With the draft just two weeks away, I’ve been taking a look at some different points in Buffalo Sabres draft history. As the Sabres enter a draft with two valuable first round selections and two more second round choices, I thought I’d take a look at the best players selected in each round throughout franchise history.
Much like the All-Time first round picks post I ran earlier this week, this is to serve as a comprehensive breakdown of the best player the Sabres have found in each round of the draft dating back to their first selections in 1970. While the draft extended upwards of 12 rounds years ago, I only took this to round 10 as the pickings were slim enough past the seventh round. In addition to the primary choice for each round I will add in other, random, picks from throughout Sabres history. Some will be great picks while others will be fun to remember where they were chosen.
Starting with the first round, here is the All-Time Sabres draft breakdown:
First Round: Gilbert Perreault (1970 – 1) – An easy choice. Perreault remains the greatest Sabre in franchise history, owns every major offensive record and won’t likely be dethroned from that perch for a long time. The Sabres literally won the lottery with Perreault and that makes him such an easy choice with this spot. Other First Round Picks: Rick Martin (1971 – 5), Jim Schoenfeld (1972 – 5), Mike Ramsey (1979 – 11), Dave Andreychuk (1982 – 16), Thomas Vanek (2003 – 5)
Second Round: Danny Gare (1974 – 29) – Another Sabres legend, Gare has some impressive company in the second round. Other greats such as Craig Ramsay were selected in the second but the returns Gare brought on the ice made him something of a bargain in round number two. Other Second Round Picks: Craig Ramsay (1971 – 19), Lindy Ruff (1979 – 32), Jason Dawe (1991 – 35), Andrew Peters (1998 – 34), Jason Pominville (2001 – 55)
Third Round: Bill Hajt (1971 – 33) – In the early years of the franchise, the mid-rounds were still well below the 60s in terms of picks. Today players like Hajt or Craig Ramsay would have been late-first or early-second round choices. However, Hajt’s position in the 1971 draft and the way he produced on the ice made him a terrific choice at 33rd overall in 1971. Other Third Round Picks: Rob McClanahan (1978 – 49), Keith Gretzky (1985 – 56), Bob Corkum (1986 – 47), Rumun Ndur (1994 – 69), Maxim Afinogenov (1997 – 69)
Fourth Round: Daren Puppa (1983 – 74) – Puppa put in a good handful of seasons in Blue and Gold before moving on. He found some solid success in Tampa Bay and the southpaw has one of the more interesting names in Sabres history. For a fourth round selection, Puppa rounded into a very impressive goaltender, so full marks for this choice. Other Fourth Round Picks: Keith Carney (1988 – 76), Matt Barnaby (1992 – 83), Jan Hejda (2003 -106)
Fifth Round: Alexander Mogilny (1988 – 89) – In truth, the fourth round has never been friendly to the Sabres. But the fifth round has. Mogilny goes down as the best steal in the fifth round as he lit up the NHL playing on Pat LaFontaine’s wing in the 90s before being shipped for a package that included Mike Peca. Great return on a pick that many wouldn’t pay much attention to. Other Fifth Round Picks: Don Edwards (1975 – 89), Rob Ray (1988 – 97), Richard Smehlik (1990 – 97), Yuri Khmylev (1992 – 108), Ryan Miller (1999 – 138)
Sixth Round: Brian Campbell (1997 – 156): This was a difficult choice. Peter McNab was my original selection but Campbell played close to 500 games in Buffalo before being traded away to San Jose. While he hasn’t reached McNab’s 900-game threshold, he played a major role with the Sabres during his time here. Other Sixth Round Picks: Peter McNab (1972 – 85), Brian Holzinger (1991 – 124), Patrick Kaleta (2004 – 176)
Seventh Round: Christian Ruuttu (1983 – 134): Ruuttu wasn’t necessarily a star in Buffalo, but he chipped in a solid handful of seasons before eventually moving on. He put together five-straight 60 point seasons before heading to Chicago is a nice haul for a seventh rounder. Other Seventh Round Picks: Mike Hartman (1986 – 131), Paul Gaustad (2000 – 220)
Eighth Round: Derek Plante (1989 – 161): Pickings get slim for any organization when you hit these late rounds but Derek Plante gave the Sabres more than full value. He played a total of 450 NHL games and scored one of the most memorable goals in Sabres history. Other Eighth Round Picks: Randy Cunneyworth (1980 – 167), Gates Orlando (1981 – 164)
Ninth Round: Donald Audette (1989 – 183): An incredibly late selection that turned to gold for the Sabres. Audette was a mainstay through the 90s with Buffalo and rolled up one 30-goal season and nearly capped 30 in two other years. He missed the Cup run in 1999 but was back for one more late run in 2001. Buffalo’s other ninth round picks rarely saw the league but perhaps the only other intriguing choice was of Eric Weinrich which wound up being an invalid claim due to his age. Weinrich played over 1000 NHL games, none with the Sabres.
Tenth Round: Derek Smith (1974 – 168): Pretty much the only tenth round selection made by the team who had any semblance of an NHL career. Smith played 335 NHL games and turned out to be a nice little selection for coming so late in the draft.
Eleventh Round: Taro Tsujimoto (1974 – 183): One of the most legendary trivia answers in NHL history. The only reason I went to 11 rounds was to include Tsujimoto and to remind Sabres fans how great of a piece of history his selection was.