Size, again, was the focus of the Sabres’ draft, they took nine players all tipping the scales at 175 pounds or higher and none shorter than 6′.
Three of their first four picks were right handed defensemen, the weakest part of the team’s prospect pool. In all, Buffalo took six forwards; two each at center, left and right wing. Here is a list of each the Sabres’ picks:
- 1st round (23) – Mark Pysyk -D- Edmonton Oil Kings 6’1″ 175lbs
- 3rd round (68) – Jerome Gauthier-Leduc -D- Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 6’1″ 181lbs
- 3rd round (75) – Kevin Sundher -C- Chilliwack Bruins 6′ 192lbs
- 3rd round (83) – Matt MacKenzie -D- Calgary Hitmen 6’1″ 191
- 4th round (98) – Steven Shipley -C- Owen Sound Attack 6’2″ 205lbs
- 5th round (143) – Gregg Sutch -RW- Mississauga Majors 6’2″ 193lbs
- 6th round (173) – Cedrick Henley -LW- Val-d’Or Foreur 6’5″ 195lbs
- 7th round (203) – Christian Isackson -RW- Minnesota HS 6′ 174lbs
- 7th round (208) – Riley Boychuk -LW- Portland Winterhawks 6’4″ 205lbs
None of these players will impact the club in the next two years. It is also likely that they will get an additional year or two in the AHL before making the jump to the big club. So, slot these guys into the plans for 2013 at the earliest. In Isackson’s case he could be four or more years away, depending how long he remains at the University of Minnesota.
Mark Pysyk: Starting at the top, the Sabres got a “steal” with the selection of Pysyk at 23. However, the man they wanted was Riley Sheahan, he went to Detroit at the 21st selection. But, Pysyk has been likened to Brian Campbell or Duncan Keith for his skating and ability to move the puck. Hockey’s Future describes him as, “A mobile, puck-moving defenseman with some offensive polish. A very good skater with a quick release.”
As a right handed shot that could possibly pull power play time, Pysyk is a good pick here. Tyler Myers will likely play in every situation for the foreseeable future in Buffalo. But, Marc Andre Gragnani has never impressed me and TJ Brennan is still a year, or two, away from challenging for an NHL roster spot. Allowing Pysyk to develop slow in junior and then the AHL will let the Sabres groom him into the defenseman that Brian Campbell became before departing via free agency.
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc: Another right handed shot with more of an offensive flair than defensive. Playing in the Q will develop an offensive side more than the defensive, in my opinion. This guy put up 20 goals and 46 points last season and joined Pysyk in the CHL Top Prospects game. Here is Hockey’s Future’s take, “Strong on his skates and with excellent offensive vision, most believe that Gauthier-Leduc is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. With a strong shot from the point and great puck-moving ability, the Quebec native has solid size, but needs to be more assertive and continue to round out his game.”
Perhaps the Sabres have grabbed the next Dan Boyle. Of course, he could be the next Marc-Andre Bergeron and only be useful on power plays. Upside is he blossoms into a serious two-way threat. Downside is his defensive game doesn’t come around and he sees very limited time as a professional.
Kevin Sundher: The Sabres need size and skill down the center. Unfortunately, the player they coveted in the first round was taken out from under their nose at 21. But, hopefully Sundher can blossom into a similar, or better, mix of size and skill. Sundher seems to be a guy who likes to muck it up, all while contributing some serious points. He scored 25 goals and 61 points, plus 101 penalty minutes in 72 games for Chilliwack last season. The fact that he is a WHL kid excites me. It is a tough league that promotes physicality. The only downside here is that he is a third round pick, so progression could be an issue. There are a lot of diamonds in the rough in the NHL draft. You don’t always need a first rounder to be a breakout guy for you.
Matt MacKenzie: A tall kid who needs to fill out. Playing in the WHL will allow his physical side to blossom. Hopefully the next few years allow him to find the “nasty” in his game. If he can gain 10-15 pounds he would be a serious shut down defenseman. As a righty he addresses the Sabres’ needs. After this draft they have quality right handed prospects on defense, before today they had nothing besides Tyler Myers.
Steven Shipley: Another center at 6’2″ and over 200 pounds. Shipley is a similar guy to Luke Adam. He averaged just under a point per game for Owen Sound and still has two years of junior left. If his scoring can increase over the next two seasons Shipley could become something serious, time will tell. The best thing about this pick is that Shipley was rated as a second round talent. Second “steal” of the draft for Buffalo.
Gregg Sutch: It is impressive that Sutch continues to grow as a hockey player as a hearing impaired individual. Regardless, he could become a strong enforcer type if he can make the jump to the NHL. There is limited offensive capabilities with Sutch and it will be quite the battle for him to make it to the big leagues.
Cedrick Henley: Power forward is the best way to describe Henley. He is a 6’4″ giant and could draw comparisons to a guy like Dustin Byfuglien if he adds some weight and finds more of a scoring touch. Paul Gaustad was a late pick and turned out quite well. Could work the same for Henley, and the Sabres final pick, Riley Boychuk. What is concerning about Henley is that his point totals dropped after his rookie year.
Christian Isackson: In 56 games at St. Thomas in Minnesota the winger racked up 113 points and 46 goals. Playing for the Gophers for the next two years, at least, will allow Isackson develop his skills in the best NCAA conference. Playing back-to-back in school will hopefully let the Sabres find a guy who will come out to play on the second half of the sets when he gets to the league. As a serious scorer he could be the hidden gem of the Sabres’ draft class if he continues to develop.
Riley Boychuk: A massive winger who racks up a lot of penalty minutes. Increased his point totals last season. Like I said, could be a similar story to Paul Gaustad.