NEWARK, N.J. – Since most NHL Entry Drafts don’t start paying dividends for a few years, here’s a look at the Buffalo Sabres’ first-round picks from 2005-10 and some notable hits and misses.
First-round pick: defenseman Mark Pysyk, 23rd overall
After some early struggles in Rochester last season, Pysyk began developing rapidly during his rookie campaign, earning a March recall and a regular spot down the stretch. The smooth 21-year-old could someday be the Sabres’ franchise defenseman.
Hidden gem: Too early to tell
Notable misses: The Sabres never signed their fourth-round pick, 98th overall, Steven Shipley, or their fifth, 143rd, Gregg Sutch.
First-round pick: winger Zack Kassian, 13th overall
Kassian, a lethal hitter with soft hands in junior, lost much of his aggressiveness during 2011-12, his first professional season. The Sabres traded him to Vancouver for center Cody Hodgson in February 2012 after 27 games.
Hidden gem: winger Marcus Foligno, fourth round, 104th overall
Foligno quickly became one of the NHL’s top forces following his late in 2011-12, scoring six goals and 13 points in 13 games. He struggled during his first full campaign, though, compiling only five goals, 18 points and getting scratched once.
First-round pick: defenseman Tyler Myers, 12th overall
Myers burst on the scene as a 19-year-old in 2009-10, earning the Calder and accolades as one of the NHL’s top defenders. He hasn’t duplicated that dynamic season, however, and now some observers think he could be bust. He struggled mightily most last season after reporting to training camp out of shape, even becoming a healthy scratch twice.
First-round pick: center Tyler Ennis, 26th overall
Ennis, a 20-goal rookie three years ago, went on a scoring spree when he was switched him from wing to center late in 2011-12. But he couldn’t recapture that magic last season, so new coach Ron Rolston switched him back to the wing.
No first-round pick
Notable miss: defenseman Drew Schiestel, second round, 59th overall
In 2010-11, Schiestel developed into arguably the Sabres’ best defense prospect. When a recall seemed inevitable, he tore his ACL just after earning an AHL All-Star nod.
Schiestel hurt his knee again on opening night in 2011-12. Since then, he has been loaned to the Dallas organization, sent to the ECHL, used as a forward and been a regular healthy scratch.
First-round pick: defenseman Dennis Persson, 24th overall
Persson’s NHL career, if you want to call it that, lasted about 15 minutes – the length of the pregame warm-up prior to the Game 2 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinal in Philadelphia.
With Andrej Sekera hurting, the Sabres summoned Persson from the AHL. But Sekera played, so Persson sat. The Swede developed a bit under Kevin Dineen in Portland, and then did little in 2011-12 under a new coaching staff in Rochester. He now plays overseas.
The Sabres took backup goalie Jhonas Enroth and defenseman Mike Weber, a regular the last three seasons, with their second and third picks.
First-round pick: center Marek Zagrapan, 13th overall
The Sabres whiffed badly with Zagrapan, who, like Persson, never cracked the NHL before heading to Europe. He managed AHL seasons of 17, 18 and 21 goals. But the Slovakian’s assertiveness and consistency never matched his skill set.
Ironically, Joe Finley, a defenseman Washington grabbed 27th overall, played his first five NHL games with the Sabres two seasons ago.
Hidden gem: winger Nathan Gerbe, fifth round, 142nd overall
The diminutive Gerbe has been a regular for three seasons, developing into a good checker. Still, Gerbe, a prolific scorer in the NCAA and AHL, hasn’t done much offensively, scoring only 29 goals in 142 NHL games.
Notable miss: winger Philip Gogulla, second round, 48th overall
Gogulla played one AHL season before going home to Germany.