Buffalo Sabres Draft Strategy Part 2

After the Stanley Cup playoffs, one of the most exciting times for hockey fans (especially fans whose teams failed to make the playoffs) is the NHL Entry Draft. It’s a chance to discover tomorrow’s NHL superstars and equip teams for the future. Keeping in mind the money Buffalo threw at Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff and other players, the Sabres need to be smart about their choices this year. This is especially true since they elected not to sign a third of the players they drafted.

The Sabres are in an interesting place.  Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville are the core of the Sabres, but they are starting to age: Miller is 31, Vanek is 28 and Pominville is 29. This leads to the question of how many solid years do they have left.   Pominville was named captain this season and Vanek, a fan favorite for the role, was named alternate captain. They are in place to lead the Sabres, but in order for them to be successful leaders they need to bring success to Buffalo in a hurry.

The Sabres  have a group of prospects and former draft picks who are ready to step into the limelight:

  • Once he recovered from a series of injuries, Tyler Ennis had a fantastic year and revealed a lot of potential for a place on the Sabres’ roster.
  • Marcus Foligno is ready to play full-time at the NHL level.
  • It’s now or never for Luke Adam.
  • Cody Hodgson looks to flourish with more ice time and less drama next season.

For the Sabres, banking on Miller has proven itself to be a poor strategy.  Miller needs help.  While he is still one of the key pieces of the puzzle, he can’t do it alone and that’s where players like Ennis and Hodgson come in and should relieve some of the pressure from Miller.  With the veterans and rookies both ready to prove their worth to the team, the Sabres could be in for a solid run next season. This is why the Sabres need to draft for today, not for tomorrow.

Here are a few prospects the Sabres should be looking at in the first round:

Cody Ceci- Defense, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) 

Ottawa's Cody Ceci leads all OHL Defensemen in scoring (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

The Sabres already have youthful depth on defense with Tyler Myers, Brayden McNabb and Andre Sekera.  Still, Cody Ceci may be too good for the Sabres to pass up at the 12th pick. Ceci had a great year in the OHL racking up 60 points (17 goals) and finishing 2nd in scoring amongst OHL defenseman. He looks to have a tremendous offensive upside. He uses his size to his advantage in the defensive zone, shutting down opponents with his massive reach.

It’s remarkable that Ceci wasn’t considered first round material when the season started in September.  Since then, his stock has skyrocketed up the rankings and he’s now considered top 10 material. With his 6’3″ 207 pound frame he is physically ready for the NHL, if the Sabres are able to get their hands on him they would have one of the tallest blue lines in the NHL with an average height of 6’2″.

 Griffin Reinhart- Defense, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Griffin is the latest Reinhart to enter into the NHL scene, following in the footsteps of his father and older brother. As a legacy prospect,Griffinmay draft higher and prove to  be the best Reinhart to enter the NHL.Griffinenjoyed a solid year in the WHL with the Oil Kings alongside Sabres prospect and former first round draft pick Mark Pysyk. He led all Oil Kings defenseman with 12 goals and helped the Oil Kings win their first ever WHL Championship. Like Ceci, Reinhart has the intimidating size (6’4″ 207) that the Sabres seem to be looking for on the back end. Unlike Ceci though he will likely need more time  to develop his skill as his game is still  a bit raw. He would be perfect to help spark the Sabres’ power play unit.

Radek Faksa- Centre, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)

Radek Faksa certainly has the size to be an NHL player (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Faksa just finished up a solid rookie season in the OHL, racking up 29 goals and 67 points in just 62 games. He also gained international experience with the Czech Republic U20 team. He’s the kind of player that every coach wants: he’s coachable, has a strong work ethic, and gives his all every shift. He shows keen awareness in the defensive zone and has the potential to be the Sabres’ 2nd line centre. The only downside with draft Faksa would be the wait. He’s likely 2-3 years away from being ready to step into the NHL.

Mikhail Grigorenko- Centre, Quebec City (QMJHL)

The Sabres are looking to draft for now, not the future. Grigorenko could be the perfect match. While he’s taken a lot of flak for his “Russian” work ethic, it is not likely he will fall out of the top 5, so the Sabres will need to trade up. The Sabres hold 9 picks in this year’s draft including 4 of the top 44, so they have leverage. They are also drafting in the 12th position. That makes it the perfect place for a couple of reasons. First, for some teams just outside the top 10, they would still have to pay top 10 money for their pick and for others who want to move up, bringing them that much closer to the top. The Sabres could offer up both their first round picks (12th&21st) and a prospect (Luke Adam). This could help them move up into the top 5 and have a shot at Grigorenko.
Grigorenko is the real deal. He showed his production skills by racking up 40 goals and 45 assists in 59 games. He has the ability to control the flow of a game a special skill that few players possess. Combine his skills with his 6’3″ frame he should be able to step right into the NHL next season and succeed.


Check out Eric Roberts article Sabres Draft Strategy Part 1

12 thoughts on “Buffalo Sabres Draft Strategy Part 2”

  1. Nice, informative. I do have a couple comments. Beginning with Reinhart. He never showed me in the games I saw the fire in the belly level of compete I saw out of a Jacob Trouba, Slater Koekkoek. 

    The Sabres are one of the only teams to have the young finn Maatta in as well. He very much could be in the conversation for one of the picks. 

    Also I know this is coming out before Mikhail has seemingly been falling in mock drafts, due to the russian factor, and decreased production in the playoffs and end of season. This seemingly could bode well for a team like the sabres. Not having to trade up too far to get an impact player. As well I did get this idea from another sabres prospect writer, but what is your opinion on a potential trade partner in the anaheim ducks, that sees a swap of picks and potentially the rekindling of the Bobby Ryan rumors. I would also think Grigorenko is more a worry to jump to the KHL than say a Galchenyuk as Alex considers himself an American and has played internationally for team USA. Alex maybe the better two way talent at the moment between them too. of course that is the fun of scouting the predicting. 

    As well at 21 I am a fan of colton sisson’s and I think the Sabres will look at him with their connection to Kelowna. 

    Mentioning connections one could easily point to the Amerks coach and Stefan Matteau. 

  2. I’d be happy with Faksa at 12, and then Dalton Thrower at 21 if they keep both picks. If they trade up, I like Alex Galchenyuk more than Grigorenko, though. Packaging two of our first four picks with Derek Roy for somone like Paul Stastny, Jordan Staal, or Stephen Weiss would be pretty ideal for the “now” frame of mind too. One more week! Go ‘bres!

    • The rumours about Jordan Staal came out right after I finished this piece (or I would have worked him in). If the Sabres were able to package some picks and Roy for Staal that would be a very solid deal that would benefit the Sabres for now. 

      What’s up with all the Grigorenko hate?

      • Honestly, I bought into that fear of European and Russian players and their inconsistent efforts on the ice. When Buffalo switched draft philosophies in 07 and took only North American players things improved in their system dramatically. Myers, Ennis, Kassian (who is now Hodgson), Pysyk, Brennan, Tropp, McNabb, Foligno, etc. Sure it could be a coincidence, but when teh “experts” tag a guy as inconsistent and potentially lazy, I move my hopes to another “top prospect”. If Grigs fell to 12th, then they absolutely should pull the trigger on him. But if they are trading up, I just think Galchenyuk is the “safer” pick, even with the knee injury.

        • It’s funny I have the exact same feeling about Russians and European players, they’re high risk (usually lazy and there is no gaurentee they won’t go to the KHL). 

          If I was GM I would stick to North American players like the Sabres have lately.

          • This way of thinking is lazy, stereotypical, and totally wrong. Kovalchuck played through the whole playoffs injured and plenty of other Russians play hard every night (Malkin, Datsyuk, Volchenkov, plenty of others). There are plenty of Canadian and American players who dog it but because they’re from North America no one pays as close attention. Pay attention to what’s actually happening and stop buying into xenophobic blanket statements. 

            Honestly, saying “usually lazy” and suggesting all European and Russian players are “inconsistent”  or there’s a “Russian work ethic” is just stupid and small-minded. The fact that this thought pervades hockey talk is an insult and detriment. 

            • Whether you like it or not there is a stereotype surrounding Russian players. Scouts for this years draft are hesitant to draft Grigorenko because of his work ethic. 

              I’m not saying all Russian are lazy but it’s been well recorded when they don’t get what they want they whine and stop playing (Ovechkin, Kostitsen brothers). 

              The biggest thing for me is threat of them leaving to the KHL and possibly not coming back.

              Me personally I’d rather have a North American player on my team.

              But everyone has their opinions.

            • Just because there’s a stereotype doesn’t mean it’s true or right to lower yourself to that way of thinking. It’s small-minded. To suggest that a player is a risk simply because he’s Russian is a joke.

              There is hardly an exodus of Russian players leaving for the KHL, Radulov and Yashin are the biggest names from the past few years that have gone there. Do all Russians whine and quit when they don’t get what they want? Of course not and for every Ovechkin and Kostitsyn there’s a guy like Derek Roy or Phil Kessel.

              Grigorenko might have issues but it’s not because he’s Russian, it’s just his character. Saying you’d rather have a North American over a Russian based on nationality alone is the definition of ethnocentric.

              Caitlin you seem very nice and are a really good writer but the fact your arguing this makes the hockey writers look bad. 

            • Thank you Frank. But my comments and view points on this issue have no relation to any of the other writers on this site. 

              Those are my opinions, not THW’s.

              If the Sabres draft a Russian I will be perfectly happy. As long as the player will help the Sabres in the long run (or short run) I really don’t care what nationality they are. 

  3. I think Ceci will be taken by the Caps at 11th overall, so the Sabres will end up with Faksa at 12th and either Sissons or Matteau at 21st

    • It would be nice if they could get their hands on Ceci but I think you’re right they will end up with Faksa at 12.

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