Similar to the 2007 draft, the Buffalo Sabres focused on North American players in 2008. Likely concerned about the lack of an agreement between the NHL and European leagues, the Sabres picked exclusively players from Canada and the United States.
The 2008 class is headlined by the 6’7 defenseman Tyler Myers, who the Sabres moved up one slot to select. From there, the team again showed that they are not afraid to select a diminutive center with a high upside with the selection of Tyler Ennis at 26 overall. After the first-round selections, the team alternated between offense and defense, seeking to shore up the organizational depth with some size and skill.
A strong skater for his size, in 72 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, the rangy Myers contributed 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) and 109 penalty minutes. Expectations will be very high for Myers next season, and he will be expected to use his solid slap shot and take a step forward offensively.
At 6’7, 204 lbs., he will need to get on a proper diet and get in the weight room, but the potential is there to be an imposing presence. There is a great deal of upside that goes along with this pick, as Myers hasn’t completely found his game yet. With his extraordinary size can come a bit of awkwardness, but that should recede as he matures as a player.
With his size speed, and agility, he can be an uncommon player at the NHL level with some polish. Myers is an intriguing prospect, and Buffalo fans hope that he is more Zdeno Chara than Mike Wilson.
Tyler Ennis, C (WHL – Medicine Hat)
5’9, 146 lbs.
Round 1, 26th Overall
Ennis boasts great quickness, agility, and offensive touch. Despite lacking ideal size, he has been a durable WHL player, having played in 218 games during the past three seasons and playoffs. Last season, he put it all together offensively, registering 43 goals and 48 assists in 70 games, while adding 42 penalty minutes. He was a plus-11 for the season. During the playoffs, he contributed four assists in five games.
Buffalo has had considerable success with smaller centermen. Daniel Briere blossomed while in Buffalo, and Derek Roy was arguably the team’s most consistent offensive player last season. With Nathan Gerbe signed and Ennis now in the system, the team has similar hopes for these young players.
Though not a strong skater, Adam can serve as a big body in front of the net, and uses his size effectively in close quarters. This past QMJHL season, he contributed 36 goals and 30 assists in 70 games. He also added 3 goals and 5 assists in six playoff games.
Adam brings a physical presence to the ice, and is the type of player who could be a real factor in the grind-it-out Stanley Cup playoffs. It remains to be seen if he can get his skating and back-checking ability to an NHL level.
Corey Fienhage, D (High School – Eastview High, MN)
6’2, 190 lbs.
Round 3, 81st Overall
Fienhage is a tough, responsible defenseman who has committed to the University of North Dakota next season. Playing for Eastview High in Minnesota last season, he showed his grit with 76 penalty minutes in 24 games. He also chipped in 6 goals and 6 assists while serving as team captain. In 12 games with the Indiana Ice of the USHL, he added 12 PIM, 1 goal, and 2 assists.
Fienhage is considered more of a scrapper than an offensive force. Fortunately, the Sabres could use that toughness on their blueline. He already brings the intangibles; now he needs to refine his overall game.
Justin Jokinen, RW (High School – Cloquet, MN)
6’2, 165 lbs.
Round 4, 101st Overall
Jokinen is a well-rounded player who led his high school team to the Minnesota Section 7AA Championship as team captain. He brought a lot to the table as a senior leader, scoring 21 goals and 18 assists in 25 games, while adding 58 penalty minutes.
The lanky forward has it all offensively. He skates very well, possesses good instincts and decision-making ability, a powerful shot, and a soft touch around the net. If he is willing to put in the work to add size and strength to his 6’2 frame, along with putting forth the effort on the defensive end, he should move up quickly in the Buffalo organization.
Jordan Southorn, D (QMJHL – PEI)
6’2, 185 lbs.
Round 4, 104th Overall
As a Prince Edward Island Rocket this past season, Southorn contributed 12 goals and 19 assists in 69 games. He is a big blueliner, and is not afraid to pinch in on the play. He enjoys joining the rush, but is not simply an offensive player. He added 70 penalty minutes, and wasn’t afraid to get in a few fights over the past season. Southern will need to improve his consistency to develop into an NHL defenseman.
Jacob Lagace, LW (QMJHL – Chicoutimi)
5’11, 190 lbs.
Round 5, 134th Overall
Playing with Chicoutimi of the QMJHL, Lagace scored 23 goals and 39 assists in 67 games, while adding 62 penalty minutes. He solid decision-making ability and offensive skill.
Lagace plays with a work ethic and grit that Buffalo is known for. He is strong on the puck, and plays with an urgency on the ice that compensates for his lack of ideal size.
Crawford contributed 4 goals, 16 assists, and 58 penalty minutes in 68 regular-season games with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. He also added two points in four playoff games. A solid skater with room to add size, Crawford will need to hone his offensive game to make it to the NHL.