Sabres stay focused on centers on day two of draft

With Friday’s fireworks in the rearview, Darcy Regier and his scouting staff went to work with six picks in rounds two through seven of the 2012 NHL Draft.

While they shipped off their very first pick of day two in order to draft Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo was able to net an impressive amount of size and talent with their remaining picks. With their nine picks, the Sabres took five centers with their eight picks at the draft, picking up a pair defensemen and one goaltender.

There is no longer a need for organizational depth at center after the past two days. Counting Luke Adam, Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson, the Sabres have 12 centers in their system. With Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko flirting with an immediate jump to the professional game, these improvements will be felt at every level.

The Sabres also were able to begin re-stocking their crease after signing the only two  goalies they had in the pipeline. After a commitment to defense in the mid-2000s, the blueline still has some prospects on the way that will be enhanced by this draft.

Buffalo’s commitment to centers and adding more big, skilled players was the obvious trend in this draft and I would expect that to continue for at least one more year. For a full rundown of the Sabres draft, I will defer to Sabres Prospects. But here are a few thoughts I have on each of Buffalo’s day two picks:

Jake McCabe (2nd round, 44)

McCabe is fairly well sized and just finished up his rookie year at Wisconsin with adequate numbers. I think the most promising part of this selection is that Wisconsin has become Defenseman-U in the past  few seasons churning out talent like Ryan McDonaugh and Jake Gardiner.

Without much prior knowledge of McCabe I am happy with the choice. He played for Ron Rolston in the US Development Program and Kris Baker notes his solid two-way game as a reason to look to the future. I’d venture a guess he plays at least two seasons in the NCAA before signing a pro contract.

Justin Kea (3rd round, 73)

Another player I don’t have much of an opinion on. However, based on his brief OHL resume, I do have some questions as to the motivation in signing Kea. He has 125 PIMs in 127 career games and is more than willing to fight.

However, I wonder what kind of NHL player he could project to. I would think his ceiling is of a guy like Zenon Konopka or Brandon Prust; a player who will crash and bang, stand up for his teammates and play responsible defensively. If Kea stays at center once he gets a contract, Konopka would be a great player for him to turn into.

Logan Nelson (5th round, 133)

None of those guys in red were drafted by the Sabres.

Nelson, a teammate of Kevin Sundher in Victoria is also likely famous for not wanting to block Fulton Reed’s booming slap shot.

Nelson, an American, had very impressive numbers as a rookie in major junior last season. Victoria wasn’t a very good team and I can only imagine that Nelson’s role and numbers will increase as his time in the WHL continues. Much like Sundher and Colin Jacobs (2011 5th round), Nelson could certainly be a mid-round diamond in the rough.

Linus Ullmark (6th round, 163)

After signing Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen, the Sabres were without a single goaltender prospect in the pipeline. They remedied that with Ullmark.

Ullmark only played a few games in the SEL last year with average results. However, his numbers with Modo-Jr. are far better (2.76, .918) and he could certainly be a nice long-term prospect. What I like best is that selecting him late gives him time to develop overseas, it seems that mid-round Scandinavian goaltending prospects are the way to go.

Brady Austin (7th round, 193)

If nothing else, Austin is enormous. 6’4″ and 234 pounds and he has actually posted a few points over his three-year OHL career. Since he is already 19, the overage prospect could end up with a contract within one calendar year.

He probably doesn’t have too high of a ceiling, but depending on how he is developed, that could certainly change.

Judd Peterson (7th round, 204)

Peterson was taken with the conditional pick from dealing Steve Montador’s rights to Chicago last July. As it turns out, Peterson seems like a pretty solid return. By my count, Peterson makes four-straight seasons in which the Sabres have taken an American high school prospect.

His numbers are solid (51 goals in 46 total games) and he will be playing in a strong collegiate program at St. Cloud. After seeing Brad Navin and Christian Isackson at the 2011 prospect camp, I would expect Peterson to posses a similar set of natural skills. He is a good four years from a contract, but he remains a safe selection with what equates to a bonus pick.

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