Buffalo Sabres: Predicting Their Choice at No. 2 Overall


With the 2013 NHL entry draft mere days away, the time to officially welcome the third top-three pick in Buffalo Sabres history is almost here. 

But that only increases the speculation as to whom they will take with the second overall pick on Friday night.

As it stands right now, the Sabres will only have to wait for the Florida Panthers to pick, but there is more and more chatter of late that someone else may be trying to move ahead of the Sabres. 

There has been a long-standing rumor that the Toronto Maple Leafs want to move up to No. 1, but the rumored package of Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and the No. 8 pick was said to be insufficient to get the deal done, according to Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce. Most believe, including Joyce, that the Leafs will try to take Aaron Ekblad with the pick if a trade was to be made. 

The other rumored deal of a team looking to move up to the top spot in the draft, via CBC Sports’ Elliotte Friedman, involves the Vancouver Canucks, who currently own the No. 6 pick. Jason Botchford of The Province claims Vancouver is interested in Sam Reinhart.

But if all stands pat, many, including Sabres general manager Tim Murray, believe the Panthers will take Ekblad with the first pick, according to NHL.com. That leaves the Sabres with a pick of the forward class, with Reinhart, Sam Bennett and Leon Draisaitl leading the charge. 

Sabres fans should feel good in that any of the three could become a top-flight NHL prospect, so however Friday ends, the Sabres will be better than they were before the draft.

But there has to be a best choice, right?

Reading between the lines, it seems the Sabres have narrowed it down to Reinhart and Draisaitl.

Sabres assistant GM Kevin Devine gave a glowing review on WGR 550 of Sam Reinhart in the beginning of June, saying he has not seen the playmaking ability Reinhart possesses in the last “10 to 15 years.” That’s high praise, and it’s very easy to assume that that makes Reinhart the pick because of it.

Yet one cannot discount the chatter that has surrounded Draisaitl for the past few weeks, either. 

NHL.com features three mock drafts, and one of them has the Sabres taking Draisaitl, with the other two going with Reinhart. This is telling because the previous installment had the Sabres unanimously taking Reinhart. The final version also does not have Draisaitl getting past the Edmonton Oilers at No. 3. 

When you have comparisons to Anze Kopitar and Joe Thornton being thrown around, you don’t take those lightly. The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy did just that while putting Draisaitl atop his rankings for this year’s draft. 

Murray and Devine have taken notice as well. 

Murray lumped him in with the Sams at his predraft interview last week, per the Olean Times Herald’s Bill Hoppe, and Devine praised his “big body” and also compared him to Kopitar and Jaromir Jagr in his WGR interview. 

Draisaitl is a proven offensive force, like Reinhart, and will only get bigger and stronger as his game grows. Having him as your first-line center next to a guy like Joel Armia will make this Sabres team scary for years to come. 

So with both Reinhart and Draisaitl as viable options, which one will they choose? 

Taking a look at the Sabres roster and what’s in their pipeline doesn’t really help either because there is a clear place in it for both Reinhart and Draisaitl. With both Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson likely better suited on the wing, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson remain the only definite centers on the roster at this point, with Mikhail Grigorenko potentially fitting better on the wing and J.T. Compher and Connor Hurley a few years away. 

That means both Reinhart and Draisaitl would be able to easily slot into the organizational structure, so it will likely come down to who the Sabres like better, and they have gone out of their way to make that as murky as possible. 

With that said, Draisaitl just looks and sounds like a Tim Murray guy, seeing as Murray helped bring in Ryan Getzlaf while he was with Anaheim and has traded for big bodies like Chris Stewart, William Carrier and Hudson Fasching since his arrival in Buffalo.

This is a 1A-1B decision, so whatever the end result is, Sabres fans should be thrilled. But who doesn’t want a guy nicknamed the Deutschland Dangler?

Prediction: Buffalo Sabres select Leon Draisaitl (C – Prince Albert, WHL) at No. 2.


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