Photo: Defenseman Brayden McNabb (81) is one of several Buffalo Sabres prospects who would be competing for a spot in the NHL right now if not for the ongoing lockout. (Bill Streicher/Icon SMI)
The Buffalo Sabres have traditionally taken the long and steady approach to developing their projects, giving their prospects as much time as needed to develop into an NHL player. That patience has paid off, with many players drafted in the past five years making contributions at the NHL level last year, and are ready to this year, if or when the NHL lockout ends. Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Brayden McNabb, Marcus Foligno, and a few others are among those who have proven that they can play in the NHL.
Photo: Headed into his sophomore season with the University of Wisconsin, Jake McCabe will be relied on heavily to provide offense from the blue line. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Buffalo Sabres addressed their biggest organizational need by selecting two marquee centers, Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons, at the 2012 Draft. Both have signed entry-level contracts and it is now a waiting game for the Sabres, as they continue to reap the benefits from the continuing development of their young players.
Photo: Finnish forward Joel Armia is among the many promising young prospects in the Buffalo Sabres' system. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Slowly, the Buffalo Sabres are shedding their reputation for being an undersized team severely lacking in the toughness department. At the 2012 NHL Draft, GM Darcy Regier selected two marquee centers, Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons, with the 12th and 14th overall picks, giving them size, depth and versatility at that position.
Photo: Center Mikhail Grigorenko was one of two centers the Sabres selected in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft. (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)
The Buffalo Sabres entered the 2012 NHL Draft with four of the top 50 picks for the first time since 1998. Sabres brass knew they needed to get bigger and add more depth up the middle and addressed that by selecting five centers, including two in the first round. General Manager Darcy Regier had a clear plan in this draft, which was executed to near perfection.
Photo: Talented center Mikhail Grigorenko fell out of the 2012 NHL Draft's top 10 and into the laps of the Buffalo Sabres, who snapped Grigorenko up with the 12th pick overall (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
In the early going of the 2011-12 season, center Mikhail Grigorenko was considered by some to be the top prospect available for the 2012 NHL Draft. By season's end, however, the talented Russian was dropping in the rankings, finally being chosen with the 12th selection overall by the Buffalo Sabres.