The 2015 NHL draft is a little over two weeks away and the buzz is starting to build. Unless you’ve been living on the moon you know this draft is highlighted by potential superstars Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. The focus for most Sabres fans has been on the 2nd overall pick and elation of selecting Eichel with that pick. However, the night doesn’t end for the Sabres after that number two pick. Buffalo is on the board again 21st overall. Like the 2nd overall pick, the 21st pick should provide a great deal of excitement for fans. The Sabres have a lot of options at 21; the question is what will they do?
Many scouts believe this is one of the deepest drafts since 2003. There’s a lot of great talent throughout the first round and even into the second round. Buffalo can decide to stay at 21 and just make the selection. They would very likely end up with a good player that would bolster their already strong prospect pool.
If the Sabres decide to stay at their current spot they would likely look at players like Jeremy Roy, defenseman out of Phoenix. Roy has great potential as a two-way defender and possesses excellent hockey knowledge. Another possibility would
be defenseman from St. John’s Jakub Zboril. Zboril is another two- way blue liner with great skating ability. The Czech native has a great shot and the ability to be a future power play quarterback. If the Sabres do decide to go forward again at 21, Travis Konecny of the Ottawa 67’s could be a player to watch. The Canadian born forward can play at the pivot or on the wing. Konecny has excellent skating ability and offensive potential. He is very exciting prospect potentially to select at 21.
This would of course be the least exciting move the Sabres could make in regards to the pick and in my opinion it’s also the least likely.
General Manager Tim Murray has made it pretty clear that he would like to move up from the 21 spot. Murray likely has his eye on one or two players that he’s targeting that would be selected before the Sabres are up at 21. Buffalo will monitor how the draft is breaking down and see if they can make the move to pick one of their targeted players. If a player like Zach Werenski begins to slide down the board and out of the top 10, the Sabres could look to move up and cash in on the opportunity.
Another player to watch would by Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov. Murray has indicated that the Sabres will be taking at least one goaltender during the
upcoming draft. Samsonov may be available to the Sabres at 21st overall or even 31st overall. However the big net minder is starting to climb some draft boards and if the Sabres are high on him, they could make a move up in the draft to make sure they can select him.
The Sabres have the pieces in prospects, roster players, and draft picks (including 3 2nd round picks in 2016) to move up however high they desire. This is starting to look like the most likely scenario as long as Murray can find a dance partner to make the move. If Buffalo can walk out with two more, higher end prospects it would be a great start to the offseason.
Player Further Down the Road
The last scenario is something that has seemed like an excellent possibility ever since the Sabres stocked up on 1st round picks for this draft. One of the three first round picks has already been sent to Winnipeg as part of the Evander Kane trade. Buffalo can now look to add another top player further down road in development at the upcoming draft. The 21st overall pick that was acquired from the Thomas Vanek trade two years ago, can be used as part of a package to pick up a top six winger the Sabres are in desperate need of.
Players like Ryan O’Reilly, Phil Kessel and even Rick Nash have been rumored to be on the block and could fit what the Sabres are looking for in a winger. I also think Bobby Ryan could be another under the radar player to watch to see if he’ll
be on the move. He’s underperformed in Ottawa and the Senators are up against the salary cap. With Murray’s connections to Ottawa, Ryan could be a possibility. All seems quiet on Ryan for now, but moving Ryan would help solve some cap issues. The Sabres and Senators could get together on a big trade on draft night that could include big names including Ryan and goaltender Robin Lehner.
I put this option right up there with moving up in the draft as the most likely scenario. Murray has proven he’s willing to make the big move, but just needs a partner to join him for the ride. The Sabres should be a very active team over the draft weekend and give fans a lot to discuss entering free agency on July 1st.