Photo: The Buffalo Sabres looked for some size and scoring from the wing at last year's NHL Draft with the selection of Finnish forward Joel Armia (courtesy of Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI)
The Buffalo Sabres enter the 2012 NHL Draft armed with four of the first 45 picks, which is the most picks inside the top 50 that they have had since 1998. Though he receives a lot of flak from fans, Darcy Regier should be commended for both his draft record and deft maneuverings at last year's draft as well as the 2012 trade deadline which brought in the extra first and second round picks that the Sabres hold this year.
Below is the middle third of Hockey's Future NHL Organizational rankings as voted by the Hockey's Future staff. To determine the ranking, each team's entire prospect pool was taken into consideration. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The rankings are done twice each season, in the fall and spring.
Photo: Defenseman Drew MacKenzie (center) was one of the few bright spots on a weak Vermont Catamounts team. (Photo courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)
The Sabres NCAA and European stable of prospects is relatively small and consisting mostly of mid-round prospects. Joel Armia is the first player since 2008 that the Sabres have drafted in the first three rounds of the entry draft who did not come from one of the three Canadian major junior leagues. He is also the first player since 2006 that Buffalo has drafted from outside of North America.
The highest player drafted from the NCAA ranks in the last five years was Corey Tropp in the third round of the 2007 draft so it is safe to say that Buffalo relies more on junior hockey than the NCAA. The Sabres had seven players in the NCAA last season including, one fourth rounder, two fifth rounders, a sixth rounder, and three seventh rounders.
Photo: London Knights forward Andreas Athanasiou is one of the speedier forwards available for the 2012 NHL Draft (courtesy of CHL Images)
They say that speed kills. And for whichever team selects London Knights' forward Andreas Athanasiou in June's NHL entry draft, they're going to find themselves with a veritable assassin in their organization.
For a league that puts a premium on speed, the Woodbridge, ON native will be a valuable asset. But while the young forward does put in the time to improve his stride, speed is just a natural component of this — and many other — games.
"It's just natural. It's always been a key part of my game playing hockey. Even when I'm playing basketball, soccer, track — I was on a track-and-field club team outside of school — I've always been pretty fast," Athanasiou explained. "It's always been my go-to — it's always been there, even when I was a little kid. I remember going on the ice with my dad when I was really young, maybe a couple of years old, and having him swing me around so that I could just pick up tons and tons of speed and just fly around. I just loved it." Read more»
Canada defenseman Mark Pysyk played in all six games for Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Although he didn’t collect any points at this tournament, he was a +7, a sign of the steady play that he is known for in his regular stint with the WHL‘s Edmonton Oil Kings. Like the rest of his Canada teammates, Pysyk was disappointed by the team’s failure to win gold at this event.
Pysyk talked about winning the bronze medal in his home province following Canada’s win over Finland.