BUFFALO, N.Y.- Top talent, local talent and future talent. That's what the Sabres' NHL draft picks have the city buzzing about. But Buffalo's not the place that sees the projected success of these 11 rookies.
After selecting seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, the Sabres' grabbed national attention after the draft. Kevin Allen of the USA Today is just one out of many around the country that is impressed with Buffalo's draft picks. Allen isn't one for grading, but he likes how the Sabres are moving forward after draft day.
"I think the general consensus around the NHL about the Sabres is that they had a really fine draft," said Allen. "Coming in Darcy Regier has showed last year when he picked up a couple of important centers that he's sort of rebuilding and restocking the cupboard with prospects. This season he's done it again with some big picks," Allen pointed out.
With its first pick and the eighth overall, Buffalo took Rasmus Ristolainen, a defenseman from Finland. Along with Kevin Allen, teams around the league saw the potential Ristolainen has in the pros."I had talked to the Dallas Stars about him before the draft and they viewed him as a guy who could fit in right after that top group of four and five players that was considered really elite level and they thought he was right below there," Allen said.
It's the combination of Ristolainen's size and knowledge of the game that makes him a valuable draft pick for the Sabres. Kevin Allen thinks these qualities could have Ristolainen making an impact in the organization. "The scouts tell me is he's a guy that's going to play in the top four. The question is whether he'll be a top pairing guy or a guy who will play in the three four," Allen explains. "But he's a 6'3" defenseman with mobility and the ability to handle the puck and he already has at least an understanding of the defensive aspects of the game."
Even with Ristolainen's early high expectations, Allen doesn't believe he'll make the Sabres right out of training camp. Instead, Allen explains his projections for the rookie in the big leagues. "Depending on what the expectations are for the Sabres in terms of the playoffs next season, sometimes you're a little more accepting of at least giving the kid a taste. So the Sabres might just want to give him a taste of the NHL. Defense is a much harder position for a young player to master early," Allen said.
After drafting Ristolainen, the Sabres selected another defenseman in the first round. With the 16th overall pick, Buffalo drafted Nikita Zadorov, a defenseman from London. And Kevin Allen sees many similarities between Zadorov and Ristolainen. "When they got him I think people thought he might have the possibility of being a steal. It's a guy that's not physically ready for the NHL even though he's a really big kid but they think he's going to be an impact player. He's a guy who's strong for his age and for a decent size player has decent mobility," Allen points out.
In the second round, Buffalo selected two forwards and a center including Williamsville native Justin Bailey. Bailey played for the Kitchener Rangers this past season. The third round wasn't as active, only drafting one forward. Then the fifth round, Buffalo picked up its only goaltender of the draft, a forward and its third defenseman. Finally, the Sabres rounded out the 2013 draft taking two centers, one in each the sixth and seventh rounds. Among those centers was another local player. Sean Malone, taken in the sixth round is from West Seneca and is a member of the US National Under 18 team and is scheduled to play for Harvard this coming season.