If Sabres Draft McDavid Or Eichel, Then What?


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Many in Buffalo Sabres Land have spent the last year or two speculating on how much better the team might be if it were to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. The thing is though, unless the Sabres finish last overall in 30th place their percentage chance of drafting either are not, well, overwhelming. And the Sabres are currently in a very tight, un-call-able race to beat the Hurricanes and Oilers to the cellar.

Since all we can do until the ping pong balls fly is speculate ourselves, let’s do so. Let’s proceed on the idea that the drawing was held and Buffalo is guaranteed McEichel. Would that change their team building strategy?

In addition to their own, the Sabres own the first round draft picks of both the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders in 2015. Unlike their own, the latter two will likely not be lottery picks. But with this still being a deep draft even after the first two very deep slots, the values of those later round picks are somewhat greater than in more standard years.

If the Swords were to choose 3rd overall or later, the consolation prize is that they would still be leaving Florida with a trio of good young prospects to add to the impressive pool they already have. And in a couple of years all of them together could quite possibly gel.

But getting McEichel would be a game-changer. And doing so might cause them to approach things differently. With the lottery held prior to draft day they’ll know their situation in advance.

Without McEichel, you might draft all three first rounders and, over time, see who develops into the most talent.

With McEichel guaranteed, I’d start working the phones ASAP to try and swap the other two firsts regardless, along with some of that prospect pool for established talent. Real veterans with real talent, to plant opposite Matt Moulson and McEichel on one line, and Sam Reihart/Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Ennis on the other.

Buffalo is a young team, and with the likely soon departures of Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart, Andre Benoit, Andrej Meszaros, possibly Pat Kaleta and more, they’re about to get younger. They not only need veterans, they need veterans who can flat-out play, too.

Sabres fans who’ve sat through nearly two seasons of awful hockey won’t be willing to watch another two at NHL prices waiting to see which recent draftees pan out. With a McEichel added to Reinhart and Girgensons they won’t have to, if the rebuild is finished correctly.

The Sabres have an overabundance of potential talent scattered throughout the AHL, Junior Leagues and college, with a lot more to be drafted in 2015. Realistically there’s not enough room to keep them all, anyway.

I’m guessing that General Manager Tim Murray has already considered this. And not that he cares either way what I think, hopefully we’re on the same page.

The Sabres have both the resources and talent to swing some very large trades for some very large fish.

Adding McEichel gives them even more options. Drafting one is the difference between being able to field a slowly developing good-to-very-good team on the ice, and potentially a fast-developing great one.

Fans can point to Alex Ovechkin all they want to say that one superstar does not a team make. And while that can be true, the Caps have never really done a lot to surround him with much. Buffalo can and will.

Now if that darn Sabres ping pong ball would just stay out of the crease and not miss wide right of the chute, Buffalo might find themselves in for decades of success.