Sabres 2005 draft review

By Ken McKenna

With change in the air in the NHL as a result of the newly-signed CBA, the Buffalo Sabres seemed to get into the spirit of things at the 2005 NHL Draft by tapping several sources of talent that they had never, or rarely, looked to in the past. Leagues such as the USHL and EJHL had their number called by the Sabres for the first time, with the club also selecting their first German in many a year.

Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier and his staff largely focused on addressing needs in this draft, selecting a potential No. 1 center while also beefing up their defensive depth chart. The Sabres also looked to add some homegrown talent by adding a couple of players whose roots lie in Western New York. All told, the Sabres drafted nine players while adding another 2005 draftee via trade, with the breakdown being two centers, two wingers, five defensemen and one goaltender.

Marek Zagrapan, Center– Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
1st round, 13th overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 198

With their first selection of the draft and the 13th pick overall, the Sabres chose center Marek Zagrapan of the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Zagrapan, a native of Slovakia now living in the Czech Republic, turned in a solid rookie season in 2004-05 for the Sagueneens, picking up 32 goals and 50 assists in 59 games. Zagrapan was ranked 23rd amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting Services (CSS), and ninth overall by International Scouting Services.

Zagrapan may be the skilled center that the Sabres have sought over the past few seasons. His strong performance in the 2005 QMJHL playoffs, where he tied for second in goals scored with 11, cemented Zagrapan’s reputation as one of the better offensive players in the draft. The words “slick” and “playmaker” are often used to describe the Slovak’s game, with his speed and quickness being above average.

On the downside, the stocky Zagrapan is not known for being a gritty player. The Sabres, though, seem to be banking on the fact that the game will be more wide-open in the NHL’s new era, so grit may not enter into the equation as much as in the past.

Philippe Gugolla, Forward – Cologne (DEL)
2nd round, 48th overall
Height: 6’2, Weight: 176

In the second round of the draft, the Sabres mined territory they had not visited in over 20 years, choosing winger Philippe Gogulla from Germany in the second round. Gogulla, the only German selected in this draft, is said to be a powerful skater who is good along the boards, but who also must add bulk and more of a scoring touch if he is to make it to the NHL. The Dusseldorf, Germany native played for Cologne during the 2004-05 season, where he picked up two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in 47 games. Gugolla was ranked 37th among European skaters by CSS.

The last German the Sabres selected was defenseman Uwe Krupp, in 1983.

Marc-Andre Gragnani, Defenseman – PEI Rockets (QMJHL)
3rd round, 87th overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 180

After a trade with the Calgary Flames that saw the Sabres move their third round pick for the Flames’ third and fourth round picks, the team used the acquired third to choose the first of the five defensemen they selected in this draft.

Marc-Andre Gragnani from the QMJHL’s Prince Edward Island Rockets could eventually fill the role of an offensive defenseman. While Gragnani’s size is not ideal for the position, his skills and consistent effort could help to make up for his lack of bulk. The Montreal, Quebec native was ranked 94th amongst North American skaters by CSS.

Chris Butler, Defenseman – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
4th round, 96th overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 178

In the fourth round of the draft, the Sabres used the second of the two picks acquired from the Flames to select defenseman Chris Butler of the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. Butler was one of the top defensemen in that league, as he was named to the All-USHL First Team. The native of St. Louis, Missouri is said to be a solid, all-around defenseman whose game is strongest in his own end. Butler, who helped the Musketeers reach the USHL finals in 2004-05, will play for current two-time NCAA champs, the University of Denver, starting in the fall.

Nathan Gerbe, Center – U.S. NTDP
5th round, 142nd overall
Height: 5’5, Weight: 160

The Sabres turned to another program they have neglected in the past, the U.S. National Team Development Program, to make their fifth round selection.

The diminutive Gerbe has the look of a player that still belongs in bantam hockey. But the adage “good things come in small packages” definitely applies to Gerbe, as he is a tireless worker with heart and ability. There are some that compare Gerbe to former NHL star Thereon Fleury, although Gerbe may lack Fleury’s overall ability. But the Oxford, Michigan native definitely has the ability to get under the skin of opposing players, much like Fleury did, while Gerbe’s offensive ability was considered good enough for him to be paired with potential 2006 top prospect Phil Kessel at the Under-18 tournament in April.

Gerbe, whose CSS ranking was 160th among North American skaters, will attend Boston College starting in the fall.

Adam Dennis, Goaltender – London Knights (OHL)
6th round, 182nd overall
Height: 6’0, Weight: 175

With their sixth round selection, the Sabres added goaltender Adam Dennis from the 2005 Memorial Cup champions, the OHL’s London Knights. Although his game action has at times been limited, Dennis has been a clutch goaltender throughout most of his junior career. A backup throughout the 2004-05 season, he was the Knights’ main man in that club’s run to the Cup. The Toronto, Ontario native is said to have an unorthodox style of play, something that Sabres’ fans were accustomed to during the Dominik Hasek era. Dennis tends to employ more of a stand-up style, rather than the more widespread butterfly-style of goaltending so prevalent these days.

Vyacheslav Buravchikov, Defenseman – Soviet Wings (RUS2)
7th round, 191st overall
Height: 6’1, Weight: 189

The Sabres turned to Russia for their seventh round selection, choosing offensive defenseman Vyacheslav Buravchikov from the Soviet Wings of the Russian High League. The Moscow native is said to be an excellent skater with a hard, accurate shot who needs to work on his puck control and defensive play. Buravchikov could eventually develop into a power play quarterback.

Matt Generous, Defenseman – New England Jr. Falcons (EJHL)
7th round, 208th overall
Height: 6’3, Weight: 185

The Sabres turned to yet another of their previously ignored talent pools, the Eastern Junior Hockey League, to select defenseman Matt Generous of that league’s New England Jr. Falcons. Generous, who was ranked 196th by CSS, was considered one of the better defensive prospects in the EJHL, having participated in that league’s 2005 All-Star Game. The Methuen, Massachusetts native will attend St. Lawrence University in the fall.

Andrew Orpik, Defenseman/Forward – Thayer Academy (USHSE)
7th round, 227th overall
Height: 6’3, Weight: 200

With the final selection of the draft, the Sabres went native by selecting big defenseman Andrew Orpik. A native Western New Yorker, he is the brother of Pittsburgh Penguins 2000 first round pick Brooks Orpik. The younger Orpik, who was not rated by CSS for this draft, played for Thayer Academy in 2004-05. Orpik, who played both defense and forward for Thayer this past season, will attend Boston College beginning in the fall.

Tim Kennedy, Left Wing – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
Acquired via trade
Height: 5’10, Weight: 170

Not satisfied with adding one Western New York talent, the Sabres dealt their 2006 sixth round pick to acquire left wing Tim Kennedy from the Washington Capitals. The Sabres had intended to use the pick they eventually spent on Adam Dennis to select Kennedy, but the Capitals nabbed him one pick before the Sabres were to make their choice. Kennedy was a teammate of Sabres fourth-round selection Chris Butler at Sioux City of the USHL. The Buffalo native notched 30 goals and 31 assists for the USHL finalist, adding another nine goals and nine assists in the 2005 playoffs. Kennedy, who was ranked 162nd by CSS, will attend Michigan State University.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.