What a weekend it was for the Buffalo Sabres. Many of us had expected that we would have traded away all three of the biggest assets the franchise owned in Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen, but here we are on Sunday morning and the most valuable of them all is the only one still on the roster.
Just to recap, General Manager got in the act early Friday before the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, sending Ristolainen to Philadelphia Flyers for what seems like a very favorable return with defenseman Robert Hagg, the Flyers’ 14th pick in the first round and a second rounder in the 2023 draft. Whether or not Hagg makes an impact, the picks along made this one worth it with the Finn finally gone and just a year left on his current contract.
That Adams was able to get such a package for Risto was considered quite the feat, especially after how he had been widely panned for previous trades (read Taylor Hall to the Boston Bruins).
However, a lot of that positive mojo he gained from that trade appeared to have disappeared barely 24 hours later when it came out that Sam Reinhart had been traded to the Florida Panthers for their 2022 first rounder and last year’s seventh rounder (and best goalie at the World Juniors) Devon Levi.
Sandwiching that trade were a lot of draft picks. Buffalo had been stockpiling draft selections with the hope that quantity would eventually lead to quality, and in many ways Adams delivered, except drafting a goaltender. The prospects pipeline is thin at Buffalo in many departments, and with eleven selections this year it would have been a safe bet that Adams would have picked at least one goalie, but guess what he didn’t and it looks like he’s hanging his hat on Levi and what we already have to carry us through this season, at least until free agency in a few days.
Really glad to see that Buffalo did not overthink their overall #1 pick. In fact, it can be said that for a number of selections over this weekend Adams went with what he and his scouting staff thought was the best player available. That might be a reflection of how bare the Sabres’ cupboard is, but also shows that the GM was not beyond taking some risks at times.
Vasily Glotov, drafted in 2016, was the last Russian drafted and since then Buffalo have tended to steer clear of Russians. Not this year! Adams indicated that the Sabres had five people at the World Juniors, and the picks seemed to reflect that too with four Russians selected with three of them being consecutive picks in the second and third rounds.
So. let’s take a quick look at what the Sabres have lost and gained this weekend.
Ristolainen and Reinhart are gone. Both had their moments and are liked by fans for different reasons. Ultimately though, Risto had to go because he was a bad defenseman. We can argue until the cows come home about whether he made the D worse or the D was bad and he could do nothing about it.
Reinhart on the other hand was consistently good, putting up decent numbers even though he was labeled as Eichel’s shadow and incapable of carrying the team on his own shoulders. Well, with Ike missing most of the Buffalo season, Reino seemed to do just fine leading the team in scoring.
The Buffalo Sabres 2021 NHL Draft Class. pic.twitter.com/ui4QY75rrz— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) July 24, 2021
Adams parlayed the pair of Sabres veterans into a workable defenseman in Hagg, a bright prospect goalie in Levi, the Panthers first rounder in what should be a loaded 2022 draft, and the Flyers second rounder in the 2023 draft.
There were some definite trends here. Winger depth has been poor among the prospects, so Adams was aggressive in trying to improve that area - seven of the eleven selections were wingers, with some players in there considered to be the high-risk, high-reward ceiling types. There was not a single American player chosen, which seemed a bit odd considering previous drafts, but not necessarily like there was a bias against USNTDP players.
Over the coming days there will be a lot more analysis on each of these players, but suffice to say that the people who are paid to write about stuff like this think the Sabres did quite well for themselves in restocking the cupboard this weekend.
Corey Pronman in The Athletic gave Buffalo the highest grade, a straight A.
Owen Power is a projected all-star, the only one in the draft for me as of now, which by itself could make the Sabres the biggest beneficiaries of this draft. I think both Isak Rosen and Prokhor Poltapov will become useful scoring wingers in the NHL, and both Aleksandr Kisakov and Olivier Nadeau have solid chances to play games. Stiven Sardarian was high for me, but he’s one of the most skilled players in the class so I respect the bet. I didn’t mind Viljami Marjala and Nikita Novikov late. Overall I really like this class for Buffalo’s future. The Sabres’ still need to add to the center position internally, but they added a star defenseman and a lot of scoring depth.
Scott Wheeler had given the Sabres an ‘overtime winner’ rating for their first round (also in The Athletic), crediting Adams for picking Power but then also docking some points for picking Rosen a little earlier than he would have liked.
He also gave the rest of the Buffalo draft the same grade, calling Alexander Kisakov one of his favorites in the draft, saying Nikita Novikov and Tyson Kozak made sense late on, but then pillorying the selection of Stiven Sardaryan and Josh Bloom in the third round.
Adam Wells at Bleacher Report was equally impressed, giving the Sabres an A-, the second highest grade (tied with the Arizona Coyotes and Columbus Bluejackets), and only behind the Minnesota Wild who got an A.
Like we have seen previously, it’s a futile task trying to accurately grade draft classes for at least a few years, but for now do you think GMKA did a good enough job to change the Sabres franchise and point them in the right direction this weekend?
Did Kevyn Adams improve the Buffalo Sabres this weekend?
This poll is closed
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