Kevin Devine has been involved in numerous NHL Entry Drafts but the Buffalo Sabres Director of Scouting calls this year’s draft the most challenging of them all.
“With having four picks in the top 44 for one thing, which we’ve never had since I’ve been head scout, and also the uncertainty with the injured guys, the Russians. It’s a very challenging draft so far but we’ll get it all sorted out by the 22nd,” Devine told WGR during a segment on Monday’s morning show.
As far as the picks for Buffalo, the Sabres have two selections in round one (12, 21) and two more in round two. That has sparked talk perhaps the team would like to move up to the very top or near the top of the draft and grab a player who can make an impact as a rookie. The price of making that move is one of many factors the Sabres will take into account.
“With all the players really not distinguishing themselves, is it the year to move up? That’s a question we’re still asking ourselves, said Devine.
“There’s not much difference between 21 and 12. If you want to get up in the top 5, there are a lot of risky players. It’s a very deep draft in defensemen which we currently have a number of prospects and some of the risky players up there are the Russians and they’re risky guys right now.”
Those top Russian players, all forwards, are: right wing Nail Yakupov who some believe is the only true, elite player in the draft along with center Mikhail Grigorenko and center Alex Galchenyuk. Even though all three have been playing in the Canadian Hockey League, teams are always worried about players being lured back home by the Kontinental Hockey League.
“If there’s not an Ovechkin or Kovalchuk in the draft we’re very leery of taking a player there and possibly losing that pick back to the KHL,” Devine said of the Sabres philosophy with the highly rated Russians.
Even if the Sabres don’t get Grigorenko or Galchenyuk, it is considered a good draft for centers and that is a position of need for the organization. Devine believes 6-3, 203 pound Czech Republic native Radek Faksa could be in their range.
As far as the overall talent level in the draft, Devine has mixed feelings. “It’s a little bit of a different draft this year. I think it’s the first year that I can remember as the head scout having a tough time coming up with a top five,” Devine said. “It’s a balanced draft, it’s a deep draft. Whether it’s a great draft up at the top, I’m not sure. You should get two really good players at 12 and 21 if you stay there.”
No matter who the Sabres do select, if they stay at 12 and 21 in the first round, don’t expect either player to stick around as rookies because that typically is not the Sabres method of operation with young players.
“It’s a very slight chance, Devine told WGR. “I think over the last few years some of those guys have come around and played but in the past we’ve really given those kinds of kids a chance to play in the minors and unless a guy really blows our socks off at training camp that will probably be the case again.”
The Sabres brain trust will gather at Terry Pegula’s home on Wednesday to get a better idea of their approach to the draft, which will be held June 22 and 23 in Pittsburgh. WGR 550 will provide extensive coverage before, during and after the draft.