Sabres 2009 draft preview

By James Schwegler

Top 10 Prospects

1. Jhonas Enroth, G
2. Chris Butler, D
3. Tyler Ennis, C
4. Tyler Myers, D
5. Mike Weber, D
6. Nathan Gerbe, C
7. Tim Kennedy, LW
8. T.J. Brennan, D
9. Marc-Andre Gragnani, D
10. Philippe Gogulla, LW

Team Needs

After back-to-back 10th-place seasons, the Sabres are looking for a spark wherever they can find it.  With the players that have been identified as the core of the team locked up for the next few seasons, Buffalo will most likely need to get that boost from one of their prospects.

As a team, the Sabres have not been able to impose their will on their opponent.  The organization has not put a premium on big, physical forwards over the past several seasons.  With Drew Stafford a restricted free agent this season, the trend may continue. 

The most physically imposing prospects in the Buffalo system are Tyler Myers (6’8, 215 lbs.), Luke Adam (6’2, 203 lbs.), and Corey Fienhage (6’2, 190 lbs.).  Myers should be able to step in and contribute next season, but there will be a learning curve.  Adam and Fienhage are still a few years away.  The Sabres need to add size and toughness, particularly to their stable of forwards, if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for the third straight season. 

Organizational Strengths

The Sabres have an excellent young corps of defensemen.  At some point over the next two seasons, it is likely that Buffalo will have Chris Butler, Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber, and Myers in their top six.  T.J. Brennan and Marc-Andre Gragnani are defensemen with very interesting offensive skill sets, but they will need a big impression to supplant any of the prospects in front of them.  Lower-rated defensemen Dennis Persson, Corey Fienhage, and Alex Biega also have a look at joining the NHL roster down the line. 

Buffalo has quality players at forward, but with the exception of Tyler Ennis, they are lacking that star-quality playmaker.  Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy can be effective second-tier wingers, and will have the opportunity to see serious ice time in Buffalo next season.  Paul Byron is an intriguing prospect, a 5’9 center that scored 99 points in 64 QMJHL games this season. 

With Brad Eidsness stepping up his game for the University of North Dakota and joining Jhonas Enroth in the top 20, the goaltender position is also sound. 

Organizational Needs

The Sabres lack of size at forward is reflected in their system.  With players like Derek Roy, Nathan Gerbe, and Paul Byron having success at different levels, their decision to grab skilled undersized forwards has paid dividends.  However, that decision was made to the exclusion of big, tough wingers, which are sorely lacking in the Buffalo organization. 

The defensive corps is very strong, but Buffalo will not be shy to grab a talented blueliner if he slips down the draft board.  They could also use a late-round developmental goalie in this draft.

Draft Tendencies

To say that Buffalo trends toward North American players would be an understatement, considering all 16 of Buffalo’s draft picks over the past two years have been products of U.S. or Canadian leagues.  The Sabres tend to look for hard-working, often college-bound players, often with size issues. 

Unless there is a player that they are in love with (see Tyler Myers), the Sabres typically stand pat in their draft slot, and grab the best player available. 

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Result:
13th pick, Nazem Kadri, C – London (OHL)

Kadri is the complete package offensively.  With respectable size (6’0, 177 lbs.) to go along with his speed and innate scoring touch, he would fit into the Sabres’ best player available formula at No. 13.  He would immediately become one of Buffalo’s top prospects at forward.