For the Buffalo Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams, one of the first priorities once he was hired on was to revise the ‘Big Board’ or prospects ahead of his first NHL Entry Draft. Along with Director of Scouting Jeremiah Crowe and Director of Analytics Jason Nightingale, Adams re-evaluated all the prospects using both analytical data and video scouting with the goal of finding players who would best project to become NHLers, which then pointed him towards making Jack Quinn the Sabres’ first pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, despite consensus favorites Marco Rossi and Cole Perfetti still being available.
“Jack’s a Sabre. I mean, I just felt like the work that our staff did in preparing was really important to understand his game.
“You see the ability for him to keep getting better. His athleticism is high. Just a lot of the metrics that we look at when we’re scouting, he met and some. This was just a player that, the more work we did, the more excited we got.”
Despite a lacklustre year the previous season, Quinn turned it on last year becoming just the fourth OHL player in the last decade to reach the 50-goal mark in his draft year, and was second in the league with 52 in 62 games for the Ottawa 67s.
The Sabres scouting group were impressed by his elite finishing, with Adams going on to add that they loved the competitiveness of his two-way game. The youngster took a more unconventional path to get to the NHL, which saw him being cut by AAA teams as he had no personal trainer, nor did he spend time working out and instead distributed his time playing multiple high school sports, to where he committed fully to the sport and getting to the OHL and ultimately Buffalo.
“He has what I would say is a really good self-awareness of who he is as a player and he also has a determination that I see him getting better and better. He has that growth mindset kind of mentality where you could just see it, he wants to get better.
“He was upset when he was younger that he didn’t feel that he was where he wanted to be as a hockey player and then he started doing things to help him improve. To me, you see that trajectory and arc and we’re going to be excited to have our player development guys now jump in and start doing work with them. But he’s got a big ceiling.”
A lot of talk leading up to the Draft was if Buffalo would trade away the #8 pick to get immediate help, but Adams said he looked at all options in front of him before making Quinn the pick.
“I can tell you this: We are really, really excited that Jack Quinn was there for us to be able to take. When I was able to get the microphone and call that name, we were pretty excited about that.”
On the Sabres second day choices, Adams admitted that he did not get much sleep after day one thinking of how he could obtain the still-available John-Jason Peterka.
“I think that’s why I didn’t sleep a lot last night. I was thinking about Peterka. ‘Ok, how could we figure out a way to possibly get this kid?’
“So, [we] got in the office this morning early, and we just started going to work on it, having a lot of different conversations.”
It was a bit expensive, with the Sabres having to give up their 38th and 100th picks to the San Jose Sharks to move up four spots.
“Yeah, I think I was surprised (he was still available). He’s a good player. And there’s a lot of good players. You notice, as every pick gets later in the draft, it becomes a group of players maybe teams are (thinking), ‘Oh, they’re so close, I like this guy a little more or that guy a little more.’
“But we felt strongly that if we were able to make the right move to move up and get him, then we were going to do it. Fortunately, it happened.”
On the rest of the draft class, Adams reiterated that his priority was grabbing prospects projected as the best available and driven to reach their potential rather than by positional need, a somewhat surprising statement considering how they went after Quinn with Rossi and Perfetti still on the board.
“We’re excited. I’m sure that every general manager and scouting staff in the NHL right now is pretty excited about the draft that they just had because you put a lot of work into it and then you’re able to call the names that you’re excited about. I mean, that’s how we feel.
“I challenged the staff to really dig in and to do the work and to make sure that when we’re about to announce the name that we feel that he’s a Sabre. I feel we accomplished that.”
Buffalo extended qualifying offers to six players on the roster - forwards Casey Mittelstadt, Victor Olofsson, and Sam Reinhart; defensemen Brandon Montour and Lawrence Pilut; and goaltender Linus Ullmark - but mysteriously forward Dominik Kahun did not make the cut, along with a number of pretty big names across the league.
“We continue to have dialogue with his agent and made it clear that we’d like to continue those conversations going over the next couple days, so hopefully we get to a deal that works.
“I think he understands that we believe in him as a player and it was just a position where we weren’t able to get to a spot where we both felt comfortable, but we’re going to continue talking.
“I do think it’s interesting this offseason where the league is at. We want to make sure we’re giving ourselves the flexibility because you may see a lot of players on the market based on the situation. That’s part of our thought process, too.
“Let’s make sure we’re being flexible and we’re giving ourselves a chance to see what’s out there as we go into Friday.”
Regarding free agency which opens in less than 24 hours at noon EST on Friday, Adams was pretty clear about Buffalo’s goals.
“I think we need to improve our roster, period. We need to become a better team. So, as I’ve had conversations, I’ve not eliminated anything, because I say, ‘Oh, we’re fine here. We don’t want to talk about this.’”