It's about that time again.
The season is over, players are healing, and general managers are looking ahead to the June Entry Draft, anxiously hoping to re-stock the cupboard.
For my beloved Buffalo Sabres, fresh off of a non-playoff season and dealing their No. 1 defenseman, immediate help would be nice. Sadly, with their first pick at 13th overall, they won't get that unless a rookie surprises.
But in a deep draft, they can definitely stock up, especially considering they also have the 26th and 44th picks.
So what is the team looking for?
The team has a good deal of mid-size, speedy forwards, but no one is really a "go-to" guy. Vanek emerged towards the end of last year, so hopefully he can be our lights-out scorer, but we could use a true power forward who could bang bodies, dig in the corners, and make plays. Vanek has the body and ability to do this, but we get more use out of him when he's in front of the net.
In net, the team is set with Ryan Miller, provided he gets signed to an extension. Drafting someone for the future couldn't hurt.
Defense is our biggest area of need, at least to me. We have a ton of guys who move the puck, but not tremendously well and guys who aren't afraid to grind, but don't go out of their way to punish opponents. Picking up a complete defenseman would be great, but I would settle for a punisher or a puck-mover.
With that said, questions remain. Who will the Sabres select? Will they package the picks to move up?
Ideally, I would like the team to move up to grab a home run hitter.
Moving into the top five to select Russian phenom Nikita Filatov would be wonderful—if he was a guarantee to come to the NHL. The agreement between the NHL and IIHF is always tricky, but it could be worth the risk, as Filatov is a passionate player with tremendous skating, great passing, and soft hands.
However, I'd expect us to stay put so we can go after presumably the sixth best defenseman. That would leave us either Swiss d-man Roman Josi or (fingers crossed) Peterborough's Alex Pietrangelo.
Pietrangelo is a Chris Pronger-type (hence the "fingers crossed") who is still growing. He is a smooth skater who makes crisp passes. The only knock on him is his lack of assertiveness, but most scouts don't seem too worried.
Josi is what the Sabres are chock-full of: decent puck moving skills, not overly offensive, and average physical skills. He's a solid skater who does his job. Knowing the Sabres, this is exactly the guy they'd take.
One guy who I'll have my eye on is Lethbridge's Zach Boychuk. He's a smallish (5'10", 175) center-man with great offensive skills. Plugging him onto the top line and letting him feed Vanek in front of the net would be something to watch.
The 26th pick depends on the 13th. If we go defense first, I'd expect someone like Nicolas DesChamps from the QMJHL's Chicoutimi at No. 26. He wasn't really on anyone's radar before this season, but has shown good skating ability and a deft scoring touch, becoming the Q's best.
Now, I'm not saying I truly doubt this kid, but it seems like the offensive numbers from forwards out of the Q are a little skewed. I understand that some all-time greats (Lemieux, Lafleur, Beliveau) and the Next One (Crosby) come from the Q, but it seems like we see a ton of guys who put up big numbers only to flame out in the NHL.
If we luck out and grab someone like Boychuk at No. 13, I would like to see Colby Robak fall to No. 26. He's a true puck moving defenseman and looks like a future power play quarterback. His big downside is that he's afraid to get physical and that could end up being a big detriment. But he's a fluid, smooth skater and has a lot of upside.
After the first round, I would like to see the Sabres tab another goalie—a project of sorts. Adding size and physicality to the defense should be a priority as well. As for the forward ranks, a bit of size to go with that speed should be helpful.
The Sabres have a pretty good history with the draft so they have my trust and confidence (like they care). I hope that they see the issue with the defense and try to add a power forward to off-set all of the speedy, "eww don't touch me" players we seem to have.
Oh, and get rid of Tim Connolly. Or at least take him off the power play.
See you Monday morning with a recap of Friday's draft.