Sunday, June 1, 2008

Buffalo Sabres 2008 Draft Preview

Time to push the word count envelope.

The 2008 NHL draft class is projected to offer teams flexibility in formulating their draft strategies, as it's ripe with two rounds worth of quality talent at the skating positions, while being especially top-heavy with upper-tier defensemen. With four of the first 74 picks, Buffalo GM Darcy Regier and his scouting department are nicely set-up to address some organizational needs early.

As of now, the Sabres will enter Ottawa on June 20th with a total of seven picks in hand. There has been chatter of a possible eighth being added at position #45 in Round #2 as compensation for not signing 2000 first-rounder Artem Kriukov, but that appears to be a non-issue until an IIHF transfer agreement is ironed out. At this point, it's possible that Kriukov is retired from hockey before this is settled...

For future reference, here are the guidelines regarding compensatory picks from the NHL CBA:

Article 8: Entry Draft
Compensatory Picks
Article 8.3. Compensatory
Draft Selections. "(a) In addition to the seven (7) rounds of the Entry Draft,
there shall be an additional number of Compensatory Draft Selections not to
exceed the number of Clubs to be in the League in the following year."

"(b) In the event a Club loses its draft rights to an Unsigned Draft
Choice drafted in the first round of the Entry Draft (except as a result of
failing to tender a required Bona Fide Offer (as defined below)), who is again
eligible for the Entry Draft or becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent, a
Compensatory Draft Selection shall automatically be granted to that Club, which
Compensatory Draft Selection shall be the same numerical choice in the second
round in the Entry Draft immediately following the date the Club loses such
rights. By way of example, if a Club cannot sign the third pick in the first
round, it will receive the third pick in the second round as compensation."

Edit: As an example, Phoenix has been awarded the 35th overall selection as compensation for not signing Blake Wheeler.

2008 Buffalo Sabres Draft Picks:
1 - #13
1 - #26 (from San Jose)
2 - #44
3 - #74
4 - #104
5 - #134
6 - #164

Sizing Things Up

Note: Benjamin Breault is no longer a Sabres prospect as of 6/1/08

Using the most recent Top 20 rankings as a measuring stick, four of the Sabres Top 10 prospects reside on the blueline (Butler, Weber, Brennan, Schiestel). The Sabres Top 10 is currently void of RW's, with only one landing in the Top 20 (Tropp).

The Blue

Not counting the graduated Andrej Sekera or probable "tweener" Marc-Andre Gragnani, the Sabres currently own the rights to twelve defensive prospects. Despite being short on imposing bruisers, there is an otherwise healthy mix brewing in terms of blueline skill sets.

Chris Butler, Drew Schiestel, Mike Kostka, and Matt Generous are all fluid skaters apt for smart plays with the puck. T.J. Brennan and Alex Biega are big-shooting puck luggers who will step up and use their low centers of gravity to break up plays. Not particularly heavyweights, all can be considered under-rated in terms of character.

Mike Weber and Drew MacKenzie are physical types built for simple, stay-at-home roles. Mike Funk has taken strides to use his 6'4 frame more over his two AHL seasons, while Mike Card was improving his overall play before injuries cut short his 2007-08 campaign. Developing Europeans Dennis Persson and Vjacheslav Buravchikov round out the organzation depth, but are hardly intimidating down low.

Teams are always looking to add speed and mobility from the back end, and the Sabres have plenty. With this in mind, it should be noted how Buffalo fans quickly embraced Mike Weber late in the year for his dedication inside the dots, and his ability to deliver a check. From a hits-per-game perspective, Weber's 2.81 in 16 games played was the Sabres statistical leader, just edging the missle-like Patrick Kaleta who averaged 2.8 over his 40 games. In gross minutes, Weber played about 14:00 in total time more than Kaleta.

Once Weber achieves a higher comfort level, expect him to assert his aggressive side even more. That's well and good, but the system is lacking in players with similar instincts. The past couple of seasons have seen the Sabres D fall on the wrong side of the 'pound-vs-get pounded' equation, and the suggestion that Buffalo needs another nasty crease-clearer is plain as day.

If the Sabres are having a hard time choosing a defenseman, they may want to give deeper consideration to a right-hander. All of the Sabres top-tier prospects are lefties, and the top-5 rated rearguards for 2008 are all right-handed. However, the remaining 2008 D crop is dominated by left handers. There are currently just four dmen in the pipeline who shoot from the right, and the lack of those curves has been a trouble spot on the top roster since the lockout ended.

Pay It Forward?

The average Sabres forward prospect runs 6'0, 190-pounds, yet two of their more prolific scorers in 2007-08 - Nathan Gerbe (5'5, 160 lbs.) and Paul Byron (5'10, 145 lbs.) - clock in well below the norm for a developing NHLer. Not short on speed and skill, the system would welcome additional scoring punch with a large frame.

By the numbers, right wing would be a prime area to target with just three in the system. Ironically, RW is also a spot where size itself isn't much of an issue. Andrew Orpik (6'3, 215 lbs.), and RFA Mark Mancari (6'4, 225 lbs.) represent the two largest bodies up front, while 2007 third-rounder Corey Tropp is 6'0, 185 pounds and growing. With Mancari in limbo, the Sabres could certainly afford to add some pop down the right side.

The Sabres are deepest in talent at left wing, with Gerbe, Philip Gogulla, and Tim Kennedy joining emerging RFA Clarke MacArthur and AHL-mainstay Dylan Hunter in the pipeline. Sweetening the pot of possible LW reserves is the skilled Marc-Andre Gragnani who spent his first AHL season flopping between D and LW.

The center position is currently loaded with question marks, headlined by former first-round pick, Marek Zagrapan. After back-to-back seasons of 38 and 40 points, the former first-round pick is entering a make-or-break season in 2008-09. Newly signed Felix Schutz will arrive in the AHL to create a little pressure in the middle of the lineup, while Derek Whitmore's two-year deal marked the end of the road for Benjamin Breault in the Sabres system.

At 6'3, 195-pounds, C/LW J.S. Allard is one of the larger players in the fold, but he's not a big banger. With a career offensive year, he's still showing promise as a possible third-liner. He and the slick Byron will return to the QMJHL next season as the pair enter the next cycle of development.

Many of the current draftees fit the Lindy Ruff blueprint of versatility. Gragnani was third in AHL rookie scoring while splitting time. Gerbe was originally a center, then thrived as a left wing. Tropp, Schutz, Orpik, and Allard also slid into different slots at various points during 2007-08. So while we outline a shortage of natural RW's in the stable, the mission of this draft isn't necessarily an automatic RW refill.

Nice Pipes

With the signing of 2006 second-rounder, Jhonas Enroth, the Sabres have a good level of talent in goal. UND freshman Brad Eidsness and BGSU sophomore Nick Eno appear to have the inside track on starting NCAA jobs, while Adam Dennis will return to the AHL for depth. With the three E's presumably locked into the pipeline for at least three-years each, the Sabres could theoretically make goaltending the least of their priorities. Regier has stated his preference to take a goalie every draft, and this season could see one drop in the later rounds if he sticks to that philosophy.

The Draft Table

The Regier-era Sabres:
  • drafted 20 of the 30 players who wore the Sabres sweater in 2007-08.
  • have only worked two drafts (1998, 2001) where they haven't taken a goaltender.
  • have chosen at least one player from the OHL in every draft (since 1997), and have selected more players there (21) than any other league.
  • have drafted a total of 17 players from the WHL, but none have been first rounders.
  • have not chosen a player from the WHL in the past three drafts.
  • have decent distribution over the past three drafts (23 total picks) with nine Americans, eight Canadians, and six Europeans.
  • have taken a total of 28 players directly from Europe - Czech Republic (10), Russia (7), Slovakia (5), Sweden (4), Germany (1), and Finland (1).
  • have used four of their eleven first round picks on NCAA players.
  • have used 14 of their past 51 picks on players who have developed (or will have as of this fall) in the NCAA.
  • have never selected a player from the BCHL, an established feeder league for NCAA talent. 53 players have been plucked from the league since 2000.

Radar Love

Fans should consider it a shame that the Sabres won't be able to cash in the Kriukov comp pick this draft, as there are so many players in the 2nd-4th round range with legitimate game. With that option shut down for now, this would be as good a year as any to consider swapping a spare forward for a pick or two in the top-100.

All in all, employing the BPA (best player available) philosophy when making picks should result in a decent spread among the positions. With this in mind, the Sabres likely aren't concerned about what side a wing prefers as much are they are adding quality talent in general.

Taking recent trends into consideration, let's end with a few names to kick around when thinking about the draft as a whole. Might as well insert the obligatory "crapshoot" disclaimer, and oh, it may not be a bad idea to grab a cold one.

Round 1 (13) - Luca Sbisa (D, Lethbridge-WHL), John Carlson (D, Indiana-USHL), Kyle Beach (RW, Everett-WHL), Colten Teubert (D, Regina-WHL), Mattias Tedenby (LW, HV 71-SEL)

F Mikkel Boedker would be a great choice to someday slide opposite Vanek, but he's likely gone after a strong playoff year with Kitchener. Realistically, power forward to-be Beach is either an 8-9-10 guy, or a player who drops to the bottom half of round one. Enticing defensive project Teubert will be on the board at #13, but his sub-par puck skills outweigh his aggressive tendencies.

It's hard not to love Tedenby's game. The 5'10, quick-footed Swede has dazzling offensive skill and goes hard around the net. I think you can actually hear him buzz. Undaunted by his smallish frame, Tedenby looks to translate well to the NHL game.

It's probably a good idea for the Sabres to concentrate on that second tier of defensemen in this class. Combine stud Carlson is a big 6'2, 212-pound righty that is very intriguing. A good skater with a big shot, he compiled 43 points in his first USHL season. A New Jersey blueline product a la Brennan ('07), Carlson recently spurned his previous committment to U-Mass and is instead heading to London of the OHL.

However, Sbisa is the pick if available.

An all-situations player with a big shot, a set of wheels, and a mean streak, the Swiss-born defender was a beast for the Hurricanes in the WHL playoffs. He exceeded most expectations by showing off his blend of scoring and hitting while navigating his first North American season. Steadily showing consistency, the upside of this mobile, rugged package is too much for Regier to pass up.

Round 1 (26) - Anton Gustafsson (C, Frolunda, Jr.-Swe), Jordan Eberle (C, Regina-WHL), Joe Colborne (C, Camrose-AJHL), Zac Dalpe (RW/C, Penticton-BCHL)

If Sbisa is tabbed at #13, the Sabres are going forward all the way with their other first-rounder.

This would be a great spot to remind readers that last year's #26 pick, David Perron, stepped right into the St. Louis Blues lineup to contribute 13-14-27 in 62 games.

Gustafsson is an easy name to call if he's still on the board at #26. With a pro frame and excellent vision, the two-way pivot has NHL bloodlines (his father is former Capital, Bengt) and is another in a long line of excellent Swedish forwards who won't need loads of seasoning before making a dent in North America.

Even if the Swede is still in play, the chance exists that Eberle becomes the next member of the Sabres. A clutch scorer with pure offensive gifts, the 5'11, 176-pound Regina native is like most 18-year olds in that he'd benefit from a commitment to the weight room. Using talent to make up for strength, he went 4-6-10 for Canada at the U18's last month (while riding shotgun with Cody Hodgson) after a solid 42-goal campaign in the WHL.

The DU-bound Colborne is a guy we kept close tabs on this season while monitoring the progress of Brad Eidsness in Okotoks. There is a split opinion in the scouting circles about Colborne. Many see a 6'5 body that's closing in on 200 pounds and want that to be his main vehicle. He's simply a skilled producer that answered the bell in the CJAHL playoffs (outscored Dalpe head-to-head), and will be a nice player down the middle at the NHL level after a few seasons with Coach Gwozdecky.

In an interview with SabresProspects, Eidsness said this about Colborne: "Joe is a very good player. He has an extremely large frame at 6’5 and when he develops his body he will be a force."

Dalpe, a very talented scorer with great speed, is a fine option to consider if available late in the first. Determined in all zones, the lanky six-footer (thanks to a growth spurt) will be the main attraction at Ohio State for the next couple of seasons. He does most things well offensively, but doesn't quit in his own end either.

From the same Eidsness interview, on the toughest shooter he has faced: "As far as this season goes on our World Jr. A challenge team, Zac Dalpe, who is highly ranked for this years up coming draft and is set to attend Ohio State next fall, has the best release I’ve seen this year."

QMJHL blueliner Yann Sauve had an up and down season for Saint John, likely falling into the second round on many teams boards. However, he's still a very good player that's worth a first-round mention. Despite inconsistency with his feet and decision making, you have to like something about a big, strong guy who fought top-rated Steven Stamkos in the CHL Top Prospects Game.

Round 2 (44) - Johan Motin (D, Farjestad-SEL), Danny Kristo (RW, U.S. NTDP), Corey Trivino (C, Stouffville-OPJRA), Danick Paquette (RW, Lewiston-QMJHL), Luke Adam (C, St. John's-QMJHL), Cory Fienhage (D, Eastview-Minn. HS)

Each team has their own board, and the Sabres have used the 2nd round to pull a punch or two. When the names Fabry, Gogulla, and Schiestel were called, many draftniks had to scroll deep down their lists to cross the name off. If there's a round where they may reach to get player they like, this is it.

Motin is a steady, mature defenseman who played full-time in the SEL this past season. He slipped a bit after a sub-par U20 World Junior tourney, but he's a low-risk, high-effort guy who plays with a mean streak. Nothing flashy here - just the makings of a serviceable support defenseman. Once a top-rated European, a savvy GM will make sure the 6'1, 202-pound righty doesn't make it to round three.

The #44 pick might not be a bad spot to think about Kristo if he's still on the board. A thin U.S. NTDP scorer who'll be heading to North Dakota next season, he'll likely be in demand after a six-point showing in Russia and could go any time after the flip of the round.

The BU-bound Trivino is a slick offensive weapon. With excellent hands and feet, the speedy dangler creates and finishes with equal aptitude. Needing to add a fair amount of beef to his 6'1, 170-pound frame, a team is likely going to jump on the Jr."A" talent after watching him pot four goals for Canada at the U18 tournament in Russia.

Paquette is a player who has the makings of a fan favorite wherever he ends up. A goal scorer who actually learned a trick or two from working with ex-MAINEiac Perron, the 6'0, 209-pounder scored 29 goals this season while fighting his way to 213 PIMS - good for 2nd in the Q. Gifted offensively and a nice guy off the ice, his wrecking ball style can sometimes lead to questionable hits. Being a below average skater may drop him into the third.

The barreling Adam is one of our favorite players in the draft. He goes hard at both ends, and was the leading scorer for St. John's this past season. With an Owen Nolan/Rick Nash type game, he's a responsible, soft-handed scorer who likes use his 6'2, 200-pound body to bang and create. His skating has prevented him from entering the elite tier of forwards.

The wildcard in this spot just might be the athletic Fienhage (pronounced fin-a-gee). At 6'2, 190-lbs, the fleet-footed blueliner will be heading to North Dakota in 2009. An aggressive defender, scouts took notice with his ability to play "big" in a brief USHL stint after his Minnesota HS season ended. A safety on his high school football team, the scrappy right-hander may need another year before entering the NCAA, but his package is something that the Sabres could use more of. Keep your eyes peeled for his name as Draft Combine reports come out.

Round 3 (74) - Daulton Leveille (C, St. Catharines-GHL), Patrice Cormier (C, Rimouski-QMJHL), Andre Petersson (RW, HV71 Jr-Swe), James Livingston (RW, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL), Mark Barberio (D, Moncton-QMJHL)

In recent years, the Sabres have maximized third round value with players like MacArthur, Sekera, and Gragnani. Conventional wisdom says they'll fish out another winner.

Developing twenty minutes up the road in St. Catharines, Sabres scouts are very familiar with Leveille. A dominant force with 14 goals in 16 games of the Golden Horseshoe League playoffs, Leveille is a fabulous skater who excels in space, including on the penalty kill where he scored six of his 29 goals in the regular season. At 6'0, 163-pounds, perhaps his thin frame allows him to fall to Buffalo in this spot. Then again, there's enough buzz where a team could very well take him in the top 40. Difficult to assess against Junior B competition, he'll matriculate to Michigan State of the robust CCHA in the fall.

Scouts fell in love with Cormier as a bantam, when he scored 91 points in 26 games at the age of 14. He hasn't had another statisitcal year like that since, but he's become an intense power forward who can produce modest offensive numbers. Standing 6'2, 200-pounds, Cormier scored 18 goals and 41 points to go along with 84 PIMs last season.

The speedy Petersson will bring a quick release and excellent offensive skills to an NHL depth chart. Sliding in rankings before Christmas, the 5'9 wing made a statement with four goals and four assists at the U18's in April. With history in mind, it's reasonable to think the Sabres opt for a player who's similar in size to highly-ranked Swede, Mattias Tedenby, just less consistent. He should be considered an x-factor in this draft.

A lumbering stride could cause Livingston to last until the Sabres pick at #74. A solid 6'1, 200-pound right wing, he's a bull down low with excellent offensive instincts. Better, more consistent scoring may still be on the board, but clubs can always use workmanlike, team-first players who can add points to the middle of a lineup.

Steady and poised with a somewhat awkward stride, Barberio scored 11 goals and 46 total points this past season in the Q. The 6'1, 200-pounder isn't very physical (only 20 hits all last season), but has an excellent all-around game indicative of a steady NHL defender to-be.

Round 4 (104) - Marc-Andre Bourdon (D, Rouyn-Noranda-QMJHL), Brett Theberge (C, Peterborough-OHL), Marco Scandella (D, Val d'Or-QMJHL), Patrick Wiercioch (D, Omaha-USHL), Geordie Wudrick (LW, Swift Current-WHL)

We're tabbing the under-rated Bourdon ahead of where most bureaus have placed him all season long. Standing 6'2, 206 pounds, the QMJHL Defenseman of the Year scored 59 points, was +39, and had eight fights while helping lead a potent Huskies attack. Perhaps not the most gifted skater, Bourdon brings all of the necessary skills to suggest he can add depth down the road. Rated the 125th North American skater by CSS, but should go by the end of the 4th round.

Theberge is a tough, two-way center with a good mind for the game. He relishes the shutdown role, and can be looked to for key draws. Standing 6'0, 194-pounds, Theberge could be a bit of a sleeper for a team looking for steady play at the pivot spot. Represented by Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, he scored 13 goals and 39 total points for the Petes in 2007-08.

The 6'2, 195-pound Scandella can be seen as a good value if he's still on the board past #100. He was the only Q defenseman to play for Canada at the U18's. A good skater who advances the puck, Scandella appeared on the draft scene midway through his rookie season of major junior. Simple, reliable, and effective are three words that describe his game.

Wiercioch (pronounced weer-cott) was slowed by injuries during the regular season, but cranked it up in the USHL playoffs with 11 points in 14 games while leading the Lancers to the Clark Cup title. Year after year, the USHL asserts itself as a developmental rival to the CHL. The 6'3 blueline lefty, who previously was a teammate of Kyle Turris in Burnaby (BCHL), will enroll at Wisconsin in 2009.

Wudrick uses a combination of speed and a 6'3, 204-pound frame to get to the net, where he finished 20 plays last year for the Broncos. An improved player who has worn the Canadian Leaf on his sweater, there's a slight chance he's available past 100.

Round 5 (134) - Brett Perlini (RW, Soo Thunderbirds-NOJHL), Milan Doczy (D, Owen Sound-OHL), Brodie Reid (RW, Burnaby-BCHL), Drew Olson (D, Brainerd, MN-USHS), Greg Pateryn (D, Ohio-USHL)

Perlini is a swift skater who scores in bundles. He's got great hands, and doesn't mind hitting traffic to make plays. He tore up the lower-level NOJHL this past season after a tenuous stretch with Ohio (USHL). The lanky 6'2 C/RW will make the leap to the competitive CCHA when he enters Michigan State this fall, and the Sabres have tabbed incoming Spartans before (Kennedy, Tropp, Miller). Any team selecting the player with British roots will likely have to fend off Detroit and New Jersey.

Doczy recently completed his first season of North American hockey with Owen Sound (OHL). The 6'5, 204-pound Czech is defensive minded with adequate skating ability, and a touch of a mean streak. He uses his long reach to make simple plays. Unranked by CSS, he still could see time at the WJC's in years to come.

An excellent finisher, Reid exploded for an impressive 52 goals in 60 regular season games in the competitive BCHL after just 10 points in 50 games the year prior. It's hard to say if he falls, but if the Sabres are looking for more sniping talent, he could be worth a look here. The 6'0, 185-pound wing who also kills penalties will play in Hockey East next season with Northeastern.

A Mr. Hockey finalist in Minnesota this past year, Olson is best described as a steady, do-it-all defenseman. The Duluth recruit skates and passes very well, and uses his 5'11, 215-pound body to play a physical brand in his own zone. He could play for Omaha of the UHSL for a season before hitting the WCHA.

Pateryn is a 6'2, 212-pound righty who will likely play another season of Jr.A with Ohio before bringing his physical style to the University of Michigan in 2009. Big and smart with good offensive instincts, his only question mark could be his knack for taking penalties.

Round 6 (164) - Paul Lee (C, Avon-USHS), Ryan Grimshaw (D, U.S. NTDP), Daniel Weiss (C, Berlin-Ger.Jr), Greg Burke (LW, NH Jr. Monarchs-EJHL), Alexander Fallstrom (RW, Shattuck-St.Mary's-USHS)

Lee, a 6'2, 200-pound forward, skated on a line with fellow '08 eligibles Cam Atkinson and Patrick Mullane to lead Avon (CT) to the New England Prep Championshp. A two-way, physical battler with decent offensive ability, the New Jersey-born forward will head to Dartmouth in a few months. We like the fact that he takes pride in his defensive zone work, as it's usually indicative of a team-first approach.

An intriguing player in the late rounds is another top performer at the U18's, Grimshaw. A native of nearby Rochester, NY, the defenseman posted three assists and a team-best +7 in seven games. Registering 6'2, 192 pounds while with the U.S. NTDP, the aggressive, blue collar defenseman with a nice point shot will be attending Harvard this fall, where he'll learn the ropes from current prospect and fellow Salisbury School product, Alex Biega.

Weiss, a 6'2 German RW, put up four goals in front of Sabres scouts at the U18's in Kazan. Is it possible that Gogulla and Schutz gave a plug to one of their fellow countrymen? Both he and freight train Toni Ritter were solid at the tourney.

Set to enroll at New Hampshire in 2009, Burke is a big forward who scored 21 goals and 46 total points this season for New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs. He also added five goals in six playoff games to lead his club to the EJHL finals. The Sabres have looked to the Tier-III league late in two of the past four drafts, and 6'2, 190-pound Burke is the best of the bunch.

Born in Stockholm but playing high school hockey with Shattuck, Fallstrom is a 6'1, 190-pound agitator. Currently uncommitted for college, the 17-year old also packs some scoring punch while causing issues for the opposition. He was recently picked up by Des Moines in the USHL draft.


With decent depth developing, SabresProspects isn't in favor of looking at any of the '08 netminders before the fourth round.

Sanborn's Thomas McCollum is the top-rated North American goaltender in the class of '08. Playing with the Guelph Storm, the 6'2 gardien stopped his way to a sub-2.00 GAA in the playoffs after a 25-win regular season. He should be chosen in the top-60.

Spokane's Dustin Tokarski showed his mental wares as a big-time performer with a Memorial Cup win, and could see his stock reflected with a mid-round selection. He had a 2.05 GAA and .922 save percentage for the defense-minded Chiefs.

Posting a .941 save percentage, Barrie's Michael Hutchinson blocked alot of rubber in the OHL playoffs with undermatched Barrie. He was OHL Player of the Week after leading the Colts to a first round upset of Brampton, and just might be the goalie the Sabres look at if he makes it to the later stages.

Other Notables

With lack of a seventh rounder thanks to the Campbell deal, there's extra space to drop a few more names into the hat.

Depite going undrafted as CSS's 119th ranked North American skater in 2007, Vermont's Jack Downing, 19, was a guest at last summer's Sabres Prospects Camp. The 6'2, physcial wing with excellent skating skills scored eight goals as a freshman for the Catamounts, and is again ranked in the same neighborhood for 2008. Downing will be joined by fellow New Canaan, CT native (and current Sabres prospect) Drew MacKenzie in Burlington this fall.

Projected late-rounders Justin and Drew Daniels are twin brothers (C and LW respectively) who turned a struggling Kent School program into a top New England Prep club. Both stand 6'2, and need to add quite a bit of mass to their 160-pound frames. After combining for 80 points last season, the scoring pair are slated to play in Sioux City (USHL) before attending Northeastern in 2009.

The Nathan Gerbe-esque mid-round darling of this draft? How about 5'8, 160-pound defenseman David Warsofsky. The highly skilled puck mover from the U.S. development program racked up seven assists in Kazan, and looks to be positioned as a 3rd-4th rounder. He'll be joining U18 teammate Trivino at Boston University in the fall.

Mikhail Stefanovich might be worth a gander if he somehow slips out of the second round. The 6'2, 206-pounder left his native Belarus for the QMJHL where he scored 32 goals and 66 points in his rookie season. He's got nice moves, but his attitude and work ethic have come under scrutiny at times. Perhaps the Habs pluck him to tag along with fellow Belarussian comrades, the Kostitsyn brothers.

Aside from the top-rated Stamkos, Kelowna's Colin Long was the only other 100-point scorer to attend the NHL Scouting Combine. The 5'11 center finished with an even 100 compared to Stamkos' 105, and could see himself go in the third round after being passed over in 2007. The California native will turn 19 the day before the draft.

(zac-atak) - Aside from first-round studs Bogosian, Boychuk, and Dalpe, there are other Zac's worth a mention.

A fun player to watch has been Missisaugua's Zac Rinaldo. At 5'11, 170-pounds, Rinaldo is a pesky LW who scored 14 points and racked up an impressive 191 PIM's in the OHL. He doesn't have one-punch KO power, but his scraps are spirited.

Peterborough's Zach Harnden is a big wing (6'3, 209 lbs.) who can finish plays from in tight. He's got a long stride and a longer-reaching frame that makes him difficult to handle when the puck is on his rod. He's not overly physical, but he doesn't shy away from contact as evidenced by a few fighting majors.

6'1, 190-pound Kurtis Bartliff scored 36 goals for Listowel of the Jr. B MWJHL (OHA), and is likely to be picked up late. Property of the Sarnia Sting (OHL), he appears headed out west for another season of Jr. A before honoring his committment to Colgate in 2009.

Igor Revenko, a 6'0, 180-pound LW from Belarus, raised a few eyebrows late after scoring three goals and 11 points at the U18's. Previously unranked, he was the 126th rated European on the final CSS list.

A hard-working, 6'2, 193-pound scorer, Marshall Everson cleans up well in front of the net. After a 42-goal campaign while on a line with fellow '08 Anders Lee, the Minnesota high school scorer will be join a Harvard program on the upswing in 2009. He'll get some looks in the late rounds.

A teammate of Doczy in Owen Sound, Michael D'Orazio is a tough, mobile defender who finishes his checks and is patient with the puck. The 6'2, 200-pounder gets his shots through on the PP, and has shown enough to earn a look in the latter half of the deck.

Julien Cayer is a player who has seen his stock fall while playing in the North Country at Northwood Prep. At 6'4, 185 pounds, the Montreal native will take his quick wrist shot down the road to Clarkson next season. If he can add weight and learn to use his body, the deadly shooter might help a club one day.

A guy who already has the big frame is CSS's 163rd ranked North American skater and Buffalo native, Rich Manley. A former member of the Chicago Steel (USHL), the 6'5, 235-pound RW spent last season with Burnaby of the BCHL where he compiled 16-35-51 in 58 games while being one of their top players down the stretch. Currently uncommitted to an NCAA program, Manley could be tabbed anytime after the fifth round.

Fredonia's Nick Bailen is another local product eligible for the draft. The 5'10, 175-pound defenseman scored eight goals, 21 points, and racked up 157 PIMs for Indiana of the USHL last season. Unranked by CSS, Bailen committed to Bowling Green back in November of 2005.

Originally placed on CSS "Players to Watch" list, Grand Island's Matt Zarbo is another unranked WNY native eligible for selection. A hard working left winger with the EJHL's Jr. Bruins, Zarbo ('08) and younger brother/linemate Joe ('09) have both committed to Clarkson. Tri-City owns both of their USHL rights.

The Russians

Previously displaying a liking for Russians, the Sabres have only chosen one in the last four drafts. That pick (Buravchikov, 6th round, 2005) was used on a player who dropped so far that his selection was justified. Since then, the inability to get the Russian officials to agree to an IIHF transfer agreement has many NHL clubs scratching their heads when it comes to choosing Russian talent.

The Sabres can be considered risk-takers at the draft table, but for now it may be wise if they stay away another year while that situation sorts itself out. This means possibly ignoring immense talents of the top-5 Russian skaters - Nikita Filatov, Kiril Petrov, Viktor Tikhonov, Vjacheslav Voinov, and Evgeny Grachev. There is ample talent to be found elsewhere.