The Buffalo Sabres 2010 Draft Preview

Hockey goes Hollywood as the 2010 NHL Draft takes the Staples Center stage in Los Angeles on June 25th and 26th. Much like scores of aspiring actors pouring coffee at every LA corner looking to be discovered, a total of 210 young hockey players will hear their names called as they take one step closer to achieving an NHL dream.

The reigning Northeast Division Champion Buffalo Sabres will embark on their 41st gathering holding the 23rd pick in the first round, and a total of nine selections overall. For a team that developed 19 of the 29 players (65%) who wore the Sabres sweater in 2009-10, having that many picks can never be a bad thing even if the class isn’t teeming with top end talent.

Still the situation begs the question – after a disappointing first round playoff exit, will GM Darcy Regier look to move some assets in exchange for better picks or top club additions?

SabresProspects will be in Los Angeles throughout draft week, so be sure to follow on Twitter to keep up with all Sabres happenings.

Lights, camera, action!

The Sabres are scheduled be active in six of the seven rounds, with trades leaving the club without a second round selection for the second year in a row.

• 1st round – 23rd
• 3rd round – 68th (acquired from Atlanta)
• 3rd round – 75th (acquired from Boston)
• 3rd round – 83rd
• 4th round – 98th (acquired from Atlanta)
• 5th round – 143rd
• 6th round – 173rd
• 7th round – 203rd
• 7th round – 208th (Acquired from San Jose)

Buffalo’s own 2nd round pick (#53) went to San Jose in the 2008 deal that brought Craig Rivet and the Sharks 2010 7th round pick to town, while another #2 acquired from Vancouver in the 2008 exchange for Steve Bernier was burned at the 2010 deadline to obtain Raffi Torres from Columbus.

After shipping their own #4 to Phoenix at the 2009 trade deadline in exchange for Mikael Tellqvist, the club reloaded some by acquiring a 3rd (#68) and a 4th (#98) from Atlanta in exchange for Clarke MacArthur. Those extra picks will accompany the 75th pick overall that came from Boston in a trade for former first rounder Daniel Paille.

The Current Cast

Writing the Script

A quick glance at the depth chart reveals the Sabres foundational strategy heading into the 2010 draft.

After adding size and toughness in the forward ranks last June, expect the team to continue addressing the 14:14 defensemen-to-forwards ratio that currently exists in the pipeline. Offseason moves did little to level the depth, as pairs of forwards (Adam and LagacĂ©) and defensemen (Crawford, Biega) remained in the system with entry-level deals while Philip Gogulla’s DEL transfer, the Sabres second European forward defection in as many years, was canceled out by the Sabres decision to not sign PEI rearguard Jordon Southorn.

While it doesn’t need to be an exact science, modeling the pipeline with a breakdown similar to a standard roster (or at least 1.5:1) would ensure better long term health of the offense. If the club retains all nine picks, a 6F:2D:1G or perhaps 5:3:1 distribution would be fair logic.

It goes without saying that if the Sabres target forwards early, the theme will be a blend of size and skill. Adam, Kassian, and Foligno all stand 6’2 or taller, but this group lacks the overall skating and creativity of the smaller cluster that includes Ennis, Gerbe, Kennedy, Tropp, and Byron. Factor in Kassian’s pending legal issues as a systemic “X” factor, and the emphasis on forwards becomes even more sensible.

To really drill it down though, the Sabres need to key on big, offensive-minded centers that are competent in all three zones. Skilled, physical speedsters with the desire to roll up their sleeves are never plentiful, but it’s easy to discuss Tim Connolly and Derek Roy’s inability to produce against a bigger Boston club, and then point to the fact that there isn’t a clear remedy in the pipeline.

The Sabres average center prospect stands south of six feet, and while the template of smaller carriers finding bigger wingers seems standard, the Sabres clearly need to achieve better balance down the middle. Adam adds size and center experience from the QMJHL, but he projects to gain professional momentum as a left wing. Honestly it doesn’t matter what position the high-geared Ennis lines up at, but for this exercise he’s considered a 5’9 pivot despite playing mostly wing in the playoff loss to Boston.

Aside from being short on numbers from left to right, a glance beyond the depth chart reveals what should be a secondary draft strategy - leadership.

The Sabres have a decent skill blend brewing, but the forward ranks continue to be devoid of a single top-line talent who exudes qualities of a natural leader. For those who think that finding one could be Mission: Impossible for a team holding the 23rd pick, I’ll point to Philadelphia captain Mike Richards (2003, 24th overall) as an example of what good scouting can bring.

The time may be now for the Sabres to fix things up front, but does this mean they’re looking exclusively at forwards at the top of the draft? Not necessarily.

The pipeline is rich with rearguards, but the position occupies just three of the top 10 spots in the Spring 2010 rankings. In a draft where it’s difficult to find compelling rearguard prospects in the mid-late rounds, it would be understandable if the Sabres used one of their five picks in the top 100 to bolster their skill level, particularly by adding one with a right-handed shot. Aside from lynch pin Tyler Myers, the current depth chart has five righties, but two of those, Kostka (23) and Generous (25), are restricted free agents who are essentially graduated from prospect status.

Regardless, if the Sabres opt for a defenseman at #23, expect to see a run of forwards with their next three picks.

At the Movies

In July 2006, Sirens went off in the scouting community when longtime Sabres evaluators Jim Benning, Terry Martin, and Don Luce were replaced by a leaner staff headed by Kevine Devine and a monster video portal to help guide their efforts. To this day, the snarky wisdom of anti-tech traditionalists still persists despite the regime’s developing of AHL Rookie of the Year Ennis and likely Calder Trophy winner Myers as results of their second year in business.

The Devine Era will hit Los Angeles for its fourth draft under the direction of GM Darcy Regier. To date, the group consisting of eight amateur scouts has selected 22 players – 10 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders – with seven already signed and two having their rights declined.

What’s interesting about this regime is that they employ European scout Bo Berglund and a Russian-born North American watcher in Iouri Khymlev, yet they haven’t selected an overseas player with any of those 22 picks. In fact, the Sabres are the only franchise to ignore the fertile European grounds over the past three years. Instead, they have opted to select 14 Canadians (counting the Texas-born but Alberta-developed Myers) and eight Americans. With no direct correlation to the same time span but worth mentioning is that nine of the top 20 and 15 of the top 30 NHL point-getters in 2009-10 were of European descent. You have to scroll down to #32 to find a member of the Sabres on that list (Derek Roy, 69 pts).

So with the Sabres trolling North American rinks, let’s breakdown where they’ve been culling their talent over the past three seasons:

• QMJHL (7)
• OHL (4)
• WHL (3)
• Minnesota HS (2)
• New England HS (2)
• USHL, EJHL, AJHL, NCAA (1 each)

The above nets out to 14 CHL players mixed with eight that were set for an NCAA developmental path. A deeper dive into this distribution shows that all six picks the group has had in the first two rounds, i.e. the 100’s and 50’s in their wallet, have been spent on players from Canadian juniors.

A noteworthy mark of the Devine regime has been their early success rate in the WHL. The Regier-era Sabres had taken 17 WHLers prior to the departmental facelift, with just three – Paul Gaustad, Clarke MacArthur, and Nathan Paetsch – making any kind of dent at the NHL level. After plucking Myers, Ennis, and McNabb, the revamped group appears on their way to batting .1000 when pulling from the world class feeder. To further accent their attention paid out west, the Sabres franchise last used a first on a WHLer in 1992 (David Cooper) before using two on Myers and Ennis in 2008.

In rounds three through seven, the current crew has used 50% of their picks on players committed to the WCHA (3), CCHA (3), and Hockey East (2) - the pacesetting conferences in NCAA hockey. Who a player was recruited by and where the player chooses to enroll does play a role in board construction for many teams, and it seems to be the case with the Sabres. The club recently signed Harvard defenseman Alex Biega after four years in the ECAC, but the Salisbury product was selected prior to Devine’s leadership.

The Every Other Year Theory

In a draft that is relatively thin on skating talent, there is an active trend involving goaltenders that should benefit the Sabres board. Consider the following:

• 2006 – four in first 26 picks, two in 2nd round (Jhonas Enroth at #46)
• 2007 – none taken in 1st round, four taken in 2nd
• 2008 – four taken in first 34 picks, plus two taken in late 2nd
• 2009 – none taken in 1st round, two in 2nd, four in 3rd

If 2010 graphs out the same, we should again see close to six goaltenders taken in the top 60 (one every 10 picks), with perhaps two in Calvin Pickard and Jack Campbell going before the Sabres step up at #23. This trickle-down effect could cause a slight run at the position, further aiding a board built with a clear need for forwards and no second round pick.

The Sabres themselves should spend at least one of their nine picks on a goalie, and when they do, it could be one heading to the NCAA where he can be stashed for at least four years. The Devine regime has taken three keepers, one each in the 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds, with all being collegiate upperclassmen in 2010-11. With (former Michigan State Spartan) Ryan Miller set as the cornerstone until 2013-14 and Enroth on course to be his back-up, the heat is off scouts to find a younger goalie to fast track through the CHL. However, this draft may see them consider one earlier than they have in the past if the talent thins as expected.

The Marquee

This is where it gets fun; the “brass tax” session, if you will. With the depth chart in place and the tendencies scrutinized, it’s time for some applied science.

In 2008, we correctly forecasted the picks of Luke Adam and Corey Fienhage. In 2009, we kicked around mid-round names Brayden McNabb and Marcus Foligno, and even targeted Zack Kassian at #13 in the fits edition of the preview before shifting our attention to Boston College star-in-waiting, Chris Kreider. A further look at our final 2009 dive saw many other players picked within four-five spots of our overall projections. That isn’t a chest pounding, but rather validation of the hours of consumption, and a reason why the SabresProspects draft preview is relevant. Without further browbeating, it’s again my pleasure to instruct you to enjoy a fine Abita Jockamo while I play Scouting Director for a day.


I suspect the Sabres covet the three forwards below with the 23rd pick, and there is a real possibility that at least one will be available when they hit the clock.

Will Campbell and Pickard go early? Will a team step up and take talented Russian Kirill Kabanov? Will there be a run on Europeans in the middle of the round? If some of these things happen, the Sabres could be sitting pretty. If not, maybe Regier dumps a later pick to move up few pegs. Or perhaps he secures a defenseman early before uncorking a mid-round deluge of forwards?

However it shakes out, I’m happy to walk away with any of the four players below.

1st round, 23rd overall

Riley Sheahan, C, University of Notre Dame (CCHA)

Hailing from nearby St. Catharines, Ontario, the 6’2, 202-pound center looks to be the total package in terms of what the Sabres need with their first round pick. Sheahan, who spurned the OHL’s Erie Otters to instead play in the NCAA as a true freshman, is a smart playmaker with great sense and patience in all areas of the ice. He’s solidly built and possesses excellent vision with the puck.

Sheahan posted six goals and 11 assists for 17 points as a rookie (the exact same line as MSU’s Corey Tropp in 2007-08), including 10 before turning 18 on December 7th, all the while playing the demanding center position in a league filled with 21/22 year-old athletes. For a youngster to jump in and be effective speaks volumes of the potential in play. A late-season fade caused him to plummet on many draft boards, but SabresProspects likes this player’s make-up and accomplishments enough to view him as the primary target in the early 20’s ahead of similarly skilled players from Minnesota high schools.

A few eyebrows were raised in late April when the freshman was arrested for public intoxication along with Irish teammate and 2009 Islanders pick, Kyle Palmieri. I will never make an excuse for carelessness, but taking many factors into consideration leads me to approach his interview with an open mind - even with the Kassian situation on the table, and even if the incident forces him out of the NCAA.

Ask him about the incident. Circumvent the coaching of his agent/advisor to break down whether or not the young man is genuinely contrite and embarrassed. After gauging his maturity and accountability, simply ask what separates him from the rest of the talented players around him. Being a local product, the Sabres should already have a good book on Sheahan’s personality. If you get a professional response from a player hungry to succeed, I wipe the slate clean and begin the coaching efforts that can mold this talented player into a Buffalo Sabre.

Adding a player with such a balanced skill set should round out the top-six forward ranks for many years to come. I know what I’m getting with this player. If everything checks out, there is no excuse to not take Sheahan if he falls into your lap.

Austin Watson, LW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)

While Sheahan is a Canadian playing Division I, an equally intriguing target comes in the form of an American honing his craft in the Canadian major-junior ranks. Watson, a 6’3, 185-pound wing from Ann Arbor, MI, had a breakout OHL season in 2009-10 by scoring 20 goals and 54 points split between Windsor and Peterborough. I like the way he skates, his heads-up plays to use his teammates, and what he does after he gets it off his stick. At worst, Watson is a middle-line forward whose effort will never disappoint.

A blue collar worker and and budding leader, the efficient Watson received his wish for more playing time when he was shipped from the defending Memorial Cup champion Spitfires to the Petes in exchange for Sabres prospect Zack Kassian. After scoring 11 goals and 34 points as a third-liner in Windsor, Watson saw his stock shoot up when he returned from a month-long shoulder injury to score eight goals and 11 assists in the Petes final seven games, including a six-point outing (1+5) against Oshawa on the final day of regular season play.

The only question is whether or not he will last past #15. Popular opinion says “NO”. He eventually came down to earth with a two-goal, one-assist performance at the IIHF U18s in Minsk, perhaps leveling his stock and keeping him in the Sabres range. I put him in the pool with Medicine Hat’s Emerson Etem, a blazer with a quick release who at one point was my favorite mid-level draft prospect. Both guys could go as early as 10 or last into the bottom third of the round. All it takes is one or two teams to do something funky for it to happen. If a debate ensues and character wins, Watson could be your next Sabre.

Tyler Pitlick, C, Minnesota State (WCHA)

Nephew of former Ottawa Senator Lance, the talented 6’2 Minnesotan is a strong, slick forward who scored 11 goals this past season as a true WCHA freshman with undermanned Minnesota State. His burgeoning package of explosive skating and shooting, craftiness at the circle, and an ultracompetitive nature make him a viable target in the 18-25 range.

Pitlick, a natural center who played wing last season to focus on scoring, opted to leave Mankato to play the 2010-11 season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. You can bet scouts fully endorse the decision for having the opportunity to get back to the middle and fast-track on a pro-like schedule could up the curve for a player who already has the moxie and overall hockey sense to contend for an NHL deal a year from now.

Pitlick’s pedigree and willingness to get better away from the puck are likely attractive to the Sabres, and there’s no question they saw a lot of him while keeping tabs on current Maverick, Justin Jokinen (2008, 4th round).

Dylan McIlrath, RHD, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Clocking in at 6’4, 215 pounds and known for clocking anyone who wants to drops the gloves, McIlrath is the defenseman to grab if the prime forwards are gone and you don’t get a good deal to move down. The Sabres have been missing that nasty policeman for a couple of seasons, and here is a prime opportunity to add the toughest defenseman in the WHL a year after taking the OHL’s baddest bruiser in Kassian.

McIlrath isn’t a puck mover, but he still contributed seven goals and 17 assists in addition to his 19 fights and 169 PIM. He’ll need to improve his skating and passing skills moving forward, but there’s no question his open ice hitting and fierce demeanor would open doors for the smaller Sabres forwards while Myers continues to explore his puck carrying wanderlust.

Again, look at the depth chart. As enticing as it is, I only take McIlrath if the priority forwards have already been selected.

Act II

Without a second round pick, the Sabres will begin their Saturday waiting for 37 other names to be claimed before beginning their depth drive. Much like Friday's kick-off, the Sabres will find themselves hoping that a cluster of forwards start to slide into range of their three third round picks.

Ideally the Sabres entire third round load would consist of the guys targeted at #68, but we know better. A few will be gone. At any rate, let’s begin a cruise through what day two could look like:

3rd Round, 68th overall (from ATL)

Jared Knight, C, London (OHL)

A talented puck handler and sharpshooter, the hard-driving Knight elevated his commodity status with a second half surge capped by an impressive ten goal, seven assist effort in the London’s 12 playoff contests. Knight’s offensive instincts and battler’s mentality make him a compelling day two target. Adding to the intrigue is how he battled his own body in his draft year.

Knight’s situation is different than most draft eligibles, as his remarkable finish followed a mid-season diabetes diagnosis that saw him drop 20 pounds. Getting his body under control with proper diet and monitoring led to better conditioning, a better overall handle on his game, and better production with 25 goals and 14 assists in the 39 post-diagnosis contests. In the 24 games prior, the 5’11 Knight posted a line of 12-6-18. Intertwined in the two spans was a nine-game goal scoring streak.

There’s tremendous upside here. The keys to Knight’s development will be improvements to his skating and defensive zone coverage and addressing the obvious need for strength. Overall, his momentum to the net and pure scoring ability make him a bona fide top-six candidate, and a player to consider if health concerns somehow make him available in the 60’s.

Connor Brickley, C, Des Moines (USHL)

A speedy power forward with good offensive skills and a robust hitting game, I like Brickley for the same reasons I liked Texas-born Chris Brown last year. Per the laws of the sport, players who consistently motor and hit often create scoring opportunities, and Brickley’s hard-working edge produced 15 even-strength goals as a USHL rookie. The Everett, Massachusetts native makes me think long and hard at #68, and I definitely take him if he’s available at #75.

At 6’1, 195-pounds, Brickley is that proficient sparkplug who can be used in virtually any role or situation. He’ll begin his NCAA career with Vermont of Hockey East beginning in the fall of 2010 after a busy twelve months that saw him lead the Buccaneers in scoring and play for Team USA in four different tournaments. At the most recent of those tourneys in Minsk, Brickley rocked top-5 defenseman Erik Gudbranson with a booming hit as the two closed in on a loose puck, wowing scouts and everyone else in attendance.

There’s a lot to like in this tightly-wound package. Good skating, good shot, strong two-way game, hits hard, consummate team player. An Adam-Brickley-Kassian line could be an exciting and productive #2 unit down the road.

Greg McKegg, C, Erie Otters (OHL)

A good playmaker with average size, McKegg had a breakout sophomore year in Erie with 37 goals and 85 total points despite being dogged early on by a slight MCL strain that took a toll on his skating. A fully recovered McKegg had a monster February, scoring 10 goals in 11 assists in 12 games en route to earning the All Weather Windows OHL Player of the Month honors, and more importantly showing bird dogs the skills that made him the #2 overall pick in the 2008 Priority draft. The St. Thomas, Ontario native followed up his season by being one of Canada’s bright spots in their abysmal 7th place finish in Belarus, scoring a goal and six assists in six tourney games.

At 6’0, 190 pounds, McKegg consistently gets into position. He’s not an explosive skater or a flashy finisher, but rather a good worker with excellent offensive instincts. He’s not the biggest guy, but his playmaking and general two-way polish make him a viable candidate when flanked by bigger wings. The U18 performance may have sprung him into the second round. If not, he should be in the running at #68.

Jakub Culek, LW, Rimouski (QMJHL)

Culek moved up the board after his strong showing in January’s CHL Top Prospects game, where the Czech showed himself as a physical, two-way skater with good puck skills. The experience propelled the 6’4, 195-pound winger to a strong second half in Rimouski, as the upped confidence saw him use his size more often to get the job done at both ends and generally show signs of becoming a QMJHL force come 2010-11.

Like Foligno a year ago, Culek is one of the youngest players in the draft (9/7/92 DOB). Also like Foligno, his size and skill set would address an area of need in Buffalo. He’s strong enough to initiate and absorb contact, uses his growing frame to protect the puck, and knows where his own end is. With two more years to tune-up an overall aptitude that saw him battle for 13 goals, 34 assists, and 54 PIM as a QMJHL rookie, the import is on plan to become an impactful North American forward.

3rd Round, 75th overall (from BOS)

Max Gardiner, C, Minnetonka (MN-HS)

Much like Sheahan, the 6’3 center comes in a package that appears to be exactly what the Sabres pipeline craves down the middle. Committed to Minnesota, alma mater of former top picks Erik Rasmussen, Keith Ballard, and Thomas Vanek, Gardiner sees the ice well and crashes the net while fully embracing a physical style. The addition of speed to an aggressive power game saw the senior compile 22 goals and 54 points in 23 games while leading #1 Minnetonka to the AA State Championship final where they lost to perennial power Edina.

Gardiner, who will know by July 1 whether he’ll be joining the Gophers or playing a season with Des Moines in the USHL, saw his stock took a brief, mid-season hit when he missed eight games with a broken wrist. Projecting as a smart, puck control style player, he should be considered decent value if on the board when the Sabres begin their run of thirds, especially if they miss out on round one targets. Gardiner’s older brother, Wisconsin defenseman Jake, was chosen 17th overall in 2008 by Anaheim.

Kevin Sundher, C, Chilliwack (WHL)

The 6’0, 192-pound Sundher has been a player to watch since being a high pick in the WHL Bantam draft. Known for his quickness and playmaking smarts, the Surrey, B.C. native turned some heads when he finished in the top 10 of seven categories at the NHL combine. While the physical testing doesn’t make or break many players, the articulate Sundher was said to have bettered his draft position by performing well in team interviews.

On the ice, Sundher is a creative forward who can score. In 2009-10, he compiled 25 goals and 61 points to lead a Bruins team playing under a new coach for the first time in its four-year history. An excellent passer and skater, Sundher has the skills and attitude to become an excellent pro. It’s just a matter of continuing to blend a blue collar ethic with his white collar mind. Staying engaged and not getting sleepy away from the puck will be keys to his pro ramp-up.

Michael Bournival, LW, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

In a relatively weak year for the QMJHL, the speedy Bournival is an intelligent, hard-working player worthy of a third round look. The 5’11, 183-pounder makes up for his lack of size by playing a fleeting two-way game that keeps him on the puck at all times. In 58 games with Shawinigan, the offensively gifted left wing compiled 24 goals, 38 assists, and a top-15 finish in shots on goal (221) before netting two goals and two assists in the Cataractes six playoff contests. He followed up his Q year with another two goals and an assist in at the U18’s in Minsk.

While Bournival’s game is highlighted by creative instincts, his constant motion also gives him value defensively. A smart, shifty player with a top notch work ethic and a great shot, Bournival’s skill set and coachability projects to an effective middle-line NHLer once his body matures.

Austin Madaisky RD, Kamloops (WHL)

Madaisky, 6’2, 199 pounds, is a mobile, responsible defender who makes crisp passes and is good at getting shots to the net. A last minute addition to the CHL Top Prospects Game, he’s a player that stood out after additional viewings with a cool game both physically and with the puck on the stick. Additional viewing revealed consistency with his positioning, excellent lateral movement, and a keen ability to keep pucks in at the blueline.

After an adjustment period following a January trade from Calgary, the Surrey, British Columbia native blossomed for three power play goals and six total points in the Blazers four game playoff loss to Vancouver. Madaisky is effective with the body, but not much of an overwhelming physical force. With just two lackluster fights in 2009-10, Madaisky instead projects to a steady, two-way defenseman at the professional level.

Madaisky and current Sabres prospect Corey Fienhage will anchor the Blazers blueline this fall. With recent wins with Myers and McNabb, and league wide success with names like Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Mike Green, and Brent Seabrook, no one will complain if the Sabres opt for a Dub defender.

3rd Round, 83rd overall

Dalton Smith, LW, Ottawa (OHL)

Standing 6’2, 203 pounds, the hard-working Smith brings elements of character and grit that the Sabres bound to consider before the end of the third round. The Oshawa product produced on the 67’s middle lines as a 17-year old, scoring 21 goals and 23 assists while accumulating a well-earned 129 PIM to help lead Ottawa into the second round of the OHL playoffs.

The hard-nosed Smith, who dropped the gloves 15 times during the regular season, likes to hit and create space for his mates while playing a sound two-way style. His skating will keep him out of the first round, but his package combining leadership and modest offensive skills makes him a legit mid-round target for any team in looking to strengthen the size and attitude of their forwards. Smith will turn 18 the week after the draft, giving the worker two full seasons to build on his already impressive platform.

Brooks Macek, C, Tri-City (WHL)

Before hitting the WHL, Macek was a 49-goal scorer with the esteemed Notre Dame Hounds in 2007-08. The following year saw him get his feet wet as a major junior rookie before exploding for 21 goals and 52 assists with Tri-City in 2009-10. The sophomore center continued his strong play as the Ams made a run to the WHL finals, earning six goals and 17 points along the way including a five-assist effort in front of Kelowna assistant and Sabres WHL scout Kim Gellert in Tri-City’s round two win.

Like McKegg, I see Macek as an offensive catalyst that could be a good table-setter for bigger wingmen. His top attribute just might his acceleration, as his explosive speed gets him separation to create and finish plays at the junior level. A tad undersized at 5’11, 178-pounds, the Winnipeg native has a compelling offensive package and enough grit to his game that could nicely complement an earlier big gun. Becoming more responsible away from the puck will be the emphasis upon his return to Tri-City in 2010-11.

Brandon Archibald RHD, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Athletic and mobile, Archibald represents a solid right-handed option to fortify the backend foundation established by the Devine drafts. The 6’4, 205-pound Michigan native finished a solid second season in the Ontario league, posting five goals and 33 points for the competitive Greyhounds. He uses his good feet to stay in position, executes break-ups with his long stick, and employs a serviceable first three strides to get space to move the puck up ice.

Archibald represented Team USA at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka last August, making him a potential candidate for the next two U20 evaluation camps. If the Sabres are looking to secure a defenseman fairly early, the Detroit Honeybaked product would be a workable choice to mold into a safe, stay-at-home blueliner.

Mike Pereira, LW, Avon Old Farms (USHS-CT)

A wildcard in this spot, Pereira is a speedy offensive machine who saw his draft stock rise after a leading Avon to the NE prep league title. The 5’11, 180-pound wing adjusted to his transfer from South Kent by posting an impressive 28 goals and 64 points in 29 regular season games. From there, he clicked into postseason gear with six points in the tournament’s final two games. The Sabres have been known to look at the New England high school ranks, and the undersized talent could wind up as a gem. My question is whether or not #83 is too high. Perhaps the 4th round would be more appropriate.

Come fall Pereira will take his slick offensive skills and big game ability to Massachusetts of Hockey East. A program on the rise, U-Mass offers Pereira an opportunity to immediately see big minutes against a very strong schedule. He’s not attending a traditional top flight program like most third rounders, but the overall package suggests a dynamic player could be ready by the completion of his junior season.

4th Round, 98th overall

Michael Chaput, C, Lewiston (QMJHL)

A native of Ile Bizard, QC, the same hometown as former #1 overall Vincent Lacavalier, current Sabres prospect Marc-Andre Gragnani, and Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi, the 6’2, 185-pound Chaput topped the Maineiacs with 28 goals and 27 assists in 2009-10 after seeing his freshman QMJHL effort cut short by shoulder surgery.

Chaput doesn’t have a single remarkable skill, but his strength and awareness lets him do many things well. A leader for the rebuilding club, he passes and shoots with equal success while employing some bite and a commitment to his own zone. The surgery set him back at the beginning of his draft year, but he ultimately responded with 40 points after December 1st to confirm his standing as legit offensive threat next season. The overall upward trend and 17% shooting percentage should see him gone by the end of the fourth round.

Sam Brittain, G, Canmore (AJHL)

The 6’3, 200-pound Brittain is a big positional goalie with decent glove work who, much like recent selections Brad Eidsness (North Dakota), Nick Eno (Bowling Green), and Connor Knapp (Miami), will ride extra years of development at the NCAA level. Technically sound but not overly athletic, the composed Brittain relies on his large frame and butterfly to cover a lot of net and steer rebounds towards his defensemen.

Goaltending isn’t a dire need for the Sabres, but having five picks in the top 100 offers an opportunity to strengthen all positions. It’s hard to decipher whether or not they will jump at a goalie this early, but I can see it being discussed given how I think their board will be constructed. His first season of junior “A” saw him battle inconsistency en route to posting a pedestrian 3.27 goals against average and .897 save percentage, but the overall package and projected maturation from four years in Denver make the stopper a stockable option.

Jordan Messier, RW, Tri-City (WHL)

Another Tri-City forward with Notre Dame roots, Messier doubled his rookie output by netting 24 goals and 47 points in a breakout sophomore season in the Dub. Standing 6’2, 193 pounds but playing “bigger”, Messier has the frame and down-low skills of your typical NHL power forward. He’s good at protecting and passing the puck, while bringing plenty of grit and hitting ability away from it. On top it all, Messier shows hands when it matters most, as evidenced by his team-leading eight game winning goals.

Messier’s all around contributions, including an oft-displayed edge that resulted in a respectable five fighting majors, were a big part of the Ams finish at the top of the Western Conference standings. He’d go on to post another six goals and five assists in 22 playoff games, setting the stage for big things in 2010-11 as an 18/19. The second cousin of the legendary Mark and son of former North Star Mitch, the Calgary area product could get a look from a team as early round four.

Dalton Prout, RHD, Barrie (OHL)

With RFA uncertainty, the potential for assets being moved, and a thinning blueline draft pool it seems wise to throw an overage name into the ring.

The physical Prout, 6’3, 215 pounds, had a breakout 19/20 season on the Colts second pair with Flames prospect, T.J. Brodie. Aside from excelling in a shutdown capacity in the Colts run to the top of the OHL regular season standings, the big rearguard also contributed seven goals and 14 assists after scoring just once in his previous 171 OHL games. A teammate of recently signed Nick Crawford, the Sabres are likely aware of what the now 20-year old Prout brings to the table.

For me, he is this year’s Mike Hoffman/Lane MacDermid. I penciled Hoffman in as a possible overage pick for the Sabres last season at #133 (5th round). I can’t prove it, but I suspect the team would have thought long and hard about him if the Senators didn’t scoop him three picks ahead at #130. Prout’s large frame, physical ability, and swift OHL spike also puts him on a track similar to MacDermid a year ago. The 6’3, 205-pound was drafted in the 4th round after a trade from Owen Sound to Windsor granted the agitator more exposure in the Spits first of two Memorial Cup wins. If you’re looking for a quicker fix, this seems like the proper spot to jump in.

5th Round, 143rd overall

Joel Vienneau, G, Kingston (OJHL)

With a 6’3, 187-pound frame, Vienneau’s smothering angles and quick reflexes present a pretty fluid foundation to work off of. The natural ability made Vienneau the best goaltender in the Tier II Junior “A” league this past season, posting an impressive .928 save percentage to go along with a 27-4-1-2 record and 2.16 goals against average. In their season-ending 3-2 OT loss to Oakville, the Hearst, Ontario native bid adieu to Canadian junior “A” by stopping 59 of 62 shots.

Property of the OHL’s Guelph Storm, the athletic netminder rebuffed the CHL’s courting efforts, along with those of St. Lawrence and Massachusetts, and instead committed to attend the University of Minnesota in 2011. In the meantime, Vienneau will play a season in the USHL with the expansion Muskegon Lumberjacks as a ramp-up to the bigger forwards and quicker pace of the WCHA. When a club selects Brittain, it may be the Sabres signal to start thinking about grabbing Vienneau.

Phil Lane, RW, Brampton (OHL)

A Rochester, NY native and former point-per-game player with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, Lane may very well be the next local product brought into the Sabres system. At 6’2, 194 pounds, the solidly built forward progressed well in his first OHL season, finishing with 18 goals, 32 points, and a -10 rating. Lane was gritty in the corners and didn’t back down when challenged as evidence by his four fights as a rookie. The Sabres could realistically consider Lane as early as #98.

Good on the forecheck with decent offensive skills, Lane projects as a classic middle-line player once his body fully matures. He can skate well enough and has the tools to play a power game, but like so many others needs to get stronger and more consistent if he wants to make a successful AHL transition two seasons from now. Expect the WNYer to play an inspired brand of hockey when his brother Matt joins the 2010-11 edition of the Battalion.

Isaac MacLeod, LHD, Penticton (BCHL)

So what if the Sabres have never taken a player from the BCHL. At 6’5, 205-pounds and growing, the 18-year old could be that desirable left side, stay-at-home nugget to someday partner with blueline cornerstone, Myers. MacLeod is committed to Boston College this fall, giving the Sabres plenty of time to sort out their crowded cupboard while his physical game matures.

After leading Nelson to a KIJHL Jr. B title in 2008-09, the big defender opted to preserve his NCAA eligibility and join the Penticton Vees this past season. Playing with the Vees, who were already a major scouting destination thanks to Beau Bennett’s 120-point campaign, afforded MacLeod loads of time to display his mobility and all-around reliability in front of a prime audience. In 56 games, he registered 23 assists and 51 PIM to help guide the Vees to a 48-8-4 regular season record.

MacLeod will be a true freshman in The Heights, but he looks able to handle the Hockey East load. Keep this name on the radar as day two gets moving. If he’s still available after the Sabres scoop up forwards, this may be one of the better blueline options.

Yasin Cisse, RW, Des Moines (USHL)

Cisse is a 6’3, 210-pound goal collector who got off to a smashing start with 13 goals in 18 games in 2009-10 before suffering a season-ending ankle tendon injury in December. Prior to the unfortunate injury where an opponent’s skate sliced his leg, the big bodied forward had a quick shot and ability to get up and down the ice that was making Des Moines a prime scouting destination.

If recovered, the power forward body, hard working attitude, and scoring aptitude make him someone to think about if available in the mid-100’s. Like fellow Lac St. Louis Lions AAA Midget graduate Louis LeBlanc, the Westmount, QC native spurned the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats to instead take the USHL-to-NCAA road to the pros. Also like the Harvard star, Cisse will hone his skills in Beantown, albeit across town with the Boston University Terriers.

Cisse looks difficult to play against, and the college game should help him grow into a more physical player. Jack Parker wanted him this fall, but Cisse will instead go back to the USHL for one more year as he continues to work his ankle back into form.

 6th Round 173rd overall

Matt Bissonnette, C, Lewiston (QMJHL)

Like Chaput, Bissonnette is one of the driving forces behind the re-building Lewiston Maineiacs. At 6’4, 185 pounds, the budding pivot has pro size and the skating to match while also carrying a developing physical side. Bundled into the big, fluid package is a good set of hands that led to a 16.7% shooting accuracy as part of his strong second half.

The Beaconsfield, QC native endured a tough start to 2009-10, scoring just four goals in his first 29 games and getting traded twice in one week before finally landing in Lewiston. Upon arrival in Maine, Bissonnette exploded for 12 goals and 31 points in his 27 games while amassing 72 PIM. The question is whether or not enough scouts took notice.

The big forward battled consistency before settling in with the Maineiacs, but with his feet firmly planted and big minutes on the horizon, the expectation is that he will maintain a high level of production while continuing to improve on the forecheck. The addition of 20-25 pounds of muscle over the next two seasons could make Bissonnette a game-ready force once his Q days are complete.

Cody Ferriero, C/W, Governor’s Academy (USHS-MA)

The 5’11, 190-pound Ferriero is strong center set to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Sharks forward Benn, by enrolling at NCAA powerhouse Boston College. Like his elder sibling, Ferriero played his high school puck at Governor’s Academy (Ma.) before committing, racking up 21 goals and 19 assists in 27 games this past season. Along the way, the physical forward accumulated an astonishing 112 PIM.

Much how his frame and statistical production mirror that of his brother (Benn had seasons of 43 and 43 points at Governor), Cody employs a responsible, versatile style similar to that of his sibling. Because of this, the younger Ferriero projects to be taken in the same neighborhood (Benn was selected 196th overall in 2006). The Devine group has shown interest in sub-6’ Boston College commits in the past, most recently kicking the tires of 5’8 Cam Atkinson back in 2008. Atkinson, chosen in the 6th round that year by Columbus, was a sophomore stud in 2009-10 with 30 goals for the national champion Eagles.

Nate Schmidt, LHD, Fargo (USHL)

Passed over after being mentioned in the SabresProspects 2009 Draft Preview, the talented Minnesota recruit and Fargo Force defenseman is again unranked by Central going into the 2010 draft despite posting 14 goals and 37 points en route to being named to the USHL All-Rookie Team. I had him in as a 5th/6th rounder last year, and I feel he grades out in a similar area again this season.

The offensive-minded Schmidt shines on special teams, as his vision and ability to get low, hard shots through from the point helped him to six goals and 13 assists with the man advantage last season. His skating and physical play are above average enough that, when mixed with a developing defensive acumen and aggressive approach to the game, should see the Gopher on the list of a few teams later into day two. The Sabres could use a power play weapon that gets a ton of shots off. Why not consider taking a swing with one of nine picks?

Jonathan Brunelle, LW, Drummondville (QMJHL)

Standing 6’1, 187-pounds, Brunelle compiled a line of 23-26-49 in his sophomore QMJHL season with the powerhouse Drummondville Voltigeurs. The late ‘91 scored just six of his goals after January 1, but his two-way awareness and improved skating kept him positioned as a possible mid-late rounder when the teams convene in Los Angeles.

Responding better to physicality should help bring out a more complete game and unlock Brunelle’s total potential moving forward. The Boisbriand, QC native is currently penciled in to ride wingman to 2011 stud Sean Couturier on the Volts top line next season, but rumors persist that that he could be moved to Montreal. Either way, he should receive plenty of ice and opportunities for growth.

7th round, 203rd overall

Corey Durocher, LW, Kingston (OHL)

A strong skater who has the frame and offensive awareness to develop into a third line power forward, the 6’3, 180-pound Ottawa native needs time to fill put. The lanky left wing scored 15 goals and 26 points in his first OHL season, and like many rookies his main issues were strength and consistency. You can glimpses of the potential in play every time he hits the zone. It seems like adding beef while growing into his skating stride will be key factors in Durocher doubling his output in 2010-11.

The willingness to get his hands dirty is already in place, so two more years of confidence building and defensive development could see Durocher hit his potential. He can skate and shoot it. Now he needs more reps and chemistry with his linemates to elevate his standing. This could be an excellent late draft value pick a la Nick Crawford in 2008.

Marc-Olivier Mimar, RW, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

Mimar, a 6’1, 198 pound wing, became a player to watch when Gabriel Bourque left lowly Baie-Comeau to star for Team Canada at the 2010 World Juniors. Riding the momentum of a strong November, the second-year man embraced the increased role by supplying five goals and eight assists over an eight-game point streak in December and January to lead the Drakkar offense and ultimately add comfort to the club’s decision to trade Bourque at the deadline. He would fail to score in his final 10 regular season games, but his touch resulted in 27 goals, including 12 on the power play, and 64 points while firing shots at a 15.5% success rate.

Players are treated like stars in the northern Quebec outpost, and the word is that Mimar handles himself very well. His demeanor seems to contrast former Drakkar forward and Sabres prospect Benjamin Breault. Breault, who ironically was drafted in a similar spot (207th in 2005), had his behavior as a Baie-Comeau player negatively cast in the 2008 documentary, Junior. Working on his skating and physical play will be keys to his success.

Brandon Alderson, RW, Sarnia (OHL)

For a team still looking to get bigger up front, the Sabres should be intrigued by the potential of Alderson. A semi-skilled 6’4, 200-pound winger, Alderson scored 13 goals and 24 points in 2009-10 as an OHL rookie for the league’s worst team. With decent feet and finishing touch near the paint, the Oakville, Ontario product has tools in tow to make the most of the increased ice-time he should see as the Sting rebounds.

After scoring 10 goals through his first 38 games, Alderson’s production drastically tailed off with just three in his final 29 and none in his last 12. Alderson likely did enough in a bad situation prior to his poor finish to earn a look from a team. I’m not certain his overall package is what the Sabres will want in this spot, but he’s someone to keep an eye on nonetheless.

Jeremie Blain, RHD, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)

The Sabres have a definite scouting presence in the Canadian Maritimes, and the thought is that they liked what they saw this past season from the burgeoning Bathurst rearguard. The 6’2, 190-pound Blaine settled in during his sophomore QMJHL season, earning big minutes while leading Titan defensemen in scoring with four goals and 32 assists.

Blain is steady in his own end, handling himself well physically while making a good first pass out of trouble. With sound defensive improvements as the season wore on, Blain culminated his efforts with a two-goal, two-assist performance in the Titan’s first round loss to Saint John. The righty greatly benefitted from his all-situations experience, and would be a firm target if he slides into the final two rounds.

7th Round, 208th overall

Dalton McGrath, G, Barrie (OHL)

The 6’1, 185-pound McGrath is a raw, athletic netminder who could emerge as a solid professional candidate down the road with increased action and coaching. After a 2008-09 that saw him go 16-0 with a 1.65 goals against average and .937 save percentage with Couchiching of the OJAHL, McGrath spent most of his 2009-10 year serving as an OHL back-up to Peter Di Salvo in Barrie. He won eight of his nine starts, earning a 2.78 goals against average and .916 save percentage with a solid defensive team in front of him.

With the Colts acquiring Mavric Parks from Kitchener as they firmed up their run, McGrath went back to play 10 regular season games in Couchiching, winning five while posting a moderate 3.04 goals against average and .894 save percentage. His best performance of the season came in February when he made 29 saves in a 3-2 win over Buffalo Jr. Sabres in a game held at HSBC Arena.

Matt Petgrave, LHD, Niagara (OHL)

Just up the road from Buffalo, a 6’0, 180-pound defenseman quietly had an excellent rookie season in the OHL. A dynamic puck mover with good character, Petgrave scored six goals (all even strength) and added 19 assists while ranking second among Ice Dog rearguards with a +7 rating. His undersized frame doesn’t prevent the athletic blueliner from fronting the opposition, nor does it keep him from hunting for the big hit.

Petgrave isn’t without warts. At times overzealous with his pinches and rushes, his decision making will need to engage more safe options. Still the Brampton, Ontario native mixes wise defensive plays in with his energetic miscues, and figures to see monster minutes over the next two years of major junior development.

Brandon McNally, LW, Belmont Hill (USHS-MA)

A talented playmaker at the high school level, the 6’1, 190-pound McNally scored 18 goals and 24 assists to vault Belmont into the NE prep playoffs. The Massachusetts native uses excellent vision and a pass-first mentality to connect with his linemates, but also possesses a strong, accurate shot.

The biggest knock is McNally’s wheels out of the gate. The emotion and drive are present, but his skating ability will need to improve for all of his skills to translate to the increased level of competition. A former teammate of Connor Brickley, McNally is committed to Dartmouth and will likely skate a season with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL. The defending QMJHL champion Moncton Wildcats hold his QMJHL rights, and it’s possible that whoever selects him may prefer he take that route. If interested, the Sabres would likely have him go the college route and see what happens.

Jacob Rutt, LHD, New Hampshire (EJHL)

The 6’2 Rutt is a steady defenseman who registered 10 goals, 11 assists, and 86 PIM in 41 games for the Jr. Monarchs. A very good skater with an excellent shot and good work ethic, Rutt will have the opportunity to develop his high overall upside for four years as a member of the University of Maine Black Bears. The Scarborough, ME native will play one more junior season in the EJHL before entering school in 2011, taking a post-draft entry into Hockey East similar to current Sabres prospects Drew MacKenzie (Waterloo to Vermont) and Mark Adams (Chicago to Providence). What’s different about Rutt is that he’s already been passed over in one draft.

The Sabres don’t necessarily need a lefthander on the blueline, but taking a big, skilled player who can be stashed for an extended time would make sense as the draft winds down.

Joe Rogalski, RHD, Sarnia (OHL)

Finally, we’ll cap off the list with another Western New York product. Hailing from suburban Lancaster, NY, Rogalski is a rangy defenseman with a good foundation in place to be coached into better habits. At 6’1, 195 pounds, the size and ability are present. He is a fluid skater who likes to get involved offensively, but as a defenseman on one of the league’s worst teams, perhaps that wasn’t always the best idea. Granted, being draft eligible and in his third year in the league could have caused over-execution at times. If the Sabres hold on to these late picks, there would be little issue extending the local flavor by taking a player who would likely be inspired to improve.

Closing Credits

It's been long, fun season. Thanks for reading, and feel free to share all of your draft thoughts below.

Check back the week of the draft for additional thoughts as well the final pick endorsements for each round.

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