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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Darcy Regiers (Photo: Buffalo Sabres)
For the Buffalo Sabres, the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is all about flexibility.

Entering with two first-round picks (13th overall, 26th overall) for the first time since 2002, the Sabres look to explore all options.

“I think that we could virtually pick at any position,” General Manager Darcy Regier said, although acknowledging it was “unlikely” that the Sabres would use their 13th overall selection on goaltending.

“We will go with who we think is the best player; in all likelihood who is a forward or defenseman,” he said.

Attaining more blueliners could be a good possibility for the Sabres as 11 of the top 20 North American skaters are listed at defense, according to CSS final rankings.

In comparison, only 6 of the top 20 skaters in the 2007 draft rankings were on the back-end.

“Most people consider it the strongest draft ever for defensemen,” Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine said.

However, Buffalo’s top two picks in 2007, T.J. Brennan and Drew Schiestel, and their top selection in 2006, Dennis Persson, were all blueliners.

“There is a lot of flexibility in this draft, a lot of different ways that we can go,” Devine said. “We have always stuck to the best-player-available-at-the-time theory in the past and probably will do so this year at the 13th pick for sure.”

Although the option of trading picks on draft day has not been ruled either.

“We’ve got two or three players in mind that we think will be there for our 13th pick that we would like to get,” Devine said. “If those guys are gone maybe we look to trade down. There’s not a lot of time though… If you want to have something in place, you better have the deal beforehand.”

“We have all this time in advance of the draft but it really only begins to heat up the week of the draft,” Regier said. “That’s when the conversations take place, that’s when you get a true sense, a true feel for what teams are trying to do.”

What the Sabres ultimately look to accomplish in the draft is find the right fit for the organization, regardless of position. According to Devine, that also means taking size into consideration.

“You look at some of the kids we’ve signed lately, like [Nathan] Gerbe (5-foot-6), Tim Kennedy (5-foot-10), Felix Schutz (5-foot-11) we signed, Derek Roy (5-foot-8) is on our roster… You’ve got to be careful there. Everything being equal, yeah we would like to get a bigger guy. But we are not going to pass over, if there is a significant difference in their ability, we’re not going to pass over the smaller guy.”

“You look for the gift in their game,” Regier agreed. “You try and decide whether it is an attribute that can take them into the NHL that you can build on that you can strengthen.

“When you go through the video and you are watching these kids, there are some very impressive kids,” he added. “They are impressive from the interview standpoint, they are impressive from the skill level, competitive level. I think looking at it from a distance… there will be some nice surprises in this draft.
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