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Sabres focus on positions of need

by John McGourty

OTTAWA – After playing in the Eastern Conference Finals the previous two seasons, the Sabres struggled this past season after the departures of co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. The Sabres went 39-31-12 for 90 points, four short of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

While only two Eastern Conference playoff qualifiers had more than the Sabres' 255 goals, only one surrendered more than their 242. General Manager Darcy Regier made no secret of the fact he wanted his team to get stronger at center and on defense, where the team is aging. He was forced to trade top defenseman Brian Campbell, who was approaching free agency, at the trade deadline.

Here is a look at Buffalo’s 2008 NHL Entry Draft class:

No. 12 Tyler Myers, D, Kelowna (WHL) – The Sabres traded their first-round pick, No. 13, and their third-round pick next year to Los Angeles for the No. 12 pick and selected the tallest player in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in the 6-foot-7 Myers. He's a skilled defenseman with a huge reach, but at 204 pounds, he needs to add strength.

Myers said he has struggled in recent years with growth spurts that leave him fatigued and uncoordinated. However, he hasn't had a growth spurt since November and believes he's past all that. Myers has a very strong shot, and had six goals and 13 assists in 65 games for Kelowna.

No. 26 Tyler Ennis, C, Medicine Hat (WHL) – The Sabres used their second first-round pick, acquired Feb. 26 from San Jose in the trade for Campbell, to select Ennis, a 5-9, 146-pounder who was the fourth-leading scorer in the Western Hockey League with 43 goals and 48 assists for 91 points. Ennis is a very slippery player who rarely gets hit hard, has a nose for the puck and good scoring skills.

After using his first two picks to take the tallest player and one of the lightest players in the draft, Regier said, “They’re really different, but they’re exciting.”

No. 44 Luke Adam, C, St. John's (QMJHL) – Adam is a big (6-2, 203), strong, well-schooled center who has a legitimate chance to be the best player Newfoundland has produced. Adam led the Fog Devils in scoring with 66 points on 36 goals and 30 assists.

No. 81 Cory Fienhage, D, Eastview (Minn.) (USHS) – Fienhage spurned junior-hockey offers to stay home and play football and hockey with his high-school buddies. The decision didn't hurt him a bit as he was named All-Conference in both sports.
Fienhage is a physical player who skates well and has an excellent slap shot and wrist shot. He will play at the University of North Dakota in the fall.
No. 101 Justin Jokinen, RW, Cloquet (Minn.) (USHS) – A fine athlete with good leadership skills, Jokinen can play center and right wing. He had 21 goals and 39 points this season and was a nominee for Minnesota Mr. Hockey.

No. 104 Jordon Southorn, D, PEI (QMJHL)
– This is a calculated gamble by the Sabres. Southorn was ranked No. 122 by Central Scouting among North American skaters. He's a 6-2, 185-pound defenseman who skates well and has a big shot. His low ranking may have been affected by his team's lack of success.

No. 134 Jacob Lagace, LW, Chicoutimi (QMJHL) – A Chris Drury-type at 5-10 and 190 pounds, Lagace finished fourth among QMJHL rookies in scoring and third overall on the Sagueneens with 62 points in 2007-08.  

No. 164 Nick Crawford, D, Saginaw (OHL) – Crawford was a highly-touted defenseman when he was taken with the No. 12 pick in the 2006 OHL draft. He has good size and instincts but isn't the greatest skater, according to scouting reports.

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