With only sporadic talk of new ownership for the Buffalo Sabres, not to mention the lack of advertising or marketing of the hockey club, it is easy to forget that there is a NHL team in Buffalo, NY. What seems like an even more distant memory is the NHL Draft that took place in June, where Buffalo GM Darcy Regier and his scouting staff added more depth to the Sabres organization.
This infusion of new, young talent means that it is time for this writer to awaken from his slumber, and to go about the task of updating the prospect rankings for the Sabres. The main focus of this revision is the top 15 prospects in the organization, many of whom will be the future core of this club. While there may not be major changes to the list, there will be a couple new names added to the roll, which means others currently on the list will be replaced.
The obvious additions to the list are Buffalo’s two 2002 1st Round choices, D Keith Ballard and LW/C Dan Paille. Neither player merits placement amongst Buffalo’s top 5 prospects, but both could someday hold down one of those lofty positions.
As for more familiar names on the list, players like G Mika Noronen and D Henrik Tallinder could make that jump from prospect to bona fide pro this season. Both players showed signs of being NHL-ready in the 2001-02 season’s second half, with the coming training camp offering the duo definite opportunities to earn spots on the Sabres’ roster. Other players that could be in line for a promotion this fall include RW Norm Milley and C/RW Ales Kotalik.
If the Buffalo Sabres had adopted a theme for their selections at the 2002 Entry Draft, it might have been “Coming to the Defense”.
The Sabres used half of their allotment of 10 choices to draft defenseman, which is an area of definite need in the organization. One of those rearguards, Keith Ballard, was Buffalo’s top draft pick in the first round, going 11th overall to the club. The choice of Ballard surprised many observers at the Draft, due to the lack of consensus amongst scouts as to where Keith would be chosen. This uncertainty did not deter Darcy Regier and the Buffalo draft table, however.
So just how good a player is Keith Ballard? How soon can Buffalo’s other 2002 first round choice, Dan Paille, land a spot on the Sabres’ roster? For that matter, how successful will this group of Sabres’ 2002 draftees ultimately be? The answers to these questions will become apparent over the next 2-3 seasons, of course, but it is possible to initially lay out the current strengths and weaknesses of each player.
Below is more detailed information on each of the draftees. Information has been somewhat difficult to come by for one or two of the prospects, but there should be enough intelligence available to create a basic profile of each player.
In each of the profiles, CSB= Central Scouting Bureau. The height and weight for each player, with two exceptions, is taken from the CSB Final Rankings.
2002 Draft Picks of the Buffalo Sabres
- Keith Ba Read more»
If the occasion is a NHL Draft, then expect the Buffalo Sabres to do something unexpected. For “The Team Without Ownership” it was business as usual at the draft table, which for the Sabres translates into trades, as well as one or two surprising draft choices.
On the trade front, the Sabres completed the following deals during the first day of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft:
- Buffalo sent their second 1st round selection in the 2002 Entry Draft (30th overall) and the rights to unsigned draft choice Mike Pandolfo to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for the 20th pick overall in the 2002 Entry Draft, previously acquired by Columbus from New Jersey
- The Sabres then traded Vyacheslav Kozlov and their 2nd round pick in the 2002 Entry Draft (41st overall) to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Atlanta’s 2nd round pick in the 2002 Entry Draft (31st overall) and a 2002 3rd round pick (82nd overall) previously acquired from Florida
- Buffalo followed that trade with a trade of two draft picks, its second 3rd round pick (88th overall) and their 2nd round choice in 2003, to Nashville for the Predators’ 2002 2nd round pick (36th overall)
- Finally, the Sabres moved the 2002 2nd round pick (31st overall) that they received from Atlanta, as well as the 2002 2nd round pick (36th overall) that t Read more»
We now know that the Buffalo Sabres will enter the 2002 Draft with 11 draft choices in hand. Of those 11 selections, 7 of them fall amongst the first 121 overall draft choices, with 5 of those choices coming in the first 1/3 of the draft. So, regardless of the merits of the depth of talent in this draft, it would seem that the Sabres have an opportunity to further solidify their organizational prospect depth.
In addition to the 11 picks they have this year, the Sabres could go into the 2003 Entry Draft with as many as 12 draft choices (their own 9 choices, plus Detroit’s 1st and 2nd from the Hasek trade, as well as a possible compensation pick for the eventual loss of FA defenseman Richard Smehlik). The ’03 Draft is said to have a much better talent pool than this year’s draft, so that should be a further opportunity to increase the talent level of the organization.
While the success or failure of these next 2 drafts will ultimately fall at the feet of Buffalo GM Darcy Regier, the man who is the real architect of the Sabres is Director of Player Personnel Don Luce. Luce, a former Sabre himself, has been in charge of Buffalo’s draft table for a decade or more, with his main accomplishment being the assembling of some of the talent that went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1999. Luce is once again faced with the task of helping to build the Sabres back into a contender, with the ’02 and ’03 Drafts seemingly being a key to accomplishing this feat. Should the hockey department fail to turn up at least a couple of bona Read more»
The Buffalo Sabres go into the 2002 Entry Draft with their highest drafting position since they chose Erik Rasmussen 7th overall in the ’96 Draft. In spite of the pre-draft hype regarding the weakness of this draft, Buffalo should be able to add at least a couple of NHL-caliber prospects to their depth chart, given the fact that they currently have 3 picks amongst the top 41 selections.
Buffalo’s strong suits, at least in terms of prospects and younger players, would appear to be in goal and along the right flank. The Sabres do have a few prospects at the center position, as well, but none of that talent is proven up to this point. The depth at left wing and on defense would appear to be the two areas that need to be addressed in this draft, although trying to fill specific needs may not always be the best way to run a draft. The strength of the talent at each position in a draft probably has more influence on the players a team chooses, rather than the specific needs of the club.
The following is a more detailed breakdown, by position, of Buffalo’s prospect depth:
- the Sabres would appear to be solid at this position for the near term, since they have a pretty good mix of talent in the system. Tim Connolly and Derek Roy represent the offensive future at center, although neither player has proven that they will be above average in terms of offensive output. Jiri Novotny, Artem Kriukov and Chris Thorburn would appear to be candidates for the 3rd a Read more»