This is my first attempt at any sort of blog-tpe experience, so I apologize inadvance for any rookie mistakes...
If I were in Tim Murray's position for a day, which we know full well would never happen, I would go into the 2014 draft looking to acquire as many 1st round picks as possible. I agree with Murray's thought process in that the higher in the draft you pick in the draft, the more likely the player is to succeed. Following that idea, I want to pick in the 1st round as many times as possible on Friday. Similar to Murray, I do not value 2nd and 3rd round picks very much, and would like to move them in order to move up.
2nd Overall- Sam Bennett, C/LW Kingston
I would begin the draft by taking Sam Bennett. Based on Murray's comments about the direction this team will take, I do also believe he will be the pick. I know many fans will clamor for the Hockey IQ and high-end skill of Reinhart, but I believe the all-around, tough, Doug Gilmour-esque game that Bennett brings is too much to pass on. I want my team to resemble the 2014 LA Kings: "heavy", gritty, and tough to play against. I do not idolize the scummy, trash-talking play of the dirty Boston Bruins, but more or less the intimidation that 2006 Ottawa Senators brought with them every time they came to town. I want my team to play a tough brand of hockey that strikes fear into the opposition, as well as gets you through 4 rounds of the playoffs. In my mind, Bennett brings the most to the table.
This is where it start to get interesting. When Anaheim is on the clock at #10, I am immediately making a phone call to Bob Murray looking to acquire that pick. Anaheim is a team looking to "win-now," and does not need a prospect that will make little to no impact for 2 to 3 years. I propose Christian Ehrhoff, Drew Stafford, and the 49th overall pick for #10 and Stefan Noesen. Seeing that Anaheim will be looking for secondary scoring this summer and could always use a top-4 defenseman for a relatively cheap price, I believe Murray accepts. Noesen is a hard-working, gritty winger who I believe would fit into what Tim Murray is doing perfectly.
10th Overall- Brendan Perlini, LW Niagara
With this pick, I would take any of the following players, in order: Ritchie, Perlini, Tuch, or Ehlers. I think Perlini will be available, and would be a fantastic addition to our forward prospect pool. Perlini brings a power-forward type game in a 6'2" body and scored 34 goals in just 58 games this year. He adds an another blend of offence and size to our system, and plays that "heavy" game that I covet. He is a great addition to our forward prospects, and has the rare blend of skill and size.
At this point, it starts to get a little tricky with value. I used the chart on http://www.broadstreethockey.com/2013/4/25/4262594/nhl-draft-pick-value-trading-up for all values of draft picks.
My next trade partner is difficult to identify, because I want to move ahead of Montreal, will not make a deal with Boston and I doubt Anaheim would trade both of their 1st rounders. I then look to Colorado at 23, who according to the value chart has a pick worth 19.5 points (or however you want to measure its worth). I want to keep 31, so I look at the 39th pick valued at 9 points. Considering the 31st pick is worth about 14, I assume a 2015 2nd rounder, presumably in the top 3, would be worth about 15 points. I have no reason to believe that 39th overall and Buffalo's 2015 2nd round pick wouldn't get the job done. A slight overpayment because they are moving down 16 spots and out of the 1st round. Next up on the clock...
23rd Overall: Brendan Lemieux, LW Barrie
Lemieux is another forward who plays a gritty, substance over style game. He plays very "heavy," and reminds many scouts and analysts of his father. He is a player that will be hated by everyone in the league except the team he plays on. He will annoy the hell out of the opposition all game, then will kill them on the scoreboard for a goal when you need one most. I want him to be a Sabre for life. Not only is he big (6' 206lbs), he plays a tough game game (145 penalty mins) and can score (27-26-53). He is an agitator and a player who can finish around the net. Exactly what I like to hear. However, the biggest thing I love about him is, like his father, turns it up a notch come playoff time. Remember, this is a huge part of a players game that I want to see. I want to be the 2014 Kings, a heavy team that can play with anyone come playoff time. Lemieux had 7 goals and 10 points in just 11 playoff games and often looked like one of the best players on the ice, showing he can come through when it matters most.
The last (realistic) trade I make is flipping 31 (14 points) and 61 (3.5 points) to Chicago for #27 (16.5 points). I only make this trade if my player is on the board though.
27th Overall- Thatcher Demko, G Boston College
Thatcher Demko has an excellent year as a freshman at BC. It is not often that 18 year old freshman make an impact in NCAA hockey, let alone at the goalie position on one of the most renowned teams in the country. Demko was the youngest player in the NCAA this past season, and backstopped BC to a frozen 4 appearance. If Demko is available at 27, I jump the gun to ensure that I walk away with the best goalie prospect in the draft, a player that instantly becomes the Sabre's most talented prospect at the position. The best part about Demko is the ability to play him in the NCAA for 2 to 3 more years, giving us plenty of time to make decisions on Enroth, Neuvirth, Liewen, Hackett and Makarov. Demko is huge (6'4"), talented (16-5-3 record, 2.24 goals-against average, .919 save-percentage and two shutouts), and already has big-game experience (Frozen 4). I would be thrilled if the Sabres could walk away from this draft with Demko at the end of the first round.
In this scenario, I walk away with Sam Bennett, Brendan Perlini, Brendan Lemieux, and Thatcher Demko. 3 forwards who fit my system and future hockey team perfectly and the best goalie in the class. Not too bad of a haul. I believe Bennett and Perlini slide into our top-6 forward group within 2-3 years quite easily, and I envision Lemieux becoming one of the best 3rd-liners in the league and an instant fan favorite. I love the style of play of all 3 of these forwards, and they make us a much more difficult team to play against. There's only one thing that could make this draft better.....
With Craig MacTavish making it well known he is open to trading the 3rd overall pick, I call Edmonton's table before I even submit the Sam Bennett pick. With MacT looking to acquire players in their "early to mid 20s," Tyler Myers is the perfect candidate for trade bait. I am comfortable with the defensive prospects we have in our system ,and intend on taking 1, if not 2, defencemen in the 1st round next year. I offer Tyler Myers, Chris Stewart, Justin Bailey/Hudson Fasching, the Islanders 2015 2nd round pick and the Blues' 2016 3rd round pick FOR Edm 3rd overall pick, Boyd Gordon, and Martin Gernat and don't look back. Gernat is a 6'5" defenseman whose top skills are his offensive talents, something the Sabre's prospect pool lacks. I think we did overpay, but that's what you have to do in order to acquire the 3rd overall pick Now I know you're all glad that I traded for this pick so that I could acquire a truly offensive player in Reinhart, but I'm afraid you're mistaken.
3rd Overall- Leon Draisaitl, C P
Personally, Draisaitl is my favorite player of the 2014 draft. WIth a style of play that is reminiscent of 1990s Jaromir Jagr, Draisaitl is difficult to knock of the puck and plays a very "heavy" game. There's that word again. Now I know many people will be clamoring for Reinhart's offensive skills, but Draisaitl's state line read 38-67-105 this year, the same amount of points as Reinhart. Draisaitl has talent in spades, and scored 32 points more than the next highest player on Prince Albert this year, so he clearly was not the beneficiary of talented teammates. Draisaitl looks like he will develop into a supremely talented 2nd line center, a player that no team wants to play against. While you may argue that Reinhart's skills translate to a first line center, I am going into the 2015 draft looking to acquire my first line center form one of: McDavid, Eichel, or Barzal. Draisaitl reminds me of Evgeni Malkin, and makes our team even more difficult to play against.
I am ecstatic walking away with Bennett and Draisaitl at the top of the draft, and can only imagine what Perlini and Lemieux also bring to the table. With that haul, I've added 4 forwards who play a tough, gritty game while bringing a lot of offense to the table. As I've made it clear, I want my hockey team to resemble the 2014 Kings, and I think those 4 forwards would go a long way to the Buffalo Sabres' rebuild, Not to mention we also walked away with the best goalie prospect in the class.
I understand where this puts us cap wise, but we have quite a few RFAs to sign and would easily be able to sign a few free agents such as David Booth, Andrej Meszaros, or Devin Setoguchi to short term, high-priced deals for $4-5 million. I would love to trade for Danny Briere, not to mention the possible return of Matt Moulson or Steve Ott to provide leadership presence.
Fast forward to 2015 and assume we take McDavid at #1 and a defencemen like Werenski or Roy with the Islander's pick. I do not see Hodgson in the Sabre's future, and I am hesitant to assume Grigorenko will ever come around. With one more year to develop, I envision our 2016-2017 line-up to look as follows:
Makarov/Ullmark (top 2 prospects in my opinion)
This team has an enormous blend of size and skill, and looks to be a very scary team to play against. I don't have a problem rolling those 4 lines, and think that anyone of players would be willing to sacrifice what is needed in the NHL playoffs.
Let me know what you think, how unrealistic my trade proposals are, and what you would do differently in the comment section! Thanks for the time to read my blog.