5 Options for the Buffalo Sabres at No. 2 in the 2014 NHL Draft

Matt CloudenCorrespondent IJune 5, 2014

5 Options for the Buffalo Sabres at No. 2 in the 2014 NHL Draft

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    With the 2014 NHL draft mere weeks away, the Buffalo Sabres and general manager Tim Murray enter the next phase of their rebuild. 

    With Murray sitting on a pile of picks, the Sabres have plenty of options, but none have captured the attention of the general Sabres fan quite like the No. 2 overall pick. 

    With a number of highly touted prospects and a bunch of teams chomping at the bit to select them, the Sabres have plenty of options heading into the draft on June 27-28. 

1. Sam Bennett

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    Sam Bennett comes into the 2014 draft as the first-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting in its final rankings released in April. 

    While that theoretically is the best position for a draft entrant to be in coming into the draft, in a class as loaded as this year's, it could mean little. 

    One thing is for sure: Bennett can play. In a recent interview with WGR 550 in Buffalo, Sabres assistant general manager Kevin Devine said that Bennett not only has a "high skill level" but that he also has the "emotional fire to put teams on his back."

    Ignoring the two-way play and team mentality, Bennett's biggest upside may be in his relative inexperience. A June 1996 birthday, Bennett was close to missing the eligibility line for the 2014 draft. He has only played 117 OHL games, a full 82-game NHL season less than Sam Reinhart.

    This could lead many to speculate that Bennett's upside is higher, and while by no means a proven indicator, extra time to develop can only be seen as a positive for the Sabres. 

2. Sam Reinhart

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    Sam Reinhart has seen a fall of sorts in the past couple of months with the emergence of the other Sam, but he is every bit a top pick.

    Devine recently told Jeremy White of WGR550.com that he has not seen the playmaking ability Reinhart possesses in the last 10 to 15 years. That's some pretty high praise, and while that type of feeling may not be a popular one, it may show you how much the Sabres value him on their board. 

    Ranked third in the CSS rankings and first in the Europe-based International Scouting Services' rankings, Reinhart is seen across the board as a quality hockey player with above-average skill and hockey IQ. Read anything about Reinhart and one of the first things you'll see is praise of his hockey smarts or of how well he thinks the game.

    Despite average size at 6'1", 180 pounds, Reinhart can play along the wall if needed, but the hope would be to surround him with the big, skilled wingers that Tim Murray is bringing into system to take that pressure off his game. 

    Simply put, Reinhart is not the same 200-foot player that Bennett is, but his offensive side is much more polished than Bennett's, and with the Sabres' scoring woes, that may make him the best option. 

3. Leon Draisaitl

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    Leon Draisaitl is not nearly as well known as the Sams, but he deserves to be lumped in with them as the best offensive talents in the draft.

    The German-born center has played for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL for the last two seasons. In that time, Draisaitl has used his hockey sense and talent to catapult him from 21 goals in 2012-13 to 38 in 2013-14. 

    Draisaitl also impressed on an overmatched Germany team at the World Junior Championships this year, ending the tournament with six points in six contests. 

    Despite his status as a relatively unknown entity in comparison to the Sams and Aaron Ekblad, Draisaitl is a real dark horse to go No. 2 to the Sabres. His sheer talent is good enough, but he also sports a quick release and playmaking ability to supplement his cerebral abilities. 

    Devine cited Draisaitl's big body (6'2", 210 lbs) in his radio interview with WGR 550 and called him a "horse down low" while alluding to comparisons made of him to Anze Kopitar, Paul Stastny and Jaromir Jagr. 

    He'll need work defensively, but Draisaitl has a legitimate shot at being the Sabres' selection. 

     

4. Aaron Ekblad

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    Despite this not being a list in any particular order, Aaron Ekblad finds himself in the fourth position because he plays defense.

    That's not to say defense is a secondary position; rather, it's to say that the Sabres have their future well established at the defensive position and that a forward may be more likely to go No. 2 no matter who is available. 

    Despite that, Ekblad could easily be seen as the best player in the draft, no matter what the rankings say. A big, strong defenseman who can skate, Ekblad has the tools to easily become a top-four defenseman, if not a top-two guy at some point in his career. 

    Devine described him as a guy who could play 25 minutes a night, which translates to first-line minutes, so at least the Sabres believe he could hit the high end of his potential. 

    Ekblad is a good bet to go first overall to the Florida Panthers or to anyone they trade their pick to. 

5. Trade Down

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    Wait, what?

    Despite the upheaval this may cause, it could be a great option for a rebuilding team such as the Sabres. However, that notion completely depends on which players Tim Murray values.

    As with every major event in the NHL that includes roster moves, there are plenty of rumors circulating about the Sabres potentially shopping their pick and what they'd be asking for it.

    As with every other time, 99 percent of those rumors are either false or not going to happen. Yet one can easily make the assumption that if the Sabres were to make a move, it would include a swap of first-round picks and an established roster player, most likely a top-six forward. 

    So, with the price assumed to be high, it comes down to whom Murray would be happy walking away with in the first round. 

    Names like Nikolaj Ehlers, William Nylander, Brendan Perlini and Kevin Fiala are all extremely talented players likely to be available in the latter half of the top 10, and if Murray likes any or all of them, he certainly could be talked into moving down. 

    One thing is for certain: There will be teams interested in moving up in the draft. According to Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun (h/t MyNHLTradeRumors.com), the Toronto Maple Leafs have been the target of such rumors, but it's likely most teams are at least tossing around the idea, especially if Aaron Ekblad falls to the Sabres.

    The talk surrounding this will increase as June 27 nears, as it did last year with the Sabres and the Colorado Avalanche regarding the first overall pick.  

    Until then, Sabres fans will just have to strap in and go along for the ride. 

     

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