Despite finishing dead last in the 2013-14 NHL season, the Buffalo Sabres will pick second in the 2014 NHL Draft. Many might groan at the injustices of the lottery system, but Sabres general manager Tim Murray will get his man anyways.
However, there's a reason that the first pick never gets traded, and it won't happen this year. When the smoke settles, the Panthers will select defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first pick, leaving the Sabres with their pick of the lot.
Most conjecture says the second pick is down to Sam Bennett or Sam Reinhart, but Leon Draisaitl has recently entered the conversation, as well. Each player offers a distinct playing style and unique strengths, making them difficult to compare.
Bennett finished the season as the top player on NHL Central Scouting Service's list. At 6'0" tall and 178 pounds, the Kingston Frontenacs center is a dynamic skater.
Corey Pronman of ESPN gave this scouting report:
Bennett is a highly entertaining player to watch for a variety of reasons. He's a fantastic skater with plus hands, great two-way instincts and a pretty good edge to his game. He fights for pucks well, and shows an unusual amount of strength as well as the ability to come out of corners with pucks for a player his size.
Draisaitl, nicknamed the "Deutschland Dangler," is arguably the best German-born player we've ever seen. Playing for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, he put up big offensive numbers, registering 105 points. At 6'1" and 209 pounds, he is very strong on the puck with some serious puck skills, as well.
Reinhart, the son of longtime NHL'er Paul and younger brother of Max and Griffin, has hockey coursing through his veins. He may not be an elite skater or the flashiest of players, but he more than makes up for it with his playmaking skills and oft-cited "hockey IQ."
In an interview with Jeremy White of WGR 550, Sabres assistant GM Kevin Devine lauded particular praise on Reinhart:
"It goes back to hockey sense. I don’t know that I’ve seen a guy that can make plays like Sam can in the last 10 to 15 years…his playmaking ability. That’s the thing that stands out for him. He sees the ice really well. Knows how long to hold the puck, when to pass it, when to shoot it…just uncanny hockey sense."
Reinhart has been talked about for years as the top player in the 2014 NHL Draft and fell in rankings due to impressive campaigns by Ekblad and Bennett.
International Scouting Service still ranks Reinhart as number one, but that opinion seemingly becomes less popular as days go by.
Personally, I believe that Reinhart is victim of the typical "paralysis by analysis" that plagues the top prospect in every sport. After years under the microscope, analysts stop finding positives and nitpick at every small weakness.
In 2009, John Tavares was picked first by the New York Islanders, but that was only after he was badgered for years about his average skating.
I think the Islanders feel pretty happy about that selection now.
I'm not saying that Reinhart will be as good as Tavares, but I do think he is the best player available this year. If the Sabres take him, they'll be getting the smartest player in the draft and a man who can create tons of offense for his linemates for years to come.
Here's to a very bright future for the Sabres organization.