There are not many players on the Sabres roster that left a lasting impression this season. By the end of the season, the Sabres “cleaned house” by getting rid of players such as Vanek, Miller, Ott, McCormick, Moulson and Halak.
The Sabres were not fortunate enough to win the NHL draft lottery, as they did not receive the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft in Philadelphia. Despite having the worst record in the league amongst the 30 clubs, they will be selecting second overall in the upcoming draft.
Looking at the last couple years, the second pick may work out to the Sabres favor. The 2010 draft class consisted of two big names, Taylor and Tyler. Taylor Hall, who went first overall to the Edmonton Oilers and Tyler Seguin, who went second overall to the Boston Bruins, both were fighting for that number one spot. Ultimately, Taylor Hall was selected first overall, but both made a lasting impact on their franchises. In sheer numbers, right before the Olympic break, Edmonton Oilers winger Hall has the clear advantage: 188 points in 212 games, while Dallas Stars center (and former Boston Bruins winger) Seguin has 162 points in 246 games.
Dissecting the numbers more, both players made the jump from junior hockey to the NHL in the same offseason. Seguin has made the playoffs every single year he has been in the league including winning a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011. Hall has yet to play in the playoffs with the Edmonton Oilers.
Bringing it back to the Sabres, picking second may not have that drastic of a difference. This is not a draft class such as 2009 where John Tavares was the clear runaway first overall pick that year. First, the Sabres have to see what their biggest weakness is and address it with this draft. Seeing as only two Sabres notched the 20-goal plateau (Hodgson, Ennis), goal scoring is it at a premium for this Buffalo franchise. They finished the season with 157 goals for. That calculates to averaging 1.9 goals per game. The team that amounted the second lowest goal total was the Florida Panthers. They celebrated 196 goals for this season. That calculates to averaging 2.4 goals per game. A team that struggled to score goals and missed the playoffs by a long shot still averaged a half goal more than them in the 82-game season.
I think it was important to address that Florida struggled to score goals too, as they solidified the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. While Florida struggled to score mightily during the season, with captain Ed Jovanovski retiring soon for the Panthers, they may want to replace him with a big defense presence. They drafted Erik Gudbranson 3rd overall in the 2010 NHL draft, who has helped them out, but one of these players will not suffice. Adding highly regarded prospect, Aaron Ekblad, 6′ 3″/216 lbs, seems like the best option for the Panthers.
If Ekblad is taken first overall, Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres can breathe happily. While Ekblad is a tremendous talent, I imagine the Sabres are targeting Kootenay’s center, Sam Reinhart (6′ 1″/185 lbs). A dynamic centerman who has the ability to play a 200-foot game and has excellent explosiveness. A forward who has the ability to win games and has an unparalleled work ethic.
Draft day isn’t too far away. June 27, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center can change these franchises misfortune sooner than expected.