Jason Pominville is one of several examples on the Sabres roster of the NHL draft hard at work. Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Homegrown: Sabres & the Draft

How important is the upcoming NHL Draft to the Buffalo Sabres? Take a glance at this past year’s roster and you’ll see just how crucial draft picks can be.Of thirty skaters who played at least one game for the blue and gold this season, fifteen of them were drafted by Buffalo. Five of the top six point-getters on the team? Drafted by Buffalo. Both goaltenders? Drafted by Buffalo.

Okay, I think you get the hint. The Sabres like to develop their young players after draft thru the farm system: first Rochester, then Portland, now Rochester again.

Clearly the draft is important to all thirty NHL teams – that’s why it exists. But looking at the Northeast Division, we can break it down and see why the draft is perhaps most crucial to Buffalo.

Note: These statistics reflect skaters only (no goaltenders) who played 10 or more NHL games with that team.

  • Buffalo Sabres: 60% draft, 20% free agency, 16% trade, 4% waiver
  • Ottawa Senators: 54% draft, 25% free agency, 21% trade
  • Boston Bruins: 30% draft, 13% free agency, 57% trade
  • Montreal Canadiens: 30% draft, 37% free agency, 30% trade, 3% waiver
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: 20% draft, 52% trade, 28% free agent

Although the Senators come close, the other division rivals drop far below Buffalo in the percent. This isn’t to say that growing players through draft/farm clubs is better or worse than acquiring via trade or free agency and composing a team that way. It seems evident, however, that the Sabres largely choose to develop their team from youth.

Look at Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, the Sabres top four point-getters this season. All were drafted by Buffalo many years ago and played in Rochester when the farm team was there before movin’ on up to the NHL and earning their place.

Defensemen Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera have both developed through the farm system. Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe worked hard in Portland before coming to the big league. Goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth both spent time in the AHL with Rochester and Portland, respectively.

So as draft time rolls around – less than a month away now! – keep your eyes open. It might take a few months, one year or even five years, but there’s a good chance some of the players the Sabres draft will play in the blue and gold eventually.

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