On the eve of game one of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, in my rage of jealousy, I thought I would do some draft flashbacks. I'm obviously not in a very good mood so today we will look at some players that the Sabres drafted but have played elsewhere. I only went back a couple of seasons and some are real losses and others aren't such big losses.
Jan Hejda- Drafted 4th round (106 overall) in 2004
Hejda was drafted by the Sabres in 2004 but he never played a game for the Sabres. The Sabres were never going to sign him so they traded him to the Edmonton Oilers on July 10, 2006. Hejda showed signs of becoming a good NHL defenseman, enough that the Columbus Blue Jackets decided to sign him as a free agent in July of 2007. In Columbus Hejda turned into a really good NHL defenseman, playing in 81 games with 13 assists and a plus 20 rating.
career stats: 120GP 1G-21A-22P +14 81 PIM
Keith Ballard- drafted 1st round (11th overall) in 2002
Ballard was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Steven Reinprecht before he ever played for the Sabres. Ballard has turned into a pretty good defenseman and will probably be much more relevant than Steve Reinprecht. If you are a hockey fan you are probably yelling at your computer right now because of what appears to be stupidity on my part and if you aren't an avid hockey fan you are wondering what I am talking about. I'll explain...Steve Reinprecht was part of the deal that brought Chris Drury to Buffalo. The deal was already in the works and the Flames wanted Reinprecht to be included, the Sabres did the right thing and they went out and got him. As for Ballard he is only 25 years old and he had his best NHL season in 2007-2008. He played in 82 games scoring six goals with 15 assists for 21 points. He was a plus seven and he had 85 penalty minutes.
Dennis Wideman- drafted 8th round (241st overall) in 2002
Wideman is a guy that could have made the Sabres scouting department look a like a bunch of geniuses. Instead he has gone on and played with the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins because the Sabres failed to offer him a contract. Wideman was traded to Boston in the trade that brought Brad Boyes to St. Louis. That was the classic trade that helped both teams out considerably, both players had career years in 2007-2008. Wideman had 13 goals and 23 assists in 81 games this season, his first with the Bruins. It was also the first time he was a plus player, finishing the season as a plus 10. Wideman is best known for his offense on the power play, scoring nine power play goals this season and 18 in his career. At the age of 24 it's amazing to think of what Wideman can accomplish in this league, it's unfortunate that he won't be doing it in the Sabres lineup.
Jiri Novotny- drafted 1st round (22nd overall) in 2001
Jiri Novotny never developed into the player that many experts thought he would when the Sabres drafted him. There were huge expectations for Novotny yet he was buried on the fourth line in 2007-2008 before he was traded to Washington in the trade that brought Dainius Zubrus to Buffalo as a rental player. Novotny signed with Columbus last off-season and he scored only eight goals and had 22 points in 65 games played. In his career he has scored only 16 goals in 147 NHL games played.
Chris Thorburn- drafted 2nd round (50th overall) in 2001
It's pretty obvious that 2001 was not a very good draft for the Sabres. Their number one pick (Novotny) was an under achiever and Thorburn was a never was. It was obvious early in his career that Thorburn would be nothing more than a fourth line or AHL player. Thorburn was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Penguins in October of 2006 after the Sabres could not find any room for him on the roster and tried to send him down to Pittsburgh. This wasn't a very big loss for the Sabres and the Penguins eventually found that out, allowing him to sign with Atlanta last year. He continues to be a mucker that plays hard on every shift.
The Sabres have obviously drafted a few defensemen that have been good young NHL players but the losses at forward have not been that bad. It would be nice to have Jan Hejda, Keith Ballard and Dennis Wideman competing with Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Nathan Paetsch for spots on the roster but the Sabres have lost a few talented blue liners. I ask you now, who was the biggest loss of this group of players.