Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray held his pre-draft press conference Thursday to discuss the upcoming draft.
The Sabres, who are in the midst of rebuilding, hold five draft picks in the first three rounds, including the second overall pick. Murray knows just how important it is to get these picks right so that rebuilding the team can be done from within.
"Every draft is important," Murray said. "This draft is obviously important, but next year's draft is important, the year after is important. You have to continuously stock your system. You can't miss in drafts. If we become a Stanley Cup finalist or a Stanley Cup contender and we're picking 28th in the draft, I expect to hit on our first-round pick and I expect him to be an asset down the road. Obviously when you're picking as high as we are … it's important. They're all important."
Many analysts speculate that the Sabres will end up drafting Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart, or Price Albert Raiders forward Leon Draisaitl, since they are the top four on the board.
Murray believes that the Sabres are in position to take one of the forwards at number two.
"I believe that Ekblad is going to go one and then we pick who we have left; the next guy on our list," Murray said. "If he doesn’t go one, I'd be surprised, I guess, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
There are also some players that aren't getting the hype of the top four. Those players are also on the Sabres radar, but those players may not be the 'safe' pick that would guarantee them an NHL caliber player.
"He's (Draisaitl) right there," Murray said. "There are some guys that aren't being talked about that are potentially part of that [group of high-end talent]. It's a copycat League, so L.A. wins the Cup again and the terminology that they're 'heavy' and you've got guys like [Nick] Ritchie and [Jake] Virtanen that are good players that are 'heavy' and teams are looking for 'heavy.'
When it comes to some of those players who are later picks, the Sabres have been actively searching for a trade partner to get back into the first round. So far the Sabres have been linked to trading as far up as the first overall pick.
"I have been trying hard to do that," Murray said. "The people I've talked to haven't said no, but nobody's called back and said, 'Yeah, let's do this deal.' But I've got a lot of potential deals out there that have a [first-round pick] coming back involved. I just feel if I can just get something in the 20s or the teens that maybe you can do something with that too."
The Sabres have stated before that building through the draft may be a long process, with players maturing at different times. When the Sabres officially claimed to be in a rebuilding process, they noted that the process would be internal, much like the Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks. Both of those teams have won the Stanley Cup recently as a result.
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