2011 Sabres Draft: Not a Mock, but a Cheat Sheet

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2011NHLDraft 2011 Sabres Draft: Not a Mock, but a Cheat Sheet

The Next Ones.

WHEN: June 24th – 25th

WHERE: The Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

BAR TRIVIA: This marks the first time the draft has been in Minnesota since the North Stars hosted the draft in 1989.  The Sabres have selected defensemen with their first pick in 4 of the last 5 drafts: Dennis Persson (2006 24th overall), TJ Brennan (2007 31st overall – 2nd round), Tyler Myers (2008 12th overall), and Mark Pysyk (2010 23rd overall).

SABRES PICKS: The Sabres are not involved in any conditional picks this year.

  • Round 1 – #16
  • Round 2 – none (traded to St. Louis for Brad Boyes)
  • Round 3 – #77
  • Round 4 – #107
  • Round 5 – #137
  • Round 6 – #167
  • Round 7 – #197

The Buffalo Sabres enter the 2011 draft with a new philosophy under the Terry Pegula Era, which is the goal to win a Stanley Cup within three years.  Common sense may dictate that players that are brought in should be able to transition to the game as quickly as possible, but that is not necessarily be the case – remember, Pegula also said this:

“We’re gonna win the Stanley Cup. Then, you know what, we’re gonna win it again.”

The goal isn’t to reach the Cup at all costs, rather, it is to win it all and do it again.  In order to do that, the prospect pool has to continue to be strong, and revitalized by new talent every year.

In other words, if you’re one of the uppity folks on Hockeybuzz.com or HFBoards.com lobbying to get Buffalo to trade away their #1 pick to the Ottawa Senators for Nick Foligno, you might want to seriously reconsider what you wish for.  At #16, the Sabres have a shot on some players who will be just as good, or better, as Nick.

Here’s a run-down on the kids who the Sabres should have a shot at when pick 16 comes around (note: many of these players may go quite earlier in the draft – or later – availability is determined by pre-draft rankings of the International Scouting Services, and various draft media sources).  This is a quick list: we’ll present a brief run-down on each candidate here, and provide a link to more information.

Today, we’ll start with four intriguing profiles for that first round pick.  In no particular order:

Brandon Saad

ISS rank: 12

In short, this 6-1, 208 pound LW is a horse.  He may be intriguing to the Sabres because from that physical standpoint, as some scouts believe that he is ready to jump to the NHL next season.  Beyond that availability, this two-way forward displays a good hockey IQ, he is very strong on the puck and is responsible in all zones.  Also, while the need to add some punch at center is there, the Sabres are also very thin on prospects at the LW position.

Joel Armia

ISS rank: 13

The Sabres are loaded at RW, but if Armia is available at 16th overall, he might be too good to pass up.  At 6-3 and 191 pounds, the Finn translates as a scoring power forward – something the Sabres have been very keen on in recent drafts.  He had a very strong showing in his first season in the Finnish SM-liiga league, and actually lead his big-league team with 12 goals through the first 30 games.  With his strength and natural scoring ability, Armia has tremendous upside.

Mark McNeill

ISS rank: 15

Conveniently, the Hockey News ranks this 6-1, 204 center 16th overall, right where the Sabres pick.  McNeill is yet another talented power forward that Buffalo could select this far down the board, one who possesses a great deal of strength, and just keeps getting stronger.  He’s got strong hockey sense and composure as well, with the smarts and rink-adaptability to play center or right wing.  If you like Bobby Ryan, McNeill’s game projects as something close.

Boone Jenner

ISS Rank: 55

While the ISS rank may strike you, don’t be surprised if this 6-1 194 pound center is scooped up well before the Sabres make their pick at 16th overall. Says one scout, The phrase, ‘I want 20 of those guys on my team,’ gets overused, but it not only applies to Boone, he can be the poster boy for it. Boone does what it takes to win. He blocks shots, wins battles along the boards and is an outstanding forechecker. He wants to be first to the puck every time. He’s solid on his skates and fights through checks on his way to the net.” Jenner is a prototype of the leadership mantras of Mike Peca, Manny Malhotra, and Ryan Kesler.  Powerplay, penalty kill, faceoffs, work ethic – the kid has it all – oh, and he can score too, netting 25 goals for 66 points in 63 games with Oshawa of the OHL.  His skating is a knock against him, but he worked very hard to improve that over his last season in Oshawa.

While I put these guys in “no particular order,” I did save Jenner for last for a reason: he is Stanley Cup material.  While yet to play an AHL or NHL game, Jenner has all the intangible characteristics along with the skill set that will help solidify a team down the middle and in the locker room.

The Sabres were exasperated when Detroit selected Riley Sheehan two spots ahead of them in the 2010 draft.  Sheehan’s strong game, work ethic, and leadership qualities mirror Jenner’s – I’d be very surprised if Reiger and Co. let another one of these guys slip through their fingers as they work towards winning a Cup, and then “win it again.”

The Sabres could elect to trade up, trade down, stand pat, or trade their pick for an NHL player.  In any event, the team needs to continue stockpiling size and talent, and it would seem that at 16th overall, they will have plenty to pick from.

More coming soon.

Go Sabres.

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