For the second-straight year, the Sabres enter the NHL Entry Draft with a pair of first round selections. Slotted in at eight and 16, the Sabres will have the opportunity to round out their portfolio of first round picks at an even 50 after 43 years of drafting.
In honor of picks 49 and 50 being made at the end of this month, I went through each of the first round picks the Sabres have made and have compiled a fantasy draft, of sorts, that chronicles the best selection made at each pick in the first round throughout the Sabres history.
There are ten spots the Sabres have never picked. Picks two, three, four, eight, nineteen, twenty-five and twenty-seven through thirty. Buffalo has made a handful of supplementary picks in some of those spots, but I chose not to include them in this practice. Starting with the 30th selection, here is the All-Time Sabres first round:
30-27: Buffalo has never used a pick between 27 and 30 in their history. The most recent opportunity came during the 2006-07 President’s Trophy year in which their first round pick was traded to Washington (Danius Zubrus).
26: Tyler Ennis (2008) – The only player ever chosen by the Sabres at 26, Ennis has played in 187 NHL contests and has slowly seen his role with the organization grow over the past couple of seasons.
25: No selections made – Draft Fact: While 12 round drafts were the norm until recent years, Buffalo selected 15 players in back-to-back seasons (1982, 1983).
24: Dennis Persson (2006) – One of the handful of disappointing first round selections made by the Sabres. Persson was a promising defenseman who seemed to take a little too long to come to North America and by the time he arrived, he was looking up at a long line of defensemen ahead of him on the organizational depth chart.
23: Mark Pysyk (2010) – Pysyk made his NHL debut this past season and showed some real promise as a mobile, two-way defender. Pysyk was rated quite high entering his draft year but a past injury lowered his stock and allowed the Sabres to steal him at 23.
22: Jiri Novotny (2001) – Novotny played two short years in Buffalo after carving out a spot in the organization thanks to his time in Rochester between 2002 and 2005. He played four more years after being traded for Danius Zubrus before returning to the Czech Republic.
21: Mika Noronen (1997) – An agile netminder who was technically sound, Noronen appeared to be carving out his spot as the goalie of the future before Ryan Miller burst onto the scene. Stuck between Biron and Miller, Noronen never found his spot in Buffalo.
20: Daniel Paille (2002) – Paille, one of three former Sabres chosen at number 20 (Steve Patrick and Barrett Heisten) had a decent run in the Queen City before being dealt to Boston where he’d eventually win a Cup. Paille was stuck on a team with too many role players and he was the one determined to be excess baggage. Now he has a ring and will play for another this season.
19: No selections made. Draft Fact: Buffalo has twice owned three first-round selections (1982, 1983).
18: Dmitri Kalinin (1998) – While Mikael Andersson (1984) owns the more impressive NHL resume, Kalinin is the one who spent eight seasons with the Sabres before departing as a free agent. Kalinin played his best hockey in blue and gold but never came around to the player scouts expected to see.
17: Bob Sauve (1975) – Taken one pick deeper than where he was chosen by the WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers, Sauve played all but five years with the Sabres accumulating 246 games in total for the organization.
16: Dave Andreychuk (1982) – One of the easier choices of all the Buffalo first round picks. Andreychuk is one of the greatest scorers in franchise history and was actually the third player selected by the Sabres in the first round in 1982.
15: Artem Kryukov (2000) – Kryukov was the only player ever selected by the Sabres at 15. He never played an NHL game and hasn’t made any sort of impact in the KHL.
14: Jay McKee (1995) – This was a tough call between McKee and Brad May but McKee’s contributions as a top-pair defender outweighed May’s pugnacity and the May Day goal. McKee was present for two of the franchise’s most thrilling playoff runs (99 and 06) and had he just washed out his shin guards the Sabres probably would’ve faced the Oilers in 2006.
13: Larry Playfair (1978) – One of the toughest defensemen ever to play for the Sabres, Playfair racked up over 500 games in blue and gold and is now the head of the Alumni Association. Playfair was a stalwart on the backend and is a terrific representative of the six players chosen at 13 in franchise history.
12: Tyler Myers (2008) – This choice could certainly be subject to change based on the production of Mikhail Grigorenko. But at this time the Calder Trophy winning defensemen will serve as the franchise’s best selection at number 12.
11: Mike Ramsey (1979) – Selected one year after Playfair, Ramsey has gone down as one of the greatest defensemen in franchise history and he may just end up being the best defenseman ever to don the crossed sabres. His number may even hang in the rafters one day, who knows?
10: Normand Lacombe (1983) – One of three Sabres selections in 1983, Lacombe didn’t spend much time with the Sabres before departing for Edmonton and an eventual Cup ring. Lacombe happens to be the only player ever selected at 10 by the Sabres.
9. Paul Cyr (1982) – Sandwiched between Phil Housley and Andreychuk in the first round of 1982, Cyr scored 85 goals in 342 games for the Sabres before departing Buffalo. Cyr is the only player selected at nine in franchise history.
8: No players selected. Draft Note: While the Sabres have never selected from 10 spots in the draft, they’ve been slotted in four places at least five times. Buffalo has selected five players with the fifth and eleventh selections while taking six players with the thirteenth and fourteenth picks.
7: Erik Rasmussen (1996) – A highly touted prospect, Rasmussen played 281 of his 545 games in the NHL with the Sabres. He only registered 33 goals for the Sabres and only scored 52 in his career. Rasmussen was the only player ever selected with the seventh pick by the Sabres.
6: Phil Housley (1982) – While Housley is the only player ever taken by the Sabres at sixth overall, he was a phenomenal talent. Taken in the three-player first round of 1982, Housley scored 178 goals and 558 points for the Sabres before being traded to Winnipeg.
5: Rick Martin (1971) – This was a very tough selection based on volume alone. With five players to choose from, there are some gems that the Sabres have selected with the fifth pick. Martin is obviously the easy choice with his 382 goals, retired number and overall impact on the franchise as part of The French Connection. Martin wins out over Barrasso, Schoenfeld and Vanek.
4-2: No players selected. Draft Fact: There is a good chance that the Sabres make franchise history with this draft. Whether they keep the eighth pick or move up, they will likely select from a spot (2-4 or 8) that they’ve never chosen from before.
1: Gilbert Perreault (1970) – As if there was any doubt. The First Sabre, Perreault still has a strangle hold on the franchise’s major scoring and games played records. He’s the greatest player to ever don the blue and gold and there’s a statue and number hanging in the rafters to prove as much.