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NHL Draft

JW Draft Countdown - Four-k in the road

When Tim Murray steps to the podium in Philadelphia he’ll have a number of different directions he can take the Buffalo Sabres.  Will he go with speed?  Smarts?  A Safer pick?  Or will the Sabres make a pick based on an absolutely insane stat?

Most NHL experts and draft pundits will tell you that the 2014 NHL Draft has a group of four players that set themselves apart from the rest.  GM Tim Murray spoke with us last week and mentioned Michael Dal Colle as a potential fifth in that mix, but that Dal Colle was more of a swing man in the hierarchy.  You can include him as the bottom guy in the top five, or the top guy in the next group.

Let’s stick with the top four players available, and what each may bring to the Buffalo Sabres.

Speed - Sam Bennett

Smarts - Sam Reinhart

Safety - Aaron Ekblad

The Stat - Leon Draisaitl


SPEED - Sam Bennett

Off the bat it’s important to note that Sam Bennett was voted the smartest player in the OHL East.  He has an awful lot to offer any NHL club.  Bennett plays a complete two-way game but what sets him apart from Reinhart and Draisaitl is his speed.

Bennett has elite feet, and plays at full speed.  The Sabres are sorely lacking quality wingers at the NHL level, and in the farm system as well.  Bennett, who I’ve liked since I heard him described as a “warrior on the wing”, would fill an immediate need for the Sabres.

He’s been Kingston’s go-to guy in every situation.  When I saw him play in St. Catherine’s he blazed down the wing on the power play to set up the game winning goal in overtime.  He also spent time on the #1 PK, both 4 man and 3 man.  It was a cool sight to see Kingston killing a penalty, and take another to drop to 5 on 3.  Bennett never even looked at the bench or took one stride toward it.  He knew it’d be his draw on the 2-man kill.  Great stick, great hands, great speed, and great drive.  


SMARTS - Sam Reinhart

Sam Reinhart is one of the best playmakers to come into the NHL in the last 10-15 years.  That’s how Sabres Assistant GM and Director of Scouting Kevin Devine described the Kootenay product.  Reinhart has been a top prospect for several years, making it a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t listed at #1 at the mid-term rankings for NHL Central Scouting.  He didn’t make the top spot to finish the season either.  The thing about Reinhart is that he’s not the fastest, or strongest, and sometimes he won’t jump out at you.

Sam Reinhart has elite hockey sense.  Sabres GM Tim Murray says that Reinhart has been the smartest player on the ice, every time he’s seen him play (This likely includes Leon Draisaitl because the two squared off in a game and I’m told Murray was there)

When looking for Reinhart highlights, they’re not quite the same as Bennett or Draisaitl.  Those two do a bit more in the one-on-one game.  Reinhart beats you up with his mind.  His hockey IQ, or hockey instincts, or hockey sense, or whatever you’d like to call it…are elite.  He’s not considered an elite skater.  He’s where he is because he senses the game.  Where some players don’t seem to get the message despite years and years of coaching, Reinhart seems to know what to do all the time.  He has a sense for the game that many say you can’t teach.  Bennett is also the youngest of the group, as he’s just about to turn 18.  It’s fair to say that his rocketing up the rankings this year is a sign of what is to come.


SAFETY - Aaron Ekblad

Defensemen are harder to project in the NHL.  If you look at the top of the draft through the years, it’s a mix of franchise defensemen and journeymen that don’t prove to be worthy of a top pick.  Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad may be regarded by many as the safe pick.  This isn’t to take away from Ekblad at all, but if he goes Busty McBusterson, chances are he still plays for 10 years in the league as a top four d-man.

Ekblad has the body to play today, and earned lofty honors in the OHL.  He was named the best offensive defenseman, and the best defensive defenseman.  Ekblad could be a franchise defenseman, but he’ll need to grow offensively to be worthy of that #2 overall pick.  Top picks rarely bust.  Aaron Ekblad’s NHL-ready body would lead you to believe he’s a lead pipe cinch for a long career.  The Sabres are pretty strong on the blue line, and while Ekblad could make a bright future even brighter, I’d shy away from spending the pick here.


The STAT - Leon Draisaitl

The Deutschland Dangler brings size to the forward ranks.  A big, skilled centerman sounds like a great pick in any draft.  It’s hard enough to find elite centers, and often that comes down to size.  You need a player with the skill to perform at the top level, but also the size and strength to fight off hulking blue-liners and relentless back-checkers.  Leon Draisaitl might be that player for the Buffalo Sabres.

There’s quite a bit out there about each and every one of these players, but what I’m going to show you here, remains the most memorable thing I’ve seen in all the draft prep.

You down with IPP?

It’s Individual Points Percentage, and to get an idea of what it is, and what it means with Draisaitl, I’ll link you to the piece from David Staples in the Edmonton Journal:


“In the last two months of the 2013-14 season, the skilled German attacker scored 54 points in 31 games for the Prince Alberta Raiders. That works out to 1.75 points per game. Only two players in major junior were hotter, Tampa Bay’s top pick Jonathan Drouin, 2.52 points per game, and Reinhart, 2.04 points per game.

More context comes from looking at the quality of linemates of Reinhart, Draisaitl and Bennett. This kind of context is important because a player like Gagner, who hasn’t yet fully lived up to his major junior goal-scoring totals, was on a high-powered London Knights team, led by Patrick Kane and Sergei Kostitsyn.

None of the 2014 crop were surrounded with that kind of star talent, but Reinhart’s skilled teammates include Jaedon Descheneau, who scored 98 points, Luke Philp, 77, and Tim Bozon, 62. Bennett was on a high-scoring Kingston team, lining up with Henri Ikonen, 70 points in just 54 games, Spencer Watson, 68 points, and Darcy Greenaway, 62.

Draisaitl? He was assisted by a top defenceman in Winnipeg pick Josh Morrissey, who had 73 points, but other than these two, the talent level in Prince Albert was low, with not one other forward likely to crack the top two lines on a strong Western Hockey League team.

In this regard, some interesting research was done by an analytics writer who goes by the pen name of Romulus Apotheosis at the Oilers Rig blog. He looked at Draisaitl and the other top prospects in terms of the percentage they chip in on a goal when they are on the ice for an even-strength goal. The theory here is that the higher percentage of goals a player chips in on, the more likely it is his team is asking him to carry a heavy load. For example, in the last four years, Taylor Hall has led the NHL in this particular stat, individual points percentage, chipping in on 85 per cent, with Sidney Crosby in  second at 83 per cent.

This year with Prince Albert, Draisaitl chipped in on 91 per cent, Reinhart 84 per cent and Bennett 74 per cent. It’s clear Draisaitl was asked to push a big rock up a tall mountain in Prince Albert, and he did so very well…”

NINETY ONE PERCENT.  Draisaitl was the lone bright star at forward for Prince Albert meaning he'd be seeing the highest competition, and that opposing teams would essentially set out to stop him at all costs.  And yet he scored on a pace with Sam Reinhart over the full season, and was in on 91% of his team's goals at 5-on-5.  In a world of scouting reports, analytics, gut feelings, and straight guesses….Leon Draisaitl’s IPP (if you care about it at all) is drool-worthy.


So which is your pick?

Speed?  Smarts?  Safety?  Stats?

06/19/2014 3:43PM
JW Draft Countdown - Four-k in the road
Please enter your comments below.
06/19/2014 4:05PM
stats and speed
i would trade myers and a couple second rounders to edmonton for there third pick to draft bennett and draisaitl.
06/19/2014 4:14PM
There is no Top 4 It's only a Top 3
It's a top 3 and that is it. It's Ekblad, Reinhart and Bennett. Bar None, End of story it's only a top 3. If the Sabres draft Draisaitl at #2 they will fail the draft. If Murray picks Draisaitl then they just might as well have kept Darcy Regier as the GM because essentially Murray is no better. It would also go a long way in explaining why Lafontaine left, got forced out whatever. Draisaitl is simply not capable of being a #1 center in the NHL or a top player. He will just get dominated by infinitelty better players shift after shift. It's either Ekblad, Reinhart or Bennett that needs to be the pick at #2 and that is that.
06/19/2014 4:21PM
Big bodied puck possessor
Keep our #1 pick, offer St louis' #1 (next year), 2 of this year's #2s and/or a player and trade for 3 or 4. Then take Bennett and Draisaitl, call them "hustle and and muscle".
06/19/2014 4:30PM
Gimme Ekblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Bennett In that order. I think Ekblad is gone at 1. That leaves Reinhart as the BPA. He's not going to make jaws drop from highlight reel stuff. But he will break down a defense and skin you alive with a pocket knife.
06/19/2014 5:00PM
Just what I expected from a douchebag
Jeremy = Idiot.
06/19/2014 5:04PM
Let's talk Hamiltons write up in short from my Armchair
Ennis..........GET RID OF HIM!!!! Trade the pylons Pysyk and Ruhwedel. Nothing further at this time.
06/19/2014 5:18PM
Take the best
Take the best available! Leave the intagibles alone we don't need anymore projects. We someone to stup in and ignite this dismal bunch. Once they start winning and making the playoffs then you can draft the two-three year projects. Now is not the time for this!
06/19/2014 5:44PM
It's a sounding a lot like Darcy Regeirs Walmart all over again. I don't like that scent at all. What a Joke!!!
06/19/2014 5:49PM
Draft Time Baby...
This is an easy decision, you take the guy who is first to puck, dictates the play, and goes hard to the net all the time. Bennett if available at #2 is the guy to take for the Sabres. Defense is not our current need, but if the plan is to move a few guys in the system that are not Murray guys then Ekblad could be that guy but I find it hard to see him available. Our top need should be to draft a top line to grow up together. Center, 2 wingers. Bennett, Dal Colle, and next year get either McDavid or Eichel. This will be the most exciting thing for 2014 is this draft for Sabres Fans! Be interested to see how many 2nd round picks and big contract we take on to move up into the top 10 to get that 2nd first round pick. Trust in Murray, he has a track history of finding talent and not missing. Getzlaf/Perry, Karlson....
06/19/2014 8:29PM
sounds to me like you hosers wont be happy with anything less than Mcdavid and in case no one has noticed he isn't in this draft. so being as there isn't a Stamkos, Crosby, gretzky or a freeken Gil the franchise Perreault in this draft lets just dig the fact that we will get a good player, probably not a great player but hey great teams win cups not great players
06/20/2014 2:42AM
Give Me Reinhart or Bennett
We've been screaming for offense for years. They've said that offense can be acquired essentially thru the draft. Darcy drafted loads of Defense and neglected that offense for years. Where did the Sabres finish in scoring; set a league record didn't they?I understand that Ekblad may top the draft. But even if he is available we need offense desperately. We drafted our two top D-Men last year. Now, that being said I'd take Ekblad if Murray could somehow make a trade (say Myers) and bring in a top line scorer (ORielly, maybe). I just hope Murray doesn't try to sell us something like Old Darce and tell us that he has acquired a winger who'll be great at center and can't play there.
06/20/2014 2:46AM
Any chance the Sabre's Could...
trade Meyer's in a package and acquire another top five pick?
06/20/2014 7:05AM
Size Matters
The one thing we have seen so far is Murray likes size in his players...the prospects he has garnered in trades are big Deslauriers 6'1 210, Fasching 6'3 204, Carrier 6'2 200. He talks about the going trend in the NHL as going 'heavy' so my guess is Draisaitl. For years we have said we need that big center ala Thornton or Getslaf etc. My other guess is he gets back into round 1 and gets Tuch another big bodied forward. As a Buffalo blogger pointed out, with all the picks we have a college player can be hid longer before he has to be signed which affords Murray time to evaluate his talent and not create a log jam where talent may have to be shipped out before a true evaluation can be given.
06/20/2014 8:02AM
Dwight Schrute's dilemma
people on here are hilarious.....anyone of these guys ill be happy with. Personally, based on those stats I'd take Draisaitl, but then again analytics is never the sexy pick. how can any of us know exactly how good these players are...did anyone watch a ton of junior hockey to have a valid opinion? All we can go with is stats. Based on Mr. Leino's performance for Buffalo, we can assume stats can be inflated if playing with superior linemates. Ekblad sounds like a stud but were set a D and he'll prob go #1, Reinhart's smarts is interesting, a lot of great players didn't have elite size or speed but had elite intelligence, Bennett I like a lot too, he kinda sounds like girgensons which is never a bad thing, I just hate the fact he couldn't do one pullup. 1.Draisaitl 2. reinhart 3. bennett
06/20/2014 10:30AM
Draisaitl and Bennett
If Reinhart goes #1, swap picks with Edmonton and get an extra second rounder. Then trade Myers for 4 overall and pick Bennett and Draisaitl 3 and 4.
06/20/2014 11:32AM
JW Draft Countdown - Four-k in the road
06/20/2014 11:39AM
Any trades yet?
Go trade for Bobby Ryan. Enough said.
06/20/2014 12:55PM
Fast Fact
I wish Hamilton and White could be bought out. Both are just awful when it comes to this hockey team. AWFUL.
06/20/2014 1:43PM
what value do myers/ehrhoff/ennis etal have?
all this talk of packaging players from our roster for #1 picks begs the question, are any worth a #1? packaging a player and a 2nd, what will that really get? id love another 1st rd. pick in the top 10 but i don't see it happening. who knows how 18year old will develop, we're over thinking this. take the best guy on your board whoever it is and hope he turns out. we'll see in 3-4 years if you were right.
06/21/2014 2:46PM
should be the pick. A fast skilled second line center to compliment the overly skilled guy coming next draft. Followed by the heart and soul Girgenson as the number three center.
06/23/2014 8:00AM
Take Reinhart, fire Schopp
Id rather stab needles in my eyes than listen to Mike Schopp. If you don't agree with him, he calls you stupid n hangs up on you so I've just stopped listening to any segment he's on. Bulldog, I feel for you man, your stuck with him as a partner. Eklbad will be gone which leaves Bennet or Reinhart. Id take either one but if I had to choose, Reinhart.
06/23/2014 2:00PM
You can not coach speed.
Bennett is the pick at two. With his speed, size, and quality wrist shot he is a no brainer. He is a two way player when it is all said and done if the Sabres do not take this kid I will be very upset. An all around player this talented does not drop in your lap to often.
06/23/2014 5:56PM
Who's " etal " ?
Is he a Euro? Is he fast? Is he tough? Does he have heart? Would the Bruins want him?
06/25/2014 6:14PM
Id go with Bennet or Ek. Cause I dont care how good a play maker you are if your not fast enough you will not be good
06/25/2014 7:57PM
Re: Take Reinhart, fire Schopp
Bulldog is no better. Just can't have a drinkin' problem on the air. WGR needs a complete changeover and have all new hosts and beat reporters on all the programs. Too many arrogant and stubborn mules on this station that won't work with fans. It's about time for a change and get WGR back to the way it used to be without all the shilling.
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