By his own admission, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray may not actually know how well the Sabres' draft class of 2014 is until 2019, at least. But his initial impression in the moments following the 2014 draft Saturday was optimistic.
"Outstanging. Our guys are happy," he said when asked what he thought of the draft class. "I think we went after potential. They're certainly not ready-made players."
They are, however, players the franchise feels could contend for top-six spots in the future. And at least one of them, Sam Reinhart, is expected to take one of the top six forward slots come October.
"We have a potential top-two center who could play for us next year … I put an emphasis on not hearing my scouts say, 'His upside is third line.' We do that all the time. I did that as a scout … I think we have guys in our organization that have potential to be third-line and fourth-line guys. We put a little more emphasis on skill and hockey sense and guys that, if they do hit, they play higher than your fourth line."
The Sabres went heavy on offense, picking forwards with their first four picks (all of which came in the first two rounds) and seven of their nine selections overall. Even the one defenseman they picked, Brycen Martin, is known for his offenslve prowess, having scored six goals in juniors last season.
Aside from acquiring two additional second-round picks prior to the draft, they added a third-rounder Saturday by moving down five spots in the second round and swapping with the Washington Capitals.Murrsay said he was rebuffed when he tried to package all three of his second-round picks yesterday to move up in the first round. He said he was also turned down Saturday when trying to swap for players other teams picked in the first round Friday.
But the point, he said, was to restock the organization.
With the draft now over, the focus will turn to signing Reinhart, which Murray joked should not be overly difficult:
"They're going to ask for a lot. I'm going to think it's too much, and he's going to get it."
Winger Brendan Lemieux mixes grit and skill with the puck, having topped the 20-goal mark last season in juniors while leading his league in penalty minutes. He was a projected first-rounder who fell to be the first pick on day two. He may get a shot at the pros, but otherwise only Reinhart will get any good look at the blue and gold any time soon.
That suits their new boss just fine.
"A lot of these guys are four, five years away … I think when you draft a lot of players early that it automatically helps your organization. If you evaluate properly, it's never dangerous."
The Sabres' full 2014 draft went as follows:
- First round, second overall: C Sam Reinhart
- Second, 31: LW Brendan Lemieux
- Second, 44: C Eric Cornel
- Second, 49: LW Vaclav Karabacek
- Third, 61: G Jonas Johannson
- Third, 74: D Brycen Martin
- Fifth, 121: LW Max Willman
- Sixth, 151: C Christopher Brown
- Seventh, 181: RW Victor Olofsson
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