J.T. Compher (left) and Connor Hurley pose Sunday after being selected in the second round. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres purposely went heavy on college prospects during draft

NEWARK, N.J. – More on the Buffalo Sabres’ 2013 NHL Entry Draft selections the Times Herald couldn’t get to earlier:

The Sabres went heavy on college-eligible players by design, using five of their 11 picks on them.

“With so many picks and our contract situation, you don’t want to waste those picks because their contracts all come up at the same time,” amateur scouting director Kevin Devine explained Sunday on the Prudential Center floor after the Sabres finished picking. “We wouldn’t be able to sign three or four of them. So that was a plan. We looked at the college route and Europeans for the new CBA, which now gives us four years for those guys over there.”

J.T. Compher, left wing, United States Under-18 Team, second round, 35th overall

Compher, who’s listed as a left wing, calls himself “a very competitive two-way center.” The captain had 15 goals and 42 points in 49 games last season.

“I try to be pretty much everything, power play, penalty kill, be used on faceoffs,” he said.

The Sabres traded defenseman Andrej Sekera to Carolina for the Compher pick and defenseman Jamie McBain.

Compher has committed to Michigan.

Connor Hurley, center, Edina High School (Minnesota), second round, 38th overall

Hurley won the Minnesota state championship before returning to the junior United States Hockey League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, where he played 11 games sandwiched between his high school season.

“I think I’m a playmaking forward,” said Hurley, the first high school player selected in the draft. “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 has committed to Notre Dame.

Nicholas Baptiste, winger, Sudbury Wolves, Ontario Hockey League, third round, 69th overall

Baptiste had 21 goals and 48 points in 66 games last season.

“I’m a two-way player who can create offense above the goal line, and can play both ends of the ice,” Baptiste said. “I’m going to go to camp and try and make the team. I’m not going to settle for anything short of the best of my ability.”

Cal Petersen, goalie, Waterloo Black Hawks, United States Hockey League, fifth round, 129th overall

Peterson, the lone netminder the Sabres selected, said he models his game after Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and Boston’s Tuukka Rask.

In fact, Peterson grew up idolizing Miller, who he’s never met.

“They’re both extremely good skaters, and I like to use that in my game,” Petersen said about the goalies. “My athleticism is a big part of that.”

Petersen has committed to Notre Dame, but plans on returning to his hometown Black Hawks next season since the Fighting Irish have a senior goalie.

Devine said he was surprised Petersen, the fourth-rated goalie in the draft, was still available.

Gustav Possler, forward, Modo Jr., fifth round, 130th overall

The Swede had a team-high 19 goals along with 40 points in 36 games last season.

Anthony Florentino, defenseman, South Kent High School (Connecticut), fifth round, 143rd overall

Loud cheering was heard throughout an almost-empty Prudential Center when Florentino, 6-foot-1 and 227 pounds, was selected.

Florentino, who said he possesses a mean streak on the ice, said his brothers and sisters brought a contingent of supporters.

“Those guys in the crowd, I’m the punching bag of that group,” he joked.

What kind of game does he play?

“I try to be a two-way guy, two-way defender,” he said. “It’s really depending how the game’s going. If I need to be a shutdown guy, I can do that. If the forward’s not doing it, I can help them out, be a fourth forward with them.”

Florentino has committed to Providence.

Eric Locke, center, Saginaw Gears, OHL, seventh round, 189th overall

Locke had a huge season, scoring 44 goals (tied for fourth in the OHL) and 97 points (third) in 68 games.

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