The final tally for Buffalo was skewed toward the forwards, with 3 centers, 3 left wingers, 1 right winger, 1 defenseman, and 1 goalie being taken by Tim Murray and Co.
Some trends that we saw as the Sabres were selecting included players who had high Hockey IQ, guys with a combination of grit and talent, and players who made significant improvements over the last year. The Sabres also drafted a number of players with NHL family members though Tim Murray said that was purely by coincidence.
The draft got off to a wonderful start with the addition of Sam Reinhart, who brings his elite playmaking abilities to the center position. His production, leadership, and intelligence will be a huge influence on and off the ice in the Buffalo organization for years to come. The Sabres added an instant top two center, someone who will make all of his linemates look that much better. The tank, and all its misery, paid off in the form of Sam Reinhart.
Buffalo's second draft pick, Brendan Lemieux at #31, might end up being a big steal for the Sabres for a few reasons, despite being drafted at the top of the second round. First, he's a supreme pest who plays a hard game and gets under his opponents' skin, but much like his father Claude, he adds enough offensive production to the mix to become a potential second line winger down the line. Second, he's a great locker room leader, and Tim Murray seemed pleased in his post-draft interview that Lemieux would help liven up a quiet locker room. And third, Lemieux was visibly angry that he wasn't taken in the first round, and that fire will help fuel him when playing all those teams that passed on him.
Their next two picks, Eric Cornel and Valclav Karabacek, were both players that saw big improvements in their game as the season went along. They project into middle line two-way and scoring forwards, respectively, and add some much-needed depth to Buffalo's future forward corps.
With their two third round selections (after making a trade back with Washington) Tim Murray decided to shore up his back end, and the Sabres took big Swedish goalie Jonas Johansson to pair with Linus Ullmark, and a defenseman in Bryce Martin who was getting first round ratings this year, but fell thanks to a poor second half. Should he get back on form, the Sabres could have another Mark Pysyk-like player in their system.
The rest of the draft saw Buffalo stash away long-term project players, as the two high schoolers and one Swedish forward they took are a long way away. However, with the masive number of prospects already in the pipeline and more to come next year, Murray was smart to stretch things out with the end of his draft in order to give everyone more time and space to develop as needed.
Overall, I really like what Tim Murray did in his first draft as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. Reinhart will be an instant stud player and Lemieux adds that "hard to play against" mentality and vocal leadership that successful playoff teams need, in addition to a great work ethic that will all but guarantee he sees the NHL sooner rather than later. They've got a few potential steals in Lemieux and Martin, and every other pick looks like the team at least got appropriate value for their selection.
The Sabres have upgraded their prospect pool with a number of intelligent, gritty players with scoring ability. They put an emphasis on good skaters and puck movers, and took risks on some players who made a leap this year, and will hopefully keep improving at that rate.
Catch up with all he picks below, and let us know what you thought of the draft as a whole in the comments.
2014 Buffalo Sabres Draft Picks
|1||2||Sam Reinhart||C||Elite playmaker, hockey IQ. Future #1 center.|
|2||31||Brendan Lemieux||LW||Best pest, chip on his shoulder, plays like his dad.|
|2||44||Eric Cornel||C/RW||Smart, two-way game. Great shot, improving by the day.|
|2||49||Vaclav Karabacek||LW||Hungry scorer, good possession, can break your hand.|
|3||61||Jonas Johansson||G||Big 6'4'' frame, good positioning and athleticism.|
|3||74||Brycen Martin||LHD||Does everything well, smart, potential steal.|
|5||121||Max Willman||LW||Versatile high schooler, makes most of all opportunities.|
|6||151||Chris Brown||C||Good scoring touch, HS prospect, hockey pedigree.|
|7||181||Victor Olofsson||RW||Smaller speedster, hard shot, must play against bigger comp.|