Heading into the 2012 NHL draft the Buffalo Sabres appear to be in a great situation with four picks in the top 44.
Well as college football analyst Lee Corso famously says “not so fast.”
On paper Buffalo looks to have a great opportunity to improve its team immediately through the draft, but the only problem is this year’s first round prospects are shaping up to be the weakest in over a decade.
The growing consensus by many draft experts is that beyond Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray there are no sure fire picks in the top five. This doesn’t directly affect the Sabres because they pick at 12 and 21, but it lessens the chance of them trading up into the top five to grab an elite prospect.
From everything I’ve heard from both Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine they aren’t enamored with any one prospect strong enough to move up in the draft. If I had to take a guess right now, my money is on Regier burning up the phone lines looking to package some of their top four picks into a NHL player.
In the case that the Sabres do keep both of their first round picks here are some players to keep an eye on this Friday night. (I don’t confess to be a hockey scout, these prospect write-ups are based on several hours of draft research)
- Radek Faksa: A 6-3 center most like to go in the 7-10 range. Would be a good addition for the Sabres, but they will most likely miss out on him.
- Teuvo Teravainen: A 5-11 winger who has seen his draft stock soar over the past few weeks. Like Faksa, Buffalo will most likely miss out on him unless they trade up a few spots.
- Zemgus Girgensons: A 6-1 center that should be on the board when Buffalo selects at 12. Considered a safe roster player that projects as a third line center.
- Brendan Gaunce: A 6-3 center that uses his size well. Will most likely go in the mid to late teens, the Sabres could consider trading up from 21 to get him.
- Thomas Wilson: A 6-4 winger that fits the mold of a power forward. Like Gaunce would improve Buffalo’s toughness and should go in the late teens range.
Some other forwards to keep an eye out for include: Stefan Matteau, Tomas Hertl, Sebastian Collberg and Scott Laughton.
- Olli Maatta: A 6-2 rock solid defenseman who should be available when Buffalo picks at No. 12. It has been reported that the Sabres were the only team to bring him in for a visit.
- Cody Ceci: Another 6-2 prospect, Ceci is considered one of the top offensive defenseman in the draft.
- Hampus Lindholm: At 6-3, Lindholm is considered a solid two-way defender. Will almost certainly be there at 12.
- Matt Finn: A 6-0 reliable defender. If the Sabres go forward at 12 they could try and trade up in the late teens to grab Finn.
- Derrick Pouliot: At 5-11, Pouliot is considered one of the top skating defenseman in the top of the draft. He could fall to Buffalo at 21.
Some other defenseman to keep an eye on include: Ludvig Bystrom, Slater Koekkoek and Brady Skjei. If the Sabres don’t trade both of their first round picks don’t sleep on a goalie either.
When listing the prospects I didn’t bother profiling the consensus top prospects at both forward and defense because like I discussed earlier I don’t see Buffalo trading up into the top five. One situation to keep an eye is if Mikhail Grigorenko falls and is there at No. 12. The 6-3 Russian center is considered the biggest question mark of the first round because of questionable intangibles. If he pans out for which ever team takes him he has elite talent if he commits himself.
Here are my projections if the Sabres keep both of their first round picks:
12. Olli Maatta
21. Brendan Gaunce
Check out the site tomorrow and I will dive into some possible trade scenarios and give my thoughts on what the best route for Buffalo to take is.