Here is a look at Buffalo’s organizational needs and possible draft targets:
If Buffalo keeps its picks, in the past five years the club will have selected 26 players in the top 100 and 20 in the top 70, giving the club a ridiculous amount of young assets. Former GM Tim Murray may not have gotten the Sabres into the playoffs, but it cannot be said that he didn’t attempt to restock the prospect cupboard in his brief tenure as the Sabres have six picks in the top 99, and it may take another couple of years for the prospect tree to truly bear fruit, but the club should be brimming with prospect potential after the 2017 NHL draft weekend.
The obvious need for the Sabres at eighth overall would be defence, but the two defencemen that are considered to be top-ten candidates will not be available when the club take the stage to announce its pick. Thus it seems more likely that Buffalo takes a forward, and more than likely one who will have the skillset to one day play on the wing as Buffalo is pretty set with Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Rielly, Zemgus Girgensons and perhaps Sam Reinhart all available to play down the middle.
The main targets for Buffalo will likely be Michael Rasmussen, Kristian Vesalainen and Gabe Vilardi, and the odds are pretty good that at least one of them will be available at eight. All three would bring both size and skill to the club, and all have the upside and capabilities to one day line up beside Eichel on the top line, posing matchup nightmares for opposing coaches. Rasmussen is a center at this point in his career but as he showed at the Top Prospects Game he should have little issue adjusting to a winger role if that is his ultimate NHL destination.
At 37 there may not be a plethora of top 40 defencemen left on the board as they are always coveted, but all the Sabres need at that point is for one that they covet to be available. Nicolas Hague and Pierre-Olivier Joseph would be the easy picks if either were still on the draft board, but it’s more likely that Henri Jokiharju is there, and a club in dire need of a steady, mobile top four puck mover would have an ideal candidate in the talented Finn. It may also behoove the scouting staff to go defence at #54 as well, and it’s looking like there may be several blueliners on the board at 54 with good value, including Cale Fleury, Dmitri Samorukov, Ian Mitchell, Dylan Samberg and Mario Ferraro.
After that it’s the usual crapshoot…pick players still high on your draft list at all positions, including goalie. There are ten goalies ranked in Recrutes top 100…so at some point Buffalo may see a netiminder on the board who they have high..and they could pull the trigger on one at #68, #89 or #99, with Stuart Skinner, Olle Eriksson Ek, Cayden Primeau, Matthew Villalta and Maxime Zhukov all being in the mix. Regardless of what positions they fortify at the draft, there is no doubt that a club that has missed the playoffs the last six seasons will be in a position to continue utilizing its bounty of assets to fortify positional needs on the NHL club sooner rather than later to get better now so they can make a serious playoff push. Perhaps they even do so before and during the draft.