Big Day for the Sabres on Day One

The Buffalo Sabres and their fans have looked forward to day one of the 2015 NHL Draft for nearly a year.  Not only were the Sabres able to select their new face of the franchise, but they were able to make other big moves to better the future of the franchise.

Eichel Pick Finally Official

After a year if not longer of all the talk of McEichel, the Sabres finally select their future of the franchise in Boston University center Jack Eichel.  It seems as though Eichel has been a member of the team this entire time.  Even before the lottery it was an 80% change the Sabres would end up with Eichel at the 2nd pick.  The Sabres haven’t had a player of this magnitude in a very long time

Jack Eichel Sabres
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

if not ever.

The 2nd overall pick will step right into the Sabres lineup next season and provide an immediate impact.  Eichel will be an early Calder favorite along with Connor McDavid.  A lot will be expected of the 18-year-old next season, but I believe Eichel welcomes the pressure and will thrive under it.  He’s very mature for his age and has a great work ethic.  He believes he’s the best player in this draft and he’ll put in the hard work to reach his maximum potential

Murray Gets His Goalie Target

The one move that was a little head scratching for the Sabres came early in the morning.  General Manager Tim Murray pulled a trigger on a deal to acquire 24-year-old goaltender Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 21st overall pick.  The trade looks like a considerable overpayment by the Sabres.  Lehner hasn’t proven much at the NHL level and Buffalo was forced to take back a bad contract in David Legwand.

Robin Lehner
(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

Murray later indicated that Lehner was his number one target the entire time.  He believes he was the best goalie available.  To give Murray the benefit of the doubt, he probably knows Swedish goaltender inside and out from drafting him in Ottawa.  Lehner will be the number one goaltender heading in training camp.  The question now is who will be the backup behind Lehner?

Rounding Out the Top Six

In one of the bigger moves of the day the Sabres acquired forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher and 31st overall.  The Sabres and O’Reilly will get right to work once July 1st rolls around to hammer out a longer term extension.  The money the 24-year-old is asking for in an extension won’t scare off the owner Terry Pegula.

Again the Sabres had to part with some good assets, but you have to give to get.  Zadorov was is in the doghouse for his maturity a few times last year, but still has excellent potential.  Grigorenko being traded comes as no surprise.  He didn’t seem to fit on the roster for next season and contract talks were not going well between the two sides.  Compher, for me is the hardest piece to give up.  I’m a big fan of the former 2nd round pick.  He’ll be the captain for Michigan University this year in his Junior season.  I always saw a little bit of Chris Drury in his game.  However, the Sabres are loaded with prospects and not all of them can play in the NHL for the club.

O’Reilly will round out the top six very nicely with Jack Eichel, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson.  The Canadian born forward will not only provide scoring which the Sabres desperately need, but he’ll give excellent support in the defensive zone.  O’Reilly will be part of the new core that Murray is putting in place for the long term future.

The Buffalo Sabres began the 2014-15 season with 3 1st round picks in the 2015 NHL draft.  Those 3 picks have turned into Kane, Lehner and Eichel.  Murray did a great job to get that talent along with O’Reilly to begin the next chapter of the Sabres rebuild.  After day one of the draft, the Sabres have accelerated their rebuild.  It’s not crazy to see the Sabres competing for a playoff spot next season.  The future is really bright in Buffalo.