If there is one thing that the Buffalo Sabres Organization does not need, it is a franchise defenseman. We have Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, and Tyler Myers? We also have young Mark Pysyk, a veteran Christian Erhoff, a very underrated Alexander Sulzer, and a high potential Brayden McNabb. Lets not forget about Jake McCabe, another high end Defense. Plus maybe in the offseason, the Sabres can persuade hometown Brooks Orpik to come play for the home team in 2014-15?
All of that makes drafting Aaron Ekblad adsurd.
A scouting report on Ekblad obtained from SI:
"He’s so smart, very cerebral" Mark Seidel, chief scout for NACS, said of the 6′-5″, 205-pound defender for the OHL Barrie Colts. "He plays better in big games, [he has a] bomb from the point [and] is very mature. [He shows] tremendous poise, excellent leadership."
Of course Ekblad is compared to Shea Weber, but then again so is every young 6'5 defenseman who will be drafted top 5.
I would say that #1 Defenseman is by far the most important position on the ice. These guys will be out there in every important situation. These guys will be on the ice trying to shut down Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, and Alexander Ovechkin. These guys will likely also log in 20 minutes per game, likely more than any player on the ice. And the ones like Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, and Brian Campbell who can also generate offense and QB the Powerplay will log in more. Brian Campbell is still playing over 28 minutes per game in Flordia, and Ryan Suter is averaging very close to 30 mins per game in ice time. Here in Buffalo, we ask Christian Erhoff and Tyler Myers to be the all-purpose ironmen here, and I think we could do a little better, not that these guys are bad, but we certainly can help them out.
Guys like Nicklas Lidstrom, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara, Chris Chelios, Al McInnis, Paul Coffey, Scott Neidermeyer, Chris Pronger, and Scott Stevens are so incredibly hard to find, but if you have one of those guys, there's a very good chance you will make the Stanley Cup Finals because of the difference they can make and the quality ice time these guys will log, playing in every situation. It's not a coincidence the success Detroit had with Lidstrom holding down the blue line and not a coincidence that Chris Pronger made the Stanley Cup finals with 3 different teams.
Whether Aaron Ekblad is this, or can be this good we dont know yet ?
But at the end of the day, the Sabres should draft the guy they feel is the best overall player in the draft regardless of position. If they feel Aaron Ekblad is going to be the next Shea Weber, and likely a future mutiple-time All-Star and Norris Trophy winner, then they should take him without a doubt, especially if they feel that Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett etc...will only be as good as Paul Stastny, a very good centreman, but not elite.
But if they feel that Sam Reinhart and /or Sam Bennett are both superstars in the making, along with Aaron Ekblad, then the Sabres need to take the young centre first,
But even if the Sabres disappoint us all, and take a young defenseman like Aaron Ekblad, they could always deal him or a young defenseman. There's a lot more scenerios that could play out if the Sabres were to draft him:
The Sabres can take him #1 overall and say we're taking Ekblad, but Edmonton, if you still want him, we can work out a deal like the San Deigo Chargers did with the NY Giants for Eli Manning, like Ekbald for the Oiler pick and a roster player like Perron, Yakupov, or Gagner which again seems absurd, however obviously that never happens in the NHL....Edmonton would really have to value Aaron Ekblad for a deal like that to happen.
Or the Sabres a more realistic scenerio could be drafting Ekblad and then dealing a young defenseman in the Sabres system for a more NHL Ready centre.
The Sabres could even peddle Rasmus Ristolainen in a staight up trade to Edmonton for their top draft pick and maybe more, if the Sabres determined that they valued Ekblad more than Ristolinen. But there is much risk there of course and it would depend on the return.
But Edmonton isn't the only trade partner for the Sabres if they decided to draft Aaron Ekblad and then move a defenseman for a young center.
They also could deal with a team like Colorado, who has Ryan O'Reilly as a pending RFA, who is having a hell of a year for them. Colorado is still looking to bolster their defense and Buffalo might have the assets to make a move there, especially if the added Ekblad to their stable, it may make a deal easier. It also doesnt have to be Ristoalinen or Ekblad, it could also be Tyler Myers?
Philadelphila has a nice crop of young centers the Sabres could be interested in. They could deal for Brayden Schenn, and they also have Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton at their disposal. I dont think all 3 will be on Philly's roster 5 years from now and I do think Philly is searching for their next Chris Pronger.
We also dont know what the NY Islanders are doing, and they may be able to acquire a very good centerman if the Islanders choose to give the pick up and go for 2015, which doesnt seem that likely.
A elite defenseman would be better to get than a very 60-70 point good center regardless of need. Ottawa likely regrets not taking Chris Pronger over Alexander Daigle, and San Jose likely regrets taking Pat Falloon over Scott Neidermeyer.
And of course those are extreme cases, but in terms of the less extreme cases, I obviously would rather take an elite Ryan Suter of a very good Nathan Horton or Milan Michalek.
But even if the Sabres were to draft Aaron Ekbald, the Sabres would have options for sure, and if Aaron Ekblad is the selection many fans will be disappointed and asking for the firing of Tim Murray, If the LaFontaine, Murray, and the Sabres were to determine that he was the absolute best player in the draft by far, then for sure they should take him and it's not the end of the world...the Sabres would still have plenty of options.
And if the Sabres decided to keep all of their D: A Defense of a 6-5 Aaron Ekblad, a 6'4 Rasmus Ristolainen, a 6'8 Tyler Myers, and a 6'5 Nikita Zadorov would be a very unique defense 5 years from now, all big guys, all mobile and physical, along with the small more mobile PP QB types in Christian Erhoff, Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk and the Wildcard that is Brayden McNabb.........the Sabres would be a tough team to play against for sure, and if Ted Nolan is going to be the coach and if Ryan Miller somehow re-signs, it might be the kind of team the Sabres are looking for.
Lots of options, lots of possibilities
How would you feel if the Sabres took Ekblad?