The Buffalo Sabres entered the 2012 NHL draft with nine picks distributed over the seven rounds of the event. The first round was held on Friday, where the Sabres held the #12 and #21 spots in the draft order. Click on the players' names for links to their draft threads.
#12 - With their first pick the Sabres selected Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko (6'3" 200lbs), who was expected to go in the top ten and possibly among the first five players. An unprecedented run on defensemen led to eight blueliners being selected in the top ten picks, giving the Sabres plenty of options when their turn came around. GM Darcy Regier later stated that he had targeted either Grigorenko or Swede Filip Forsberg (who went to Washington at #11) at that spot. While Grigorenko's attitude has been questioned in the past along with the 'flight risk' that Russian players are often tagged with, the skill and size he brings to that position really make him a valuable asset. There is a chance that he might make the roster out of training camp this year, but more than likely it will be a year before we can see this possible Malkin v 2.0 ply his trade at the FN Center.
#21 - While most of Sabres nation were still typing in 'Grigorenko' into Google search bars Regier headed over to the Calgary table to speak to the GM Jay Feaster, and the next thing we knew was the Sabres brass were back on stage at #14 to pick Latvian center Zemgus Girgensons (6'1" 186lbs). Girgensons is a hard-working, no-nonsense kind of player who will turn into an inspirational leader on this side, leading by example with his work ethic. While playing at Dubuque in the USHL, he broke his jaw in the playoffs but came back in the next period to finish off the game. During the World Juniors, he was laying out to block shots even in games where the team was getting blown out. That kind of grit is a much-needed asset on the team, as the Los Angeles Kings proved in the playoffs this year.
With the lack of depth at the center position in the organization, the Sabres looked to have addressed that situation via the draft with this pair of Eastern European pivots, a situation similar to the one Colorado Avalanche had with Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. Just a thought to ponder over the upcoming years - the two new Sabres centers could have so easily been Filip Forsberg and Radek Faksa instead.
#42 - The Sabres threw in this pick as part of the package with the #21 to move up to #14.
#44 - Their pressing need for centers having been resolved, Sabres picked dman Jake McCabe (6'0" 203lbs). McCabe is another hulking specimen to join the blue line - Rick Jeanneret is going to have to add the words "scary huge" to his repertoire if McCabe, Tyler Myers (6'8" 227lbs), Joe Finley (6'8" 260lbs), TJ Brennan (6'1" 214lbs) and Brayden McNabb (6'5" 216lbs) ever hit the ice at the same time! Blessed with a good two-way game, McCabe has worked with Rochester Amerks coach Ron Rolston in his previous stint with the USNTDP.
#73 - Regier took a break from looking for scoring centers here, but stuck with the 'Go Big' theme picking another center Justin Kea (6'3" 212lbs). Kea looks to be the replacement for Paul Gaustad, a fourth line checker with a big body and a willingness to drop the gloves when required, as can be ascertained from his portfolio at Hockey Fights.
#133 - With their fourth-round pick traded to the Islanders for the negotiating rights to Christian Ehrhoff, the Sabres had a long break until the next pick. In the fifth round the Sabres selected another center, Logan Nelson (6'1" 179lbs). Nelson is another gritty player who works for his points and is a valuable addition to depth in the organization.
#163 - The Sabres have drafted goaltenders on an every-other-year basis for some time, but the sudden dearth of goalies in the system, they snapped up Swede Linus Ullmark (6'3" 198lbs) from the Swedish Junior league. Big goalies have become a thing in recent times, and Ullmark follows in that trend. He comes highly recommended from respected analyst Goalie Guild, and has some time to develop his skills at the SEL before coming over.
#193 - In the seventh round, the Sabres went B-I-G again, selecting dman Brady Austin (6'3" 234lbs). The Most Dedicated Player award winner at the Belleville Bulls of the OHL, Austin has played some wing and has been developing his defensive game as well, making him an interesting, full dman package.
#204 - With their second pick of the seventh round, and their last of this draft the Sabres got what could be a steal in Judd Peterson (5'11" 194lbs). Peterson is a Minnesota high school product who could have feasibly been a top three round pick in the 2013 Draft. A highly talented center, Peterson has been busy breaking all sorts of records and making a name for himself in the last couple of years. He has a few years to go playing in the juniors before he can make it up to Rochester, but was definitely worth a shot with a lower round pick like this one.
After years of gaining notoriety with selecting smaller, quicker forwards, the Sabres have clearly passed the message to the League that they are going big and they're not going back. Of the eight picks, they got five centers, two defensemen and one goaltender. In a draft that was loaded with good defensemen, the Sabres managed to get a good goalie prospect, two solid d-men and completely restock the hitherto bare center position. This leaves them well-poised to work on replenishing the wings next year when the draft should be deeper with good forwards.
All things considered this looks like a pretty good draft for the Sabres, and the hope is that the potential that the scouting team identified over time comes to fruition in the upcoming years.