Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Prime Years" recap of the Sabres drafts from 2005-09

Published by, 7-26-2017

In a previous series from August, 2015 we looked at the five Sabres drafts from 2005-2009 and how they affected the team years later when those players would be in, or would be entering, their prime playing years.

Here are the links for each draft covered in the series:


Buffalo selected 37 players during those years and at the time of the series only two--Tyler Ennis (2008, 26th-overall) and Marcus Foligno (2009, 104th)--were still on the Sabres roster. Of Buffalo's five first round picks from those years, the Sabres whiffed on two as neither Marek Zagrapan (2005, 13th) or Dennis Persson (2006, 24th) played a game in the NHL. Zack Kassian (2009, 13th) played in only 27 games for the Sabres before he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 2012.

The best of Buffalo's first-rounders from that group were Tyler Myers (2008, 12th) and Ennis. Myers spent one more season in junior after the draft and hit the NHL in a big way. He had a banner 2009-10 season scoring 48 points (11+37) in 82 games and took home the Calder Trophy for NHL Rookie of the year. However, that would be the high-water mark in Buffalo for the 6'8" 229 lb. defenseman. With his production steadily declining and injuries beginning to enter into the equation, Myers was part of the 2014 Evander Kane blockbuster trade with Winnipeg. His final totals in Buffalo:  365 games, 45 goals, 105 assists and a minus-31 plus/minus rating.

Ennis was the last man standing from that group and was with the Sabres until new GM Jason Botterill shipped him and Foligno to the Minnesota Wild in the Marco Scandella deal on June 30, 2017. The 5'9" 170 lb. Ennis had jitterbug qualities and was fun to watch. He won the AHL's Red Garrett Award for Rookie of the Year for 2009-10 and made an impact later that season with nine points (3+6) in 10 games for the Sabres. Ennis would hit the 20-goal mark three times in the ensuing five seasons and was on pace for 20 goals in his injury-shortened 2011-12 season as well as the 2012-12 lockout-shortened season. Much was expected of him but injuries derailed his career in Buffalo. He played in only 74 games over the last two seasons and finished his career in Buffalo with 97 goals and 139 assists in 419 games.

Of the remaining picks from those years, no player other than the two Tylers have played in more than 400 NHL games and of the 37 picks, 21 never made it to the NHL. Five played less than 100 games, only two other than Myers and Ennis have scored 50 or more goals and only three other than the Tylers have totaled more than 100 points.

When Tim Murray was hired by Buffalo in January, 2014, there was a gaping hole in their roster as that group of players would have been at various points of their prime playing years. With the team in transition as it traded away the veteran core group, there was no one left to take their place. The new GM with a long scouting background had said that he was looking at bringing in young-vets in the 24-26 yr. old range to help take the heat off of the top picks they were about to draft.

Murray traded for Zach Bogosian (2008, 3rd,) Kane (2008, 4th,) Ryan O'Reilly (2009, 33rd) and Robin Lehner (2009, 46th.) Before Buffalo, defenseman Bogosian played in 393 games for the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise notching 127 points (40+87) and had a minus-38 plus/minus rating. Kane had played in 361 games for Atlanta/Winnipeg scoring 221 points (109+113) in 361 games while O'Reilly had 246 points (90+156) in 427 games for the Colorado Avalanche. Goalie Robin Lehner played in 86 games for the Ottawa Senators before coming to Buffalo. All were right in the age range Murray was looking for.

Buffalo no longer has any of their draft picks in that range after the trade that sent Ennis and Foligno to the Wild which means that the Sabres have no homegrown player on the team drafted prior to 2012. Jason Pominville was drafted by Buffalo but he was traded to Minnesota and although he came back as a part of the Ennis/Foligno/Scandella trade, the longest tenured Sabre and oldest of the draft picks right now is Zemgus Girgensons who was drafted 14th-overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Next we'll look at Buffalo's 2010 Draft which came up woefully empty save for one player. The players from that draft class are considered to be in their primes right now as they're all right around 25 yrs. old. After that we'll look at the 2011 Draft where the Sabres didn't fare much better. Until then, here's a list of Buffalo draft picks from 2005-09 that played in the NHL ranked by total number of NHL games played in their careers.

D, Myers--473
F, Ennis--419
F, Nathan Gerbe (2005, 142nd)--394
D, Chris Butler (2005, 96th)--388
D, Mike Weber (2006, 57th)--351
F, Foligno--347
F, Kassian--313
F, Paul Byron (2007, 179th)--281
D, Brayden McNabb (2009, 66th)--238
G, Jonas Enroth (2006, 46th)--153
F, Corey Tropp (2007, 89th)--149
D, Alex Biega (2006, 147th)--94
F, Luke Adam (2008, 44th)--90
D, Marc-Andre Gragnani (2005, 87th)--78
D, TJ Brennan (2007, 31st)--53
G, Connor Knapp (2009, 164th)--2

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