Friday, June 30, 2017

Defense. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Plus, lookin' for another top-six LW

Published by, 6-29-2017

From Edmonton to Buffalo moves altering the course of the Buffalo Sabres upcoming season, but the big move new GM Jason Botterill needs to make to really get things rolling probably won't happen this off season.

Defense, defense, defense.

The Sabres don't exactly have a top-five defense-corps in the league which leaves them looking to upgrade, especially filling a top-pairing need next to RHD, Rasmus Ristolainen. Botterill was able to fortify his lower pairings a bit with the signings of Victor Antipin, the trade for Nathan Beaulieu and the re-signing of Taylor Fedun. That trio adds plenty of depth from for new head coach Phil Housley to work with, but a top-four of Ristolainen, Beaulieu, Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe isn't close to what he worked with in Nashville last season.

It will take time. And for those who are looking for a jolt this July 1, you can pretty much fuggedaboutit. The top two free agent d-men on the market are Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner both of whom will collect huge paychecks on long-term deals despite flaws in their games. Buffalo could be in the running if Botterill was willing to go above and beyond an expected overpayment for both, but despite plenty of room under the cap this year, it wouldn't seem as if it's in his blood to reach like that.

So the Sabres look to be headed into the off season, and possibly into training camp as well, with a defense corps as is. One possible addition, as mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, is that of soon to be free agent defenseman Will Butcher who's opting to go to free agency August 15 instead of signing with the team that drafted him. In a quick blurb I mentioned that having an opportunity in Buffalo to play under a coach like Housley who values puck-movers might pique his interest. Even if the Sabres were to land him, his impact, if any, wouldn't be felt for a few years as Butcher will probably need a couple years of seasoning for his development.


Speaking of development, Botterill released player development coach Randy Cunneyworth two days ago.

After leaving the Rochester Americans in 2008 to pursue an NHL coaching career, Cunneyworth was brought back in 2015 as player development coach. He spent the 2015-16 season coaching in Rochester before going back to his previous position.

From 2015 to 2017 the Amerks were near the bottom of the league although the players that were brought up to Buffalo seemed to be well prepared for the NHL game. Unfortunately none were able to have an impact for the Sabres.

Botterill also released pro scout Jon Christiano. The Buffalo native had been with the Sabres since 1997 and spent three years as Director of Pro Scouting under GM Darcy Regier.

Also dismissed was amateur scout Kevin Prendergast who came on board in 2013.

Owner Terry Pegula and Botterill have slowly been purging the hockey department to start anew. Cunneyworth, Christiano and Prendergast join scouting director Rob Murphy, director of amateur scouting Greg Royce, pro scout Jim Kovachik and amateur scouts Keith Hendrickson and Brandon Jay as those on the outs since Pegula fired GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma.


The hockey world just got a major jolt yesterday when word got out that Edmonton Oilers phenom Connor McDavid is looking at a contract extension that will have a cap-hit over $13 million. McDavid is entering the final year of his entry-level deal and the Oilers aren't messing around.

And they shouldn't.

McDavid just finished his sophomore season as the only 100-point player in the league and captained his Oilers team to Game-7 of the Western Conference Finals. He also backed up the truck at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas last week. He took home the Art Ross Trophy (leading scorer,) Hart Trophy (league MVP,) and the Ted Lindsay Award as the leagues top player voted by his peers.

The shockwaves rattled rinks all the way to Buffalo as the Sabres and Jack Eichel are said to be talking about a contract extension. Eichel was taken second-overall behind McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft and although he's had two real good seasons on a team that was in the 'build' stage of rebuild, his 113 points (48+65) in 142 games aren't on the same level as McDavid's 148 (46+102) in 127 games. However, there's still plenty of untapped upside for Eichel which is why his next contract could be in the $8-9 million/season range.

They're two different players with enormous talents who came into the leagued in two different situations. Both will forever be tied to the whole 2015 "McEichel" Draft and will be compared from a points, salary and impact perspective.

The Sabres are lucky to have Eichel and it might be in everyone's best interest to get him signed long-term. They could fool around with a three-year bridge contract that could possibly extend his stay in Buffalo to 11 years if they went max contract thereafter. Or they could just come together on an eight-year deal and save everyone the worry.


Word on the street is that the Sabres are losing a goalie prospect but gaining a veteran backup in net.

To no one's surprise, Sabres prospect Cal Petersen (2013, 129th-overall) is not signing in Buffalo but instead will be headed to Los Angeles. Although nothing can be announced until Saturday, July 1, reports have Petersen and the Kings agreeing to a contract.

Petersen opted to forgo his senior season at Notre Dame to turn pro and the Sabres had nearly all of June to sign him but he elected to become a free agent.

The loss of Petersen effectively jumbled the goalie depth-chart as Buffalo was missing a piece. The two givens were that Robin Lehner is the Sabres starter and Jonas Johansson will be starting his first full North American pro season in Rochester. Linus Ullmark, whom Botterill effectively kept from Las Vegas in the expansion draft, could have been Lehner's backup had Petersen signed with Buffalo.

But our very own Buffalo 39 mentioned a couple days ago that the Sabres and former goalie Chad Johnson were in talks and word on the street is that Johnson will be back in Buffalo next season. Having him behind Lehner means that Ullmark goes back to Rochester as their starter for the second consecutive season.

Which is a good thing.

Goalies need reps and Ullmark will get a lot of them with the Amerks. The move also bodes well for Johansson who can get eased into the North American pro game.

Losing Petersen is a downer as he has legit No. 1 potential, but the Sabres will need to make lemonade.


The Sabres, as mentioned above, could use a top-pairing defenseman but the could also use help on the wing in the top-six. And, as luck would have it, this isn't a particularly strong free agent class at LW.

The list at left wing is topped by veteran forward Patrick Marleau. However reports have him not wanting to leave San Jose and if he does, he wants to stay on the West Coast as to not disrupt his family.

After that the Sabres could, and should, have of some interest in Thomas Vanek.

Since being traded by Buffalo in October, 2013, Vanek has been wandering around the league. Vanek was traded by the NY Islanders to the Montreal Canadiens that same season then signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent. He signed a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings last off season and was traded to Florida at the trade deadline March 1.

During this sojourn, word came out that Vanek's name appeared on a list in a Rochester, NY gambling sting and he apparently lost millions of dollars. With Pegula touting virtues like character and his Murray-firing presser, Vanek might not fit into what he wants moving forward. Yet you can't deny that Vanek still has the chops. Last season he scored 17 goals and added 31 assists in 68 games for Detroit and Florida. Those 48 points would have placed him third on the Sabres in scoring behind only Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly. He also lead the league in the shootout going a perfect 5 for 5.

Speaking of gambling, the Sabres could also look into signing former first-overall pick Nail Yakupov to a "show me" contract. Yakupov has been set adrift after four years with the Oilers and one season in St. Louis. It would be a low-risk/high-reward scenario for the Sabres but most feel that the upside just isn't there as there's a disconnect with him and the NHL game.

Finally, maybe we should keep an eye on winger Beau Bennett who was the 20th-overall pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010 when Botterill was in the front office.

The 6'2" 207 lb. Bennett is listed as a right-winger but can play either side.

Of course if Buffalo's own Tyler Ennis could return to form, it would eliminate the need for a top-six left-winger. Ennis' last two seasons have been dismal as he's had injury problems and just could never get into the flow of things. The Edmonton, Alberta native has only eight goals and 16 assist while playing in only 84 games the last two seasons.

As of right now the Sabres have only one legit top-six left wing in Evander Kane. He'll be entering the final year of his contract with questions as to whether or not there will be an extension for him this off season. There's been speculation that the Sabres would be trading him, but Pierre LeBrun told the WGR afternoon guys yesterday that Botterill is listening but not actively shopping Kane.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fedun signing adds depth to D, plus the qualifiers and Andreychuk.

Published by, 6-27-2017

In addition to bring two assistant general managers aboard in Randy Sexton, who will be the GM in Rochester, and Steve Greeley the Sabres made some player moves.

But before we get to that, a tip of the hat to Dave Andreychuk who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday. The veteran of 23 NHL seasons heads to hockey immortality in a November 13 ceremony with the rest of the 2017 class--Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi along with Danielle Goyette and two in the builders category, Buffalo native and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Clare Drake.

Andreychuk spent 11 season with the Sabres using his long reach and big body go amass 368 goals and 904 points in 837 games. He would go on to total 648 goals and 1338 points in his 1639 game NHL career. The 640 goals ranks 14th all time and before his induction, he was the only one of the top-15 goals scores not in the HOF.

Although third on the all-time goals list for left wings, a good chunk of those goals came on the powerplay which may have kept him out of the Hall this long. Winning the Stanley Cup as captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003 helped Andreychuk's chances of getting inducted but it still took him nine years to get in.

His days in Buffalo were marked by individual success but much like team mates Phil Housley and Tom Barrasso, lack of team success lead to a divided fan base when it came to his accomplishments. I was of the "meh" crowd who teetered on whether or not he was a Hall of Famer, but upon hearing about his induction I thought to myself, "Good for him."


The Sabres are still in need of a defenseman to anchor the left side of the top-pairing. It's a difficult acquisition to make as they're not readily available and if they are, it will cost a bundle to land one. And by the looks of it, new GM Jason Botterill isn't going to pay the price even if one were available. I lieu of that, Botterill continues to add depth to the blueline.

Yesterday it was announced that the Sabres re-signed veteran d-man Taylor Fedun to a two year deal that will pay him $650k/year, according to CapFriendly. Fedun's Rochester Americans salary is $300k.

Since coming on board May 11, Botterill signed free agent Russian defenseman Victor Antipin, whom the previous regime set the table for, and traded for Montreal Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.

With the signing of Fedun the depth chart looks something like this:

Jake McCabe-Rasmus Ristolainen
Zach Bogosian-Beaulieu
Antipin-Fedun-Josh Gorges-Justin Falk-Casey Nelson

Rookie Brendan Guhle is the wild card here. His athleticism, skill, skating and puck movement place him above the bottom-five listed above talent-wise, but Botterill and Co. may feel more comfortable having him start the year in Rochester.

The Sabres may carry eight defensemen or they may carry seven, but in either case, as of right now Nelson looks to be the odd man out unless there's a trade. Falk was re-signed in February and would be a strong veteran presence in Rochester were he not on the Sabres roster.


Speaking of defense, 2012 seventh round pick (193rd overall,) Brady Austin was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Sabres which means he's an unrestricted free agent. The 6'4" 225 lb. rearguard, who is surprisingly mobile for a man his size, can still be resigned by the Sabres at a lower number that his $635K NHL salary from last season or he could be signed to a minor league contract with the Rochester Americans if Botterill's so inclined.

With Housley as the new head coach and Botterill coming from a Pittsburgh Penguins organization that leaned heavily on puck-movers on the back end, it's not too surprising that Austin wasn't qualified. The Bobcaygeon, Ontario native struggled in Rochester for much of his pro career with the Amerks but looked pretty solid in a five-game stint late last season with the Sabres and perhaps Botterill and Amerks GM Sexton may want to see more of Austin, but not at that price. The duo will need to rebuild a flawed Rochester club from top to bottom.

Should Guhle end up in Rochester, they have the makings of a pretty solid defense-core when you add in one or both of Falk and Fedun along with Nelson, who made great strides in the latter part of the season. They'll also be joined by first year pro Devante Stephens.

Others in the mix at this juncture could be Brycen Martin, who's signed for two more seasons and Anthony Florentino who had a five-game audition with Rochester on a minor league contract.

Forwards Jean Dupuy and Justin Kea also were not qualified.

The Sabres tendered qualifying offers to:

G, Robin Lehner--$3.15M
F, Marcus Foligno--$2.25M
F, Zemgus Girgensons--$1.15M
D, Nathan Beaulieu--$1M
F, Johan Larsson--$997k
F, Evan Rodrigues--$787k

With any kind of decent coaching, Buffalo's D, as is, should make big strides

Published by, 6-28-2017

Yeah, I said it.

Although a top-four of Rasmus Ristolainen, Nathan Beaulieu, Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe isn't quite a Cup-contending core, with any kind of coaching, along with solid goaltending (and, of course, goal-scoring,) it should be enough for the team to make a big jump from their poor 2016-17 season.

The Sabres had about as bad a season as a team could've had last year and the brunt of the fan backlash fell on the shoulders of Buffalo's defense corps. If it were up to many, veteran players like Bogosian and Josh Gorges would've been on the first Greyhound Bus out of Buffalo mid-season. Some, like myself, acknowledge the poor play of the defense but also attribute the Sabres 78-point season to a number of other factors which includes a dismal start to the season after losing Jack Eichel and Evander Kane to injuries and a strict adherence to the system employed by head coach Dan Bylsma.

The former is easy to quantify while the latter, without revealing insight from the players, is almost impossible to prove. However, the fact that there indeed was a disconnect between player and coach, which ultimately lead to Bylsma's firing, does give credence to the belief that his systems didn't fit the personnel GM Tim Murray gave him. We can add in that the roster Murray build wasn't a Cup-contender either. It had plenty of holes and, according to some reports, he had no answers when owner Terry Pegula asked what he was going to do moving forward. Murray was fired along with Bylsma and the team is starting fresh.

New GM Jason Botterill inherited a team that has some definitive strengths up front, goaltending that looks solid and a defense corps that has a hole in the top-pairing. Many had hoped that he'd somehow be able to find a d-man to fill said hole, but pickin's are slim this off season. One player that may be considered for the top pair is free agent, Kevin Shattenkirk jowever, being the top free agent defenseman in a brutally thin market means the puck-mover will probably be asking for top dollar with some suggesting 7yrs./$7M per season. With his good, but not great, 2017 playoff performance, that seems quite high and is probably out of Buffalo's reach.

There are other FA d-men available but most would be considered top-four at best with Washington's Karl Alzner and the NY Rangers Brendan Smith maybe being able to hold down a top-pairing spot in Buffalo. After that there's aged vets like Chicago's Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya,  Montreal's Andrei Makarov and a pair of 33 yr. olds in Trevor Daley (PIT) and Dan Girardi (NYR) who wouldn't be a good fit for the Sabres.

What it comes down to at this juncture is basically, what you see on the back end right now, is pretty much what you're going to see next season. It's a proposition that have some in a tizzy. Yet most feel that with a new GM and head coach in Phil Housley, the Sabres are in a transitional period, especially on the back end where Housley is coming in with visions of an attacking group of puck movers. As dire as it might seem to some right now, with any decent coaching, this group of defensemen should be able to hold their own and help the Sabres progress.

Lindy Ruff has yet to win a Stanley Cup but he's been able to take flawed teams to the playoffs and talented teams deep into May and June. When he was in Buffalo he wanted his teams attacking when he had the talent, but he also leaned towards the defensive side of the equation when his team lacked firepower up front. In 2009-10 he had a Vezina Trophy winning goalie in Ryan Miller and Rookie of the Year in defenseman Tyler Myers. They made the playoffs. Although his defense was active he wasn't in full-bore attack mode for 60 minutes like when he coached his back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals teams.

Ruff went into the 2010-11 minus two of his top three defensemen as Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman were lost to free agency. They were replaced by Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn with Morrisonn starting out the season on the team's top-pairing with Myers. But as the two suffered early in the season, Morrisonn fell down (and even out of) the lineup while Myers was dropped to the second pairing and eventually landed with third-year pro Chris Butler. Leopold moved up top with gritty, veteran defenseman Steve Montador while the bottom-pairing was a mix of Andrej Sekera (who ended up with plenty of time in the top-four,) Mike Weber, the plummeting Craig Rivet (who was eventually waived by Buffalo) and Marc-Andre Gragnani.

There was a lot of mixing and matching by Ruff that season as players like Morrisonn and Rivet fell precipitously, Myers suffered through a sophomore slump, Sekera and Butler rose while Leopold and Montador held steady in their roles. It ended up being a defense by committee in that these were the top-four in even strength ice-time:


The same four were atop in average time on ice:


The Sabres made the playoffs that season with only one player in the top-50 in point production (Thomas Vanek, 73) but with scoring by committee that placed them ninth in the league. Miller had a 2.59 GAA and .916 Sv%, well off of his Vezina highs, and the Sabres fell from a fourth-best GAA in 2009-10 to 16th in 2010-11.

Buffalo started out the 2010-11 season with Derek Roy and Tim Connolly centering a top-six that featured Vanek, Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis on the wings. It was the last time Buffalo made the playoffs and they did so with a lineup that was weaker as a whole and especially up front in the top-six at center than last year's Sabres.

Having said that, a top-four featuring Ristolainen, Beaulieu, Bogosian and McCabe isn't that far removed from the top-four that Ruff started with, or even finished with, in 2010-11.

On April 8, 2011, the Sabres clinched a playoff berth after Nathan Gerbe tied the score at 3-3 half-way through the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers. The defensemen in that overtime game ranked by TOI were:


Just sayin'

You can relive the highlights from that Philly game and a raucous Buffalo crowd with this mcskyns YouTube video:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sabres hire two AGM's. Also have RFA qualifying offers to decide upon

Published by, 6-26-2017

The Buffalo Sabres announced today that they've hired Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley as assistant general managers. Sexton, who had been with the Pittsburgh Penguins for seven seasons, the last two as the Pens director of amateur scouting, will also be the GM of the Rochester Americans.

Buffalo GM Jason Botterill spent the last seven years working with Sexton and had this to say in a release:  "Randy and I developed a positive working relationship during our time in Pittsburgh and I think his experience and insight will be advantageous for our front office."

Greeley was  the assistant director of player personnel with the New York Rangers for the last two seasons. Said Botterill of him, "In Steve, we have hired a talented hockey executive who will offer unique insight to our organization.

"They both have experience at all levels of the game and we think they will be valuable assets for the Buffalo Sabres moving forward."

It's into the fire for all three, plus the rest of the staff as the July 1 free agent signing period is getting pretty close. First on the docket, however, will be qualifying offers to some restricted free agents. Buffalo has until 5:00 p.m. today to extend qualifying offers to a group of nine RFA's in order to retain their negotiating rights. A player can accept or reject a qualifying offer and in the case of the latter they'll still have their rights retained by said team. If they are not qualified, they become unrestricted free agents.

According to, the Buffalo has nine players in that boat and one could expect that nearly all will be qualified. Here's the player list with last year's salary ( ) and why the Sabres may or may not make an offer to said player :

G, Robin Lehner ($2.25M)
Lehner was Buffalo's starter last season. He appeared in 59 games finishing with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 GAA and .920 Sv%. with two shutouts. Heading into the season there were durability/injury questions with Lehner as he'd never had more than 36 appearances in one season. Lehner effectively put that to rest and he also had some remarkable games during the season, however those remarkable games were countered by some duds along the way. And then there was the shootout. Lehner went 0-4 in the skills competition and failed to stop a single shooter in eight attempts. Inconsistencies and an epic shootout fail aren't enough to show him the door by any stretch of the imagination but it maybe enough to keep him from getting a long-term deal.

F, Marcus Foligno ($2.25M)
One need only look at what the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins did when they acquired burly forward Ryan Reaves from the St. Louis Blues late last week. The enforcer role isn't officially dead but the days of John Scott are long gone and teams may feel the need to have a legit fourth-liner in that role. Marcus Foligno is a better scorer than Reaves and although a lesser fighter he is able to patrol the ice to a degree. Foligno is worthy of a third-line role next season on Buffalo. His career-high 13 goals last season was a result of skating along side Jack Eichel for long stretches but he's also played very well along side Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta. In his last four full seasons with the Sabres he's averaged about nine goals and 12 assists. Paying a player $2.25M for 23 points might be a little high, but he should get qualified and probably will be signed to a number very close to that for the upcoming season.

F, Zemgus Girgensons ($1.15M)
Girgensons is the poster-boy for the disconnect between players and former head coach Dan Bylsma. Early into Bylsma's short-lived, two year tenure in Buffalo Girgensons, according to the media, was at center ice with his new coach in a rather long, vociferous discussion. What was said hasn't been revealed but the results for Girgensons in his two years under Bylsma is pretty ugly--14 goals, 20 assists in 146 games. Girgensons may be settling into a hard-checking/defensive career that will probably net him some decent numbers once he settles in. A qualifying offer and another one-year "show-me" season under a new head coach could be in the offing for him in Buffalo.

D, Nathan Beaulieu ($1M)
You could bet the farm that Beaulieu will be qualified. The Sabres just traded for him and it looks as if the 6'2" 205 lb. lefty starts out his career in Buffalo in the top-four. With Beaulieu it's not a matter of "if" he'll be qualified, but more like what will the dollars and term be on a multi-year deal after they do so.

F, Johan Larsson ($950k)
An tough injury cut short what was shaping up to be a pretty good season for Larsson. He'd been clicking very well with then Sabres captain Brian Gionta on the third line and finished with 11 points (6g+5a) in 36 games. When all's said and done, if the Sabres can put together a playoff team in the near future, Larsson would be an excellent fourth-line center to have around. And they should keep him around by qualifying him this year.

F, Evan Rodrigues ($750k)
Rodrigues just finished his two-year entry-level deal after being signed out of Boston University. He put up grand numbers for the Terriers while riding shotgun on Eichel's wing at BU and has been slowly acclimating to the pro game. Rodrigues has the skills and has shown versatility as he was moved from wing to center and never missed a beat. As a measure of his growth, in his first season with Rochester he had nine goals and 21 assists in 72 games. A year later he had the exact same 30 points (9+21) in only 48 games while also going from a minus-15 his rookie pro season to a minus-2 last season for the Amerks. And he didn't look out of place in Buffalo either scoring eight points (5+3) in 32 games. With the way he plays the game using quickness, smarts and skill, methinks Rodrigues might be a Jason Botterill type of player.

F, Jean Dupuy ($600k)
The 6'1" 207 lb. Dupuy was signed by former GM Tim Murray out of the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 21. He got off to a grand start in Rochester with thoughts that he may someday use his size, speed and grittiness to make it to Buffalo in an energy role. However, he hasn't done much since. Maybe it was him, maybe it was the Amerks, or maybe it was a break in the developmental chain, but as of now Dupuy is on the cusp of a QO. He still has potential for Rochester, and the Amerks will need players, so he may get the offer But Dupuy seems to be a 50/50 proposition at this point.

F, Justin Kea ($575)
Things have not gone well for the former third round pick (2012) out of Kingston, Ontario. The big (6'4" 220 lb.) center had been bouncing between Rochester and Elmira (ECHL) in all three years of his entry-level deal and he may have bounced himself right out the door in Buffalo.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mittelstadt at No. 8 leads the 2017 Buffalo Sabres draft class

Published by 6-24-2017

The results are in and the Buffalo Sabres left the 2017 NHL draft with six prospects--two centers, two defensemen, one goalie and one left winger--using one first-rounder (No. 8-overall,) two seconds (37, 54) a third (89,) fourth (99) and seventh rounder (192) to make their selections. The huge gap between the fourth and fifth rounds were due to Buffalo trading a fifth to St. Louis for goalie Anders Nilsson and a sixth to Las Vegas to protect goalie Linus Ullmark in the expansion draft.

The extra second round pick (54) came courtesy of the Minnesota Wild in the Chris Stewart trade and the Sabres also acquired a third round pick (89) which they got from Washington in the Mike Weber trade. Buffalo traded their own third round pick (68) to Montreal for Nathan Beaulieu which was new GM Jason Botterill's first trade as Sabres GM.

Buffalo came into the draft with serious organizational needs on defense and in goal, but in true best player available fashion, the Sabres selected two centers with their first two picks then selected Central Scouting's top-rated European goalie with their extra second rounder. They plucked two smallish defenseman after that--one from Finland and one in college- and finished off the draft by taking a left winger.

This was a draft with world-wide vision for Botterill and the Sabres as Buffalo selected one American, one Canadian, two Finns and two Swedes.

Although the torches and pitchforks remained at bay in the first round, some Sabres fans worked themselves into a tizzy over on social media with the Sabres passing on defenseman Timothy Liljegren at No.8. Having Toronto select him at No. 17 added fuel to the fire as he'll become the most scrutinized first round d-man passed on since they bypassed Mikhail Sergachev who was selected one spot after Buffalo last year.

And to further fan's panic attack, Buffalo's first round pick will be headed to college with the specter of losing him ala Jimmy Vesey and Cal Petersen to free agency, which hovers like a dark cloud over their fandom.

Not to be finished with a 'woe is me/what the hell are they doing?' type approach to the draft, some were wondering why the Sabres passed on drafting a low-ranked defenseman to draft the top-rated Euro goaltending prospect as Buffalo took the first goalie off the board on Day-2 of the draft.

This was an unremarkable draft in many respects as it lacked star power with long, deep tiers offering similar talent amongst various positions. The top two picks were centers and after the top-two d-men were taken next, nine forwards in a row were taken off the board before a run on defenseman started with pick 14 and finished five picks later.

I'd hazard to guess that if former GM Tim Murray were still employed by the Sabres, the torches and pitchforks would have come out in full force over this draft even though through Buffalo's picks through the first two rounds were well-grounded to say the least.

With that said, here's what the Sabres 2017 draft class.

8--C, Casey Mittelstadt

Having a player widely considered to be a top-five draft prospect drop to the Sabres at No. 8 in the NHL Entry Draft was a pleasant surprise for first-time GM Botterill, no matter how much he tried to down play it. "Isn't that the cliche'?" Botterill deadpanned as he spoke to the media after Round-1 of the draft. "You've got to say, 'Oh, I can't believe that he was there!'"

The player they were referring to is center Casey Mittelstadt and it was a poignant response that drew laughter from the gathered press. Not very many, if any, expected the Eden Prairie High School Graduate and Minnesota's 2017 Mr. Hockey to be there when the Sabres were on the clock. Central Scouting had him as the third-best North American skater and Kris Baker of sabresprospects/ ranked him No. 3. McKeen's hockey ranked him fifth-best while International Scouting Services had him at seventh.

When Mittelstadt fell, however, he put Botterill in a bit of a tough spot although it seemed as if there was a team consensus on the pick.

The Sabres selected center Jack Eichel second-overall in 2015 and traded for Ryan O'Reilly at that draft then signed him to a long-term deal. Those two will be the Sabres one-two punch down the middle for years to come. They also drafted center Sam Reinhart second overall in 2014 but he's been moved to wing, and they drafted two centers last year--Rasmus Asplund and Cliff Pu--in the second and third rounds, respectively. If there's anything they didn't need at No. 8, it was another center.

Yet, Mittelstadt ended up in a group that Botterill said was "surprisingly [made up of] forwards," one that they were very comfortable with, which included "a couple [that] went before us and a couple [that] went after." There was no mention of defense, most notably Liljegren who took a precipitous year-over-year drop in the rankings and was available in that spot. Knowing that the Sabres are thin on defense and in goal in the system, Botterill was asked if that would be a particular focus in the second round where Buffalo has two picks (Nos. 37 and 54.) "As I've talked about before," began the first-time GM, "if there's a fit, then we are going to make that selection for a defenseman or a goaltender, but we're not going to force it."

"I don't like saying this word when talking about hockey players, but you're trying to get the best athlete. If there's another good centerman tomorrow in our early picks we're probably going to select him. If it's close then we'll probably lean towards a defenseman" (they ended up taking a center with their first pick in the second round.)

Perhaps Botterill didn't want to use the word "athlete" because Mittlestadt didn't have the greatest of NHL Combines last month in Buffalo. He admitted to being a pudgy kid in an interview after the combine while also saying has a bit of a pudge still with him. Mittelstadt has 199 lbs. on his 6'1" frame and sculpted he is not. Like 2014 fourth-overall pick Sam Bennett, couldn't do a single pull-up at the combine and he could only do one rep at 160 lbs. on the bench press. However the kid showed a little moxie saying later, "I don't work on my bench press or my pull ups."

Mittelstadt will have plenty of time to work on that at Minnesota when he joins Don Lucia and the Golden Gophers next year, but he wasn't a top-10 pick in the draft for his workouts. He was ranked high because of his speed and skill-level.

Mike Morreale of said "has elite skills and assets to consistently impact and produce results at any level" of Mittelstadt while International Scouting Services tweeted he "plays in traffic, can read and react well. Will beat opponents with speed and smarts."

Kris Baker of, in his draft preview, said Mittelstadt "has cemented his top-six forward projection at the NHL level with his vision and sense, he has also made a mark as a fierce competitor with his ability to pressure the puck, battle along the walls, and simply do what it takes to be a difference maker in all three zones for the full 60 minutes." And USA Today's Kevin Allen, who had Mittelstadt mocked at No. 6 to Vegas, wrote in his Day-1 recap, "He’s got an explosive stride with an effortless shot release. We love his competitive fire."

There's a lot to like about this kid and you can see some of it in the following video from YouTube's, The Draft Analyst.

Mittelstadt has some work to do with his frame changing his "pudge" to muscle and could top out in the 210-215 lb. range while still maintaining his speed. He's got a lethal shot too and a sweet set of hands that might remind some of Thomas Vanek, who was also selected by the Sabres and attended the University of Minnesota.

37--C, Marcus Davidsson

True to his word, Botterill once again went with best player available after the top two defensemen on Day-2 went off the board and drafted Swedish centerman Marcus Davidsson.

The 6'0" 191 lb. Davidsson spent last season with Djurgardens Swedish Hockey League scoring five goals and adding nine assists in 45 games for the top club while also six goals in nine games for their junior club.

Baker had him rated as the 31st overall prospect in the draft and wrote the 18 yr. old "is a gritty two-way worker who has the look of an opportunistic middle-line pivot. When on his game, Davidsson brings loads of speed and energy while causing chaos in front of the opposing goal." Which kind of reminds me of a faster version of Johan Larsson. Baker also noted that Davidsson played left wing last year.

G, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (54)

Other than the fact that Finn's name would make for a nice scrabble score, Luukkonen is a big goalie whose 6'4" 198 lb. frame takes up space and there's still room for growth. Not only does he have the size teams are looking for these days, Luukkonen is agile enough to cover the bottom half of the net well and has quick hands to cover the top corners.

From Goran Stubbs, NHL Director of European Scouting, "“Luukkonen was a key performer for Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championships. He plays an effective butterfly style and does an excellent job of controlling rebounds.”

Luukkonen is under contract in Finland for the next two seasons.

89--D, Oskari Laaksonen

Sabres fans finally get their d-man in the fourth round, but nobody knows much about the native of Espoo, Finland. In fact his eliteprospects page had him listed at 130 lbs. and no one may ever have noticed had he not been drafted. They eventually changed it to 165 with the final numbers having him listed at 6'1" 165 lbs.

Even with that listing, his NHL page has nothing on him save for stats which covers a year in U-18 and one in junior.

Sabres director of European Scouting Anders Forsberg must have gotten a good word from his scouts that Laaksonen is worth a fourth rounder pick on. One tidbit I did manage to unearth came from a Finnish Junior hockey tweet:  "Sabres pick Oskari Laaksonen 89th overall. Played for Ilves U18/U20. Gifted puck mover with great vision, good long-term upside.

Laaksonen the 'mystery pick' will be fun to follow just to see where he ends up.

99--D, Jacob Bryson

Botterill continued on defense with the 99th pick in the draft taking Providence Friars defenseman Jacob Bryson (no relation to Peabo.)

The 19 yr. old Bryson came to Providence after a year with Omaha of the USHL. While with the Lancers, the London, Ontario native had 31 points (3+28) in 56 games but was a minus-8 while in his freshman season with the Friars Bryson finished with 20 points (3+17) in 39 games and an even plus/minus.

In a College Hockey News interview from 2014 after making a commitment to Providence, Bryson described himself as one who "strives to be a fast, smart, offensive defenseman."

"I love setting up plays," he continued, "especially on the power play. I’m undersized so it’s critical I continue to work hard at getting bigger and stronger while utilizing my strengths. I’m inspired by players like Ryan Ellis and Torey Krug who despite their smaller stature have proven they can compete and be very successful at the next level."

Bryson would've caught the ear of new Sabres head coach Phil Housley with the mention of Ellis. Housley coached Ellis when he was in charge of the Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators.

Bryson is listed as 5'9" 179 lbs.

192--LW, Linus Weissbach

It was a long wait for Buffalo to make their final selection as they last selected at No. 99, but when it finally did come to them they once again went with a Swede in selecting left winger, Linus Weissbach.

The 5'9" 161 lb. left-handed shot played for the USHL's Tri City Storm last year and is committed to the University of Wisconsin. Weissbach lead the Storm in scoring last season with 47 points (19+28) in 49 games.

A Wisconsin newspaper called the new Badger "a highly sought recruit known for his speed and scoring ability." Todd D. Milewski, who penned the article for the Wisconsin State Journal, quoted Tri City coach Bill Muckalt as saying Weissbach's "an explosive skater that every school in the country would have an interest in."

Muckalt went on to say that even at Weissbach's size, he adapted very well to the more physical North American game after coming over from Sweden. "He's got a really good base and strength in his legs," said the coach in the Milewski piece. "I think as the strength and conditioning (increases) and as he matures, that'll continue to go in the right direction for him."

Weissbach is from Gothenburg, Sweden, same hometown as Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017 NHL Mock Draft

Published by, 6-23-2017

Jeff Crisp, Buffalo's top amateur scout who was thrust into running the draft (along with Kevin Devine) when the Sabres did some house cleaning in April, called the 2017 NHL Entry Draft as "normal." Crisp went on to say that, although the draft is lacking in "star power" at the top, "it's deep and there will be some pretty good players that come out of it in the end."

Perhaps we've been a bit spoiled watching the draft over the past couple of years. Sabres fans were directly involved in the 2015 "McEichel" Draft with the generational/franchise talents of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel right there at the top and last year the one-two punch of Auston Matthews and Patrick Laine ended up wowing in their 2016-17 rookie seasons. So a bit of normalcy might have been expected.

Regardless of the lack of star power, through it's worldwide appeal and top-notch international leagues, the NHL has been able to constantly bring in upper-eschelon talent year-in/year-out through the draft. Although no one can say with certainty that the triple-draft downers of 1999, 2000 and 2001 will never appear again, there's bound to be a clunker here and there but probably never reaching the depths of that '99 draft class (one which made Brian Burke a star) where we had the Sedin twins, a couple of All-Stars in Nick Boynton and Martin Havlat, but nothing else to speak of.

As we barrel towards tonight, I like what Kris Baker said this morning on WGR about the big club not dictating who the scouts should draft. It's not the NFL where the player drafted is expected to at least have a shot to make the team that same year. NHL teams draft 18 yr. olds and in the more or less, two to three years it takes them to develop, a lot can change. That's why were hear the "best player available" mantra at the end of nearly every first round pick below the top tier.

And I'm always leery of a "perfect fit." The 2009 Sabres pick of rugged Zack Kassian, who was selected as the perfect pick to balance the soft but skilled roster then skating for Buffalo. Kassian was great in Edmonton last season, showing off the exact traits the Sabres drafted him for at No. 13. Only eight years later.

The NHL Draft is a crapshoot. It's been said time and time again and this year it'll probably be truer than any time since 2011. There will be some good players picked, there will be some surprises and many will disappoint as well. All a scouting department can do is take their research, watch the board and make their selection.

Which is where I'm at now.

New Jersey Devils--C, Nolan Patrick. The 2006 NHL Draft might still in the head of Devils GM Ray Shero. Sure his new team, the New Jersey Devils, made an envious jump from fifth to first-overall via the lottery but with it comes pressure. And he knows it, telling, "Wasn't Michael Jordan drafted No. 3?" Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are the consensus top-two players in the draft and No. 3, but perhaps he's got his eye on a player whom he thinks might be the Jordan of the draft--defenseman Cale Makar. Dallas has been rumored to want out of the No. 3 overall pick but they're looking to trade down, not up, and there probably isn't a team out there that has the assets to move up to 3rd then take another jump to the first overall. Which may leave Shero in a 1998 NFL-type Ryan Leaf/Peyton Manning draft instead. When Shero was in Pittsburgh the Pens selected Jordan Staal second overall. The third overall pick was Jonathan Toews.

Philadelphia Flyers--C, Nico Hischier. The ghost of Ed Snyder waited a year before invoking his powers from beyond the grave to help catapult Philadelphia from the 13th slot to second-overall. Perhaps Snyder had seen enough after watching his beloved Flyers become the only team in NHL history to go on a 10-game winning streak and eventually miss the playoffs. However, he's got to be snickering while watching a division rival squirm knowing full well that his beloved Flyers will get a preeminent player in Hischier. For some reason I get the feeling Philly fans are riding the airy sway of I'll Be In Your Mirror, by the Velvet Underground and Nico. Snyder might hate on that album, but here's a banana for ya, Ed. It's a small price to pay for this much fun.

Dallas Stars--D, Miro Heiskenen. GM Jim Nill is unaccustomed to drafting this high. After spending 18 years in the Detroit Red Wings organization where they never drafted higher than 19th, and didn't have a first rounder in 11 of those drafts, this upper part of the draft stuff may not compute. Word on the street is that the Nill is entertaining offers for the third-overall pick, which might be a clear indication, Mr. Shero, that Nill feels there's no Michael Jordan sitting there. And Dallas hasn't really had any success with top-10 picks either since their move from Minnesota (see: Todd Harvey, Richard Jackman, Scott Glennie.) Miro, Miro on the wall, what will the Stars do? Side note:  Jason Botterill is a former 20th-overall selection by Dallas (1994.) Connection? Maybe.

Colorado Avalanche--D, Cale Makar. Boy did the 'Lanche get the shaft in this draft. Not only did they have, by far, the worst record in the NHL, most feel they weren't even tanking. And to add salt to the wound, the 5th, 13th, and 8th slotted teams in the draft all jumped over them via the lottery. The Avs have some serious issues moving and although drafting Cale Makar may ending up being the steal of the draft at No. 4, he won't help them dismiss the Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog trade rumors, nor will he help the Avs goaltending or make their defense immediately better. Right now Colorado is bouncing along the lows of the original Colorado Rockies NHL teams which was dubbed "Rocky Hockey." It should be noted that "Rocky Hockey," was not in reference to a Sly Stallone mythological boxing character. It's derived from a punching bag sense. "Rocky Hockey" is back in Denver. Until Makar starts making his presence known.

Vancouver Canucks--C, Casey Mittelstadt. From 1998- 2006 'Nucks GM Jim Benning was in Buffalo as the Sabres director of amateur scouting. First round picks were never his forte' in Buffalo but he seems to have gotten things right in Vancouver. Benning has a team is on the decline and in a period of transition but in the three drafts since he's been there, the Canucks have made real solid first-round picks in RW Jake Virtanen (2014,) RW Brock Boeser (2015,) and D Olli Joulevi. The Sedins won't last forever and they'll need another top-six center which brings Benning back to drafting a forward in Mittelstadt. Vancouver had the second-worst record in the league and dropping to No. 5 hurts, but Mittelstadt may take a bit of the sting out of it.

Las Vegas Golden Knights--C, Gabe Vilardi. The expansion Golden Knights enter their first-ever draft at No. 6, which is a bummer for them. The NHL worked the expansion draft in their favor but could do nothing about the lottery. Knights GM George McPhee's moment came as he played King of the Awards Show while announcing his roster and a pretty good trade-haul he received from teams looking to add more protection to their roster. Some say he didn't do well, other said he did. Too bad the 2017 draft isn't like the last three where there was plenty of talent stretching deep into the second and early third rounds as the Knights have six picks in the first two rounds. That said, Gabe Vilardi is a bit of a coup as he drops to the Knights. The Kingston, Ontario native and Memorial Cup champ with the Windsor Spitfires has an NHL-ready frame, a strong hockey IQ, offensive acumen and the size to handle a rugged Western Conference. Some have compared him to Ryan Getzlaf which would not a be a bad start for the Knights.

Arizona Coyotes--C, Cody Glass. Arizona's core is in their early 20's and with them jettisoning 40 yr. old Shane Doan, this team just got younger. They're still a few years away but if GM John Chayka's plan works out, they could be a force for years to come. They have enough depth in the system where they could just take just about anybody, which could lead them to snapping up fast-rising center, Cody Glass. The Winnipeg native exploded this year with 94 points while making having a huge effect on his linemates. 'Yotes did well plucking defenseman Jakob Chychrun last year at No. 16 and their defense is getting stronger, center is their next area of need and it just happens to coincide with a player who might be the best available at No. 7.

Buffalo Sabres--RW, Owen Tippett. Luckily this is Jason Botterill's first year as GM. Add that to his background with Pittsburgh, which includes three Stanley Cup rings, and you have a situation where he could tab a d-man lauded as the "perfect fit" for Buffalo and their needs in Timothy Liljegren. The Sabres d-pipeline is pretty thin, and Liljegren would be placed right near the top of the prospect rankings, but it might also be hard to pass on right wing Owen Tippett. The 6-1, 200 lb. Peterborough, Ontario native has been labeled a pure goal-scorer with size, speed and a helluva shot. It could easily be argued as a best player available move by Botterill, which is something that former GM Tim Murray probably couldn't get away with if he were still running the team. A Tippett choice would be probably be universally panned in Sabreland even though it could very well end up being the correct pick.

Detroit Red Wings--D, Timothy Liljegren. The Red Wings are still feeling the sting of losing key drivers over the past few years. They also lost their owner Mike Illitch this past year and for the first time since 1989 the Red Wings failed to make the playoffs. The changeover goes further as they'll leave legendary Joe Louis Arena and head to the new Little Ceasars Arena. However, they still have one of the best GM's in the business and they always seem to draft the right player. When all's said and done a few years down the road analysts might be saying the Wings still have it as a boom or bust pick in Timothy Liljegren may be working magic from the back-end for Detroit. Liljegren has all the necessary ingredients to do so but his hiccup this past season was cause for differing levels of concern. Those concerns dropped him from atop the draft to various spots here and below.

Florida Panthers--C, Elias Pettersson. The Cats have a new coach in Bob Boughner and a core that's pretty strong after years of high draft picks. The Las Vegas Golden Knights took Reilly Smith and his bloated $25 million contract off of Florida's hands for a fourth round pick but it cost the Panthers 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchesault. No doubt a big loss for Florida but they gained cap-flexibility in the process. They lost a center in Marchesault but GM Dale Tallon willl have the opportunity to land Pettersson, who worked wonders for Timra IK of Sweden's second-tier Allsvenskan league.

Los Angeles Kings--C, Martin Necas. If the old tandem of GM Dean Lombardi and coach Daryl Sutter was still in place, big center/left wing Michael Rasmussen would most definitely be in play for the Kings. But Hall of Fame defenseman Rob Blake, who was no stranger to skill, is the new GM and he'll be moving the LA Kings into the 21st century. Necas played in his native Czech Republic last season and did well. Kris Baker, in his piece for, calls Necas, "A nimble, slippery forward with explosive acceleration and impressive four-way mobility" as well as "one of the most compelling offensive prospects when he hits open ice. " Sounds like a good way for Blake to kick off his tenure.

Carolina Hurricanes--D, Jusso Valimaki. The 'Canes went relatively unscathed in the expansion draft and are said to be looking to trade from their deep stable of d-prospects for a top-six center. They'll also have an opportunity to keep that talent pool stocked with the choice of Valimaki. The  6'2" 201 lb Nokia, Finland native can skate well and can get the puck up ice, although he still needs work on the finer points of his game.

Las Vegas Golden Knights (From Winnipeg)--D, Callan Foote. GM McPhee snared this pick in the draft in a swap of firsts from a Jets team that didn't want them to pick defenseman Toby Enstrom. Foote might be exactly what the Golden Knights need going forward on the back-end as he's a solid, steady defenseman whom many believe will have a long career in a top-four role. The game may have changed to the point where more mobile and active defenseman are coveted, but the word 'defense' is still in the title and teams need defense and a 6'4" 215 lb. Foote is considered a very safe pick who will could help anchor the expansion Knights defense for a decade.

Tampa Bay Lightning--C, Nick Suzuki. Tampa Bay took a step back as the 2016 Eastern Conference champ just missed the playoffs last year.  They have a great stable of forwards who are quick and skilled albeit on the smaller side and the 5'11" 185 lb. would fit right in. The London, Ontario native is a gifted playmaker with little fear which seems to be what GM Steve Yzerman likes in his forwards. The Lightning just traded away a shifty goal-scorer in Jonathan Drouin (for d-prospect Mikhail Sergachev) and in a couple of years, Suzuki will be in line to add to the deep stable of forwards at Tampa's disposal.

Las Vegas Golden Knights (From NY Islanders)--LW, Kristian Vesalainen. Yet another first rounder for McPhee and his Knights. After grabbing a Getzlaf-type in Vilardi at center, and a possible anchor on the blueline in Foote, the Knights add a power-winger in Vesalainen. At 6'3" 205 lbs. he already has an NHL frame and he was tested early on while playing for Frolunda of the top Swedish league. Vesalainen won the Most Valuable Player Award at the 2017 IIHF U-18's on the power of 13 points (6+7) in seven games. They could go for a goalie here, but it's a little high in the draft and they could get one, or even two, in the second and third rounds. Then again, you never know what McPhee is capable of (see Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat trade.)

Calgary Flames--D, Eric Brannstrom. If it were up to Flames president Brian Burke, Calgary might be inclined to take hulking center Rasmussen here, but GM Brad Treliving once again makes the call and goes for Brannstrom. The Flames haven't picked a defenseman with their first overall pick since 2009, and although that doesn't mean they're required to do so here, Brannstrom has got the skill, edge and brains that make him a great choice for Calgary.

Toronto Maple Leafs--C, Michael Rasmussen. Leafs saw what a plus Dan Boyle was last season and having a bigger and possibly more talented version of him in the system might be very appealing which means Rasmussen finally comes off the board at No. 17. Rasmussen is 6'6" 215 lbs., is tough to get off the puck and nearly impossible to move in front of the net. He's got that Dave Andreychuk-type net-front/powerplay skill, although whether that package is still viable in today's NHL remains to be seen. But for a team like Toronto who has a fast, highly-skilled top-six, Rasmussen may balance that out nicely.

Boston Bruins--LW, Ryan Poehling. The Bruins lost defenseman at the expansion draft, but it wasn't a huge loss as GM Don Sweeney didn't make a deal to protect him. Boston still has a nice pool of d-men in the ranks, but could use some upper-end skill. There might not be the d-man Sweeney's looking for here so he taps goes to St. Cloud State for budding two-way forward Ryan Poehling who is a good skater and responsible in all three zones. Poehling, who's been compared to Ryan Johansen and Patrick Berglund, struggled early on for the Huskies as a freshman playing D-1 hockey but came to life against his peers in the U-18's.

San Jose' Sharks--D, Urho Vaakanainen. Vaakanainen has been described as smooth and polished and bonus points are out there for anyone who can spell his name correctly without making a mistake. The bonus points for the Sharks lie in Vaakanainen's solid stay-at-home style of play where he rarely gets beat. He's mobile enough to get the play going and has the passing ability to hit a man on a stretch pass. Baker writes that "he knows his role as a defenseman," and doesn't try to do to much.

St. Louis Blues--C, Klim Kostin. At one time Kostin was ranked near the top of the draft, but a shoulder injury knocked him down to the mid-lower level of this year's prospects. The speedy forward who skated for Dynamo Moscow has mad stick skills to score or set up and could be added to a group of talented fellow Ruskies that includes names like Tarasenko, Jaskin, Barbashev and, yes, former first-overall Edmonton selection, Nail Yakupov.

NY Rangers--C, Lias Andersson. The Rangers pounce on the 5'11" 200 lb. Andersson at No. 21 and will watch him grow overseas for the next two seasons. Andersson projects as a bottom-six NHL'er with great hands and a dogged style of play.

Edmonton Oilers--D, Connor Timmins. With Connor McDavid ready to lead the offense for years to come, defense continues to be an area of focus for Edmonton. Timmins can do a lot of things but many feel his passing is what stands out. The Oilers mantra is, if you get the puck in McDavid's hands when he's on the ice, preferably in stride, very good things usually happen.

Arizona Coyotes (From Minnesota)--C, Robert Thomas. 'Yotes continue to try and strengthen the middle, first with the selection of Vilardi and now with Thomas who plays a two-way, 200' game. The Aurora, Ontario native chimes in at 6' 190 lbs. and is a winner. He won the gold at the WHC Under-17 level, plus an OHL Championship and a Memorial Cup with the London Knights in 2016. And he's got speed whether he's heading north/south or east/west.

Winnipeg Jets (From Columbus via Las Vegas)--RW, Kailer Yamamoto. Las Vegas received this pick from Columbus who paid a hefty price to keep their roster intact but still lost F, William Karlsson to the expansion draft. Vegas switched picks with the Jets as a part of the "hands-off-Enstrom" deal. The Jets still get a great player in Yamamoto although at 5'8" 160 lbs. he is on the smallish side. To put it succinctly, add a couple of inches and a few pounds to a fearless puck-wizard with sniping skills and it would be the formula for an easy top-10 pick in this draft.

Montreal Canadians--D, Nicolas Hague. The Habs traded defense for scoring in the Sergachev/Drouin trade and they also traded away a puck-moving defenseman in Nathan Beaulieu to avoid losing him for nothing in the expansion draft and they lost yet another defenseman in Alexei Emelin to the draft. The prospect pool is getting thin. Hague is a big defender at 6'6" 215 lbs. and size seems to be where the Canadiens are headed on the back end as evidenced by the PK Subban for Shea Weber deal. Hague is a big defensive d-man, who much like Weber, has a great shot from the point.

Chicago Blackhawks--C, Josh Norris. Hawks jump into the Day-1 draft festivities with a first round pick for the first time since 2014. They avoided giving it away at the expansion draft when they exposed defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, whom the Knights selected with the Hawks also giving away Marcus Kruger and his rather large contract in the process. The Knights just traded van Riemsdyk and a seventh round pick to Carolina for a second round pick. Norris is a 6'1" 195 lb. two-way center who's considered well rounded and looks to be a solid selection.

St. Louis Blues (From Washington)--G, Jake Oettinger. The Kevin Shattenkirk trade to Washington yields the best goaltender prospect in the draft for St. Louis. After grabbing a quick and speedy forward in Klim Kostin, who dropped to them at No. 20 the Blues add to their goalie stable and take Oettinger who might be considered the best player available at No. 27. Only one goalie has been taken in the first round the last four drafts (Ilya Samsonov, WSH) and the Blues get themselves a 6'4" 205 lb., bona fide No. 1 goalie in Oettinger.

Ottawa Senators--C, Filip Chytil. The versatile Czech forward who can adeptly play center or wing is one of the youngest players in the draft with a September 5 birthday. Chytil played in the top Czech men's league as a 17 yr. old scoring eight points (4+4) in 38 games last season. He has foot speed and quickness, a good hockey IQ, a nice set of hands and at 6'0" 178 lbs. he has a smaller yet projectable frame.

Dallas Stars (from Anaheim)--LW, Jason Robertson. How does a 6'2" 195 lb. player that scores 81 points (42+39) in 65 junior games fall this low in the draft? Playing for the OHL's lowest scoring team, the Kingston Frontenacs, might yield part of the answer. Of Robertson's 42 goals, 25 of them were 5v5 with many of the power forward's goals coming between the dots in close quarters. The Northville, MI native needs work on his skating, which undoubtedly contributed to his low ranking, but he's said to have the work-ethic to pick it up a notch.

Nashville Predators--D, Henri Jokiharju. The Preds lost Housley to the Sabres, but the formula remains and they continue to add to their stable of mobile, puck-moving defensemen. Jokiharju finished his first season in North America with 48 points (9+39) in 71 games for the Portland Winterhawks with 38 of them coming in the last 48 games of the season. “I don't think his skill is top-end level," wrote ESPN's Corey Pronman, "but he's going to be able to rack up a lot of points thanks to his vision, feet and decision-making.” Sounds like a good fit for Nashville.

Pittsburgh Penguins--C, Shane Bowers. The Pens try to keep the pipeline flowing behind centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Considered smart and physical, Bowers is a nice two-way player that looks to be a mid-line center with some offensive punch to his game. He's a jack-of-all-trades type player who never stood out in one area but does have some scoring upside. Just the type of player Pittsburgh likes to plug in with Crosby, Malkin and Co.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sabres lose Carrier, 6th to Vegas, but will the teams hook up today?

Published by, 6-22-2017

The Buffalo Sabres came away from the expansion draft relatively unscathed last night. The Las Vegas Golden Knights stayed away from projected target, goalie Linus Ullmark, and instead plucked 22 yr. old winger William Carrier from Buffalo's roster. Unlike other teams who had more to lose to Vegas, the Sabres only needed to add in a sixth-round pick to get the deal done.

Las Vegas came away with two extra first round picks in this weekend's draft courtesy the Columbus Blue Jackets and NY Islanders plus landed some pretty good players in Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT,) James Neal (NSH,) Jonathan Machesault and Brendan Smith (FLA,) plus veteran d-men Marc Methot (OTT) and Alexie Emelin (MTL) as well as prospects/young players in Calvin Pickard (COL,) Brendan Leipsic (TOR,) Shea Theodore (ANA) and Oscar Lindberg (NYR) among others.

The Sabres weren't on the hook for anything major although Carrier's north/south speed and corner work was very enticing. It took him a while to get rolling in Rochester scoring 23 goals and adding 33 assists in 127 games for the Amerks over three seasons while adding eight points (5+3) in 41 games for the Sabres.

It would have been ideal for the Sabres to unload an undesirable contract on Vegas GM George McPhee but by the looks of it, the price may have been too steep for his Buffalo counterpart, first-year GM Jason Botterill. With that not being feasible, Botterill instead focused upon keeping his slim goaltending depth intact. Right now the Sabres have starter Robin Lehner in net and it looks as if Ullmark will be backing him up in Buffalo this year. The Sabres signed Jonas Johansson to his entry-level deal and if things go as planned, he'll get thrown into the fire as Rochester's No. 1. After that, there's Jason Kasdorf, who was a part of the Tyler Myers/Evander Kane trade three years ago. He'll likely be in net for the Cincinnati Cyclones, Buffalo's new ECHL affiliate.

After that, nothing. Unless Cal Petersen decides he wants to play in Buffalo. The 2013 fifth round pick has opted to leave Notre Dame early and the Sabres retain his rights until the end of this month. Afterwards he becomes a free agent and as it stands now, it's unlikely Petersen signs with Buffalo.

That said, sending Carrier and a sixth-round pick to Vegas to keep what shreds of a goaltending pipeline the have in tact is a small price to pay.


Las Vegas is already moving some of it's bounty from last night. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, whom the Knights drafted from Chicago, was shipped to Carolina along with a seventh round pick for a second rounder. The Knights also traded defenseman Dave Schlemko (SJS) to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2019 fifth round pick.

McPhee loaded up on defenseman at the expansion draft in order to work deals. The d-men that remain are:

Lucas Sbisa (VAN)
John Merrill (NJD)
Brayden McNabb (LAK)
Jason Garrison (TBL)
Deryk Engelland (CGY)
Collin Miller (BOS)
Marc Methot (OTT)
Griffin Reinhart (EDM)
Alexei Emelin (MTL)
Clayton Stoner (ANA)
Nate Schmidt (WAS)

The quantity is there but the quality isn't which means anyone looking for one of their better players will need to ante up.

There are a few d-men on that list that might be of interest to Buffalo. Methot played alongside 2017 Norris Trophy finalist Erik Karlsson who called Methot his rock and Emelin was a pain in the ass for Buffalo whenever they played against the Canadiens. Probably the most intriguing is Schmidt who looked great in a limited role in the playoffs for the Capitals. He's a mobile puck-mover that looks to be a mid-lower pairing d-man.

Other than that, if you're a Sabres fan looking for an impact defenseman headed to Buffalo in a trade, names like the Minnesota Wild's Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella are still out there.

Presently there's word that the 'Canes, who are flush with defensive talent, may be looking to move one of them for a top-six forward. Although the name Evander Kane might be the first out of a Sabres fan's mouth, methinks a player like Sam Reinhart might be of more interest to Carolina.

Just a thought.

Anticipation? Leaks may give us muc of Vegas' roster before tonight

Published by, 6-21-2017

The NHL offices wanted to keep the lid tight on anything expansion draft related as they want to put on a good show at their awards ceremony tonight. With that in mind very little has been leaked lately but as we gear up to the 8 p.m. show live from Las Vegas, some things are leaking out concerning moves that the Golden Knights may be making. Remember, nothing is finalized.

Pierre LeBrun tweets Knights taking Ottawa d-man Mark Methot
Frank Seravalli hearing that VGK is interested in Montreal defenseman Alexie Emelin

Bob McKenzie tweets that those two d-men could be flipped to 3rd team

Both of those defensemen may be of interest to the Buffalo Sabres as they try to enhance their blueline although both are more top-four, shutdown d-men that may not fit into how new coach Phil Housley wants to build his defense.

Darren Dreger is hearing that the Toronto Maple Leafs might lose left wing prospect Brendan Leipsic who had 51 points (18+33) in 45 games for the Marlies last season.

Also mentioned amongst the Golden Knights picks are David Perron (STL) and James Neal (DAL.)

None of those three would seem to be of immediate interest to Buffalo GM Jason Botterill, but you never know. The Sabres maybe losing young left-winger William Carrier in the expansion draft and the rumors of left wing Evander Kane being traded continue, albeit they've subsided quite a bit as of late.

Also of interest, Mike Russo of the Minnesota Star Tribune writes that sources are saying  that Vegas signed restricted free agent center Erik Haula which counts as the one player taken from Minnesota. That signing keeps key defensemen Matt Dumba and Marco Scandella in Minnesota but will cost the Wild 2014 first round pick (18th-overall) Alex Tuch. The Golden Knights will be sending a conditional draft pick Minnesota's way.

At one time the Sabres may have been in the running for a direct deal with Minnesota to land one of their defensemen who could've been left unprotected or they could've been in on a deal to trade with Vegas after the selection ceremony. Any thought of landing Wild d-men Jonas Brodin (protected,) Dumba or Scandella have been effectively squashed.

The rumor in Southern California is that the Anaheim Ducks have swung a deal with Las Vegas to keep them away from Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson. Reportedly heading to Vegas is defenseman Shea Theodore. Up the I-5 to Los Angeles, rumor has it that the Kings will be losing defenseman Brayden McNabb to the Golden Knights.

Both would be possibilities in a Sabres deal with Vegas save for the fact the McNabb was a Sabres draft pick before being traded to the Kings. While in Los Angeles McNabb found time on the top-pairing but slowly fell down the depth chart. Sounds a lot like recently acquired Buffalo d-man Nathan Beaulieu and his time in Montreal. Pretty sure the Sabres don't need another reclamation project.

As for Theodore?


The Knights are said to be loading up on defensemen with their picks with the hopes that they'll be able to flip some of them for more picks. Many of the headliners will not be chosen because of the deals Las Vegas has made with teams trying to keep their best players.

Knight's GM George McPhee is getting himself an unprecedented haul this expansion draft which is the return on Las Vegas $500 million expansion fee.

Will the Sabres be in on any of this?

One would think they will if there's something they deem necessary and if the price is right. Word on the street is that Vegas will announce their roster tonight, along with a few trades but that much more will be revealed tomorrow. The NHL expansion draft trade freeze ends at 5 a.m. tomorrow and fireworks are expected.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Catching up with recent headlines.

Published by, 6-20-2017

Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu

The Buffalo Sabres made another trade with Montreal for a defenseman.

During former GM Tim Murray's first off-season with the Sabres he traded a second round pick to the Canadiens for defenseman Josh Gorges. New Sabres GM Jason Botterill went back to the well over the weekend sending their third round pick (#68-overall) to Les Habitants for defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. Buffalo still has the third round pick, 89th-overall, that they received from the Washington Capitals in the Mike Weber trade.

Beaulieu said on a conference call Sunday that the trade was "a huge sigh of relief." The 24 yr. old Strathroy, Ontario native fell out of favor in Montreal and was not going to be included on their protected list for the upcoming expansion draft. He told the media that being traded "definitely took the stress level off me," and also said that "going to Buffalo was a bonus."

Playing in Buffalo is "a huge opportunity," said Beaulieu. He continued saying that the Sabres have a "young, bright future." Beaulieu is a puck-moving defenseman who admitted that he didn't know much about Sabres bench-boss Phil Housley as a coach, but after a quick chat loves what he's getting into. "I'm excited because of the style of play he wants to go forth with," said Beaulieu, "it fits right into my game."

In a trade that defined how Montreal's back-end wanted to play, the Canadiens sent elite puck-moving, offensive defenseman PK Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for hard-nosed, yet still offensively gifted, defenseman Shea Weber. The Preds made it to the Stanley Cup Finals with the most dangerous defense in hockey with Housley coaching them. The Canadiens were dropped in the first round with Beaulieu on the bench as a healthy scratch in the Game-6 finale.

The move for Beaulieu represents an huge opportunity for the former 17th-overall ;pick (2011) to restart his career while the Sabres paid little for a player that may have significant upside. No one is expecting Beaulieu to be starting on the top pairing next to Rasmus Ristolainen in Buffalo, although he was on the top-pairing next to Weber to start last season, but on a Sabres defense in transition, he'll get his playing time.

Right now Beaulieu slots in as the fourth-best defenseman on the team. In a righty/lefty scenario, the Sabres top-four are:

Jake McCabe-Ristolainen
Beaulieu-Zach Bogosian

The remaining defensemen vying for the bottom-pairing/reserve spots are all lefties: rookie Victor Antipin, Gorges, 19 yr. old Brendan Guhle and Justin Falk.

Botterill still has some work to do in revamping their defense but as of right now, in effect they've lost a slow-footed Cody Franson and an injured Dmitry Kulikov to free agency and replaced them with active, puck-movers in Antipin (free agent) and Beaulieu.

George McPhee is the man with the plan

And if you haven't made a deal with him yet, you're S.O.L...for now.

Word is out that McPhee, the Las Vegas Golden Knights GM, has a number of deals in place heading into his final roster decision which he stated will be made today. The final roster will be revealed tomorrow night in Las Vegas during the NHL Awards Show.

The Golden Knights reportedly made a very early deal with the Chicago Blackhwaks in which Vegas helps Chicago create cap-space (Marcus Kruger) but it will cost them defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Columbus Blue Jackets are reportedly sending the 24th overall pick to Vegas to keep their core intact while the NY Islanders are said to be jumping into the fray offering a first-rounder as well. The Anaheim Ducks are another team that may end up sending a first round pick to Las Vegas to keep their core roster, most notably their defense, intact.

The NHL imposed a trade freeze beginning Sunday afternoon with only the Knights being able to make trades. Las Vegas also have the opportunity to negotiate with pending free agents ahead of the start of the July 1 start to free agency. The trade-freeze lifts at 5 a.m. on Thursday the day before Day-1 of the NHL Entry Draft.

Most around the NHL are expecting plenty of trade action at the draft with Vegas holding plenty of cards. Backroom deals for players Vegas picks in the expansion draft are still a possibility as they'll be able to trade players they picked to other teams. And, of course, they'll be able to move up and down the draft as well.

For now, you were either on the bus or off the bus during the Sin City, pre-expansion draft wheeling and dealing. Some teams paid the price to secure their roster, others (like Minnesota) balked, while still others, like the Sabres, may be very interested in a player that Vegas selected and is willing to trade for them.

It's all a part of the process.

Evander Kane's name keeps propping up

There will always be a debate in Buffalo as to the worth of LW Evander Kane. One could easily conclude that the split between his backers and detractors is around 50/50 and that those two sides could spend the next two decades arguing their cases without ever coming to a consensus. Maybe even longer.

Here the opinion about Kane is that his past problems, balanced by his recent on-ice successes represent the ideal situation for a shorter-term contract for the 25 yr. old. One could easily assume that Kane would be looking for a more lucrative, longer-term deal and if it gets out of hand, Botterill may balk and trade him. Which would be justifiable.

Teams like Los Angeles and Vancouver are still said to be in the mix while Anaheim has also been mentioned. Perhaps we shouldn't dismiss Las Vegas either.

He could end up doing his money thing in a city he seems to enjoy.

Kris Baker is back with his draft preview

Back in 2012 I watched the Blue and Gold Scrimmage at (then) First Niagara Center from the stands while Kris Baker was ushered to a rink-side seat along the benches by Brian Duff. The two sat and watched indulging in hockey talk throughout and it would be the beginning of a strong relationship between the two.

Duffer was intrigued by what Baker was doing with, a site devoted to "the future of the Blue and Gold" as described by it's creator. That little soiree at the scrimmage lead to more interest in Baker's prospect work and eventually to a top-30 Draft preview and the Prospects Avenue pod-cast, among other things, for the Sabres.

During his time working on things for Baker, who also works a full-time job, couldn't give enough attention to his own site, but he's back in full form with his 2017 draft preview.

Baker comes out in full draft force with an extensive overview of where the Sabres stand entering the draft, throws in some history, adds in his depth-chart and a contemporaneous "blueprint," and focuses on areas of need before diving into the 2017 draft prospects.

The site had always been a labor of love for him and there's seems to be a lot of love in this one as it's extensive and well thought out.

With the 2017 NHL Draft only a few days away Sabres fans can be well prepared for what Buffalo might do.

How far should GM Botterill go in altering the Sabres this off season.

Available talent and the cost to acquire said talent will be the determining factors in how far Botterill will go.

There are two camps at war in the great Sabres debate as to why the club finished in 26th place last season. On the one side there are the Murray-haters who feel his moves didn't bring enough talent to the club, especially on the back-end. On the other side there are the Bylsma-haters who think that he didn't do nearly enough with the talent he was given, especially up-front.

It's probably more a combination of the two as the defense just couldn't keep up this season and the offense couldn't get untracked because of the supposed strict adherence to Bylsma's X's and O's. And injuries need to be factored in as well--Kane and Jack Eichel up-front, both of whom missed significant time and with Kulikov on the back end as a lingering back injury plagued nearly his entire season.

The Sabres have a new coach in Housley and have already began revamping the back-end with the signing of Antipin and the trade for Beaulieu. But no matter which way you slice it, there's a hole on the left side of the top pairing.

Many want to use either Kane or 2014 second-overall draft pick Sam Reinhart as the main ingredient in trying to land a top-four/possibly top-pairing defenseman. However, using one of those two will leave a gaping hole in the top-six forward group. No matter which way you slice it, the Sabres have no one in the system right now who could fill a hole left by one of those two. Not William Carrier (who may end up in Las Vegas,) not Nick Baptiste or Justin Bailey or Evan Rodrigues or, as of yet, Alexander Nylander.

As mentioned above, if Kane can't be signed to a reasonable deal, then the best course of action may be to trade him. But this should be done out of necessity, not choice. In chasing after a top-four d-man, moving on from Reinhart at this point in time might be premature as well.

Throughout this century fans of both the Buffalo Sabres and Bills have seen talent leave their teams on a regular basis and I for one would like for them to hold on to good players instead of seeing them leave. Right now I see both Reinhart and Kane a good pieces to build with.

Count me in the anti-Bylsma camp when it comes to this upcoming year. I think him and his system did some serious damage to his player's individual confidence as well as the overall confidence in the team. Although confidence is an unquantifiable thing, year-long disconnects throughout the team ultimately lead to their demise.

In saying that, save for the Kane contract-extension status, I'd like them to make minimal moves unless Botterill can work out a deal to bring in a bona fide top-two defenseman. Other than that, reaching for a top-four d-man while creating a hole in the top-six forward group doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Golden Knights want Will Carrier? Plus Las Vegas picks from all 30 teams

Published by, 6-19-2017

William Carrier was selected 57th overall in 2013 by the St. Louis Blues. In February, 2014 then GM Tim Murray received Carrier as a part of the Ryan Miller to Blues blockbuster trade and since then the 22 yr. old LaSalle, Quebec native has been slowly making his way to the NHL.

After finishing his junior career in 2014 with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, Carrier spent two seasons in Rochester registering 20 goals and 31 assists in 119 games for the Amerks. He began last season with the AHL club (3+1 in seven games) before being called up to Buffalo in November. In 41 games for the Sabres he had five goals and three assists as he was used up an down the lineup by former head coach Dan Bylsma.

Carrier has tremendous speed for a 6'2" 212 lb. player and he loves to go full-bore into the corner. Unfortunately to this point in his very young career he's been unable to hit the scoresheet with any kind of regularity at the NHL-level but regardless of his stats with the big club last season, he still has upside. He also has that speed and tenacity which is one thing he'll always have going for him, especially with the way the NHL game is played today.

Which is why he'd be a good choice for selection by the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft--Carrier is young, has Western Conference size, can skate, plays a north/south game and has upside.

Buffalo's protected list did not include Carrier or goalie, Linus Ullmark. Instead the Sabres chose to protect forward Tyler Ennis (amongst other forwards like Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons) and starting goalie Robin Lehner. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News framed the decision like this, "As the theory goes, [Knights GM George] McPhee made it clear he wants to pluck Ullmark, the 23-year-old slated to be Lehner's backup next season. [Sabres GM Jason] Botterill, knowing the organization is thin in goal, told McPhee he didn't want to lose Ullmark. McPhee, as he is doing with every team, simply said it will cost Botterill something.

"That something is likely Carrier."

Which is very sound reasoning.

Buffalo could've chosen to expose Ennis and his $4.6 million cap-hit over the next two seasons and/or Lehner, who's a restricted free agent. The duo would have been added to three bloated contracts in Zach Bogosian ($5.14M/three years remaining,) Matt Moulson ($5M/two years) and Josh Gorges ($3.9M/one year) and an exposed list of marginal players that included Nicolas Deslauriers, Brian Gionta, Derek Grant, Justin Kea, Cal O'Reilly, Cole Schneider, Brady Austin, Matt Bodie, Cody Franson, Dmitry Kulikov and Anders Nilsson.

In that scenario the Golden Knights may have selected Lehner, which would have put the Sabres in a bind, but he still would be the (probable) second choice amongst starting goalies behind Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, the likely starter in Vegas next season. Washington's Philipp Grubauer, who many feel is a lock to be plucked by the Golden Knights as well, would also likely make for a better understudy to MAF than Lehner, so Lehner to Vegas would only seem to work in a draft and trade scenario. Without Lehner in the mix, Buffalo would be offering Vegas a choice between vets with a bloated contracts, younger players with limited (or no) upside, or free agents who may be available July 1 anyway. Unless both McPhee and Botterill had a strong interest in Ennis.

If Carrier is the preferred choice of McPhee, having Botterill expose the young forward put the teams on a two-way street giving the Vegas GM something to work with as well. And if the Sabres hope to further bolster their blueline via the expansion draft, there's still a possibility for them to do so, which may also be a possible reason for them to leave Carrier available to Vegas. McPhee will be able to trade drafted players to other teams and it looks as if there might be some decent defensemen for Buffalo to take a run at.

The Golden Knights will be selecting one player from every team and they must take a minimum of 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies from the lists of unprotected players. Since defensemen are of the utmost importance they may choose to select two or there extra d-man for trade purposes. Here's my list of two players from each team that Las Vegas may strongly be considering, plus a goalie where applicable with and the bolded name of who the Golden Knights might choose. Of note, some teams are rumored to have deals in place, so I'll try to work around that.

--Anaheim (rumored deal to keep D, Josh Manson and D, Sami Vatanen:  F, Emerson Etem, RW, Nick Sorensen
--Arizona:  C, Alexander Burmistrov;  F, Teemu Pulkkinen
--Boston:  D, Adam McQuaid;  D, Linus Arnesson
--Buffalo (rumored Vegas will take):  LW, Will Carrier
--Calgary:  RW, Kris Versteeg;  D, Matt Barkowski
--Carolina:  RW, Lee Stempniak;  D, Klaus Dahlbeck
--Chicago (rumored deal with Las Vegas):  C, Marcus Kruger;  D, Trevor van Riemsdyk
--Colorado:  F, Mikhail Grigorenko;  D, Mark Barberio;  G, Calvin Pickard
--Columbus (rumored deal to protect core):  F, William Karlsson;  F, Matt Calvert; 
--Dallas:  C, Cody Eakin;  D, Dan Hamhuis
--Detroit:  C, Riley Sheahan;  D, Xavier Ouellet;  G, Petr Mrazek
--Edmonton:  D, Kris Russell;  D, Griffin Reinhart
--Florida:  C, Jonathan Marchessault;  D, Jason Demers
--Los Angeles:  D, Matt Greene;  D, Brayden McNabb
--Minnesota:  C, Eric Staal;  D, Matt Dumba
--Montreal:  C, Tomas Plekanec;  D, Alexei Emelin
--Nashville:  LW, Pontus Aberg;  LW, James Neal
--New Jersey:  RW, Beau Bennett;  D, Ben Lovejoy
--NY Islanders:  C, Ryan Strome;  D, Calvin de Haan
--NY Rangers:  RW, Michael Grabner;  C, Oscar Lindberg
--Ottawa:  RW, Bobby Ryan;  D, Mark Methot
--Philadelphia:  LW, Michal Raffl;  RW, Matt Read
--Pittsburgh:  F, Carl Hagelin;  D, Ian Cole;  G, Marc-Andre Fleury
--San Jose':  C, Joe Thornton;  LW, Mikkel Boedker
--St. Louis:  LW, David Perron;  RW, Dmitrij Jaskin
--Tampa Bay:  D, Jake Dotchin;  D, Slater Koekkoek
--Toronto:  LW, Kerby Rychel;  LW, Brendan Leipsic
--Vancouver:  C, Brendan Gaunce;  D, Luca Sbisa
--Washington:  RW, TJ Oshie;  D, Karl Alzner;  G, Phillip Grubauer
--Winnipeg:  F, Marco Dano;  D, Toby Enstrom

Las Vegas has an exclusive window now through 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 20 to sign free agents and make trades with other teams. That night their roster will be revealed at the NHL Awards ceremony.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sabres jump on expansion draft casualty--3rd for MTL's Beaulieu

Published by, 6-17-2017

The Buffalo Sabres need to bolster their blueline and there was a possibility that the Montreal Canadiens were going to lose d-man Nathan Beaulieu to the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Now they'll get something in return. According to the Habs, the Sabres have traded the 68th pick in the NHL Draft to the Canadiens for Beaulieu.

The 6'2" 205 lb Strathroy, Ontario native was selected by Montreal with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 draft. After finishing his final season with the St. John's Sea Dogs, Beaulieu split time between Montreal and their AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. In 225 games for the Canadiens over the last five seasons Beaulieu totaled 60 points (7+53) and had a plus-19 rating with only one season on the negative side.

Beaulieu was projected as a mobile, puck-moving defenseman with size, offense and the ability to qb the powerplay. Opportunity knocked for him last season but according to a June 13 article by Joey Allen of Pro Hockey Talk, "Expectations were high for Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu going into last season, but things definitely didn’t work out as planned. He opened the regular season on Montreal’s top pairing with Shea Weber. But after just a handful of games, Michel Therrien decided he had seen enough."

New coach Claude Julien didn't have a lot of faith in him either as Beaulieu was a healthy scratch for Game-6 of the Habs/NY Rangers series. Montreal lost that game 3-1 at Madison Square Gardens and lost the series 4-2.

In dropping down the depth chart the expansion draft demanded the Canadiens make a choice--leave him unprotected with the possibility that the Knights might take him or trade him. Allen would conclude that "Even though the 2011 first rounder’s stock is at an all-time low, you’d have to think that Vegas would pounce on him if he’s left unprotected by the Canadiens.

"Over the last three seasons, there have been moments when Beaulieu has looked terrific on the ice, but like most young defensemen, consistency has been a problem."

The 24 yr. old Beaulieu joins 22 yr. old Rasmus Ristolainen and 23 yr. old Jake McCabe in young but inconsistent category for the Buffalo Sabres, but new head coach Phil Housley looks to have some mobility with which to revamp his defense-corps.

In trading for Beaulieu to likely join Ristolainen and McCabe, it looks as if the Sabres will be leaving two veteran players unprotected in the expansion draft--Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges. Bogosian has three years left on his contract with a $5.14 million cap-hit while Gorges has one year at $3.9 million.

Will Las Vegas GM George McPhee be interested in either of those two and/or will there be enticements for him to select either of them or the high-dollar contracts of Tyler Ennis or Matt Moulson?

We won't know until next week, but the Sabres did themselves some good by landing a d-man like Beaulieu.

Buffalo's draft picks as of now are:

#54 (from Minnesota)
#89 (from Washington)

Defense -- shoots L
Born Dec 5 1992 -- Strathroy, ONT
[24 yrs. ago]
Height 6.02 -- Weight 205