I’ll let you in on a secret. I know precious little about the NHL draft prospects. I don’t watch junior hockey or Finnish league or anything really except the U20 tournament around the holidays. How could I? If I was to tell my girlfriend I’m going to double the amount of hockey I watch so I can keep up on draft prospects, I’d probably never have a girlfriend. I simply don’t personally know enough about these guys to profess to be any kind of expert. I read plenty, and I know what I’ve read, but it’s the same things you could read.
So instead of getting too specific with what the Buffalo Sabres need and who they should draft, I want to stick to a general game plan for Darcy Regier heading into the draft. There are a few things I want to see, and as long as I see them, I’m willing to call the draft a success. It just seems easier to grade this draft on simpler factors that our beloved GM can control on draft day. My needs are simple and as follows:
1) Trade Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek – Regier needs to be practical here. The market for experienced, but expensive goalies is shabby, and always has been. Miller could fetch a 2nd round pick and a 3rd liner and that would probably not be a bad deal. Vanek should fetch a little more, but he’s still a guy who will cost $7M this year and at least as much to keep in years to come. I would be less disappointed if Vanek was on this team come fall, but Miller has to go. For either player, the draft will be the best time to make a move.
2) Fleece Calgary – Jay Feaster has to have some dud deal up his sleeve, right? Maybe he wants to give up two of his late first round picks for the Sabres’ 16th pick. I know what you’re saying Cory, that’s crazy. It’s not crazy. It’s Jay Feaster. And I always need a good Feaster move this time of year. Do you think we could convince him to trade for Paul Byron again, even though Paul Byron is still a Flame?
3) Draft one player to be truly excited about – This is the biggest one! We’ve been warned about suffering, but can’t June 30th just be a happy day? Can’t Sabres fans spend the hour(s) after the eighth pick (or higher) watching YouTube highlight videos of a guy trying on some blue and gold while looking like a tall 15 year old? After the top four almost certainly shakes out as Mackinnon/Jones/Drouin/Barkov, the next three highest rated forwards are Valeri Nicushkin, Elias Lindholm, and SeanMonahan. The next two defensemen are Rasmus Ristolainen and Darnell Nurse. The Sabres won’t just have a shot at one of these guys, they’ll be able to pick from at least two of them by default. If the names aren’t familiar, again, check out Poppa Bob’s Rankings and read up. Watch some clips, do some homework. Find someone you like and cross your fingers. The Sabres will have a shot at one of them, and that should excite us as fans, as long as Regier doesn’t screw the pooch.
4) 1 D-man, 1 Forward taken in the first round– If the Sabres choose to sit at 8 and 16, they should spread it out on the ice and add to both sides of the puck. We’ve seen the players that will potentially be available at 8, and depending on how they pick there, they need to go the other way at 16. They’re thin at both sides of the ice and there are enticing prospects throughout the first round both at forward and at defense. More and more it seems that Buffalo will miss out on the very best of the prospect pool, but there are many players between 15 and 20 who would also be strong prospects and good future pros. As long as the Sabres can even that out, this should be a good first round.
5) Boo Gary Bettman – I mean, it’s tradition, right? Has to happen, especially after a lockout. Sure, Gary. You may hold our game hostage for months (sometimes years) at a time, but hockey fans are united in one cause. Whenever you show your face in public, you shall be booed. And booed.
Cory Buck is a staff writer at Sabre Noise. He’s also not cool with having his byline so close to Gary Bettman’s face, but thems the breaks. You can contact Cory at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TheBuckMopsHere.