Pittsburgh, PA (WGR 550) -- It was time for the Buffalo Sabres to step out of their comfort zone when acquiring talent, and on Friday night at the 2012 NHL Draft General Manager Darcy Regier did exactly that by selecting two centers.
Regier and company not only bucked the trend of a defenseman-heavy first round, but they also went away from their own tendency of not taking a Russian-born player by nabbing Mikhail Grigorenko with the 12th overall pick. The next big move was trading up to the 14th pick and drafting Zemgus Girgensons.
Those two may not be the immediate impact center that the Sabres desperately need for the 2012-13 season, but what they do add is depth and skill for years to come. Grigorenko is a top-level talent, but questions about his commitment and desire dogged him over the last several months. OK, this pick is somewhat of a gamble if the experts are right. I say so what, it is time for this team to take more calculated risks. If a top line center is not available through the trade market, then Grigorenko is the next best thing.
The Khabarovsk, Russia native should be able to push for a roster spot in training camp this fall, but it should not be a major shock if he goes back to “The Q” for one more year. If he goes back to the Quebec Major Junior League it will be under the guidance of Patrick Roy who is the head coach of the team. It is just another advantage to take when you can learn from an all-time great like Roy. It also gives the forward a chance to fill out his frame just a bit more in order to be ready for an 82 game NHL season.
Think about this: the Sabres depth chart at center could host Grigorenko, Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis anywhere among the top three for the blue and gold. Those are three playmaking centers that bring different things to the table, and that does not even include Derek Roy or Luke Adam in the mix either.
What Regier and company also did was put more size down the middle with the two selections. Grigorenko stands at 6’3”, 200 lbs., while Girgensons is 6’1”, 201 lbs. Both left their home countries in Europe to play in North America, which makes these less of a gamble. In Girgensons’ case, he will spend at least next year at the University of Vermont to play for the Catamounts.
The Sabres do not pick again until the second round with the 44th overall pick. The staff is scheduled to make six picks between the 2nd and 7th rounds on Saturday. However, with the moves that have set the market and the players still available in for trade, it could be another day of the unexpected for Sabres fans.