Buffalo Sabres: How to Succeed in the 2012 NHL Draft


The Buffalo Sabres were supposed to be an immediate playoff team after Terry Pegula took over last year. Unfortunately, it was more of the same for Sabres fans as the team missed the playoffs again in the 2011-2012 season.

Since the Sabres committed a great deal of money last season to Ville Leino and signing Drew Stafford to an extension, the Sabres would be smart to make moves throughout the NHL Draft.

With the skill of some of the top prospects, the Sabres can acquire a top-line center through the draft. In order to acquire a game-changing player, the Sabres should trade both their 12th and 21st picks in the first round and try and find a taker with a pick in the top five.

This way, the Sabres can acquire the best center in the draft, Mikhail Grigorenko from Quebec. Grigorenko, 18, succeeded in his first taste of North American hockey last season.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Grigorenko totaled 40 goals and 45 assists in just 59 games. He had the best season of any rookie in the league and finished in the top eight in scoring even though he played nine fewer games than everyone else.

Grigorenko has great height and size as well. He weighs in at just over 200 pounds and has a physical 6’3″ frame to go along with that.

Another positive for Grigorenko is his solid, quick hands. He is able to move the puck very fluidly and with great vision finds his teammates for goal-scoring opportunities. 

The only knock against Grigorenko is his motivation. There are times where his game disappears and he doesn’t take part in the action as much as he should. As a young kid, that can happen from time to and nothing a good leader wouldn’t be able to improve.

While it is a stretch to assume a team would trade down in the first round, two middle-of-the-round picks would be enticing.

The Sabres, needing a point-per-game center, would be smart to make a deal like this if they could find a suitor. If not, there are two other top centers in the top 10 in Alex Galchenyuk and Radek Faksa.

While both of those centers are very skillful, they don’t have the talent that Grigorenko possesses. Galchenyuk totaled 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games in the Ontario Hockey League while Faksa totaled 29 goals and 37 points, in the OHL as well.

Either way, the Sabres should find a way to land one of these point-per-game centers. In this day and age of the NHL, that is a must.

The Sabres are faced with a big risk if they follow this path. Get it right and start the foundation of a long-term playoff run. Get it wrong and the loss of the two first-round picks could hurt for years to come.

I think it’s time to take the risk, Darcy. 

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