Buffalo Sabres: Would Compher, Hagel have helped save the franchise?

There are many what-ifs the Buffalo Sabres faithful have asked themselves over the years. Right now, they are asking that question twice. 

Fans of the Buffalo Sabres have been forced to watch two former draft picks play key roles in helping their teams get to the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals. While neither will light up the league with their numbers, their roles have nonetheless been effective in their teams’ climb to the top of the NHL.

Unfortunately, the Sabres never gave either player a chance. J.T. Compher, selected in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft, was traded to the Colorado Avalanche with a second round pick, Mikhail Grigorenko, and Nikita Zadorov for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn.

Brandon Hagel, a sixth round pick in 2016, never signed with the Sabres. This past season, the Chicago Blackhawks traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a first round pick in 2023 and 2024, Taylor Raddysh, and Boris Katchouk.

Could Compher, Hagel, have helped save the Buffalo Sabres from record-setting futility?

Hagel ended up being undrafted during his second go-around in the NHL Draft, so perhaps the NHL’s other 30 franchises at the time saw what the Sabres saw. A player of little value. However, former NHL player Brent Sutter, coach of the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, brought out the best in Hagel, prompting the Chicago Blackhawks to sign him during the 2018-19 season.

While Hagel would not have joined the top scoring lines, he would have looked good playing on the third line in a defensive forward role similar to what Rasmus Asplund now plays. The difference, Hagel displays more physicality and scoring prowess than Asplund, making him a decent but unspectacular two-way player.

Compher, traded while he was still in college at the University of Michigan, has since appeared in 341 NHL games with the Avalanche. Another Asplund-like player, Compher also would have been great on the third line as a winger. And like Hagel, he has proven to have a budding nose for the goal, scoring a career-high 18 of them this past season and 33 points overall.

While this duo are by no means miracle workers, they are solid role players who could have helped the Sabres build a solid foundation. Especially on the lower lines, where they could have paired with the likes of Zemgus Girgensons, another solid lower-liner.

Would the championship contenders have saved the Sabres? No. But they would have provided two excellent staples on the lower lines. And when you compare them to lower-liners the team has had in the past, and even to Asplund, they have been much more productive.

It should go without saying the Sabres would have benefitted from their presence. But let’s not dwell too much on the issue. The Sabres are building a solid rotation at forward. So maybe letting Compher and Hagel go was for the best.

(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)

Article Source: Cup finalists J.T. Compher and Brandon Hagel were Sabres picks who never got to Buffalo by Mike Harrington.