With the 2013 NHL Draft coming in less than a month, now seems like as good of time as any to look back to last year. The Sabres had two picks in the first round. heading into the draft, which were picks 12 and 21. Pick 21 was acquired from the Nashville Predators for Paul Gaustad. During the draft, the Sabres were able to trade up with Calgary to acquire their 14th overall pick. That setup the Sabres picking Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons with those picks. Now that both players were acquired so closely together, their time in the Sabres organization will most likely be compared against each other to see which player, if either was, the better pickup.
Zemgus Girgensons had the first strike before the season started as he had the highlight reel goal in the second period of July's Blue and Gold Development Camp scrimmage.
From there, each player went on their own divergent paths. With the lockout putting the 2012-2013 season on hold, Grigorenko went back to his QMJHL club, the Quebec Remparts, while Girgensons was able to join the Rochester Americans as he came from the USHL/college route.
Before the lockout started, Grigorenko had 29 goals and 21 assists in just 32 games with Quebec. He left the team to join the Sabres in their shortened training camp and made the opening day roster to start his five game tryout. Grigorenko. In his first five games, Grigorenko didn't register a point and didn't really get much ice time either as he averaged roughly eleven minutes per game. The Sabres organization made the decision to keep him past the five games and start the clock running on his entry level contract. Grigorenko rewarded that decision with his first NHL goal during the third period of game six.
That would be the only goal that Grigorenko would score all season as he played in a total of 22 games before the decision was made to send him back to Quebec to regain some confidence and get some more playoff experience. In his return with the Remparts, Mikhail scored a goal and had three assists against the Rimouski Oceanic. The Remparts played 11 playoff games in which Grigorenko had five goals and nine assists. Mikhail would return back to the Sabres after the Remparts season ended and not register much of anything in the final three games of the season.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Zemgus Girgensons had the luxury of playing for one team for an entire season as he suited up for the Rochester Americans. Girgensons played in 61 regular season games and each of the team's three playoff games this season. Zemgus took a while to get his offense going as it took three games for him to register his first AHL point, an assist against the Binghamton Senators, and nine games to get his first goal, which came against the Hamilton Bulldogs. Overall, Girgensons finished the season with six goals and 11 assists in the regular season. In the playoffs, Girgensons became an offensive beast with three goals in three games against Toronto.
There was a slight hiccup in Girgensons' season as he missed a handful of games with a concussion after he was bowled over by Syracuse's Richard Panik.
The Rest of The Draft Class
Besides the two top players taken in the 2012 NHL Draft, the Sabres took six other players in rounds two through seven. Here is a quick recap of those players did.
Jake McCabe was taken 44th overall by the Sabres from the University of Wisconsin. McCabe continued his career as a sophomore at Wisconsin with three goals and 18 assists in 38 games. He was also named the captain of the 2013 USA World Junior Championship team, which won gold this season.
Justin Kea was taken 73rd overall by the Sabres. Playing with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit, Kea had 22 goals and 26 assists in 68 games. Those stats are a complete turnaround from a player who just had seven goals and 13 assists in 127 games over the two previous seasons. Kea credits a lot of his turnaround to the fact that he was drafted this season:
"I have a lot more experience, and being drafted has given me a lot of confidence," Kea said.
Logan Nelson was drafted in the fifth round, 133rd overall, and spent all of 2012-13 with the WHL's Victoria Royals. Nelson played in just 49 games this past season, scoring 14 goals and 29 assists. This is a dropoff from his 2011-12 stats of 23 goals and 39 assists in 71 games played.
The lone goaltender the Sabres selected in the 2012 draft was Linus Ullmark in the sixth round, 163rd overall. Ullmark. Ullmark split time between the Elitserian team Modo and their tier 1 team. In six games with Modo this season, Ullmark registered a 2.07 goals against average and .934 save percentage. He also had a 3-1 record with the team.
Defenseman Brady Austin was selected 193rd by the Sabres, coming out of the OHL's Belleville Bulls. In 64 games, Austin had eight goals and 15 assists which is relatively flat from what his 2011-12 stats were, six goals and 20 assists in 68 games. The final pick for the Sabres was Judd Peterson, selected 204th overall, spent his first season in the USHL playing for the Cedar Rapid Roughriders. In 46 games, Peterson scored 11 goals and 15 assists.
The 2012 Draft was fairly top heavy for the Sabres in talent, but overall we ask who had the better season and who has the better prospect of being the Sabres' best player out of the draft.