In a system long on skill but short on size, Buffalo’s 2009 draft was a breath of fresh air. Each of their six selections are listed as taller than 6’0, in a range between 187 – 215 lbs. While none of their selections will be NHL contributors in the immediate future, they all bring intrigue to the pipeline, and can pay off in a big way down the road.
Zack Kassian, RW
Round 1, 13th overall
6’3”, 210 lbs. (Peterborough – OHL)
A big, physical winger is just what the doctor ordered for the undersized stable of Buffalo forwards. Recently, the team has been willing to sacrifice size for first-rate ability on offense, as with Tyler Ennis last year. When some of the elite offensive players like Nazem Kadri and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson were taken in front of them, the Sabres focused on filling their two biggest organizational needs: size and toughness.
With great size and a mean streak, Kassian is a blue-collar player. Of course, being picked at No. 13 overall, one should expect more than just a banger. The right winger scored 24 goals and 39 assists in 61 OHL games this season, which at his age is a strong indicator of future offensive success. He also chipped in 136 penalty minutes for good measure, which makes his point total even more impressive considering how much time he spent in the box. He was part of Team Canada at the U18 world championships.
If Buffalo does not acquire a physical winger in the next two seasons, they may need to rely on Kassian to fill that void. Although he may not be a scorer at the NHL level that soon, he can contribute with grit and effort immediately.
Despite his dubious skating ability, McNabb is a big defenseman will good hockey sense. He will be joining an organization stocked with young defensive prospects, and the Sabres can take a long view on his development. In 67 games with Kootenay of the WHL, he contributed 10 goals, 26 assists, and 140 penalty minutes, with a -4 rating. He also had five assists and two penalty minutes in four playoff games. He also took part in Team Canada at the U18 world championships.
Marcus Foligno, LW
Round 4, 104th overall
6’2”, 200 lbs. (Sudbury – OHL)
With a strong, physical style and emerging offensive game, Foligno is an interesting prospect in the fourth round. In 65 games with Sudbury of the OHL, he scored 12 goals and 18 assists, with 96 penalty minutes. He also contributed one goal and two assists in six playoff games. If he is willing to put in the effort on the defensive end, he can be a real contributor at the NHL. His father was one of the most popular captains in Sabres history, Mike Foligno. His brother is Nick Foligno of the Ottawa Senators.
Mark Adams, D
Round 5, 134th overall
6’1”, 187 lbs. (Malden Catholic – MA High School)
Coming out of high school, Adams’ top attribute is his skating ability. He projects as an offensive defenseman, and has shown good hockey sense while playing against Massachusetts high school competition. He is slated to join Chicago of the USHL, and will move on to play for Providence College.
Connor Knapp, G
Round 6, 164th overall
6’5”, 215 lbs. (Miami University – CCHA)
As predicted, in the late rounds the Sabres went for a goalie who can fairly be considered a project. With a 6’5” frame, Knapp is in the new mold of netminders that have excellent size for the position. In his freshman year with Miami of Ohio, he posted a 2.09 goals against, with a .904 save percentage, 13-5-3 record, and two shutouts. He also happened to attend nearby McQuaid High School of Rochester, New York.
Maxime Legault, RW
Round 7, 194th overall
6’2”, 195 lbs. (Shawinigan – QMJHL)
Legault is a player with good size who is not afraid to mix it up. He is able to score opportunistic goals and jump into the play when necessary. In 63 games with Shawinigan of the QMJHL, he scored 28 goals, 16 assists, with 66 penalty minutes, and a +22 rating.