The combine is done. The studs have been circled, and the duds have been color-coded. Alas, it is time for Buffalo Sabres Draft Preview v2.0. Or in this case, v2.slow. I hope it’s worth the wait. Before we get cooking, I want to remind everyone that I will be hosting a live-blog throughout the draft on Friday and Saturday. I hope you can join me. More to come in the week ahead.
“A winner is built with skill and overall team toughness.”
The Buffalo Sabres aren’t the biggest kid on the playground. So much so that heading into last year's draft we asked the club, “Where’s the beef?”
Despite taking excellent strides with their 2008 draft class, skating D and smallish forwards still pepper the prospect landscape. The Sabres don’t have to be the meanest kid by any means, but size and attitude are two things that will be welcomed with open arms come June 26th and 27th in Montreal. Many of the players isolated below address key areas in the developmental pipeline that simply cannot be ignored.
Please visit v1.0 of the draft preview for system strengths and weaknesses, as well as an early round-by-round fire starter to kickoff the draft season.
I'm not going to delve deep into the Derek Roy trade idea that put up for discussion in v1.0. I'm still latched on to the idea that Evander Kane is the guy that Buffalo should pursue, but much change would be necessary to make it feasible, and I'm not 100% sold that the Sabres have the assets. A facelift is a facelift though, and I do advocate it when considering that Kane tore the WHL up as a 17-year old. Enough on that for now...
The 2009 Depth Chart
The 2009 Current Pick Layout
Round 1 - 13th
Round 3 - 66th (from LA)
Round 4 - 104th overall
Round 5 - 133rd
Round 6 - 163rd
Round 7 - 193rd
Round 2 - 43rd traded to San Jose in Craig Rivet deal
Round 3 - Sabres get LA's pick from VAN in Steve Bernier trade.
Round 3 - Buffalo's own 3rd was sent to LA last season when the clubs traded places so the Sabres could select Tyler Myers.
BFA: Best Forward Available.
That’s my round one theme. I’m not going to take the easy way out and say “BPA”. It’s just not happening. The club has gone D, D, D with their first picks the last three seasons, and the system shows. Let’s move forward.
Everyone seems to agree that the club needs to add more battlers with size. The first round should see the Sabres go after a scoring forward with those very traits since both history and the business model suggest that trades and free agency are not the optimum areas for Buffalo to fish for the high impact guy.
Do you need to hit for size and grit with every pick? Not necessarily, but it will be the ultimate tiebreaker when writing names on the cards.
The Sabres looked to the WHL with both first round picks last year - the first time the Regier front office went to the rugged junior league with a top-30 pick. While talented Dub forwards Carter Ashton, Scott Glennie, and Landon Ferraro may be on the board in round one, 2009 may see the Sabres trust their Eastern scouts on d-day.
Sidenote: I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a “Kudos to Kim” shout, as Sabres WHL watcher Kim Gellert was instrumental in the team landing the Twin Tylers last June. Nice work there.
Currently, Buffalo’s pipeline suffers from a serious hole down the middle. When former first-round pick Marek Zagrapan bolted to the KHL and the club relinquished the rights to QMJHL forward J.S. Allard, the Sabres slapped a band aid on the situation with the signing of 2007 sixth-rounder, Paul Byron.
Byron, who played quite a bit of wing with Gatineau last season, is creative and good enough at faceoffs to slot him back at center where his slight frame would best be protected. Still, he’s a growing project, so the chart above speaks volumes of the organization’s most dire developmental need.
“Any guy can play the wing, but it takes a smart player with excellent vision and mobility to successfully man the NHL pivot.”
My primary targets for the Sabres at #13 exude the attributes that we feel are necessary building blocks to fill the gap.
With this flavor in mind, let us buckle-up while I simulate the Sabres front office activity by taking a final cruise through the seven rounds of the draft.
There is a trio of players that will be available in the 10-20 range that are favorable options, and it’s obvious that I don’t agree with the chalk selections of many mock sites that I’ve bumped into along the way.
The Brenden Morrow-esque Zack Kassian seems to be the consensus player at #13 according to the online hotspots, and it's a valid thought considering that the NHL is played in the paint. However, I’ve decided to shift my focus elsewhere after making mention of him in April’s v1.0 as I don't view him a game-breaker. A banger with good hands seems to be what this the Sabres crave, but the draft goes for seven rounds, and the chance to snag a more explosive player cannot be ignored.
Nazem Kadri and Jacob Joseffson are also fine players to be looked at early. Both fit the above quotation rather well, both could be there, or both could be gone. In the end, time, tape, and talks have made me think that there are equally efficient options that fit the team just as well, and that's who I'm rolling with.
And then there were three...
Round 1 (13th) - Chris Kreider (C, Phillips-Andover - Mass HS), Louis Leblanc (C, Omaha - USHL), Jordan Caron (C/RW, Rimouski - QMJHL)
A 6'2, 200-pound leader with strong hands, a missile shot, and superior speed, Kreider is exactly what the Sabres pipeline craves in terms of skill, character, and physical play. The Massachusetts native owned Division I of the NEPSIHA as a junior for Phillips-Andover Academy, posting 33 goals and 56 points in 26 games while elevating his play as the competition improved. After the Sabres completed their combine interview with the well-spoken Boston College commit, they watched as his physical attributes sparkled during the rigorous testing.
Because of his acceleration and release, Kreider could be an excellent breakout option as a wing as well. Either way, he represents a gifted, flexible placeholder depending on what happens organizationally between now and when he signs. You never know. He may very well end up being a dynamo on draws given his strength and coordination, which would obviously raise his value as a pivot.
Kreider repeated his sophomore year when transferring into the prep school, so unless he accelerates his senior year over the summer back in Masconomet's public system, he won't hit Hockey East until 2010. If that's the case, it will be in his best interests to head to Lincoln of the USHL for a preparatory season.
I am not buying the level of competition argument. I select Kreider at #13 and run with it.
In the same bucket as Kreider is the multi-talented Leblanc. After two dominating midget seasons in Quebec with the AAA Lac St. Louis Lions, the electrifying Leblanc took USHL Rookie of the Year honors by scoring 28 goals and 59 points with Omaha. A slick sniper with two-way smarts, Leblanc will take his well-rounded game to Harvard in 2009-10. Hardly a water bug, his average 6’0 height will be offset by a hard-nosed, blue-collar attitude and highly offensive skill package. Anyone challenging that should look at the spectacular goal he scored on one knee in front of scores of NHL scouts as his Lancers fell to Fargo in the game three of their USHL playoff series (held at the same time as the U18s).
In terms of competition, I can’t be concerned with an ECAC (mockingly referred to as EZAC by many scouts) forward going early. It’s Harvard for crying out loud. Leblanc is a future home run, and he’ll ramp up rather nicely under the guidance of Crimson bench boss and veteran of 796 NHL games, Ted Donato. If you stay at #13 and Kreider somehow bounces ahead of the pick, Leblanc is my best available option because he will still be there.
Perhaps a surprise to some this early, Rimouski's Caron is a strong finisher (11th in the QMJHL with 36 goals) while employing an equally apt two-way game. Physical and athletic, the 6'2, 205-pounder gets around very well, allowing him space to create. Minor concerns exist surrounding his ability to remain healthy (back-to-back seasons of 46 and 56 games), but when you add grit and a winner's attitude to a solid skill level, you've got yourself a future goal scorer positioned well for a top 20 selection. We like Caron very much and believe the Sabres do as well.
In fact, if the Sabres slide down a few spots to get an extra pick, they may very well do so with Caron in mind. As much as I’m enamored with Kreider’s overall package, I give this scenario a 70% chance of happening, so don’t be surprised to see Caron in Prospect Camp in a few weeks…
And what a fine consolation prize – a skilled, versatile player who can fill it up, plus another high pick? This is how you work the draft floor, and Regier knows it.
SabresProspects endorsement at #13: Chris Kreider
SabresProspects endorsement after trade down: Jordan Caron
A longer shot worth mentioning in this block is dominant Minnesotan, Zach Budish. The 6'3, 229-pounder is a hard-skating ox who gets to the net and leads by example. A man amongst boys at the high school level, his fully developed frame helps him control the tough areas, and his soft hands give him the feel of a polished finisher. Interviewed by the Sabres on Wednesday of combine week, Budish's testing suggests that his surgically repaired knee is again strong and ready to go full bore. He'll enter the WCHA with Minnesota in the fall, and looks like someone that the club will be discussing right up to selection day. I can’t get behind using a first-rounder here, and while I’d love to add him to the deck for round 2, someone is going to take the chance in the top 25.
We're including a look at round two since we all know that the Sabres will do what it takes to get back in before selecting again at #66. Friendly wager, anyone?
Furthermore, notice the positional theme for the first two rounds. I'll double that bet to suggest the Sabres go ‘forward-forward’ with their first two picks once they make that deal.
Round 2 (XX) - Ethan Werek (C/RW, Kingston - OHL), Tomas Vincour (RW/C, Edmonton - WHL), Alex Chiasson (RW/C, Des Moines – USHL), Chris Brown (C, USNTDP), Anton Lander (C, Timra - SEL)
Werek, Vincour, and Chiasson were mentioned in v1.0, and unfortunately for readers looking for some new action, I’m keeping their target status as 2nd rounders in tact. Werek and Vincour deserve special attention, as both would offer a prospect likely to enter the system more quickly if you opt for a college-bound guy at #13.
The Regier-led Sabres have taken a player from the OHL in every draft, and Werek should be at the top of the 2009 class as far as they’re concerned. One of our guys all season long, there's a chance he's available depending on how high the Sabres can trade back into the draft (you’ll need to get in the end of the first to be safe or the first six picks of the second).
Mixing together a high level of skill with grit, Werek works the corners and boards very well and can fill it up as evidenced by his 33 goals last season as an OHL rookie. It's hard to peg where he falls on draft day, but for this exercise Sabres fans should hope that 29 other teams over-emphasize the fact that he's not a trailblazer. Go get this kid now.
A WJC participant for his native Czech Republic and late '90 birth date, Vincour is simply a hockey player. Size, skills, goes to the tough spots on the ice – here is a guy you target in the bottom-third of the round (pick #50-60 range).
The 6’2, 205-pounder competes with an upright skating stride and good footwork, and has a finishing touch around the net accented by a thick shot. The RW/C totaled 17 goals and 19 assists in 49 games for the .465 Oil Kings while missing a month in January/February with two shoulder separations. Rumors that he also played with a concussion leading up to the WJC clouded what many considered an “average” performance, but it doesn’t appear to have damaged his draft stock. We like his make up very much as a suitable second line player, and are willing to brush aside a bumpy year in terms of injuries to comfortably add him to the Sabres board. One scout questions his hunger, but I’m not about to question the desire of a kid who left his country to come to North America and play on an expansion team because he craved a more physical brand of hockey.
Another late '90, the 6'4, 187-pound Chiasson is like Werek in that he has a power forward make-up as a natural center. Solid from the dot while getting good jump as a wing, the USHL All-Rookie team member poured in 17 goals and 50 points for East Division cellar dweller Des Moines. I’ve been eyeballing big, skilled players all year, and Chiasson was one of the best of the bunch. With a similar developmental path to 1A target Louis Leblanc (Harvard), Chiasson will face his fellow Quebecois in the next couple of Beanpots as a member of the 2009 NCAA champion Boston University Terriers. He has late first-round talent, making him a reasonable selection anywhere past #30.
A budding power forward, Brown plays a physical, fast-paced style that will be attractive to the Sabres. Groomed through Detroit Honeybaked via Texas, the 6'2, 191-pounder will enter the University of Michigan in the fall after a successful run with the US NTDP. Punching out 20 goals and 120 PIM last season, this well-rounded disturber is a legit second rounder who could add skill, toughness, and agitating attitude to a Sabres forward group needing more edge in their top 6.
Perhaps a sleeper in round two, the 6'0, 194-pound Lander is a complete, two-way player with lots of NHL upside. The captain of Team Sweden at the U18s, the skilled Lander scored two goals and seven assists while playing with intensity in all zones. We like smart Swedish centers, and the mature Lander will be another once he leaves Timra for a more favorable developmental arrangement. (Yes, he played on the same team as Sabres defenseman Dennis Persson.) After missing on Anton Gustaffson last June, expect the Sabres to have a few Bo Berglund-watched Swedes on their radar entering Montreal. The 60-80 range may be more realistic for Lander, but his leadership and complete game make him worth a poke depending (again) on what spot Regier can land back on.
Be psyched for any of these players if available.
SabresProspects endorsement: strong preference for Werek.
Round 3 (66) - Kenny Ryan (RW, USNTDP - NAHL), Taylor Beck (RW, Guelph – OHL), Brian Dumoulin (LHD, Jr. Monarchs - EJHL), Brayden McNabb (LHD, Kootenay - WHL), Taylor Doherty (RHD, Kingston - OHL)
The 6'0, 204-pound Ryan was 2nd on the NTDP with 21 goals, consisting of an amazing break down of 16 at even strength, five shorthanded, and zero on the power play. In a strong year for the Ann Arbor-based program, Ryan stood out as a consistent, heart-and-soul type that all teams need to win. A skilled right wing whose strength makes him an effective grinder, the versatile, hard-working Ryan looks like a guy who will score a few clutch goals before his career is done despite not having the same flash as some of his other NTDP mates. If Regier scores an extra pick in this range, Ryan is my extra prize that allows for a little flexibility later in day two.
Beck is a big, athletic playmaker who excels beneath the circles. A local product out of St. Catharines, the 6’2, 205-pounder’s big shot helped him to 26 goals last season while flanking Michael Latta’s right side for the Storm. With a game similar to Sabres prospect Luke Adam, Beck will continue to work on his skating while employing a finishing touch for another two seasons of OHL hockey. His talent will put him in the discussion as the first 50 picks of day two fall off the board.
An 80” wingspan will raise some eyebrows, and that’s one of many things keeping Dumoulin on my list. With comparisons to Hockey East predecessor Ryan Whitney (BU), the Maine native is a highly skilled puck mover that could be a valuable power play piece after a few years of defensive skills focus in Hockey East. Big, mobile and off to the NCAA, the 6'3, 197-pound offensive package should intrigue the Sabres once their forward needs are addressed. I can see Lou Lamiorello and the New Jersey Devils kicking this kid's tires if the Sabres do not.
Mean and tough, the imposing McNabb is a physical force who shows competence at both ends. The 6'4, 200-pound lefty scored 10 goals and 16 assists in 2008-09 in addition to his10 fighting majors and 140 PIM. Minor concerns with his skating surfaced at the U18s, but he will excel when playing a simpler stay-at-home game and should be considered by Buffalo to contribute to the "team toughness concept". I originally scored him as a late second rounder, but am now slotting him closer to the 60-80 range. The game is played in the paint these days, and McNabb would be good value.
Here's where it gets interesting. At 6'7, 218-pounds, Doherty gives the Sabres a chance at adding another mobile tree on the blueline, and why not? He's tough near his crease and gets the puck out of his end quickly. While not as fleeting as 6'8 Tyler Myers, the stay-at-home Doherty brings a competitive, physical approach with a strong and long body that could help fortify the Sabres future top-4. A bona fide first rounder if he had a more robust offensive dimension, Doherty is a comfortable pick in the 50-75 range. Sabres fans would snicker with glee if hearing his name called, but the club should only go fishing for this type of project if you've locked up some strong forwards before hand.
SabresProspects endorsement: Kenny Ryan
Three forwards in a row? Part of me likes Doherty here, but the Regier-era Sabres have twice gone the loaded forward route. In 2003, they chose Thomas Vanek, Branislav Fabry, and Clarke MacArthur with their first three picks. In 2001, it was Jiri Novotny followed by a murderer’s row in the 2nd round with Derek Roy, Chris Thorburn, and Jason Pominville. It’s doable.
Round 4 (104th)- Thomas Larkin (RHD, Exeter - NHHS), David Savard (RHD, Moncton Wildcats - QMJHL), Ben Chiarot (LHD, Guelph - OHL), Patrick Wey (RHD, Waterloo - USHL), Corban Knight (C, Okotoks – AJHL), *Jaroslav Janus (G, Erie – OHL)
Born in London but a native of Varese, Italy, the 6'5, 200-pound Larkin is a determined right-hander who just completed his second season as a converted dman with Exeter. After scoring 6-17-23 in 29 games as a junior, Larkin doubled his numbers as a senior (14-32-46 in 31 games) to earn All-New England Prep East Team honors. Larkin is a smart player with a strong desire to improve. Mobile despite still growing into his lanky stride, the European trained defenseman with excellent hands will log loads of ice time at the country club of Colgate University beginning in fall 2009, and is currently the SabresProspects pick for selection at #104.
This year’s Marc-Andre Bourdon (i.e. underrated Q rearguard), Savard is a complete player who showed up as both a top-4 rock and solid puck mover for the stingy Moncton Wildcats. Another SabresProspect personal favorite, we can realistically see him getting hits as early as the third round but we'll put him on the list past #100 for now. A physical, shutdown player who can adds offense, the 6'1, 201-pound Savard scored nine goals and 35 assists while enjoying a 50-goal turnaround in his +/- (-21 to +29) to finish as one of the Q's most improved players. Savard is a surefire NHLer in the eyes of one amateur scout, and would be an absolute steal if you can add a pick in the late 3rd/early 4th range.
Chiarot is a raw, physical, stay-at-home defenseman with developing puck skills. If another protector is on deck, I’m in favor of considering the OHLer in this spot. Strong on his skates at 6'3, 214 pounds, the Hamilton native is becoming a nasty guy to play against as he gains experience and confidence. He logged six fights this season, and should continue to improve in all areas as he eases his way into the role of #1 dman under the guidance of Storm assistant and Buffalo native Chris Hajt.
The steady Wey just completed a two-year USHL stint by dropping seven goals, 34 points, 75 PIM, and an impressive +22 with Waterloo. A hard-worker with excellent vision and decision-making skills, Wey can make a solid first pass or skate it up ice with equal aptitude. The well-rounded Pittsburgh native is another in a draft laced with strong BC recruits, and reminds me some of Chris Butler at a similar developmental point - highly competent and adequately physical.
A 6'1 playmaking center, late '90 Knight enters the draft after a red-hot playoff season that saw him score 10 goals in Okotoks' nine games. The North Dakota commit's blitzing run followed a rookie regular season that saw him lead the Oilers with 34 goals and 72 points. Smart down the middle, Knight is a swift skater who will be a player of significance once he gets stronger, and there is no place better than the Ralph Englestad facilities to do so. Taking him would give the Sabres two players in the system with an Okotoks-->North Dakota connection. The other of course is WCHA All-Rookie Team goaltender, Brad Eidsness.
It’s not the best year for goalies, but Janus is one worth sniffing around come the 4th round. With other needs on deck though, he really can’t be considered unless the anticipated moves are made to address the forwards before getting to #104. The Slovakian netminder single-handedly knocked the US out of the World Juniors with a 44-save performance, and his stock has shot up since. Quick and agile, Janus has been the backbone of a weak Erie Otters club for the past two seasons, and as a 20-year old come September, will be immediately ready to assume the back-up role to Jhonas Enroth in Portland if selected.
SabresProspects endorsement: Thomas Larkin
As one scout put it, "A COLGATE guy?". That's correct.
Round 5 (133) - Mike Hoffman (C, Drummondville - QMJHL), Nate Schmidt (LHD, St. Cloud Cathedral – MinnHS), Patrick Cehlin (RW, Djurgarden – SEL), Mitchell Callahan (RW, Kelowna – WHL), Anton Burdasov (RW, Chelyabinsk – RUS3), * Joni Ortio (G, TPS Jr. - FIN)
Our current favorite in this spot, Hoffman is a speedy 19-year old forward who helped a stacked Drummondville club dominate the QMJHL and earn a spot in the Memorial Cup. A true offensive motor and power play QB, the 6’0 Hoffman does a great job carrying the puck at top speed – a trait propelling him to a 52-goal output in 2008-09 (including 24 with the extra man). The Kitchener, Ontario native went undrafted in 2008 and will turn 20 in November, but the Sabres have taken overaged players from stacked junior clubs before - London's Dylan Hunter (2004) and Adam Dennis (2005). There’s also a precedent for Ontario kids thriving in the QMJHL; namely Claude Giroux, Paul Byron, and Chris Didomenico. The Sabres won't wait if Hoffman fills a need.
2009 is a great year for Minnesota high school players, and many good ones are projected to be available in the later rounds. Playing varsity since 8th grade, the converted defenseman Schmidt scored 21-24-45 in 25 games this season for Class A finalist St. Cloud Cathedral. The 6'0, 197-pound lefty is a big play defenseman who dictates pace and fires a lot of shots. While offensively dominant, the 2010 Minnesota recruit is very adept in his own end both technically and physically, and could be buried as a Keith Ballard-like player deeper into day two. It would be ideal if Schmidt makes it to the 5th/6th, but it's a tough proposition.
Can a middle-line Swede make it all the way to the 130’s? It’s tough to determine where Cehlin falls, but the 5’10 gunner is someone to consider anywhere past the 4th round. He’s not big, but he plays like he is with leverage and attitude. Possessing some offensive flash, the right wing scored 10 goals and 35 points in 36 games while bringing an aggressive, pesky style to the ice on every shift. Cehlin likes to mix it up (does anyone remember his kneeing penalty in the world juniors against Germany?). He’s quick, strong, and right in line with what the Sabres need.
One tough S.O.B. Plain and simple, Kelowna's Callahan is a lot to handle. Not turning 18 until August, he's also one of the younger players in the 2009 pool. The 5'11 pest produces via hard work and a mean streak, racking up 14 goals and 188 PIM as a 17-year old for WHL champion Rockets. In addition to his pugilistic tendencies (20 fighting majors), the Californian is an efficient attacker and who should probably ease up on the fist-tossing in favor of a more balanced offensive approach. He could be a dangerous role player for any team willing to give him a shot, especially if he grows two-three more inches in the coming years.
A 6’3, 202-pound winger who looks to score, Burdasov is sort of a question mark in the scouting community, but worth a pick due to his developed offensive skills – mainly puckhandling and shooting. Unfortunately, he didn’t participate in the U18’s in Fargo for Team Russia, and this may very well be due to the KHL trying to keep their prized youngster off the North American radar. His size and ability fit what the Sabres crave, and the 5th round may be prudent to select the talented Russia without worrying about transfer agreements and all that other hogwash that clouds the process. There’s a slight chance he makes it to #133.
A decent goaltender is bound to slide to round five, and history suggests the Sabres could be there waiting. Goalies generally take longer to develop into NHL ready, so it’s always wise to select NCAA players. However, let’s follow the Noronen/Enroth path a look at a European. At one point, scouts thought Ortio could be near the top of the 2009 draft class. The 6'1, 185-pound butterfly keeps his team in games with quicks and good all- around net coverage. In 2008-09, the Finn posted a 2.63 GAA and .917 save percentage for TPS of the U20 SM-Liiga. The fifth round is a good spot to address the nets, and Ortio would be very solid if snagged in the later rounds.
SabresProspects endorsement: Mike Hoffman
A speedy power-play tactician is a key ingredient here. This is one spot where I don't need the player to be the Incredible Hulk. Lock up a commodity that has proven that he can use his teammates well.
Round 6 (163) – Radko Gudas, (RHD, Kladno – CZE), Max Tardy (C, Duluth East – MinnHS), Matt Brown (LW, Moncton – QMJHL), Steve Anthony (LW, Saint John – QMJHL), Tyler Randell (RW, Kitchener - OHL), * Jeff Wyer (G, Reading High - Mass. HS),
Those who watched the WJC may recall Gudas as a strong, physical defenseman. In the tourney’s six games, the rearguard scored two goals and an assist, but he is marked as more of a stay-back type of player. He won’t rush end-to-end, but he can hold his own in terms of getting the play started. I’ve been impressed with the Czech’s embracing a more North American-style game over the past few international events, and Gudas has been steady as they come. At 6’0, 190-pounds, I can see this name being called much earlier than this if he didn’t already get passed over a year ago. I like him almost as much as I do Schmidt.
Tardy is currently 6’0, 170-pounds, but he plays the game like a ball of fire. Relentless and energetic, his contagious style is well complemented by an impressive offensive skill set. Tardy is noticeable on every shift because he likes to be involved. His game is one for coaches, and his lunch-bucket style could make him a fan favorite in Buffalo one day. After pumping home 28 goals and 48 points in 25 games for Duluth East last season, the Mr. Hockey finalist will test his mettle in the WCHA this fall with Minnesota-Duluth.
Moncton's Brown is a hard-working left wing who can score and play defense. The 5'11, 190-pounder caught fire out of the gate, scoring 18 goals in 40 games before a January injury limited viewing opportunities for interested teams. He returned for the final game of the regular season to net one goal in nine playoff games, and will have two full years of QMJHL development to get bigger and stronger. Brown has been very underrated by scouts I’ve been in contact with, so I guess we’ll see what the teams say on draft day. Personally, I think I may have him slotted too low. I can see teams looking at him in the 4th.
I’m not completely convinced that Anthony sees his stock slide this much, but I’m slotting him here for value in case he does. While watching Paul Byron around New Year's, the gifted 6’2, 205-pound athlete tore the Piques up with two goals and four assists to earn a #1 star of the game. Top 60 skills are clearly present, but he needs time to put it all together (and actually started to once Chris Didomenico was traded to Drummondville). He has great hands and fantastic puckhandling ability, but like many young players has been inconsistent with his effort and drive. Alleged attitude issue have dogged the talented kid, but a team is likely to jump earlier on talent alone. Given Saint John's proximity to Al MacAdams's base, you would think the Sabres have a good "yay or nay" handle on his game and will chart him accordingly.
A player who scored 53 goals in 63 games as midget three years ago, the 6'1, 191-pound Randell is a physical battler who can set-up down low. A trade from Belleville to rebuilding Kitchener in his second OHL season translated into regular ice time and an unlocking of his hard-nosed style, but the lack of early season exposure may see a dip in his stock. With good size and a strong work ethic already in place, continued work on his quickness could see Randell become a big-time OHL scorer beginning next year.
Quick and sharp, the unheralded Wyer is actually my favorite goaltender of the draft class. With the Sabres currently having a junior and a sophomore toiling in the NCAA ranks, the 6th round looks like a good spot to add promising netminder who as of now won't hit New Hampshire of Hockey East until 2010. The 6'0, 170-pounder posted a solid 1.50 GAA and .932 save percentage in 2008-09 after leading Reading to a Super-8 title the year before. Consider the pick, let him work for a few years, and look to CHL free agents if you need an extra keeper between now and his ready date.
SabresProspects endorsement: Radko Gudas
Some good notes on Gudas from the WJC's made him linger. Projecting back-to-back players being selected that were passed over in previous drafts.
Bonus endorsement: Jeff Wyer
Again, there's some potential here. An itch to scratch. Worth the patience, and this is coming from a guy who used to regularly burn a former D1 goalie in the family breezeway as a kid.
Round 7 (193) - Cam Reid (C, Westside - BCHL), Anton Myllari (LHD, Vasteras – SEL), Dan Delisle (C, Totino-Grace - Minn. HS), Etienne St. Germain (LHD, Northwood Prep - NYHS), Andrew Agozzino (LW, Niagara – OHL), *Steve Racine (G, Taft - CTHS)
Readers may recall a mid-season piece on this untouched stone. The 6'2, 185-pound Reid is a New Hampshire-bound power forward who could become the first ever Sabres draft pick from the BCHL - an established NCAA feeder. He compliments his playmaking style by driving hard to the net and working the tough areas to get the job done. A two-way worker, Reid caught fire after a deadline trade to Westside. The forward didn't appear on any version of a ranking list this season (CSB or ISS), but has enough game to be a formidable Hockey East forward by his junior season. Perhaps the best player that many draftniks have never heard of, we like him as a late-round grab.
Myllari is a 6’2, 229-pound defenseman from Sweden who has seen his development stall a bit since his 15/16 years. He’s not particularly mobile due to his size, but would still represent a good pick for a team who could use some blueline strength. His long-range prognosis is that of a stay-at-home player who likes to play rough. This should appeal to the Sabres if he lasts to the final two rounds, and he may very well be there considering he was left off of Sweden’s 2009 WJC entry. Granted, this is probably the best year for Sweden in quite a while.
Another power forward project, Delisle is a Duluth recruit with a pro offensive package of quick feet and a long reach. In 25 games this season, the 6'4, 223-pound center scored 31 goals and 53 points en route to earning a Mr. Hockey nomination. The senior captain brings character and skill, and with continued work on his defensive game, could be late-riser once he hits the collegiate circuit.
At 6'1, 195-pounds, St. Germain is a physical defenseman who can skate and distribute very well. A Quebec product of AAA College Charles-Lemoyne, the mobile defender scored one goal and 11 assists for Northwood playing against a mix of prep and Jr.A opponents. The righty was selected 25th overall by Shawinigan in the 2008 QMJHL draft, his two-way skill set looks to be heading north unless an NCAA commitment drops in the coming weeks.
I’m keeping the talented Agozzino on the radar. The quick-footed, undersized forward is coming off a 27-goal, 56-point campaign for the Niagara Ice Dogs. Stocky at 5'9, 188 pounds, "Aggy" is a go-to, all-situations player who competes hard at both ends and knows how to score a clutch goal. Amazingly, he was once thought to have top-50 talent, but it seems that lack of a growth spike has made him less of a commodity (along with fellow 5'9 Dog Chris DeSousa). The Sabres like agitators, and here is one who can fill it up with the opposition on the chase.
Another holdover from the first edition, the 6'2, 177-pound Racine is a Buffalo native currently uncommitted for college. The Sabres previously looked to Taft in seventh round when they chose Drew MacKenzie in 2007. Racine is a big, quick goaltender with good positioning who will head to the USHL next season to play with the Lincoln Stars.
SabresProspects endorsement: Cam Reid
Lots to like with this player at both ends of the ice. Workmanlike, good size, can score some goals. Definitely worth a 7th.