I have been a huge proponent of the Sabres selecting Zack Kassian since I started talking about the NHL Draft. I have never wavered in my decision to lobby for him to be a Buffalo Sabre. As the Sabres came to the podium on Friday night their were anxious moments for myself on press row and other Sabres fans in living rooms, basements and bars throughout Buffalo. Even Mike Harrington from the Buffalo News was lobbying for the pick via Twitter just seconds before they made the selection.
The Sabres didn't let us down this time, they selected Kassian which I'm sure was cause for celebration back in Buffalo. Kassian was the right pick for this organization at that moment but nobody could have predicted that the Sabres used that same model for their picks throughout the entire draft.
Coming into this draft there were a few things we were already aware of in regards to the Buffalo Sabres. We were aware they missed the playoffs five of the last seven seasons. We were aware that they have been publicly criticized for being a soft team that didn't have enough toughness. We were aware that they are very deep on defense in the minor leagues and among their prospects in general. We were aware they had very little depth at forward. With that in mind it was easy to see they needed to get bigger and tougher through the draft.
The Sabres won't feel the immediate effects of this draft for a couple of years at best. Zack Kassian is the only player of the six selections that has any opportunity to play in the NHL this season and even that is a long shot.
I don't think anyone could have predicted that the Sabres would draft all big, gritty players but not many people are complaining about it either. The Sabres seemed to find good value in the first four rounds despite them not having desirable slots in the draft order. The Sabres thought Brayden McNabb would be gone by the time they selected in the third round and thought the same of Marcus Foligno in the fourth. They were happy to be able to get both players they had targeted as earlier picks.
With their final three picks they selected a goalie and two players that would be considered projects. They still stuck with the theme of toughness in what many would consider a change in philosophy in the organization.
Let's take a quick glance at the selections in an effort to truly break down this draft.
#13 Zack Kassian...Kassian has been described as a bull wit and without the puck. A tough kid that uses his size and aggression to gain space for himself on the ice. He was one of the most feared players in the OHL and he could become one of the most feared in the NHL with hard work. He may be able to step right into the Sabres lineup although 2010-2011 is a more likely scenario.
NHL Potential: A Power Forward with some offensive skills. Potentially a top six forward and almost a sure bet to be an NHL player.
#66 Brayden McNabb... A big defenseman at 6' 3.75" and 200 lbs. Plays a very physical style and is mostly a stay at home defenseman. With a little development and confidence he could become an elite player in this league. It's tough to determine what his role in the NHL will be because he hasn't fully developed as a player yet. He is at least a couple years away from being able to contribute at the NHL level.
NHL Potential: Could become a top four defenseman in the NHL if he develops his skills in Juniors. Should be a NHL player in some role.
#104 Marcus Foligno...The feel good story of the draft for the Sabres. Not only did his father Mike Foligno star with the Sabres for years but Buffalo is where he wanted to be. He was hoping that he would be drafted by the Sabres and they made that dream a reality on Saturday afternoon. Foligno is another tough OHL player that expects to get even bigger as he matures.
NHL Potential: A third or fourth line player that can play Center or Wing in the NHL.
#134 Mark Adams... A Massachusetts High School player that needs to develop his skills at the NCAA level. He is a good skater for a big kid and could someday be a good defenseman. At this point he is considered a project but needs time to develop.
NHL Potential: A two-way defenseman that is responsible in his own zone.
#164 Connor Knapp... A real big goalie from Miami-OH. He has the talent to be the Sabres goalie of the future if everything works the way he hopes. His strength is positioning and using his size to block the angles. Still needs to have faster reflexes and needs to work on his overall game.
NHL Potential: Cold become a starting goalie but more likely to be a backup.
#194 Maxime Legault... Another big kid that was slow to develop in Juniors. He isn't an offensive threat but plays a tough gritty style of hockey. He isn't afraid to get dirty in the corners, the places that some players refuse to go. An overall hard working forward.
NHL Potential: A fourth line winger or minor leaguer. A depth player.
After looking at the Sabres overall draft how do you think they did? There was the initial reaction to Zack Kassian and the feel good story of Marcus Foligno that had us excited, now you have had a couple of days to let it digest what are you feeling?