1st Round Draft History: Buffalo’s Busts & Beauties Part II

The Buffalo Sabres have had their share of draft busts and beauties over the course of their history.  In the first part found here, I took a look at the first round picks from 2000 to 2005.  It seems as things got progressively better as the years went by with some that remain to be seen.

Buffalo was a team that needed to re-build.  It wasn’t until the last two seasons that they went “all-in” on the idea in hopes to change their fortunes.  As a fan it is bittersweet as you see players you have been rooting for leave town for prospects and picks, but on the other hand the idea of being a contender for years might be a bit more exciting.  We will be taking a look at the next five years of the Sabres first round picks while keeping our fingers crossed for a diamond in the rough.

2006 – Dennis Persson (D) 24th Overall

Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Nick Foligno (71)   Photo Credit:  Andy Martin Jr
Nick Foligno Selected 28th Overall in 2006

Ok so we aren’t off to the best of starts.  The Sabres had the 24th selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and selected Swedish defensemen Dennis Persson with that pick.  Buffalo was enjoying some success post lockout and looked poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup.  Having a pick in the later stages of the first round is good in the sense that you are having success on the ice, but not so good when trying to find the next game changer.

Persson did play in North America but never made it past the American Hockey League.  Playing for the Sabres “pre-Pegula” affiliate Portland Pirates, Persson was able to get some ice time but didn’t really live up to his first round pick status.  He would enjoy his best season in the AHL in 2010-11 playing in 64 games tallying 17 points (4 g – 13 a).  After parts of four seasons in the AHL, Persson headed back to Sweden where he is still playing today.

Two players that were selected right after the Sabres selection, although not defensemen, were Patrik Berglund (25th overall) and Nick Foligno (28th overall).

2007 – T.J. Brennan (D) 31st Overall

I get it that this isn’t a first round pick, but the Sabres didn’t own one in 2007.  Being that the Sabres selected first in the second round, I decided that it was close enough to include in this article.

Two straight trips to the Conference Final for the Sabres, it appeared that the Cup was locked in their sights.  Instead the opposite happened.  They would miss two straight years, but would get back in, just to miss out again after.  Things were changing in western New York and not for the better.

(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)
It could have been P.K. instead of T.J. for the Sabres – (Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

Unlike so many that came before him, Brennan has actually played games in the NHL.  After enjoying some relatively decent success in the lower level, Brennan made his NHL debut during the 2011-12 season appearing in 11 games for the Sabres scoring one goal.  He would start the next season back in Rochester before making his return the the NHL later that season playing in 10 more games for Buffalo.  Brennan was shipped off to the Florida Panthers for a 5th round pick in 2013.

The Sabres missed on this draft because 12 picks later the Montreal Canadiens selected defensemen P.K. Subban.  I know there is no way to tell what is going to happen, but it would have been real nice to have Subban patrolling the blue line for the Sabres.

2008 – Tyler Myers (D) 12th Overall, Tyler Ennis (F) 26th Overall

This was the second time in the first decade of the 21st century that the Sabres made two picks in the first round of the draft.  At first site it appeared as the Sabres struck gold with their first selection in 2008.

At 6’8, Tyler Myers was one of the largest players in the NHL, and at first glance looked to be one of the more talented.  Myers came out swinging in his rookie campaign earning a spot on the roster right out of camp.  Playing in all 82 games that season, Myers was the winner of the Calder Trophy for top rookie.  Sabres fans were elated with the idea of having a franchise defensemen with the skill that Myers possesses.

Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban could have been teammates on the Sabres

Unfortunately things didn’t continue the way his first season went.  Myers saw a drop in his point total and his fan support the next couple of seasons.  At times he looked a bit lost on the ice and some wondered if his first season was just a fluke.  Buffalo brought back Henrik Tallinder who helped Myers his first season in hopes he would return to form.  It looks as if he still needs some time to grow (into his body) but does have the skill to get back on track.

One player who is on track that was selected just three picks after Myers, is Senators defensemen Erik Karlsson.  Imagine penciling in both Subban and Karlsson in the lineup every night.  Buffalo could have.

Going from the tallest in the NHL to one of the smallest, the Sabres selected forward Tyler Ennis with their second pick in the first round.  Ennis is a real good player and is only going to get better with experience.  He has played in 267 games in the NHL and has 166 points (69 g – 97 a).  This analogy doesn’t make much sense, but Ennis does player larger than his size.  He is scrappy and has become a favorite of Sabres fans everywhere.  He was the best forward selected between where he was sleected and the next Sabres pick.

2009 – Zack Kassian (F) 13th Overall

One of the knocks on the Sabres during this time was their toughness.  They had some skilled players but were lacking a tough guy.  They got one in 2009 when they selected Zack Kassian.  Kassian was a nasty player who could hit, fight, and even find the back of the net.  Buffalonians were excited about the prospect of having this guy in the lineup every night.

Kassian was called up to the Sabres in the 2011-12 season and I remember thinking to myself that he was going to be a force for the blue and gold for a long time.  I wasn’t aware that a long time would only mean 27 games.  The Sabres had a chance to acquire a skilled forward to help with their scoring attack and decided to pull the trigger.  The Vancouver Canucks and sabres agreed on a trade that would send Kassian to Vancouver for Cody Hodgson.  There was some disappointment and excitement all wrapped into one strange emotion after that trade was announced.

On one hand you were acquiring a goal scorer which every team desperately needs.  Unfortunately it came at the expense of toughness.  It seems that the Sabres got the better of this deal for now, but we won’t be able to answer this for real until both of their careers end.

(Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE)
Potential Captain for the Sabres Cody Hodgson – (Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE)

2010 – Mark Pysyk (D) 23rd Overall

We are approaching the time where it will be hard to actually tell if picks are busts or beauties but we will try our best.  The Sabres selected defensemen Mark Pysyk in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Pysyk cracked the Sabres lineup during the 2012-13 season.  He played in 19 games that season scoring his first NHL goal and added four assists.  He split time last season between the Rochester Americans and the Sabres.  I have liked what I have seen so far from Pysky and with experience we may have another solid defense prospect.  The Sabres added to the blue line in the draft but we will see that in the next part.

As I stated before there is cautious optimism when looking ahead to the future.  Unlike so many other teams that were re-building, the Sabres are committed to this process and seem to be doing things the right way.  Brighter days are ahead but there may be some storms along the way.