Well, while I was away soaking up the sun, everyone was having great draft discussions here at DBTB. I'm almost sorry I missed it! But thanks to the Twitters, DBTB kept me in the loop Thursday-Saturday as the Sabres undertook their first draft of the Murray Era. After getting caught up, I had some mixed feelings about the way things went. My thoughts:
-Reinhart. Yes, please. Very happy to land my favorite player in the Draft. The #2 player goes #2. As it should be. A year in Juniors, maybe a captaincy of the U18s for CAN, then a jump to the League. Plenty already typed about him, so enough said.
-No Trade Up. Of course, it takes two to tango, so maybe no one was answering Murray's call, or maybe his target had been picked before a deal could be worked out. I wonder if he was looking at Larkin, Bleackley, or Tuch judging by who he eventually chose at #31. Bummer, as it would have added a much higher quality player to my eye than what they wound up with. But can't fault him for giving it a go.
-Lemieux. Meh. Yes, he's the best pest in the draft. And? He's limited offensively, a bit on the small side, and seems to be getting more shine from his name than his game. I hope he excels and blows through his ceiling. But I'm preparing to be disappointed.
-Barbashev. I can't imagine why he fell so far unless he really dropped the ball in his interviews at the Combine, and by dropped the ball, I mean mentioned the KHL as a potential option. IMO he's a a Top 10-12 player in the draft. Yes, he's not huge, nor is he incredibly skilled (but pretty damn good) but he's 'hard to play against', has a 200-foot game, and has more offense than Lemieux at around the same size.
-Cornel. Good, maybe great, pick. He's big, has a huge reach, can skate, owns a lot of tools. Still putting it together but on the upswing. He's on the 3-year plan. If Ritchie stays in Junior, Cornel may have a 90 point year if his development continues. Would've preferred Pollock, but like Cornel a lot too. Had him going to BFLO in a couple of my mocks.
-Karabecek. Was really high on him in the middle of the year, then I saw his measurements. Couldn't believe he was under 6'. Don't know if his game will translate unless he gets bigger and stronger. He's super-tough in tight, really slick hands in a crowd, plays a simple game. Would've preferred Kirkland, Lammikko, or Foegele here but if Karabecek gets a little bigger, he could be a great garbage scorer. One thing I like – he plays big on the big stage (Q playoffs, U18s, etc).
-Johansson. Fits the mold. Have only seen him play in limited amounts, but fits Murray's profile as well.
-Martin. Meh x2. Was a 1st rounder, as high as teens, toward the beginning of the year. He did nothing to separate, and was eventually passed by other, more dynamic or bigger D. Very good skater, but his hockey sense reminds me of Myers. When things get chaotic in the D-zone, he gets lost. Late getting to plays, to players, to the puck. Left me shaking my head during the CHL Top Prospects game. Has ability, but don't know if his head is there. But a nice value if he somehow turns it around, tops out at a #4.
-Rest of the way, I honestly haven't seen one of those kids play except Olofsson, but I didn't notice him a ton in the very limited viewings. Understand why those types of players were chosen, and smart of Murray to address organizational limitations.
-Confusion. I'm now a bit at a loss as to what Murray's plan is. If you're building in the vein of the Kings/Hawks, then you passed up a lot of those kind of players for smaller, quicker guys. With your lack of high-end offensive skill, you passed up a few of those for more aggressive, grittier guys that are on the small side. If you don't like Russians, OK, but there were guys like MacInnis still on the board instead of Lemieux. The one defining factor of the draft (other than Rino) seem to be guys who are good, maybe great, skaters. Cornel, Martin, Karabecek, all powerful skaters. Does that mean they are gearing up to be like the Rangers? Speed up front with size and physicality on the back-end? I don't know. I'm kind of puzzled.
Free Agency. If rumors are true, and Murray is talking to Ott/Moulson, that's a good start. Known commodities, good guys in the room, able to fill a role in the line-up and help out in the organization. Like that. Will be interesting to see if he throws some money at D to shore up the back-end as Risto et al get comfortable in Rochester or Junior, or dumps some forwards up front and adds guys to replace them in UFA.
Obviously, Murray, Devine and scouts all know infinitely more than me. But boy would I have loved a Reinhart, Barbashev, Pollock, Kirkland, Johansson, Seibenaler draft. That said, I'm very excited about an infusion of new talent and if they hit on one of Cornel, Karabecek, Johansson, or one of the late rounders, it should be a very memorable draft for Sabres fans.
PS: Thanks to DBTB for the excellent coverage. You guys need to get Kris Baker on here for Q&A!