very happy.
8. Columbus Blue Jackets--D, Ivan Provorov. GM Jarmo Kekalainen does cartwheels to the stage throwing barbs at Mike Reilly all the way. After selecting Provorov, Kekalainen yells, "Zdravstvuj!, Nikita Filatov. Hope you're doing well! Wherever you are!"
9. San Jose Sharks--D, Zach Werenski. Sharks think long and hard about trading out, extending streak to nine years without a top-10 pick but then decide they should end that streak, which coincides with another streak that just ended--10 consecutive playoff appearances until missing them last year.
10. Colorado Avalanche--RW Mikko Rantanen. GM Joe Sakic fights of constant intrusions from coach Patrick Roy to trade this pick for Mikhail Grigorenko and selects the replacement for both Alex Tanguay and, for all intents and purposes, Ryan O'Reilly.
11. Florida Panthers--RW, Timo Meier. In the fifth year of Dale Tallon's rebuild, the Cat's prospect-pool is pretty full save for a hole on wing created by the defection of Zack Hyman. Meier fills the need and is BPA as well. People are still wondering who this Hyman guy is.
12. Dallas Stars--D, Gabriel Carlsson. Off the board pick alert! GM Jim Nill is still adjusting to picking this high in the draft. Has visions of Carlsson with the poise and maturity of a young Niklas Lidstrom. Head Coach Lindy Ruff is reminded of Henrik Tallinder and Bill Hajt. It's enough to make the Stars reach for Carlsson.
13. LA Kings--C, Matthew Barzal. Kings forward ranks are stacked with talent, but Barzal drops to them and there's nothing they can do about it. GM Deam Lombardi has a huge smile on his face as he knows LA won't see a pick this high for at least another five years.
14. Boston Bruins--C, Kyle Connor. In an effort to up-stage Boston native Jack Eichel, Connor chugs a pint of Guinness but instead of blurting out "Jack, I'm comin' for ya," he throws up. Seems as if Brad Marchand spiked it with Jameson.
15. Calgary Flames--C, Travis Konecny. GM Brian Burke brings truculence to Alberta, grabs an aggressive Konecny and promises to beat Brendan Shanahan up for taking over his throne on Mount Maple Leaf.
16. Edmonton Oilers (from Pittsburgh)--D, Jakub Zboril. Oilers fans are giddy with excitement after Chiarelli's pick of defenseman Zboril and start a palm branch fight that draws the attention of the FBI and RCMP.
17. Winnipeg Jets--RW, Nick Merkley. Merkley is placed right atop the prospects at right wing. Former Sabre Joel Armia is ticked-off, scores 25 goals in 25 games for the Moose before being called up to Winnipeg.
18. Ottawa Senators--D, Thomas Chabot. Sabres GM Murray was told by his new assistant coach uncle Terry Murray that Murray's other uncle and Murray's brother Bryan was going after Chabot. Bill Murray chimed in with, "That's a fact, Jack!"
19. Detroit Red Wings--RW, Denis Guryanov. Former Wings head coach Mike Babcock once asked, "Who's gonna replace Pav [el Datsyuk]?" His fomrer GM Ken Holland replies with "Dylan Larkin, Gustav Nyquist and, now, Guryanov." Holland was also overheard saying, "No, Mike, we don't want Phaneuf....noooo...we don't want Tyler Bozak or Phil Kessel either."
20. Minnesota Wild--D, Jeremy Roy. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher beginning to line up replacements for Ryan Suter who just turned 30 this year. Hey, it's never too early. Thomas Vanek is super-psyched thinking it's former linemate Derek Roy and plunks 100-big on him scoring 40 goals.
21. Buffalo Sabres--D, Oliver Kylington. Murray says he's disappointed that he was at 21 and not 20 saying that zero in this case is better than one, which is better than two, and reiterates he'd rather be in the middle of nowhere scouting than attending events like this. Tells Kylington, "no worry, my boy, we got your back, take your time."
22. Washington Capitals--LW, Evgeny Svechinkov. GM Brian McClellan and the Caps are out to prove that the "one or none Russian on a team" philosophy is ridiculous. Denies rumor that they talked with Vladmir Putin after his eight-goal outburst last month.
23. Vancouver Canucks--RW, Michael Spacek. The 'Nucks land a right wing to bolster a deficiency. GM Jim Benning, who was in Buffalo when the team was after namesake Jaroslav, finally gets himself a "Spatcho."
24. Toronto (from Nashville)--G, Mackenzie Blackwood. Leafs throw everybody a curve by jumping on Blackwood. Team Pres. Shanahan feels a kinship with the Thunder Bay, ON native in that their names flow well together (say them together a couple of times.) Feels Blackwood's calm demeanor for the piranha infestation that is the Toronto media.
25. Winnipeg Jets (from Buffalo)--C/RW, Colin White. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thrilled with White dropping to them. It's a consoling pick for fans who just went through the Kane saga as he's Kane's opposite in one definite and obvious way.
26. Montreal Canadiens--D, Brandon Carlo. Les Habitants have the look of Lilliputians in the NHL so they decide to add a 6'5" 196 lb. defenseman to the mix. Carlo immediately takes French lessons, says his dream is to coach the Canadiens one day. Nobody knows what to make of it.
27. Anaheim Ducks--LW, Paul Bittner. GM Bob Murray is glad he's away from the "Murray-madness" in and around Buffalo, yells out "go big or go home!" before choosing the 6'4" 204 lb. Bittner.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (from NY Rangers)--G, Ilya Samsonov. How much easier can it get? What they liked in Andrei Vasilevskiy they'll find in Samsonov who's three years younger.
29. Philadelphia Flyers (from Tampa Bay)--LW, Jake DeBrusk--Hextall is still mad at himself letting Flyers Chairman Snider talk him into passing on Provorov for Crouse. Yet doubles down the pick of Debrusk, a competitive left-winger with a husky last name.
30. Arizona Coyotes (from Chicago)--C/RW Jack Roslovic. AGM Darcy Regier thinks he's found his Zemgus Girgensons in Roslovic and didn't even need to trade up for him. Team still suffering from "No-Jack syndrome" after losing the lottery but gets another Jack.


31. Buffalo Sabres--RW, Jeremy Bracco. Owner Terry Pegula is trying to turn Buffalo into the Center of USA Hockey. US braggadocio is generally condemned by their chill, Canadian counterparts and one of the main reasons Bracco falls. Pegula doesn't care. Says he wants more of it and has been yelling, "McDavid who?" throughout the draft proceedings thus far. Is ready to slam a beer with Eichel before wife Kim steps in and slams one for both of them.

Other mocks and who they have the Sabres taking 21st-overall after Jack Eichel is selected by Buffalo with the second-overall pick:

Mike Morreale, nhl.com: D, Oliver Kylington
Adam Kimelman, nhl.com:  RW, Nicolas Merkley
Kevin Allen, USA Today:  D, Kylington
Kyle Woodlief, redlinereport/USA Today:  D, Kylington
Brendan Ross, McKeen's:  D, Jakub Zboril
Craig Button, TSN:  D, Kylington
Damien Cox, sportsnet.ca:  LW, DeBrusk
Gare Joyce, sportsnet.ca:  G, Ilya Samsonov
Sam Cosentino, sportsnet.com:  LW, Jake DeBrusk
Jeff Marek, sportsnet.com:  C, Jansen Harkins
Michael Finewax, rotoworld:  G, Samsonov
Mike Zeisberger, Toronto Sun:  D, Kylington
Nicholas Goss, NESN:  LW, Evgeny Svechnikov
Minnesota Examiner:  D, Kylington
DraftSite.com:  LW, DeBrusk
csnne.com:  LW, Svechnikov

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--Sabres Mock Draft

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Barring a trade for the likes of Ryan O'Reilly, Cam Talbot, Eddie Lack, Logan Couture, or whomever else tweety-bird world has the Buffalo Sabres trading for these days, GM Tim Murray, and his band will hit the BB&T floor in Sunrise, FL with four of the top 51 picks in the NHL entry draft.

Which is a good thing as the 2015 draft is real strong on two fronts.  Not only is it most definitely top-heavy--lead by franchise centers Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel--but it's plenty deep. Kyle Woodlief of USA Today and the RedLine Report was on WGR550 yesterday morning drawing some parallels from drafts past. "That draft in 2004 with [Alexander] Ovechkin and [Evgeni] Malkin," he told host Howard Simon, "that was a pretty special group. You look at what those two guys have gone on to achieve in the NHL, they're both two of the top-five forwards on the planet these days. It's tough to get better than a draft like that from the top-two."

"[2015] is a special draft not only because of the top-end, marquis talent," continued Woodlief, "but also the depth of this year's crop. You go back, 2013 was a deep crop, 2003 was a very deep crop and this crop is as deep as we've seen in the past decade. There are players we have ranked in the mid-40's in this year's draft who'd be in the mid-20's on our rankings last year."

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--Dilemna in goal heading into the draft?

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The Buffalo Sabres head to Sunrise, FL for the 2015 NHL Draft with a loaded cupboard in a few positions. After they (presumably) pick Jack Eichel second-overall, the center position will be top-to-bottom the deepest and most skilled in the system. They have plenty of size and depth on the right side as well as a number of players with top-six potential. Although they have plenty of size and grit on the left side, once you get past the top-two in the organization it gets pretty thin in the skill category. No worries, though, many of the centers they've been drafting since 2012 can easily slide over to the left side.

Behind the blueline the defense-corps is young and talented and although organizational depth has taken a bit of a hit, the procession of quality youngins headed up to the big-club in the near future is rock-solid for the next few years.

The big "worry" for everyone right now seems to be between the pipes as the general consensus is that the Sabres don't have a true NHL starter in their system--from the big club on down. It's a very puzzling notion, worrying about the goaltending situation for a team that has come off of back-to-back last place finishes. Nearly every hockey person has the Sabres in desperate need of goaltengind and will have them sending a first-round pick-plus for some teams back-up and/or will have them reaching for a goalie in the upcoming draft. Yet they'll be doings so knowing full-well that the goaltenders, and knowing where they'll end up during their career can generally be described as the "riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." And drafting one is the crapshoot within the crapshoot know as the entry draft.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--Of Timo Meier and Denis Guryanov

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

"I think there's a consensus of what players will be available No. 3 through No. 10, but in what order is the big question. From that No. 11 pick on, that's where we'll do our homework and make our money."
--Greg Royce, Buffalo Sabres director of amateur scouting

Greg Royce has 18 seasons under his belt as a scout for NHL clubs having spent six seasons in Ottawa as an amateur scout under Tim Murray. After Murray got settled in as the new Sabres GM one of his first front office moves was to bring Royce in to head his amateur scouting department. "Greg has a good eye for young talent and I have full confidence in his ability to identify amateur talent," Murray told NHL.com's Mike Morreale last week. "He had tremendous success working in the trenches as a scout when we were together with the Ottawa Senators and I know that success will now translate to the Sabres."

The tandem will sit down in Sunrise, FL this Friday with four of the first 51 picks (Nos. 2, 21, 31, 51) in the draft barring any trades beforehand. Murray had sat down last week in a pre-draft press gathering saying pick-21 was in play. His desired return is high and probably unattainable but he's in a situation where all of his options are favorable. "[If] a team calls and they offer us a 23- or 24-year-old top-six forward or top-three defenseman or No. 1 goalie, and they'd be willing to take [the 21st pick] for that," he said at the pre-draft presser. "[it] would be optimal for us, [yet]the chance of either scenario happening, right now for me, is slim-to-none."

If there is a trade to be consummated involving the 21st-overall pick, chances are it will be something Murray does to move up in the draft.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--A move into the top-10?

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Dependent upon a team's needs, there's quite the array of players to choose from in the next tier of prospects after Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are taken with the first two picks in the 2015 NHL Draft. "When we sat down, we started our list at No. 3," said Dan Marr director of NHL Central Scouting on WGR's Howard Simon Show earlier this month. "And from 3-10," he continued, "you're getting some pretty special players."

The general consensus is that atop Marr's group of "pretty special players" are (in no particular order) Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner who are almost certain to be taken with the 3rd through 5th-overall picks. Although Marr places them with the rest of his group those three constitute a valuable sub-tier of highly-skilled, very talented players who could conceivably hit the NHL as teenagers. They're building blocks that neither Arizona, Toronto or Carolina will part with easily.

After the projected top-5 in the draft, the next five invariably include powerful winger Lawson Crouse, big, two-way winger Mikko Rantanen, centers Pavel Zacha and Matthew Barzal and defenseman Ivan Provorov. And if you wanted to stretch Marr's group to 11, there's Michigan Wolverine defenseman Zach Werenski who's been weaving in and out of the top-10.

Some, like Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com/sabres.com and Phil Myre, of International Scouting Services, have even stretched this group down to the 13th/14th slot. But if you're a team looking to trade up to fill a need, and this may be the year to do so, it's probably in your best interest to get into the top-10.

Buffalo Sabres 2015 Draft Preview--In search of a dance partner

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The Buffalo Sabres are once again headed into the NHL Draft with multiple picks in the first two rounds--Nos. 2, 21, 31, 51--in what's said to be a deep 2015 draft class. And, once again, Sabres GM Tim Murray has expressed a desire to move up from the 21st slot.

"Tim Murray says No. 21 pick in next month's NHL draft is in play," tweeted Damien Cox last month, "wants to move up or trade it for another young player." Although this year's second overall pick is the "easiest decision" he said he'll make as a GM, Murray has some work to do to get what he wants out of his other first-rounder (NYI, from Thomas Vanek trade.)

It was a train of thought was confirmed by Murray himself on Thursday. When asked at a pre-draft presser about his plans for the 21st-overall pick he reiterated his desire to move up while also possibly revealing, through a Freudian slip, what he might be looking for. "I want to sit there at the table and I want to see which way the draft is going, and a lot of drafts a certain [defenseman] starts to fall. We may pick up on that and move up from 21 for a certain guy."

That "certain guy" would be a prospect he feels is only a year or two away from the NHL. At this year's draft, a player like that might be found in a second-tier of prospects that begins with No. 3 and stretches to around the 10th overall. The consensus drop-off point after that is right around No.21 where the Sabres sit with their second first round pick. For the players in that group, development will take a little longer--three years or so away from the NHL--and that may little too long an incubation period for Murray's liking.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ramp-up to the 2015 NHL Draft Pt. 5--Centers of attention

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

There's an old adage in baseball that ties strength up the middle to success. With the Chicago Blackhawks and the Golden State Warriors putting an end to the hockey and basketball seasons, respectively, perhaps it's fitting we use that analogy as the boys of summer are really all we have right now from a competition standpoint (no disrespect to the FIFA women.)

Strength behind the plate, at shortstop and second base and in center field is at the heart of the defense while in hockey goaltending, top-pairing defense and No. 1 center is an NHL comparable. It's a combination the Hawks were built upon and their success has the hockey world linking "dynasty" to this group. Winning three Stanley Cups in six years is about as dynastic as you can get in a salary-cap world.

Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville got the goaltending from Corey Crawford during their Cup run this year while he played his top defenseman, Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, a ridiculous 31 minutes per game during the playoffs. However, hockey being the team sport that it is, there were contributions up and down the lineup throughout their run from the likes of d-partner Brent Seabrook, and forwards Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw, to name a few.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ramp-up to the 2015 NHL Draft Pt. 4--Size, grit and knuckles at LW

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Unlike the right wingers in the system where there's plenty of talent and depth in the pipeline, the Buffalo Sabres are very thin at left wing in the talent department, at least near-future. There's size and grit, edginess and some speed, but overall the left side pale's in comparison to their counterparts on the right.

That being said, going into next season the Sabres have themselves a bonafide top-line LW in Evander Kane which is something they don't have on the right side. The former Atlanta Thrasher/Winnipeg Jet under contract for three more seasons. Buffalo also has a top six left-winger in three-time, 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson who signed to a five-year, free agent contract with the club in July, 2014. Those two sit atop the depth chart on the left side followed and are followed by 23 yr. old Marcus Foligno (2009, 104th-overall) and Nicolas Deslauriers, a converted defenseman who came to Buffalo in the Brayden McNabb to LA Kings swap.

When you add in centers who can play the left side, like Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and others, they're solid at left wing on the big club, but the depth and talent-level in the pipeline is another story. It's an area that should get some attention come draft time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ramp-up to the 2015 NHL Draft Pt. 3-- RW size and depth

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

When Sabres GM Tim Murray traded RW prospect Joel Armia to the Winnipeg Jets as a part of the Tyler Myers/Evander Kane trade he traded away the most highly skilled winger in the system. Projections for the big Finn had him in the top-line/top-six category with "high-end scoring potential."

In looking at the prospects down the right side, there's size as well as plenty of all-around skill and depth, but the wow-factor of pure offensive upside--at least in the near-term--doesn't seem to be there at this juncture.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ramp-up to the 2015 NHL Draft Pt. 2--The d-pipeline

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

With the emergence of Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman and his dominant performance thus far in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the defenseman seems to be taking center stage in the NHL. And it's not just a matter of Hedman being matched up against a really good team with some top-notch players. The  6'6" 232 lb. native of Sweden has been at the fore of shutting down elite talent in the Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and his play has overshadowed the Blackhawk's two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith who, up until this series with the Lightning, was in serious consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy as this year's playoff MVP.

Perhaps were seeing a new era in the NHL where the defenseman is King of the Hill. Both Hedman and Keith are the complete package--two-way skill, speed and smarts--although the scary part about Hedman is that he does it five inches taller and 40 lbs. heavier than Keith. Not to be dismissed in the series either is Hawks d-man Brent Seabrook, a big, strong all-around d-man with offensive acumen and a bit of a bite to his game.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Call of the desert wild. Two centers for a Yotes team that's weak down the middle

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Sportsnet's Elliott Friedman via his 30 Thoughts has the third and fourth overall picks of the NHL possibly in play this year. Arizona sits in the third spot while the Toronto Maple Leafs are right behind Coyotes at No. 4.

Friedman quotes Leafs co-GM (should they put "interim" in the title as well?) Kyle Dubas as saying (via the Toronto Star) "it's something we would definitely look at." Dubas then qualifies it by saying, “If someone else was adamant about a player, we’re pretty comfortable with the players in that (4-6) cluster," meaning they're probably not interested in going any lower than No. 6.

As it stands, the Leafs have two first-rounders (No. 24 from Nashville) but no second-round picks and according to Dubas, “We need to be acquiring as many draft pick assets as we can, as many prospects as we can. "If there was something that made sense, we’d be open to listening and having some thorough discussions on the fourth pick.”

Ramp-up to the 2015 NHL Draft Pt. 1--Goaltending Prospects in the system

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Over the course of three drafts a franchise is given a total of 21 draft picks in seven rounds by the NHL and dependent upon where said franchise is on the food chain they will either have more or less picks. Those atop the chain gunning for the Stanley Cup will have fewer picks as they bolster their roster with specific players via trade-deadline rental players. The rental players will come from those teams at the bottom of the food chain in need of building blocks.

The Buffalo Sabres have been in rebuild-mode since 2012 and have made 36 selections over the course of the last three drafts. In 2012 they picked eight players, in 2013 they picked 11 and last season they left the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA with nine. In essence Buffalo was able to pack five years worth of picks into three drafts.

More impressive than that, and the main reason that many media outlets have Buffalo with the No. 1 pool of prospects, is that they had five first-round picks from 2012-14. To augment that, the team was able to add seven second-rounders to the pool. All totaled, from the first-overall pick in those drafts until the Sabres last pick in the second rounds, Buffalo brought in 12 of the top 145 prospects or about 8% of the prospect pool.

Monday, June 8, 2015

HarborCenter makes it easy for Combine success in Buffalo. On-ice testing in the future?

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The Buffalo Sabres held their own scouting combine for the first time in 2011, just after Terry Pegula took over the team. The idea was to augment the information the team gathered at the NHL Combine by adding their own tests which included on-ice workouts. The Sabres brought in a few dozen prospects that year and tested them over a four-day span.

The Sabres Draft Combine was an idea the scouting department had for a while but due to budgetary constraints of the previous owner never came to fruition. At his introductory press conference in February, 2011 Pegula stated that "there is no salary cap in the NHL on scouting budgets and player development budgets. I plan on increasing...our budgets" and he followed that up four months later with the inaugural Buffalo Sabres Draft Combine.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Bulletin board material, Jack Eichel tells Sabres he'll be better than McSavior

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The Buffalo Sabres are host to the NHL Scouting Combine this year and also have the second overall pick in the upcoming draft. They could've blown off the interview process when it came to prospect Jack Eichel as it's all but 100% certain that they'll take him with their second-overall pick. Some would say, why bother?

They did have a chat Eichel but passed on interviewing consensus 1st-overall pick, Connor McDavid. Perhaps they talked to him enough during the 2014-15 season as he played 90 minutes away in Erie, PA and even played in an OHL game at First Niagara Center, home to the Buffalo Sabres. But GM Tim Murray told Mike Schopp and the Bulldog on WGR550 earlier this evening that they hadn't interviewed McDavid and that it wasn't in their plans.

He also said that Eichel "would have been fine" with a lone Sabres interview, but other teams were interested in sitting down with him and "out of respect for [those] teams," he ended up doing some eight to 10 of them. The Combine interview process is that it wouldn't be the players choice as to who they would interview with, it would be the teams.

We Sabres fans, of course, don't care who he interviewed with or what was asked. We're interested how his interview with the Sabres went.

"He was great," Murray told Schopp and the Bulldog. "He came into our interview and I think he knew it was an important interview. He was ready, he was prepared. He was quick. He was sharp.

"He was impressive."

That's good to know. Just as the Sabres could've blown this off, so too could Eichel have just taken the whole thing for granted. It's impressive that he took the interview seriously enough to come in prepared.

But there was more to it than just questions about his game and what he thought of Buffalo and/or chicken wings. We found out something about Eichel that not only told us he's ready to go, but that he also has a little chip on his shoulder.

Schopp brought up an article in today's Boston Globe by Fluto Shinzawa concerning Eichel who comes from North Chelmsford, MA, which is a suburb of Boston. Shinzawa writes about the city of Buffalo and its bad-luck, bridesmaid sports teams while mentioning that Eichel had a taste of second place after his Boston University Terriers lost to Providence for the NCAA Hockey Championship this year. It's a good piece. Shinzawa is objective in his observations of Buffalo's history while sharing in the optimism that emanates from the Canal Side area of downtown Buffalo.

He noted that Eichel "got a preview of his future workplace" and during the interview process with the Sabres Shinzawa said that, "Eichel told his questioners, in a respectful but confident manner, that he would be better than Connor McDavid, his Canadian foil."

Schopp forwarded that tidbit to Murray to which the GM responded, "He said that. I think he should say that. Why not say that?

"I think he believes it. The way he played this season, we called it a two-horse race (otherwise known as McEichel) all year. So why should he not believe [he's better than McDavid]? Why should he not believe his skill-set--the whole package, size, skating ability, puck skills, hockey sense--the whole package as I said. He's confident in it and he backed up that confidence with his play this year and had a tremendous year. So, I don't know why he wouldn't believe he's the best player in the draft."

Like Chris "Bulldog" Parker said, a statement like that usually doesn't come from someone who will be playing anywhere other than in the NHL next season, to which Murray replied, "No, I can't imagine. If you believe you're the best guy in the draft and you can't wait to prove it, the NHL is where you go to prove it."


Can't wait for the season to begin.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Threre's more to the Sabres future than just presumed 2nd-overall pick, Jack Eichel

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Probable second-overall draft prospect Jack Eichel deserves all the press he gets. Let's get that out of the way right off the bat. Yet in saying that we need to remember that he's still only 18 years old and has a ton to learn on the ice. We Sabres fans also need to keep in mind that although it's a foregone conclusion that he will be drafted by the Buffalo Sabres later this month, he's still not in the Sabres organization yet.

Members of the Buffalo Sabres brass walked into First Niagara Center for the interview portion of the 2015 NHL Draft Combine and stuck to their agenda. They still went through the interview process with Eichel, just like they will do with presumed 1st-overall selection Connor McDavid and many of the 120 prospects in Buffalo for the Combine. Questions like, "what are your strengths and weaknesses?" and "Do you like Buffalo?" are some general ones. Those specific to Eichel included  "how did you feel about your year at Boston University and losing in the NCAA Final Four?" and "Do you need to go back and win that game again?" They're the parameters of the process and some of the things Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma delved into when discussing Eichel on WGR's Howard Simon Show this morning.

Bylsma would quickly qualify the Eichel-specific process by saying, "You ask those questions just like you would any other kid. Whatever the chances are in Vegas are that Eichel is not the second-overall pick (for Buffalo,) that's still a part of the conversation too."

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma with some thoughts on his top forwards

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

New Buffalo Sabres bench boss Dan Bylsma made his rounds with the media just after his hire, landing on Sportsnet's, Hockey Central. The  interview, which lasted over seven minutes ended up becoming the basis for one of Elliot Friedman's 30 Thoughts.

Friedman, like everyone else, is focused upon a Sabres' future featuring presumed second-overall draft pick Jack Eichel. And when he brought Evander Kane into the mix as playing on a line with Eichel, Friedman opened up a world of unicorns, rainbows and jujus to Sabres fans.

In his 30 Thoughts, Friedman quoted Bylsma as saying "(Eichel’s) power numbers are extremely good. His vertical, again from what we know, would be the second-best among the entire Sabres team. He generates is an enormous amount of power. The way he can accelerate, you don’t see someone do that every day.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NHL Combine represents plenty of opportunity for teams to talk trade. Mantha-watch is on

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

The talk surrounding the eventual departure of Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock invariably centered around which of the young players in the Wings system will be receive the torch from veterans Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

Young players like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are just beginning their NHL journeys having spent years with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins developing. Both look pretty impressive so far. The 25 yr. old Nyquist scored 55 goals in 139 games for Detroit over the last two seasons while Tatar (24 yrs. old) had 29 goals, including seven game-winners and nine on the powerplay, in 82 games for the Wings last season.

Detroit has a bevy forwards in their system who look like impact players in the future. Names like Teemu Pulkkinen, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi may soon be joining Nyquist, Tatar, Riley Shehan, Tomas Jurco and Danny DeKeyser as the future of the Red Wings.

And that group will probably be topped off by Dylan Larkin who, at just 18 yrs. old, is performing extremely well in the AHL playoffs for Grand Rapids. In five games he has three goals and two assists after joining the team following an impressive 2015 IIHF World Championship tournament for Team USA.

Babcock had asked the question, "Who's gonna replace Pav[el Datsyuk]? when contemplating his future with the organization. Larkin, it would seem, is at the head of the group and with the way the Wings draft and develop talent, any number of the players mentioned above might provide the answer.