Maine Hockey Journal

Sabres looking to build for the future at upcoming draft

The Portland Pirates won’t see the effect next season of this weekend’s draft, but the Buffalo Sabres are without doubt laying a foundation that will benefit the Pirates for years to come.

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft, being held in Ottawa, has been dubbed as one of the best drafts in recent memory, especially for defensemen. Half of the top-ranked North American skaters are blueliners, giving NHL teams many options in building their backend.

Buffalo has seven picks in the draft, including two in the first round – the 13th and 26th selections – and the Sabres have plenty of options on what to do with those picks, be it make a selection, trade a pick or even a little both in order to improve the current Sabres roster.

Sabres’ GM Darcy Regier has said he’s leaving his options open with those picks. The organization has an idea of whom they’d like to select, but if those players aren’t available, they will take the best available player.

“We could virtually pick at any position,” said Regier. “What we’ve talked about as a staff is there is a group of forwards and also a group of defensemen. A lot of it depends on who goes ahead of us, I could see either one, but it depends on the picks in front of us. We will go with who we think is the best player in all likelihood between a defenseman and forward.”

By all accounts from the scouts, who follow the amateur ranks closely, the first round has been spilt into two groups. The first 11 or 12 players ranked in the draft have been anointed as guaranteed NHL players and the rest has work in progress – those who do their homework can find a real gem.

Buffalo, incidentally, picks at #13 and they have plenty to pick from based on need or just taking the best player available. I tend to believe the Sabres can do both because of how deep the draft is with defensemen.

Depending on what mock draft you’re reading and what expert you believe the Sabres are bound to pick a defenseman at #13 and many have tabbed Luca Sisba from Lethbridge or Colten Teubert from Regina as the Sabres first round pick.

As much as this is not exactly a science, I believe both are incorrect, as Buffalo should take Colby Robak from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. Currently, he’s ranked in the low to mid-20’s in Central Scouting.

Robak is a big defenseman for his age and still growing. At 6-3, 194-pounds, he could still add another couple of inches in height, and 20 pounds in muscles. His size along with his smooth skating ability makes him exactly what the Sabres need on the blueline, somebody who can quarterback the powerplay and be a real offensive threat.

At #26, the Sabres with their second first-round pick that they acquired from San Jose in the Brian Campbell trade gives them a couple of options. With their defenseman in the bag at #13, Buffalo could select a forward or trade the pick along with Max Afinogenov, a name that has long been rumored on the move for something they need now.

If they opt to make the selection, forward Kruise Reddick from the Tri-City Americans should be the Sabres second pick. Although, he may be available at #44, I wouldn’t take the risk of losing him to another team.

His primary knock against him is his size. At 5-8, 165-pounds, he’s been overlooked by numerous hockey minds, but the Sabres have taken small players in the past with Nathan Gerbe. Reddick seems to fit mold of a Martin St. Louis and in today’s NHL, he looks set to put up good offensive numbers. Another point about Reddick, despite his size, he plays the game like a player much bigger than 5-8 and that can only boost the morale for players all the way around.

“He caught my eye in the rookie camp,” said Americans Head Coach Don Nachbaur. “As a centerman, he had a lot of speed in his game, but the one thing I clung to was how smart of a player he was. His hockey sense was very good. Those were players I was looking for … I always knew he would one day be able to make plays because he could handle the puck. He has the work ethic and talent and he utilizes both every night. For his size and stature, he takes the puck to where goal scorers take it – in front of the net.”

In the second round, don’t be surprised if the Sabres pick a goaltender in order to rebuild the depth in the organization. Beyond Enroth, who will be in Portland this season, the Sabres only have a couple of kids – Bradley Eidsness and Nick Eno – in the goalie pool.

Also, don’t be surprised if they select a familiar face to hockey fans in Maine by picking Peter Delmas from Lewiston.

This is the time for the scouts to shine. All the hard work has been completed on their end and now the only thing left is for the announcing of the names of those lucky few who will don NHL sweaters in the Nation’s Capital of Canada.

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