Nikita Zadorov talks with the media this afternoon. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Darcy Regier says Sabres were close to grabbing fifth pick; Andrej Sekera traded to Carolina

NEWARK, N.J. – How close were the Buffalo Sabres, who owned the eighth and 16th picks in the NHL Entry Draft, to moving up and grabbing the fifth overall pick?

“Pretty close,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said this afternoon inside the Prudential Center.

Carolina chose slick Swedish forward Elias Lindholm at No. 5. The Sabres kept their picks and took defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov.

The Sabres couldn’t have moved up any further than fifth, Regier said.

With some defense depth built up, the Sabres traded defenseman Andrej Sekera to Carolina for the 35th pick and defenseman Jamie McBain. The Sabres then selected forward JT Compher.

“I suppose it probably gives us options,” Regier said before the deal. “That wasn’t the intent.”

Why such a focus on defense? The Sabres couldn’t pass up talent.

Five years ago, Regier said, the Sabres zeroed in on a forward after grabbing defenseman Tyler Myers 12th overall and took winger Tyler Ennis. Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Washington’s John Carlson, one spot after Ennis at No. 27, went later in the first round.

“You kind of learn from that,” Regier said about missing on the slick defenders. “If you there’s good D and there’s good players, don’t be afraid to load up, get the best players you can.”

So far, those are two huge defensemen.

Ristolainen is 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds. Zadorov is 6-foot- 5 ½ and 225 pounds.

“Both big and a little bit different skill set,” Regier said. “Ristolainen is a little more on the physical side. Zadorov is a little more on the skill side. But they’re both skilled, they’re both vicious.”

The physical Zadorov immediately acclimated to the North American game last year after arriving from Russia, compiling six goals, 25 points, 54 penalty minutes and a plus-33 rating in 63 games with the London Knights, a powerhouse Ontario Hockey League club.

“I think I’m a two-way defenseman,” Zadorov said. “I’m a big guy and I can play a physical game. I just go out and I can do body checks and open-ice hits and I can shoot and score goals.”

The 18-year-old loves using his big frame to punish opponents.

“Yeah,” he said, “I really like to hit.”

Playing at home in the KHL isn’t an option for Zadorov.

“I’m here because I want to play in the NHL and it’s my dream,” he said.

Regier believes Ristolainen could crack the NHL next season because he spent two seasons playing in the SM-liiga, a European men’s league. Zadorov probably isn’t ready, though.

“Zadorov made huge strides this year,” Regier said. “I think it might be a stretch to think that he can play next year.”

Meanwhile, it doesn’t sound like Regier will be trading goalie Ryan Miller or winger Thomas Vanek, two veteran stars entering the final season of their contracts, soon.

“The draft is at the forefront,” Regier said. “I think you’ll see free agency next, including the buyouts, and then I think teams will re-evaluate their position situations and go from there, whether that changes our situation with respect to Ryan and Thomas, I don’t know.”

Update:

Update: The Sabres have taken winger Justin Bailey, a Williamsville native, 52nd overall.

Compher, a 5-foot-10 ½ center with the United States Under-18 Team, said he’s “a very competitive two-way center. I try to be pretty much everything, power play, penalty kill, be used on faceoffs.”

The Sabres then selected center Connor Hurley, a 6-foot-1, 172-pound center from Edina High School in Minnesota, 38th overall.

“I think I’m a playmaking forward,” said Hurley, the first high school player taken. “I see the ice really well. I think I’m a natural center, and I think I use my speed up through the neutral zone really well, just make plays.”

“I think I’m a playmaking forward,” said Hurley, the first high school player taken. “I see the ice really well. I think I’m a natural center, and I think I use my speed up through the neutral zone really well, just make plays.”

Hurley also played briefly in the United States Hockey League.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.