With the draft just days away, everyone is hoping to discover the next star. Let’s take a look back at the best Sabres draft picks of all time.
10. Taro Tsujimoto
Imagine watching the draft and hearing the GM of your favorite team call out the name of a player that you not only had never heard of, but later discovered that he didn’t even exist! In the 11th round of the 1974 NHL Entry Draft the Buffalo Sabres selected Taro Tsujimoto, a name that General Manager Punch Imlach found in a local phone book. Imlach was supposedly fed up with the slow pace of the draft and decided to have a little fun, drafting the fictitious Tsujimoto, a centre from the Japanese Hockey League. The NHL saw no issue with the Sabres 183 draft pick and deemed it legal. It wasn’t until training camp started that Imlach came clean about the phoney draft pick and it was deemed an “invalid claim”. Today Tsujimoto’s name can still be found as a draft pick in the Sabres media guide.
Many assume the nickname “Alexander the Great” belongs exclusively to Capitals sniper Alexander Ovechkin, but there was another Russian by the name of Alex who carried the nickname. Alexander Mogilny was the Sabres’ 89th pick in 1988. Mogilny got the attention of the club after his play with the Soviet Union where he centred a line between fellow NHL stars Sergei Federov and Pavel Bure. In 1992, Mogilny ended up tied for the NHL led in goals with 76 goals in just 77 games, including a performance that saw him score 50 goals in 46 games. He racked up 211 Goals and 444 points while wearing the blue and gold .
8. Danny Gare
Hanging from the rafters at First Niagara Centre is Sabres jersey number 18. That jersey belonged to Danny Gare, the 29th pick in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft. The 5’9″ scrappy right-winger had quite the career in Buffalo, becoming a 2 time all-star, recording two 50 goal seasons, leading the league in goals with 56 (1980), holding the record for most game tying goals as a Sabre (21) and holding the record for most goals by a Sabres right-winger (267). Gare would go on to record 267 goals and 500 points with the Blue and Gold and have his number 18 retired by the Buffalo Sabres.
7. Thomas Vanek
Fan favorite Thomas Vanek was drafted 5th overall by Buffalo in the 2003. He has proven to be a strong influence and was given the position of Alternate
Captain last season, signifying his leadership on the team. In 7 seasons, he has never scored less than 20 goals. His best season was 2006-2007, when he scored 43 goals and added 41 assists for 84 points while playing in all 82 games. With 2 years still remaining on his contract with the Sabres, Vanek has already scored more goals than “Alexander the Great” (230) and is well on his way to passing the accolades of Danny Gare. Maybe by the time the sun sets on Vanek’s career his number 26 will be hanging from the rafters.
6. Pierre Turgeuron
In 1987 the Sabres held the first over pick in the NHL Entry Draft. With that pick they would select the legendary Pierre Turgeon. It did not take long for the young rookie to make his impact on the Sabres, finishing his rookie season with a respectable 42 points and helping the Sabres get back into the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. He followed up his rookie season with a dazzling 88 point season in 1988-1989 and followed that up with a jaw dropping 106 points and an All-Star game appearance in 1990. Following a 79 point season with the Sabres in 1991, he was traded to the New York Islanders in the deal that brought Pat LaFontaine to the Sabres.
5. Dave Andreychuck
Legendary winger Dave Andreychuck got his career started in Buffalo after being drafted by the Sabres in1982. He played 11 seasons with the Sabres before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993. Andreychuck scored 368 goals and added 436 assists for 804 points during his stay in Buffalo and trails only Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin on the Sabres all time goal scoring list. He’s still regarded as one of the most underrated players in the club’s history. Andreychuck holds franchise records for most goals in 1 game (5), Most power play goals (160) and most points by a left-winger (804) he is also 2nd all time in assists and points by a Sabre.
4. Ryan Miller
Anytime you can get a goalie of Miller’s caliber at 138th overall, you know you’ve made a smart draft pick. While at Michigan State University, Miller became the second goalie in history to win the Hobey Baker Award (2001) and set a new NCAA record with 26 shutouts. Remarkably there were 16 goalies drafted before Miller in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft yet only 3 of them have seen significant playing time in the NHL. While Miller has his critics he is arguably the 4th best player selected in the 2001 draft behind the Sedin twins and Henrik Zetterberg.
Mille holds the record for most career wins as a Sabre (252) and for the most wins in a single season (41), he also joins Rangers Goalie Henrik Lundqvist as the only two goalies to record 7 straight 30+ win seasons. Add a Vezina trophy and an Olympic silver medal to that list and the Sabres have themselves their franchise goaltender.
3. Rick Martin
Martin was part of the “French Connection” line along with Gilbert Perreault and Rene Robert. The Sabres took Martin 5th overall in the 1971 NHL Draft. He still holds the franchise records for most hat-tricks, 40 goal seasons (5), most consecutive 40 goal seasons, 50 goal seasons (2) and 4 goal games. He was selected to play in 7 consecutive All-Star games. Martin’s number (along with his “French Connection” line mates) (7) was retired by the Sabres and his name can be found in the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame.
2. Mike Ramsey
Every hockey fan in the world has heard about the Miracle on Ice. What they might not know is the Sabres’ 11th overall draft pick i 1979, Mike Ramsey, was the youngest member of that Olympic team. Ramsey had one of the more successful careers of the Olympians from 1980, turning himself into a stay-at-home defenseman during his time with the Sabres. He was named to the All-Star game 4 times and served as the Sabres captain for the 1991 season.
1. Gilbert Perreault
He’s the best known Sabre and regarded as one of the most gifted and skillful players ever. The famous “French Connection” line claimed him for their centre. His entire NHL career was played wearing aBuffalosweater. From Perreault’s Calder-winning rookie season to his first retirement, he was a Sabres legend. In fact he was the “original Sabre,” becoming the franchise’s first ever draft choice.
Perreault ended eleven of his seventeen seasons with playoff appearances. He racked up 512 goals, 814 assists for 1326 career points and was the 6th leading scorer in NHL history by the time he retired. To this day he is still the franchise leader in goals (512), assists (814), points (1326), game winning goals, regular season games played (1191), most points in a single game (7) and shots on net, he was also asked to play in 9 All-Star games.
The Buffalo Sabres retired his number 11 and Perreault was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Perreault and his “French connection” helped put the Sabres on the map.
Only time will tell if the Sabres are able to draft another “Gem” in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.