Buffalo Sabres: Highs and Lows from the Draft Weekend
The Buffalo Sabres finished their first draft in the Tim Murray era last weekend and added eight new prospects to the system.
While there was a lot of positives this past weekend for the future of the franchise, there were a few negatives as well.
Here is how the weekend shook out in a few highs and lows.
High: Sam Reinhart
No matter who you hoped the Sabres would walk away with, there is one thing that is for certain: Sam Reinhart is a hell of a hockey player.
Reinhart scored 105 points last year with Kootenay of the WHL, and if he were to return, he'd almost certainly average about two points per game.
Tim Murray told reporters that Reinhart was the top guy on their board, so it's obvious the Sabres think highly of the young center. Murray had seemingly been leaning toward sending their pick back to juniors, but his post-first round media scrum made it seem like he was willing to consider inserting Reinhart into the lineup from the beginning if he was ready.
Reinhart is another top-end prospect in a Sabres system that drastically needs top-end talent. That's automatically a win.
Low: Not Getting a Second First-Round Pick
This is by no means the fault of Murray or the Sabres; it's merely a reflection of how high the price was to move up.
Murray said in his post-first round scrum that he was willing to trade all of his second-rounders to secure a pick in the later stages of the first round, but he was rebuffed until pick No. 28. While there is not much you can complain about with the second-rounders the Sabres picked up, a top-end guy may have slipped through Murray's fingers.
There were a few sliders in the first round that Murray could have targeted, including Josh Ho-Sang, Jared McCann, Robby Fabbri, Kasperi Kapanen and Nikolay Goldobin, but a deal for one could not be made.
In the long run, this likely won't be a thing Sabres fans look back on negatively, but it would have been nice to see another first-round talent in the pipeline on Friday night.
High: First-Round Talents in Later Rounds
Despite not being able to grab another first-round pick, Murray was able to acquire some more first-round talents.
In Round 2, the Sabres were able to take Brendan Lemieux (pick No. 31) and Eric Cornel (pick No. 44), who both were ranked in NHL Central Scouting's top 30 North American skaters, with Cornel ranked at 25 and Lemieux at 28.
In Round 3, they were able to grab NHL Central Scouting's 26th-ranked North American skater in Brycen Martin at pick No. 74.
Lemieux has a bit of truculence in him but also has some offensive skill as well. He may never develop into a top-end offensive talent but should end up as a top-six forward, at least.
Cornel is a highly skilled centerman who likely projects as a wing in the long run. He is 6'2", 185 pounds, so his big body will help him in the NHL, as it did in the OHL, having improved his point total by almost 50 points between his rookie and sophomore seasons with Peterborough.
Martin is a solid two-way defenseman who will remind you more of Mark Pysyk than Erik Karlsson, but that's a positive for a Sabres team that has its high-end defensive prospects already. Martin is 6'3", so he will fit right in with Tyler Myers, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov as well.
Low: Draft Lottery Changes
Last Thursday, the NHL Board of Governors decided to change the rules for next year's draft lottery, a decision that will obviously affect the Sabres.
According to Chris Peters of CBS Sports, the odds of winning the lottery will be reduced by about five percent next year and the odds for the lower teams will be increased.
This doubly affects the Sabres given the fact that they own the New York Islanders' first-round selection next year. This could also triply affect them if the St. Louis Blues have an uncharacteristic year and finish much, much worse than expected and end up in the lottery.
The silver lining is that the only changes are to the odds, as the rule from this year where the furthest you can pick is one slot below where the standings say you should pick will remain in place. However, it can't sit well with Sabres fans that they now have less of a chance to end up with Connor McDavid.
High: Swinging for the Fences
In his post-draft scrum, Murray said the Sabres put an emphasis on skill in the draft and that the plan was to swing for the fences with guys they felt would be top-six forwards or top-four defenseman.
The Sabres have been known to draft players who project to be bottom-six forwards to begin their carers, so this seems to be a huge organizational shift. You can't win with a team full of guys who should be third-liners, and Murray understands that and is willing to miss on some of them in order to make the team better.
The fact that they drafted two high school players they plan to let develop for four years shows their willingness to sit and wait for talent as well with the selections of Christopher Brown (committed to Boston College) and Max Willman (committed to Brown University).
This is just another indication that things are and will continue to be different under Tim Murray.
Low: Christian Ehrhoff Buyout
While the compliance buyout of Christian Ehrhoff can be debated, per NHL.com, and is likely the right choice, the bottom line is that the Sabres will be without their best defenseman from last season.
Ehrhoff had his issues, but there is little doubt he was the best blueliner for the Sabres in 2013-14 and likely would have been in the upcoming season as well. His on-ice presence will be missed for sure, and many will see this as a positive step forward for the Sabres to take either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in next year's draft.
So, while this is likely the right move for the Sabres, it still comes as a shock that Ehrhoff will not be eating minutes for the blue and gold next season and somewhat clouds an otherwise excellent weekend.
High: Overall Impression
Overall, the Sabres have added a ton of new, talented pieces to their prospect pool.
Reinhart is obviously the top-end guy they need, but the second-round pieces and steals in the later rounds could help shape this team for years to come.
You obviously cannot grade a draft the day after, but based on first impressions, Corey Pronman and Frank Provenzano of ESPN.com (subscription required) gave the Sabres an A, and Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated named them one of his draft winners.
Simply put, Tim Murray's first draft was a successful one.
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