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Sabres face tough decisions after likely pick of Eichel

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres have one decision to make that figures to be easy at the 2015 NHL Draft, but the rest is up for debate.

General manager Tim Murray spoke Thursday about what the Sabres' plans are after they likely select Boston University center Jack Eichel with the No. 2 pick at the draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., next week. The Sabres also have a second first-round pick (No. 21) and two selections in the second round (Nos. 31 and 51).

"If you've been through enough drafts, you can read a draft," Murray said. "I want to sit there at the table and I want to see which way the draft is going, and a lot of drafts a certain [defenseman] starts to fall. We may pick up on that and move up from 21 for a certain guy. In past drafts, goaltenders have not been a high priority in the first round. At 21 we may have a decision to make on a guy there, and the way the draft has gone or depending on who's left on the board or what position is left on the board, we may feel we can get that same guy at 31.

"It's reading the draft as the draft's going on, it's not reading the draft today. We have a fair idea where a lot of the players are going to go today, but you have to sit at that table and kind of read the tea leaves and catch the direction of where it's going."

The first round of the draft is June 26 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports). Rounds 2-7 are June 27 (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports).

The draft can be unpredictable in how it unfolds, and that's something Murray knows well from his time with the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. Murray can add to the unpredictable nature of the draft with what he decides to do with his picks.

"There's a guy left in our top 10; that would be outstanding," Murray said when asked what he'd like to see when the Sabres are set to pick at No. 21. "I don't think that's going to happen. No. 2 is a team calls and they're having problems with one of their players that are having problems with their cap situation and they offer us a 23- or 24-year-old top-six forward or top-three defenseman or No. 1 goalie, and they'd be willing to take [the 21st pick] for that. Both scenarios would be optimal for us, and the chance of either scenario happening, right now for me, is slim-to-none. The third thing is we'll take the highest player on our list."

Goaltending is an area the Sabres have a need to fill throughout the organization. Chad Johnson is the only goalie Buffalo has under contract next season, but Murray said they won't be looking to fill any specific organizational needs at the draft.

"In the NHL, if you start addressing weaknesses at a certain draft, the next draft or two drafts down, then whatever you didn't address -- if you think you have an abundance of forwards today, two drafts from now you're going to say you don't have enough wingers. It's best player available. If you have a weakness or a lack of a certain position, go out and trade for that position. The draft guys could be a year away, could be three years away. You have to look big picture when it comes to the draft, and that's best player available at any position."

There is a strong class of goaltending prospects in the 2015 draft. Ilya Samsonov of Magnitogorsk in the Russia junior league and Daniel Vladar of Kladno in the Czech Republic are NHL Central Scouting's top two international goalies. Mackenzie Blackwood of the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts and Callum Booth of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are the top North Americans. The Sabres may be looking to add to their organizational depth with talented players like that available.

"I'm a firm believer of taking a goalie though," Murray said. "If at all possible you should take a goalie every draft because I think they're a little more of a wild card than a forward or defenseman. Pekka Rinne, for example, an eighth-round pick. I hate to say this, I think you throw a dart on a goalie every draft, but I'm not a believer in picking for position. We're not picking 23-year-old right guards that can step in and play tomorrow. That's not what we are as a league."

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