Kevin Devine was a busy man at the recently completed World Junior Championships.
The Sabres Assistant General Manager was watching not only the Sabres three prospects in the tournament, but also the top prospects for the 2014 draft, since the Sabres should be picking at or near the top. But Devine was also scouting some of the top talent that will be available in the 2015 draft since the Sabres might still be near the top of the draft list depending on how quickly the rebuilding efforts pan out.
The Sabres might have five picks in the first two rounds of this year's draft. They currently have their own first round pick and three second round selections but they might have another first rounder from the New York Islanders as part of the Thomas Vanek deal. The Islanders have the right to defer that pick until 2015.
Devine made sure to watch Team Canada at the World Juniors since they boasted, perhaps, the top two picks in this year's draft, center Sam Reinhart and defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
Reinhart had 2 goals and 5 points for Canada in seven games played and Devine left Sweden impressed with his performances. "Sam's got a very subtle game" Devine said during an interview on WGR. "When you watch him just once or twice, you'd say 'what's the big deal?' but when you continue to watch him, you see how smart a player he is. He reads the play extremely well, he's always a step ahead. He's mostly a play making center but he's got a great shot and he's a real character kid."
Devine said the top three traits he looks for when scouting are: skating, compete level and hockey sense. While Reinhart doesn't have breakaway speed, Devine says he skates at the pro level. While Reinhart isn't big, he wins battles due to his compete level and his hockey smarts.
Ekblad is big. He is listed at 6’3” and 207 pounds and ended up with 1 goal and 2 points in seven games. "He was a stud over there. He's going to be a guy that's going to play probably 25-28 minutes a game at the NHL level" Devine said. "He might have been Canada's best defenseman as a 17 year old. He's got it all. He's like a man playing against kids right now. Very good defensively, very strong stick, tough in front of the net. He can move the puck, he's good on the power play. There's nothing this kid doesn't have right now."
Devine also kept a watchful eye on the two players who could be at the top of the 2015 draft. Canadian center Connor McDavid, who some are touting as the next Sidney Crosby, and U.S. forward Jack Eichel.
You can listen to the entire interview with Devine and hear what he had to say about McDavid and Eichel as well as his thoughts on the performances of Sabres prospects Rasmus Ristolainen, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov.