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Sabres excited with opportunities at NHL Draft

Thursday, 06.20.2013 / 5:54 PM / 2013 NHL Draft

By Connor Mellas - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Sabres excited with opportunities at NHL Draft
With two picks in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft and two more choices in the second, the Buffalo Sabres feel they're in good shape to add to a burgeoning core of young talent.

With 10 days until the 2013 NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres say their current draft strategy is simple: See what happens on the floor.

Anticipation is high this year, with the depth of talent compared by many to the famed 2003 draft. Because the Sabres hold the eighth and 16th picks in the first round, in addition to two second-round picks, there has been speculation Buffalo would investigate the chance to move up into the top three.

However, general manager Darcy Regier eliminated almost any possibility of that notion at a press conference Thursday.

"I would characterize the draft and the ability primarily to move … up into those top spots will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, given the conversations that I have had as recent as yesterday," Regier said. "We'll continue to try and move up, but as I said, it appears the teams are getting more locked into keeping the pick and making the selection at that place. So we'll see if that changes going into the draft."

Kevin Devine, the Sabres' director of amateur scouting, said the price Buffalo would have to pay to get a crack at one of the top three prospects -- Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones and Halifax Mooseheads forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin -- would likely be too high to make such a move a worthwhile investment.

"I think it kind of runs both ways," he said. "We're going to get two good players here, but the cost of what we'd have to give up to get that franchise player would also set us back depth-wise."

Though the prospect of the Sabres trading up looks increasingly dim, Devine said they haven't ruled out trading down and gaining additional assets.

"It's more likely that if we were to go in that direction it would be the 16th pick," Devine said. "I think, you know, the eighth pick, if we were to move backwards, it's a little dicey to what that next group is."

Regardless of whether the Sabres make a deal or stand pat, the goal will be to strengthen the weakest parts of their lineup. However, the way they plan to go about this isn't entirely clear, and won't be until the draft begins on the afternoon of June 30 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

"We've got some holes to fill on both sides," Devine said. "In the past year, two or three years, our defensive depth on the back end has been very good. So we're really going into a draft where it's a tossup between the forwards and defense, at least for the first pick -- and the second pick, maybe even the goaltending comes into it."

Regier said he's looking forward to the challenge the future holds as he tries to get the Sabres into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after back-to-back failures.

"I'm excited because it adds to a group of young players we currently have: [Johan] Larsson, [Zemgus] Girgensons, [Mikhail] Grigorenko, Mark Pysyk and others," he said of his expectations, "and even the slightly older group in [Marcus] Foligno and [Tyler] Myers and [Tyler] Ennis and [Cody] Hodgson. So when you look at the bigger picture and you include two good second-round picks in what is a good draft, it provides a real solid opportunity for us to project down the road in a year or two and look at a group of very good young players."