The final round of draft years, the 2k’s.
2000 – 15th overall, Artem Kryukov. Kryukov never played a single game in North America.
2001 – Taken 22nd in the same year as future captains Derek Roy and Jason Pominville, Jiri Novotny. Jiri didn’t play as many games as many fans remember, only 64 games for Buffalo scoring 8 goals and 16 points. He was traded, along with a first round pick to Washington for Danius Zuburus.
2002 – Two first round draft picks, 11th overall, Keith Ballard and 20th overall Daniel Pallie. Ballard never played a single game for Buffalo, being traded while still in college for Steve Reinprecht. Pallie was a very serviceable fourth line foward who played two full seasons and parts of three others for the Sabres. Pallie totaled 195 games with 35 goals and 77 points.
2003 – Drafted 5th overall as the future of the Buffalo Sabres, Thomas Vanek. Vanek is the highest drafted Austrian born player ever. Vanek has been a top line winger since the 2005 season and exploded onto the scene with a 43 goal performance in 2006. Vanek has accrued 230 goals and 447 points in 547 games for the blue and gold. He has been a good player for the Sabres and everyone believes he could become a top tier goal scorer with the addition of a true #1 playmaking center. Unfortunately for the fans and the organization, but fortunately for Vanek, he was a scape goat and statement player in 2007. Following the loss of our two best players in clutch center Chris Drury and speedy playmaker Danny Brier weeks prior, Edmonton offered restricted free agent Vanek a $7 million dollar contact, which due to the loss of Brier and Drury and the anger of the fan base, Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff had no choice to match. It was their fault though. They could have gotten away with signing him to, I believe, a $4-5 million long term contract, but they screwed themselves when they claimed they would match any offer.
2004 – 13th overall, Drew Stafford. Stafford has been a solid player for the Sabres scoring 114 goals and 246 points in 397 games. He was offered a new $4 million dollar contract following a 31 goal, 52 point season in 2011. Many believe he has not deserved this, including me, because it was the first time in his career that he has scored over 20 goals. This past season he nearly matched his points with 50 but reverted back to 20 goals. But it seems like everyone is looking forward to Stafford’s play next season on the line of Foligno – Ennis – Stafford which exploded at the end of last season.
2005 – Drafting again 13th, the Sabres selected Marek Zagrapan. Zagrapan never played a single game for the Sabres. He signed his entry level contract in 2006 and spent three years in the AHL before leaving for the KHL, citing a lack of opportunity in the NHL.
2006 – 24th overall, Dennis Persson. Persson has yet to play a single game for Buffalo, and it doesn’t look like he will. Persson is still under contract with the Sabres and plays in Rochester but it seems he is behind TJ Brennan, Brayden McNabb, and Mark Pysyk to make the NHL roster.
2007 – No first round pick. Traded to Washington for Danius Zuburus.
2008 – Another year with two first round picks. This time they selected Tyler Myers 12th and Tyler Ennis 26th. Myers started the 2009–10 NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres. After a strong first nine games with the Sabres, the club decided to keep him in Buffalo rather than return him to the Rockets, initiating the first year of his contract. Myers quickly established himself as the top defenceman on the Sabres roster, leading the club in average ice time per game in his rookie season. That offseason, Myers beat out Matt Duchene and Jimmy Howard for the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year. He was also called the next Tie Domi by award presenter Marky Mark Walhberg. Myers career totals are 29 goals and 79 assists in 217 games. Tyler Ennis is a speedy center/winger who has a high level of potential. Ennis has 92 points and 38 goals in his 140 NHL games. He has recently been moved back to the center position and has high expectations this coming season following a $2.8 million dollar, 2 year contract extension.
2009 – Selected 13th overall, Zack Kassian. Kassian was expected to the the gritty guy with scoring touch that every fan was looking for. He was an offensive powerhouse with a definite mean streak. He played a third of a season with Buffalo, 27 games, scoring 3 goals and 4 assists before the February 27th trade deadline. Though Kassian did not do much, he was part of a deal to bring in a future #1 center, Cody Hodgson. Hodgson is a playmaker and could be the missing piece everyone is looking for, but that has yet to be seen in the +/-20 games he played for us last season.
2010 – Drafted 23th overall, Mark Pysyk. Pysyk is an offensive defenseman with high upside. “Pysyk’s greatest strength is his ability to skate with the puck and make smart plays with it. Pysyk is not flashy, but he routinely makes excellent first passes and possesses a high hockey IQ. Even though Pysyk leans towards the more offensive side of the game, he does not have a good enough shot to quarterback the first unit powerplay” (Hockeysfuture.com).
2011 – Drafted 16th overall, Joel Armia. “A junior star already in his native Finland, Armia is Buffalo’s most dangerous goal-scorer since Thomas Vanek, though their approaches are quite different. Armia lacks high-end footspeed, but puts his 6’3″ frame to good use, driving to the net and using his stickhandling ability to navigate through traffic.Armia is under contract with Assat Pori for one more year where he is expected to play a major offensive role under coach Karri Kivi. Once the contract expires, Armia will be free to join the Sabres” (Hockeysfuture.com).
2012 – With two first round picks again, acquired from trading Paul Gaustad. The Sabres select Mikhail Grigorenko 12th and Zemgus Girgensons 14th. Finally the Sabres have gone after size at the center position. This is the draft fans were waiting for. In a surprising move, the Sabres took falling goal scorer and Russian Grigorenko 12th and decided to take Latvian USHL player Girgensons after trading up into Calgary’s spot. Grigorenko has an outside shot at making the big club, but he will have to compete with Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. Since the Sabres are in no rush, Grigorenko will stay with the Remparts under Patrick Roy for a little longer. Signing an entry-level contract means Girgensons will not be attending the University of Vermont. Because Girgensons has not played in the CHL yet, he is eligible to play in the AHL. If the Sabres think Girgensons still needs a little more seasoning playing against juniors, the Kelowna Rockets own his CHL rights.