At the All Star break, it appears the Buffalo Sabres are destined to finish dead last in the NHL.
I remain convinced the Arizona Coyotes will win a “managed” draft lottery as a return for Andrew Barroway bailing out the Coyotes again and will feature Connor McDavid as their marketing missile going forward.
So, it’s very likely, in my opinion, that Jack Eichel will be counted on to lead the Sabres out of the basement. But he won’t be alone.
The Sabres also have 2 more 1st round picks that they received in trade from the New York Islanders and the St. Louis Blue and they already have 2 2nd round picks with likely more to come.
ESPN/TSN analyst Pierre LeBrun has an exceptional column today on the Sabres rebuild and I encourage you to read the whole article but this excerpt gives you an idea of how the Sabres might be able to turn things around pretty quickly IF they make the right decisions at the draft and then develop their picks properly.
The Sabres also have the St. Louis Blues‘ first-round pick (via the Ryan Miller trade last season) and the New York Islanders‘ first-round pick (from the Thomas Vanek trade last season). Neither will be high picks, but they’re first-round picks nonetheless.
Throw in defenseman Mark Pysyk, 23, who seems ready for the NHL but remains in the AHL, as well as 19-year-old center Sam Reinhart, who starred in the recent world junior championships for gold-medalist Canada, and it’s a start. It’s not enough yet, but it’s something.
“They have some really good pieces, no question,” said a Western Conference GM. “But you have to be careful not to bring them in too soon. The big thing is not just drafting, but are they developing the players properly? That’s bigger than anything else. Are they spending enough money to have the right people to develop the players the right way? That’s very important.”
The last two times a team had three 1st round picks in the draft was in 2007 when the Edmonton Oilers selected Sam Gagner, Alex Plante and Riley Nash, none of whom are playing for the team and then the Florida Panthers had three in 2010 and selected Erik Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden. Gudbranson and Bjugstad are now staples of the Panthers lineup and Howden remains a long shot.
Considering how deep the 2015 draft seems to be, it’s a good bet the Sabres are going to walk away with at least two, and maybe more, NHL players.
The Sabres already are showing they have a pretty good idea that good teams are built from the backend out and down the middle.
Two goaltenders just entering their prime.
That’s a pretty daunting future top 4.
Considering the Sabres will be adding to their prospect pool with all those additional picks as well as what they may receive from selling at the deadline, they are in an exceptional position to start moving up the standings in the very near future.
I would imagine Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson, Chris Stewart and others may fetch additional picks at the deadline and the 2015 draft will forever be known as the “Sabres Draft”.
Timing is everything.