There's been much discussion about what the Buffalo Sabres will do with their first pick in the 2014 Draft, but don't forget that Tim Murray has three picks in the second round - 31, 39, and 49 - as well as a number of movable veterans to use as ammunition to help move himself back up into Round One.
Murray hasn't been shy about stating that he wants another first round pick, though he hasn't stated exactly where he wants to move back in to Round One. He's been very honest in the past stating his desires (and then acting on them) so with that in mind, here are five players to watch in the middle and the end of Round One that Murray might be looking to target.
Joshua Ho-Sang, C/RW, OHL
Much has been written about Ho-Sang in recent weeks, mainly dealing with his tumble down the draft board. While he possesses impressive offensive skills, great agility and speed to match, Ho-Sang has made the grave hockey mistake of speaking his mind. The kid isn't short on confidence, to say the least, and has been called "Hockey's Johnny Manziel" thanks to his swagger and tendenacy to toot his own horn.
The good news is that he has the skill to back up his mouth, scoring 32 goals and 85 points this season. If a GM doesn't mind drafting a kid who has confidence out the wazoo and isn't afraid to say it, they could be getting one of the steals of the draft in Ho-Sang. Tim Murray seems like a man who doesn't mind taking calculated risks, and this is one that could pay off big time.
Alex Tuch, RW, USA U-18
If a big, hard-working power forward is what you're looking for, look no further than Alex Tuch. He won't make it to the NHL for a few more years, being only 17 this year, but Tuch has all the tools to develop into the type of forward who excels in the dirty areas that have become so much more important over the past few years.
Standing at 6'3'' and already weighing 213lbs, Tuch isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in front of the net or along the boards, and that mindset along with a big shot helped him score 29 goals in 61 total games this year. With the abundance of playmaking centers coming in to the Sabres organization, a big power forward might be just what Tim Murray is looking for.
Thatcher Demko, G, NCAA
The Sabres have a number of goalies currently in their prospect pool, but none come with the combination of size, skill, and pedigree that Demko would bring. He had an excellent rookie year at Boston College, and will look to use that momentum to serve as the starter for Team USA in next year's World Junior Championships.
Demko has a bit of Ryan Miller in his game, using his size, positioning, and great agility to keep pucks out of the net. As goalies usually take a bit longer to make it to the NHL, drafting Demko this season would give the Sabres a few years to figure out if any of the Enroth/Neuvirth/Lieuwen/Ullmark/Makarov bunch are worth a starting spot, and would allow the youngster to continue to develop and perform on bigger stages, both for Boston College and Team USA.
Nikita Scherbak, RW, WHL
A riser up the draft boards, Scherbak is the kind of prospect who doesn't excel in any one area, but does everything well. He's got good size at 6'1'', good production with 78 points in 65 games, played in all situations for Saskatoon, and has both grit and smarts to boot. His coaches have praised him for willing to work hard and play anywhere, and his improvement over the season has seen the Russian forward sneaking into the end of the first round.
Dylan Larkin, C, USA U-18
Hard, worker, great two-way game, plays effectively in all three zones. That's the book on Larkin, a player who will remind Sabres fans of Zemgus Girgensons with a potentially higher upside. He scored 31 goals in 60 games this season thanks to his offensive talent but also his ability to be strong on the puck and keep it in the corners. We all know how much Ted Nolan loves Girgensons, and it's never a bad thing to have talented players who work really hard. Might that be enough for Murray to look at trading back into the first for Larkin?
Those are five players we think Tim Murray might be looking at in the middle of the first round, but please let us know what you think, and let us know if there's anyone else who should be on this list.