I thought about this earlier today when I thought about Mikhail Grigorenko and Nail Yakupov. Many teams tend to play their high draft picks right off the bat out of training camp. For Example: Pittsburgh and Edmonton. Pittsburgh from 2003-2005 drafted Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby. Fleury played only one season in the AHL and Malkin and Crosby made the team right after the draft. Edmonton has had the first overall pick in three straight drafts and have taken Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov. The first two never saw AHL time, and Yakupov probably won’t either.
Now I know these players are what many call once in a life-time and are the top picks in the draft. But even other teams do not have their prospects sit in the minors for too long. But Buffalo likes to take their time growing the kids. Darcy Regier has always had a “build through the draft” mentality and has made every move around that mentality.
The Buffalo Sabres traditionally long and steady approach to developing their projects seems to have paid off, giving their prospects as much time as needed to develop into an NHL player. With many players drafted in the past five years making contributions at the NHL level last year, and are ready to this year, if or when the NHL lockout ends. Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Brayden McNabb, Marcus Foligno, and a few others are among those who have proven that they can play in the NHL.
Also if you take a look at the Sabres roster, you will see 11 players who were drafted by Buffalo. All waited in the wings for their opportunity to prove their worth. Waiting behind these players are the NHL ready prospects listed above. However, because of Darcy’s focus on development and the newly added depth, as well as prospect depth, the Sabres will be in no rush to get these players into the line-up and will allow them to prove they are able to play at the NHL speed. Many believe Grigorenko is ready for the big game, by why hurry? If things continue as they are now, he finish his junior career and explode out of the gate next season. Giving players like Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb another year of development could see them as our top 4 defensemen next year with Ehrhoff and Myers. Similarly, giving Adam and Foligno another year will see them contending with Girgensons and Grigorenko for a spot on the 2nd and 3rd lines.
With the team set up as it is now and these high potential prospects develop nicely, fans can look forward to many years of competition from the Buffalo Sabres squad.