SUNRISE, Fla. – How good have the Buffalo Sabres drafted in recent years? Judge for yourself below.
Since most drafts don’t start paying dividends for a few years, here’s a look at the Sabres’ selections from 2007-12 and some notable hits and misses. Sixteen of Buffalo’s 45 draft choices over that time – 36 percent – have made the NHL.
The Sabres have eight picks at this weekend’s NHL Draft, including the No. 2 selection, which they will use to select mega-prospect Jack Eichel, a Boston University center.
Just the Eichel pick will make it one of the most memorable drafts in franchise history.
Total games: 208
First-round picks: center Mikhail Grigorenko 12th overall; center Zemgus Girgensons 14th overall
It’s easy to forget now, but getting Grigorenko was a big deal. The Russian was rated North America’s No. 1 prospect months before falling at the draft. Now, just 68 games into his NHL career, Grigorenko could be finished with the Sabres, who are offering the restricted free agent a two-way deal, something he doesn’t want.
Grigorenko has struggled since getting rushed to the NHL as an 18-year-old, producing only six goals and 14 points under three coaches. If he doesn’t get traded soon, he could be claimed on waivers if the Sabres try to send him to Rochester, where they want him to get more seasoning.
Girgensons, meanwhile, has already become one of the Sabres’ best players 131 games into his career. The Latvian, an NHL All-Star thanks to the rabid fans back in his home country, should be a franchise cornerstone for years.
Defenseman Jake McCabe, a strong prospect, has also played nine NHL games.
Who they could’ve taken: Too early to judge.
Total games: eight
First-round pick: winger Joel Armia, 16th overall
Armia played one game for the Sabres, skating 14 minutes, 47 seconds in a 6-3 loss Dec. 23 in Detroit. That’s it. The Sabres traded the Finn, who has struggled and showcased flashes of brilliance in two AHL seasons, to Winnipeg in the Feb. 11 blockbuster that brought 30-goal winger Evander Kane to Buffalo.
Goalie Nathan Lieuwen, the 167th pick, played the other seven NHL games as a late-season recall after injuries ravaged Buffalo’s net in 2013-14. Lieuwen, who’s recovering from concussion problems, might be re-signed to an AHL deal soon.
The only other player of the five drafted with a shot to play in the NHL, center Daniel Catenacci, the 77th pick, had 15 goals and 29 points with Rochester last season.
Using games as the measurement, it’s the worst draft in Sabres history.
Who they could’ve taken: Calgary drafted electrifying winger Johnny Gaudreau 104th. “Johnny Hockey” had 24 goals and 64 points as a rookie last season. To be fair, every team passed on the diminutive Gaudreau.
First-round pick: defenseman Mark Pysyk, 23rd overall
Total games: 70
Only one of the nine players selected in the 2010 draft – the smooth, steady Pysyk – has made the NHL. Pysyk, who was buried in the AHL for all but seven games last season, should be a major contributor to the Sabres next season.
Their three third-rounders – defensemen Jerome Leduc and Matt Mackenzie and winger Kevin Sundher – all played in Rochester last season. Leduc, a RFA, might be re-signed to an AHL deal soon. Mackenzie was already on an AHL contract. The Sabres likely won’t re-sign Sundher, another RFA.
Who they could’ve taken: Montreal drafted Brendan Gallagher, another undersized winger, 147th, three spots after the Sabres grabbed winger Gregg Sutch, who was never signed.
First-round pick: winger Zack Kassian, 13th overall
Total games: 258
Four of the six players the Sabres drafted made the NHL. Kassian played 27 games before the Sabres dealt him to Vancouver for forward Cody Hodgson, who could be bought out soon. Defenseman Brayden McNabb, the 66th pick, played 37 games before they traded him to Los Angeles in the deal for winger Nick Deslauriers.
Winger Marcus Foligno, the 104th pick, is one of the draft’s better finds. Foligno, a regular since late in 2011-12, has played 192 games.
Even goalie Connor Knapp, the 164th pick, played two games late in 2013-14.
Who they could’ve taken: The Sabres took Mark Adams, a high school defenseman, 134th, 15 spots before Chicago drafted center Marcus Kruger, who has been a strong contributor to two Stanley Cup teams.
First-round picks: defenseman Tyler Myers, 12th overall; winger Tyler Ennis, 26th overall
Total games: 797
The Sabres hit it big on both early picks. Myers burst into the NHL in 2009-10, instantly becoming a star during a terrific rookie season in which he won the Calder Trophy. Myers, of course, regressed for two or three years before regaining enough of his slick abilities to be a major piece in the Kane trade. Myers was essentially traded for defenseman Zach Bogosian.
Ennis, meanwhile, has been one of the Sabres’ most consistent offensive threats since joining the team late in 2009-10. Fresh off consecutive 20-goal seasons, many believe the speedy first-liner is poised for a breakout season in 2015-16.
Luke Adam, a forward they selected 44th, played well at times during an 87-game run. He had 10 goals and 20 points before Christmas as a rookie in 2011-12. None of the five picks after Adam, who was dealt to Columbus last season, played in the NHL.
Who they could’ve taken: Seven spots after Adam, the New York Rangers picked center Derek Stepan, who has averaged 50 points in his five seasons.
No first-round pick
Total games: 72
Three of the Sabres’ eight picks, including defenseman T.J. Brennan, the 31st selection, played in the NHL. None of them lasted long in Buffalo.
Brennan, an AHL star, played 21 games before the Sabres traded him to Florida late in 2012-13. Winger Corey Tropp, the 89th pick, played 43 games before Columbus claimed him on waivers early in 2013-14. Center Paul Byron, the 179th pick, played eight games before the Sabres traded him to Calgary at the 2011 NHL Draft.
Tropp and Byron were NHL regulars most of last season.
Who they could’ve taken: Two spots after the Sabres took defenseman Drew Schiestel 59th, Los Angeles selected winger Wayne Simmonds, who has scored at least 28 goals in the last three full seasons. Schiestel never played in the NHL and spent last season playing in Germany.