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Sabres collect nine new pieces at NHL Draft

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Tim Murray didn't get everything he wanted in his first draft as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. But he left Wells Fargo Center on Saturday feeling pretty good about the nine players the Sabres selected.

"I think the original plan was to get an extra pick in the first round and we weren't able to do it," he said. "Other than that, it went pretty well."

They started Friday by selecting Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart with the second pick and continued with eight picks Saturday.

Those eight players included six forwards, starting with Barrie Colts left wing Brendan Lemieux, the first pick of the second round (No. 31). Lemieux (6-foot, 206 pounds) had 27 goals, 53 points and 145 penalty minutes in 65 regular-season games. The son of four-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux plays a game reminiscent of his father, which was a big selling point to Murray.

"We had him in our first round," Murray said. "We like the style of game he plays. He plays a chippy, intimidating style, but in saying that he's not a one-dimensional player. He can score goals, he can shoot the puck. He goes to the net, he goes to the dirty areas. We like the whole package. He's probably a unique player in this draft and he's unique a player out of the guys we drafted. He's got a lot of jam, but he can play the game."

Beyond his on-ice ability, Murray likes what Lemieux's energy and personality potentially could bring to a dressing room that at times has been a bit low-key.

"He will add another dimension to a quiet room," Murray said. "... The room won't be as quiet with him in it, that's for sure."

With their other two second-round picks, the Sabres chose center Eric Cornel from the Peterborough Petes and right wing Vaclav Karabacek of the Gatineau Olympiques.

Murray is especially interested to see how Cornel continues to develop. He had 25 goals and 37 assists in 68 games in 2013-14.

"He's 6-2, [but] he's slight [186 pounds]," Murray said. "We felt if he makes the same jump next year that he made this year, he'll be a hell of a prospect and a hell of a player."

Buffalo's third-round pick, Swedish goaltender Jonas Johansson (No. 61), is seen as a project who will remain with his club team, Brynas.

"He's not developed physically but ... he's athletic," Murray said. "That's the one question I asked, is he athletic? They assured me that he was."

With a second third-round pick, the Sabres selected Swift Current Broncos defenseman Brycen Martin, who had six goals, 37 points and a minus-16 rating in 72 Western Hockey League games. He was the second pick of the 2011 WHL draft, and though he never lived up to that standard, Murray is betting on Martin's natural talent.

"He's got all the tools," Murray said. "He's a great skater, he has skill, he has hockey sense. His urgency needs to be ramped up, obviously. But I think a kid like that, that was a high pick, I have to assume through peewee, bantam, the game was easy. You get to major junior hockey and the game gets a lithe more difficult and some guys adapt better than others. ... We can help him with the other parts of the game, the mental side of the game."

Murray said he was willing to spend picks to move up in the draft, admitting he offered all three second-round picks to seven teams in a quest to grab a second first-round pick. Instead, the only trade he was able to make was sending a second-round pick (No. 39) to the Washington Capitals for a second-round pick (No. 44) and a third-round choice (No. 74).

As a whole, Murray said there's a lot of quality in the quantity he and the scouting staff selected.

"We have a potential top-two center that could play for us next year," he said. "The other thing it did for the organization is we added a lot of assets. The way I've spoken about that in the past is we're going to do the best we can to make them better. They're going to be Buffalo Sabres or they're going too allow us to get other Buffalo Sabres. I think when you draft a lot of players early that automatically helps your organization."


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