The Sabres will enter the The Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on Sunday, June 30 holding a total of 10 picks:
- 1st round - #8
- 1st round (from Minnesota) - #16
- 2nd round - #38
- 2nd round (from St. Louis) - #52
- 3rd round - #69
- 5th round - #129
- 5th round (New Jersey via Florida) - #130
- 5th round (from St. Louis) - #143
- 6th round - #159
- 7th round - #189
For the second straight year and third time since 2001, Darcy Regier's scouting staff enters the draft with four picks in the top-60.
- In 2012, the four picks were converted into three players - Mikhail Grigorenko (12th), Zemgus Girgensons (14th), and Jake McCabe (44th)
- In 2001, the picks were used to select Jiri Novotny (22nd), Derek Roy (32nd), Chris Thorburn (50th), and Jason Pominville (55th)
- 2012 - Grigorenko (12th), Girgensons (traded up from #21 to select at #14)
- 2008 - Tyler Myers (12th), Tyler Ennis (26th)
- 2002 - Keith Ballard (11th), Daniel Paille (20th)
- have selected 136 players, with 54 of them appearing in the NHL (39.7%)
- drafted and developed 16 of the 30 players who wore the Sabres uniform in 2012-13
- have selected a player from the OHL in every single draft
- have never selected a player out of the BCHL, an established NCAA feeder
- have worked four drafts where they haven't selected a G (1998, 2001, 2008, 2010)
What's a draft season without a study to ponder?
Tip of the cap to Grand Valley State University professors Robert O. Deaner and Aaron Lowen, who along with University of Sydney's Stephen Cobley produced an interesting work earlier this year about Relative Age Effects (RAEs) and selection bias in the NHL Draft. Here is their abstract:
Relative age effects (RAEs) occur when those who are relatively older for their age group are more likely to succeed. RAEs occur reliably in some educational and athletic contexts, yet the causal mechanisms remain unclear. Here we provide the first direct test of one mechanism, selection bias, which can be defined as evaluators granting fewer opportunities to relatively younger individuals than is warranted by their latent ability. Because RAEs are well-established in hockey, we analyzed National Hockey League (NHL) drafts from 1980 to 2006. Compared to those born in the first quarter (i.e., January–March), those born in the third and fourth quarters were drafted more than 40 slots later than their productivity warranted, and they were roughly twice as likely to reach career benchmarks, such as 400 games played or 200 points scored. This selection bias in drafting did not decrease over time, apparently continues to occur, and reduces the playing opportunities of relatively younger players. This bias is remarkable because it is exhibited by professional decision makers evaluating adults in a context where RAEs have been widely publicized. Thus, selection bias based on relative age may be pervasive.
As also stated in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, RAEs are often referenced in Canadian ice hockey, where nearly 40% of players on elite junior teams are born in the first quarter of the year, meaning that, because of a January 1 cut-off date, they would have been consistently older than their age group peers. This has caused more Q1-born players to be drafted higher (40% of Canadian-born first round NHL draft selections from 2007–2010 were born in the first quarter), but a lower number of Canadian-born NHL players (28%) were born in the first quarter.
To make a long story short, Q1-born players get drafted more often (36% of total), but under-produce compared to their Q3/Q4-born counterparts. Keep in mind, this particular data set excluded all non-Canadian born players and did not factor in goaltenders.
For the visual learner, here are two graphs to illustrate the point:
Out of curiosity, I reviewed the top-10 regular season scorers in 2013 to see how that looked...
Granted this list of full of top-picks, but eight of the top-10 were born in July-December, including the four non-Canadians. Five of those eight have Cup rings. It may not mean a ton, but it's interesting nonetheless.
RAEs aren't anything new to scouts, so why bring it up now?
It's an under-discussed topic with many of the top players in the class of 2013 having late '94 birth dates.
OK, so with all that science out of the way it's time to get down to the nitty gritty. Before diving into the candidates themselves, let's take a high level glance at their potential future teammates.
It's easier to push a center to wing than the other way around, and the current numbers certainly suggest that will be the case. Last season saw two prospects hit the 30-goal mark (Grigorenko, Catenacci), but the system is starving for more natural scoring on the boards. Ideally, picking up an elite level player who can cut through open ice with five-tool aptitude (all the while managing a smart a two-way game) would be at the top of the agenda.
The future defensive corps is on the verge of looking somewhat stable even with the departures of veterans Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr. With 23-year old Tyler Myers and veteran minute-eater Christian Ehrhoff both under contract through 2019, two of the top-six spots can be safely reserved for the time being, allowing the Sabres to manage veteran contracts appropriately while elevating Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb, and Jake McCabe to full-time duty between now and the 2014-15 season.
With that said, creating competition is always a good thing. The position is simply too important to take a break from adding high-quality depth.
Size and skating are obviously paramount on the blueline. Beyond that, the Sabres could be looking to walk away from Jersey with a Sopranos-like hitman on the back end. The upper pipeline is dominated by solid two-way skaters, leaving an opening to add a physical, stay-at-home presence along the lines of McNabb and Weber.
Let's be careful with this stat because you definitely don't want your rearguards spending too much time in the box, but defenders logged just three of the Sabres' 25 fighting majors in 2012-13. The club doesn't need to draft Anderson Silva, but showing more teeth around the crease can never hurt.
"Strength in numbers" is the theme in net, where the Sabres boast five goalies age 23 or younger for the first time in a decade. The addition of Matt Hackett boosted the quality and experience (13 NHL games) of the position, but the pipeline could still be missing the next 60-game horse. We just don't know yet...and that's the fun (and agonizing) part of goalies.
SEL rookie Linus Ullmark and two-time Saskatoon MVP Andrey Makarov have nice potential, making it possible that the Sabres monitor their progress for another year before investing a higher pick in the crease. But just because "goalies take longer to develop" doesn't mean that you can't take one early. Noteworthy is the fact that over the course of the last five drafts the Sabres are one of just seven clubs who have not taken a goalie within the first three rounds.
I've been covering the Sabres prospects for nearly 10 years, but have ranked just two, Miller and Enroth, in the top-five. It could be time to add a top-end talent.
- With the game remaining tilted to down-low paint pressure, the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, and Chicago Blackhawks are your unquestioned model. They all have won Stanley Cups by blending size and toughness with puck possession skills, so no one should be surprised if the Sabres continue to execute with the mantra of getting "bigger, stronger, faster, meaner" at the skating positions.
- Some (me) will argue that toughness and possession begin in the defensive zone. After acquiring skill at the top, the Sabres should look to add some powerful horses who compete one-on-one and can push the pace up ice. This applies to both D and F.
- Attitude. Finding elements of "old time hockey" could be on the Sabres' agenda as the organization re-tunes its top-to-bottom work ethic and becomes harder to play against.
- When isolating the first round, it appears that the degrees of separation are miniscule between players slotted 5-9 and 10-22. This could give the Sabres an opportunity to address positional wishes early (first three picks) before defaulting to a safer "best player available" mode once the upper tiers have exhausted.
- Maintain balance. The system clearly needs wingers, but not at the expense of adding size and toughness on the blueline. If they keep all 10 picks, it could breakdown to five forwards, four defenseman, and a goalie.
- The last four years have seen the Sabres use seven of their 10 picks in the final two rounds (rounds six and seven) on players previously passed over at the draft.
Right-handed defensive sticks are coveted, and the 2013 class looks to have four that could fall in the top-20 (Seth Jones, Rasmus Ristolainen, Steve Santini, and Ryan Pulock)...
Last year was the first time ever that no Canadian-born forwards were selected in the top-10. This draft will be a rebound year with names like MacKinnon, Drouin, and Monahan poised to go high...
Bloodlines were prevalent in 2012 as evidenced by sons for former NHLers Griffin Reinhart (4th), Henrik Samuelsson (27th), Stefan Matteau (29th), Lukas Sutter (39th), and Tim Bozon (64th) all being selected in the first three rounds. The theme keeps rolling in 2013 with Max Domi (Tie), Kerby Rychel (Warren), Andre Burakowsky (Robert), Adam Tambellini (Steve), Ryan Fitzgerald (Tom), Cole Cassels (Andrew), Brendan Burke (Sean), Miles Wood (Randy), Daniel Lafontaine (Pat), and Anthony Brodeur (Martin) available to NHL teams for the first time....
The End of a Trend?
I've written in the past about the "every other year theory" when it comes to goaltenders. Since 2006, even numbered years see at least one goalie get drafted in the first round, while zero have gone in the top-30 in odd numbered years. If 2013 holds to form, the Sabres could theoretically have an opportunity to get first dibs on the position at #38, right?
- 2007 - first goalie taken 36th
- 2009 - first goalie taken 31st
- 2011 - first goalie taken 38th
- 2013 - ???
(SPOILER: As opposed to fully regurgitating what has already been written, I'll point you to the first round mock draft that was posted in early June at Sabres.com. The picks there are the picks here. For player write-ups, please see pieces on the top 10 forwards and similar lists of defensemen and goalies.)
Despite a desire for defensive depth, it may make sense for Buffalo to target a world class forward at #8 due to how the player tiers are built. The blueline quality remains steady into the second round, but there is a clear forward dropoff between the Lindholm/Monahan cluster and those projected to be available in the 14-20 range (Alexander Wennberg, Curtis Lazar, Valentin Zykov).
All of the Nathan MacKinnon chatter is fascinating. He's a great player that is impossible to not like. He would certainly join Grigorenko to offer a little Crosby-Malkin flavor, but there are asset management concerns when building the packages (yes, plural) required to jump from #8 to the 1st or 2nd overall pick.
With the assumption that MacKinnon, Jones, Drouin, Aleksander Barkov, and Valeri Nichushkin are the first five off the board, a logical trade concept could involve swapping places with the Flames at #6. Getting Jay Fester to slide down behind the rival Oilers may take some coaxing (he has already stated his wishes to remain in place), but perhaps some funky activity ahead of them makes it a reasonable proposition. If doable it would allow the Sabres to control their own second-tier destiny without giving up the farm.
But it's not like franchise changing players can't be found at #8. Jeremy Roenick, Ray Bourque, Darryl Sittler, Bob Gainey, and Grant Fuhr are some of the better ones that come to mind.
1st round, 8th overall
Elias Lindholm, RC - Brynas IF (SEL)
6'0" | 181 lbs.
Whether the Sabres bump up a spot or two or remain at #8, the desired end result is Lindholm putting on a Sabres jersey. From the Sabres.com forward preview:
Hailing from the same Brynäs IF program that produced Nicklas Backstrom (WAS), Jakob Silfverberg (OTT), and current Sabres prospect Johan Larsson, 18-year-old Elias Lindholm promises to bring a robust skating game and complete set of two-way tools to the organization that selects him.
Lindholm is simply a joy to watch compete, blending an insatiable work ethic with high-end offensive wit. He has an ability to powerfully cut through seams befitting a player much larger in stature, and his puck control game is among the best in the draft.
All things point to Lindholm being a major difference maker when he arrives in North America. The nifty skater is already a dependable SEL scorer, cashing 11 goals and 30 points this past season to rank third in team scoring, setting the stage for plenty of suitors come draft day.
And yes, it's mere coincidence that Lindholm is a Q4-born star in the making. OK, not really.
Also in the wheelhouse at #8 but not available at #16:
Sean Monahan - LC, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
6'2" | 186 lbs.
A multi-dimensional centerman, Monahan has proven to be a consistent offensive force since joining the Ottawa 67’s, scoring 20 goals and 47 points as a rookie in 2010-11, before wrapping up his pre-draft resume with consecutive 30-plus goal seasons.
A fluid skater with excellent puck-handling skills, Monahan is at his best when entering the zone with speed. His passing skills are among the tops in his age group, but when the play isn’t there he has no trouble positioning his body to uncork a very quick and accurate shot.
Just as important for scouts was the fact that Monahan established himself as leader in Ottawa following the departure of talented wingers Tyler Toffoli (LAK) and Shane Prince (OTT). With a strong two-way blend, the Brampton, Ont. native has himself nicely positioned as a top-10 overall pick.
Rasmus Ristolainen - RHD, TPS Turku (SM-Liiga)
6'3" | 203 lbs.
Ristolainen enters the draft as a confident, consistent right-hander who has already logged two years of professional experience with TPS. A powerful skater with good range, Ristolainen has made a mark with two-way intelligence and an imposing physical style in the mold of Flyers captain Chris Pronger. He makes quick, decisive plays with the puck on his stick, and lines up the big hit without it.
The rugged veteran of two World Junior Championships can also bring the heat on the power play, using a low, hard shot to get pucks through to the net with regularity. There is little doubt that his complete set of tools will quickly translate to NHL success, making him a likely top-10 pick on June 30.
Darnell Nurse - LHD, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
6'4" | 189 lbs.
Nurse proved himself as a talented three-zone force in 2012-13, leveraging his size and speed to collect 41 points (12+29) and a plus-15 rating as a second-pair defender in Sault Ste. Marie. While his offensive side emerged versus his junior peers (he scored just one goal in 2011-12), so did an intimidating posture that represents the most appealing part of his overall upside.
Even if Nurse doesn’t post the same offensive numbers when he hits the NHL, he’ll still have plenty of long-term value. His huge frame and long reach offer key shutdown components, while his excellent skating and strong first pass out of the zone can spark the transition game. Continued strength development is the key to unlocking all of the potential that Nurse brings.
1st round, 16th overall
In any order, the top-15 of the class could see the following names gone:
F: MacKinnon, Drouin, Barkov, Nichushkin, Monahan, Lindholm, Horvat, Shinkaruk, Domi, Wennberg, Lazar
D: Jones, Ristolainen, Nurse, Zadorov
Steven Santini - RHD, U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL)
6'2" | 207 lbs.
While #16 may be higher than most on Santini, he's totally legit defensively and very trustworthy when he has the puck. The mid-point of the first round is where you start to think about the USA standout who models his game after Buffalo native Brooks Orpik.
Santini adds high-end speed and physicality to the right-handed depth. He gives little room to forwards on the rush, intimidates with his hitting game and quickly moves the puck out of trouble. He takes away time and space, all the while exhibiting skills that could unlock a yet-to-be-seen puck moving upside.
From the Sabres.com mock draft:
Named best defenseman at the IIHF U18 World Championship (past winners include Brent Seabrook, Erik Karlsson, Ryan Suter, Kevin Shattenkirk, Adam Larsson, and Cam Fowler), Santini’s well-rounded skill set helps solidify the Sabres’ future defensive core. The draft is all about projecting players three-to-five years down the road, and the right-handed Boston College commit already stands out with his impressive skating, open-ice hitting and keen shutdown acumen.
You have to produce one heck of an effort to be named best defenseman at an international tourney without notching a single point. It's fair to assume that the USA Hockey pedigree, as influenced by head coach Ron Rolston, could also be a factor in the selection.
Some reasoning for why he makes sense for the Sabres (from Sabres.com top-10 D-men):
Like current Sabres prospect Jake McCabe before him, Santini leaves the U.S. NTDP as a highly conditioned athlete with great leadership qualities. His well-rounded skill and right-handed stick could someday fill an important role for the Sabres, and with him logically being available with the 16th pick, they likely wouldn’t need to burn any additional assets to acquire him.Everything I've seen suggests that he'll be ready to go after a short stint in Hockey East.
If the Sabres don't go for Santini, or if they opt for a defenseman at #8, one player jumps out as a good fit up front.
Kerby Rychel - LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
6'1" | 205 lbs.
The Sabres have taken a liking to tough OHLers in the past (Foligno, Kaleta, Kassian, Kea, Weber, and then Ott via trade), and here is one who can fill the net at a higher rate. Think of a modern-day Brendan Shanahan and that's what you could be getting with Rychel, the son of former NHL vet Warren.
The Spitfires sparkplug is a mix of hard-nosed grit with soft mitts. He doesn't wow you with his skating, but his excellent down-low presence and quick release allowed him to amass back-to-back 40-goal seasons in Windsor. He hits, scores, and defends his teammates. His engagement will stray at times, but many scouts still see him as one of the lower risks available in the middle of the round. If the Sabres want to be tough to play against, here's a player you won't take years to develop.
If the Sabres opted to trade down, could it be with designs on selecting a goaltender?
Zach Fucale - G, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
6'1" | 181 lbs.
With a mixture of talent, style, and composure rivaling Carey Price, Fucale completes the Mooseheads' triumvirate of top-flight NHL prospects. The athletic backstop was cool in the pipes during Halifax's run to the Memorial Cup title, but many forget that his season actually began with another championship in August when he pitched a shutout for Canada in the gold medal game of the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
An easy scouting subject, Fucale is a strong positional stopper, using very good technique with strong legs and quickness to take a lot of net away. He's not overly aggressive when challenging, but has good tracking skills and disrupts shooters down low with his stick. Goaltending is mastered by those with mental toughness, and you can argue that being locked in for a 45-5-2-1 record is proof of poise regardless of the prolific offensive players in front of him. Fucale has rightfully earned his spot at the top of the class. If you want him you'll probably need to beat Calgary (as well as New Jersey and San Jose) to the punch.
2nd round - 38th overall
Zach Nastasiuk - LW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
6'1" | 191 lbs.
A talented blue-collar winger, Nastasiuk has the straight-line drive and tenacity to fill an important role at the pro level - be it as a PK mule or grit guy on a scoring line. He'll sacrifice his body to block a shot, while having the desire and competitiveness to play a power game around the crease. The Sabres' skilled forwards would no doubt benefit from Nastasiuk's ability to pin defenders deep, use strength to hold them off, and push pucks to the front of the net, but he can finish plays one-on-one as well, giving whoever drafts him a versatile forward who can do a little of everything.
Mirco Mueller - LHD, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
6'4" | 185 lbs.
The Swiss defender made a successful North American entry in 2012-13, blending overall smarts and steadiness to gain a rep as player who controls play in his own zone. Confidence was bred from his successful World Junior tourney, where Mueller was quick to read plays while proving his worth in the Swiss transition game. He's not an overly physical defender, but his strength and reach are noticeable on a nightly basis, making him an ideal pick if still available at the top of the second round. Many suggest he won't last, but there's always a chance.
Morgan Klimchuk - LW, Regina Pats (WHL)
5'11" | 180 lbs.
If you need a complementary scoring option down the wing, Klimchuk has the tools to fit the bill. This is one instance where size does not matter, as Klimchuk uses his above-average skating to fearlessly hit the inside lanes to pop off a quick and accurate shot. The skilled battler collected 36 goals and 76 points this past season for a struggling Regina before amassing another eight points (3+5) at the U18s. He looks like a can't miss prospect who only slips due to his sub-six foot frame.
2nd round - 52nd overall
Justin Bailey - RW, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)6'3" | 183 lbs.
The WNY native adjusted well in his first season of major junior, combining a long reach, heavy shot, and powerful skating stride to secure 17 goals for Steve Spott's Rangers. A learning curve and mid-season spike was expected, as was the slight dropoff as the long junior season raged on. Regardless, all the power forward tools are in place, so now it's just a matter of bringing it all together with added strength, conditioning, and consistency. With more ice time in Kitchener and a world junior spot on the line, scouts are expecting Bailey to show a major leap in production next season.
William Carrier - LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
6'2" | 198 lbs.
Carrier was on course to be surefire first-rounder until a December ankle injury put an end to his all-important draft year. Before going down, the talented power forward made a lasting impression by kicking in 42 points (16+26) in 34 games on one of the league's weakest squads. With an ability to toss his weight around, leverage his playmaking instincts, and play a tight defensive game, Carrier fits the criteria for the Sabres are looking for, especially if paired with the right centerman. The Sabres have scouts with Maritime roots, so Carrier not playing in the CHL Top Prospects Game and missing the entire second half should have little impact on their read.
Emile Poirier - LW, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
6'1" | 183 lbs.
A proven offensive threat, Poirier used his great acceleration to amass 32 goals for a weak Gatineau squad while gradually improving his physical play. The Montreal-area product has worked on his defensive awareness to the point of earning PK time late in the year, but his game is all about wheels and scoring upside, providing an explosive blend that could benefit a Sabres' system craving some second-line lamp-lighting skill. Sprinkle in a little attitude and Poirier looks like a NHL player in two-three years.
Marko Dano - LHC, HC Slovan Bratislava (KHL)
5'11" | 180 lbs.
One of my personal faves in the class, Dano isn't the biggest skater available but he plays with energy, likes to hit, and produces offense. The 5'11" winger led Team Slovakia with four goals and nine points at the 2013 World Junior Championship, and followed up with a goal and an assist in five games at the season-ending IIHF World Championship. His skill and tenacity made him an immediate fit in the KHL in 2012-13, and the well-rounded game is something the Sabres could use more of in a gritty Eastern Conference. I'm just not convinced they'd select him.
3rd round - 69th overall
Linus Arnesson - LHD, Djurgardens (SEL-2)
6'2" | 190 lbs.
A rock-solid defender, Arnesson is a fabulous skater with steady poise and awareness in his own zone. The Stockholm native played last season as an 18-year old in Sweden's second professional league, showing advanced thinking and "veteran" decision making to limit his mistakes. Arnesson doesn't post eye-popping offensive numbers, but he makes excellent passes up ice and recovers well when he fills a lane, showing the skill and two-way composure to easily slot into an NHL role.
Philippe Desrosiers - G, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
6'1" | 182 lbs.
If you miss on Fucale, the next best option could be his Quebec league counterpart. A shining star en route to Canada taking U18 gold, Desrosiers shrugged off a mediocre second-half of his QMJHL season to post an impressive .970 save% and 0.80 GAA in the season-ending tourney. Much like Fucale, Desrosiers' composure, athleticism and tight butterfly serve as foundations for a spot in the top half of the draft. Like many young goaltenders, improving his rebound control will be at the top of the agenda as his development continues.
Ryan Kujawinski - LC , Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
A big bodied forward, Kujawinski's hard-driving power game and ability to finish plays off the rush make him a very likeable prospect. The raw pivot didn't quite meet expectations this season despite finishing with a respectable 17 goals and 48 points, but has the combination of height, thickness, and hands that won't stay on the board for very long. A native of Iroquois Falls, Ont., Kujawinski showed his strength and athleticism at the NHL combine, placing 6th in the Vertek Vertical Jump, 6th in the Stand Long Jump, and 9th in the Left Hand Grip test. It's all about achieving a greater level of consistency. I actually see him as a winger down the road.
Nick Moutrey - LW, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
6'3" | 208 lbs.
A big, strong winger with grit and scoring smarts, Moutrey has the skill and forechecking tools to (at the very least) crack NHL checking lines. A player with his frame and talent only slides to the third round due to inconsistency. The physical winger has shown good chemistry with Sabres 2012 third-rounder Justin Kea, matching the centerman's work ethic with shades of dominance between the circles and on the cycle. Moutrey imposing his will a little more next season should see him sail past his 2012-13 totals of 16 goals and 43 points.
Eric Roy - LHD, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
6'2" | 180 lbs.
Roy's overall package of size, two-way instincts, and physical play are worthy of an early second round puck, but consistency issues could see him available at the top of third. Roy collected 17 goals and 39 points on the Brandon blueline this past season, but scouts next want to see him imrpove his mobility and footwork to have it all come together in his own end of the rink. The Sabres chose another big WHL defender, Brayden McNabb, in a similar spot a few years back. It's possible Roy fall in their lap.
Anthony Florentino - RHD, Selects Academy U18 - South Kent School (NE Prep)
6'0" | 207 lbs.
A hard-hitting defender from the Selects Academy program at the South Kent School, Florentino is just solid all the way around with virtually no weaknesses to his game. He is an excellent skater who locks in defensively while using good vision and a heavy shot to be a consistent offensive catalyst. On top it all is his vocal leadership skills and passion for the game. No one questions Florentino's effort. The fact that he's committed to Nate Leaman's rising program at Providence College should be attractive to the Sabres
5th round - 129th overall
Dylan Labbe - LHD, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
6'2" | 189 lbs.
A last minute injury scratch from Canada's U18 squad, Labbe put together a solid draft year with seven goals and 28 points while filling a shutdown role for over-matched Shawinigan. The St. George, QC native is tough (three fights in 2012-13) and mobile, showing patience with the puck and a smart defensive game that makes for an intriguing package. Known for a strong work ethic on the ice, Labbe tied for second in the bench press at the NHL combine to show the commitment off it as well.
Connor Rankin - C/LW, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
6'0" | 195 lbs.
Perhaps a bit under-valued, the hard-working Rankin cashed 32 goals in his first full season at the center position in 2012-13. With plenty of upside in an average frame, the talented six-footer is an edgy competitor whose fully-engaged physical style gets the job done with and without the puck. The Sabres would like to keep adding size, but the Rankin's versatility and offensive potential could appeal to a Sabres organization looking for skilled battlers in the middle rounds.
Ty Stanton - LHD, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
6'4" | 173 lbs.
A long-limbed defender, Stanton demonstrated game-over-game progression before suffering a season-ending concussion in March. His greatest asset is his size, which he regularly uses to push players to the outside. With a good defensive base, Stanton also possesses a fair amount of offensive upside with good passing and an ability to get low wristers through to the net. He's probably a safer play for a lot of teams in this spot, but perhaps some durability concerns could see him slide a bit further.
5th round - 130th overall
Ben Harpur - LHD, Guelph Storm (OHL)
6'6" | 210 lbs.
A converted forward with just two full seasons of blue line experience, Harpur is a strong, fairly mobile lefty who uses his long wingspan to execute in a shutdown capacity. The Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. native has added four inches and 40 pounds since being a third-round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Draft. His footwork looks good for a big man, and projections suggest that added comfort will breed greater offensive contributions as his development continues.
Carter Verhaeghe - LC, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
6'1" | 181 lbs.
After gathering just three goals through his first 29 games, the Waterdown, Ont. product caught fire in the second half with 15 marks in his final 38 outings to earn a spot on Canada's U18 team in Russia. Verhaeghe plays a simple style, getting the job done with an honest two-way game and good distribution skills. His body still needs to fill out, but when it does it's expected he'll be a versatile, dependable blue-collar pro. For now, all signs point to a potential top-tier OHL forward over the next years.
6'2" | 210 lbs.
Confident and mature, Bibeau surpassed Dallas prospect Maxime Lagace on the PEI depth chart early in the year and never looked back. A big, hybrid-style goalie, Bibeau mixes good balance, aggressive angles, and patience in waiting out the shooter. A recent participant at Canada's U20 goalie camp, Bibeau rubbed elbows with current Sabres prospect Andrey Makarov with the now-defunct Lewiston MAINEiacs before fighting his way up the ladder in PEI.
5th round -143rd overall
5th round -143rd overall
Connor Crisp - LW, Erie Otters (OHL)
6'4" | 225 lbs.
Crisp's big body, touch around the net, and willingness to drop the mitts makes him an interesting subject entering his second NHL draft. Previously known for serving as the emergency goaltender in a 2011-12 contest versus Niagara, the Alliston, Ont. native saw his true positional potential emerge with 26-goals and nine fighting majors this past season to boost his NHL draft stock. If the Sabres are looking to get bigger and meaner, Crisp makes sense in this spot.
Jeff Corbett - RHD, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
6'1" | 180 lbs.
Injury riddled but very skilled, Corbett has the mobility and rock-solid defensive play to develop into a draft day steal if he can simply stay in the lineup. Sudbury made some late trades that allowed Corbett an increased work load this past season, and the Uxbridge, Ont. native did not disappoint. He can no doubt play a physical, stay-at-home game, but there are intriguing puck-moving elements also in play that could see a team take him in the top-100.
Jason Salvaggio - LW, Indiana Ice (USHL)
6'1" | 190 lbs.
Committed to the University of New Hampshire, Salvaggio made an immediate USHL impact (17GP 5-6-11) at the conclusion of his season following a prolific 54-goal, 94-point season with the burgeoning Selects Academy program at South Kent School. The late-rising trigger man is strong on the puck and likes to take it hard to the net. Salvaggio is a player with a high water mark of potential following his time at UNH, making him one to think about with a trio of fifth-rounders in hand.
6th round - 159th overall
6th round - 159th overall
Carson Soucy - LHD, Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
6'4" | 195 lbs.
A reliable all-situations defender, the well-rounded Soucy balances tough defensive play with steady offensive production. The Minnesota-Duluth commit finished strong for the Saints, sandwiching consistent puck moving skills and penalty killing capabilities around a mid-December MCL tear. The Sabres haven't taken a Canadian Junior "A" player since 2007 (Brad Eidsness, Okotoks - AJHL), but Soucy has the tools and smarts to quickly develop into an NHL caliber defenseman (and subsequently hang up his cleats as a member of Canada's National Junior Softball team).
Matt Buckles - RC, St. Michael's Buzzers (OJHL)
6'2" | 210 lbs.
A former midget teammate of Darnell Nurse and Max Domi with the Don Mills Flyers at the Minor Midget level, Buckles led the way with 40 goals and 71 points in 50 games this season to help the Buzzers capture the Buckland Cup. Buckles has the power style to match his solid frame, offering a tantalizing package that could translate to the pro level after a few years of studies at perennial ECAC contender Cornell.
Mickael Beauregard - LHD, Gatineau (QMJHL)
6'3" | 181 lbs.
A native of St. Jerome, Que., Beauregard has made a mark as a hard-nosed defender on the Olympiques blueline. Beauregard was the only player to appear in all 68 games in 2012-13, logging a goal, seven assists, and six fighting majors. His only goal came off a puck that was thrown in the general direction of the net, so it's safe to say his appeal comes in the form of sandpaper and attitude.
7th round - 187th overall
Troy Trombley - G, Tri City (WHL)
6'6" | 195 lbs.
A mammoth 6-foot-6 goaltender, Trombley popped up on the scouting radar following February's season-ending injury to star prospect Eric Comrie, winning his first six starts for the Americans including quality victories over league powers Portland (twice) and Edmonton. The Edmonton-area product eventually came back down to earth, but not before showing good economy of movement and a bit of a temper. Trombley isn't overly quick but from what I've seen maintains good balance and positioning, making him an interesting project late in the draft.
Kurtis Gabriel - RW, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
6'4" | 206 lbs.
A hard-working forward with zero quit, "The Sledgehammer" Gabriel has risen from a player passed over twice at the NHL draft to a legitimate pro prospect. The chiseled power forward bundles good hockey sense with an edginess that sees him drops the gloves to boost his squad (14 fights in 2012-13 including playoffs). A player who hits the corners hard and uses his hands around the net, Gabriel has attended camps in Phoenix and Edmonton in the past but could finally hear his name called by a team in search of gritty forward depth.
Tyler Bertuzzi - LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
6'1" | 180 lbs.
Playing with a style that borrows elements of his uncle Todd, the fiery Bertuzzi enters his first draft year as a hard-working energy player. The gritty forward regularly plays the body and likes to cause havoc around the net. There is some scoring upside in play (13 goals in 43 games in 2012-13), but the easiest projection sees Bertuzzi growing into a agitating plug role at the pro level somewhere down the line.
Michael Downing - LHD, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
6'3" | 190 lbs.
A physical, confident defender, Downing represents a nice option if he falls. The Michigan commit is composed with the puck in his own zone, using good vision to hit the long pass or ease it off under pressure. He skates very well, times his hits, and has a pro body. The Sabres haven't selected any Wolverines in a long while, but hey, Downing did grow up a Sabres fan.
Miro Aaltonen C/W, Espoo (SM-Liiga)
5'10" | 170 lbs.
Remember that guy who scored two goals and an assist before leaving with a horrible ankle injury in Finland's 2013 World Junior Championship opener versus Latvia? Miro Aaltonen doesn't have the big frame that the Sabres would like to acquire, but he does bring sheer scoring instincts that should develop into North American upside pending full recovery from injury.
Robert Lipsbergs - LW, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
5'11" | 195 lbs.
The Latvian arrived in the Seattle and quickly adjusted to the speed and physicality on the smaller North American rinks en route to potting 30 goals in 64 games (14% of T-Birds overall total). Size is bit of a concern, but bulking up has allowed him to get away from the perimeter to use his excellent shot from inside lanes. He has good strength on the puck, so now it's on him to round out his game with more willingness in his own end.
Anton Slepyshev - LW, Salavat Yulaev (KHL)
6'2" | 187 lbs.
The former first-overall pick at the KHL draft, Slepyshev was passed over in 2012 but could this hear his name called this time around with his next contract in question. Slepyshev is big and talented, but his underwhelming performance at the World Juniors (one helper) didn't do much to boost his stock but instead left scouts with more questions. Someone will still take the chance, though, as his size and hands could be worth the risk in the mid-late rounds.