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Sharpen Up: Week of June 10, 2019

Skinner's signed, Krueger was in town, and a discussion on the Sabres' biggest draft steal

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

Jeff Skinner signed on the dotted line and he'll be with the Buffalo Sabres for another eight seasons. Skinner's camp and Sabres general manager Jason Botterill came to a deal late Friday night. 

Skinner scored 40 goals in his first season in Buffalo. But you already knew that.

Here's what you need to know. 

 

Signed Skinner

Video: Skinner signs long-term contract

In an open letter published on Sabres.com, Skinner opened up about why he wanted to stay in Buffalo:

"I've said it before, but as a visiting player, I never truly understood what the Sabres meant to the community of Buffalo. It's something I had to learn as last season went on. 

There was no single, eye-opening moment. It was more like a series of memories that added up over time.

The way the building felt during our winning streak. Being voted by the fans to represent the Sabres at the All-Star Game. The small-town feel and daily interactions with people away from the rink.  

Eventually, it all sinks in, and you realize what it is that you're a part of. It's a feeling that's tough to really explain or understand unless you get to experience it. Playing in Buffalo, you mean so much to the community. As a player, you really have to take pride in that. 

It's something I'm going to continue to take pride in for the next eight years."

You can read the full letter here.

Botterill also talked about the signing in a conference call on Saturday. 

"I think big picture, he came in and he scored goals," he said. "It's pretty much what the game's about, is scoring goals, and it's something that we struggled with. We understand that Jeff's goal total will probably fluctuate over his time in Buffalo. 

"… But it's something that we talked a lot about, improving our scoring up front and improving our depth scoring. We want to add to our group and not try to have to go out there and try to replace what Jeff Skinner can bring."

The full story is here.


Krueger was here

Video: Ralph Krueger's 1st Day in Buffalo

From our recap of his first days in Buffalo:

Ralph Krueger has kept busy in the weeks since he was named head coach of the Sabres. 

There were the logistics of moving from England to Buffalo, which kept him from being in town at the time of his hiring. He spent time in Slovakia with general manager Jason Botterill at the IIHF World Championship, where he sat down for separate face-to-face meetings with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. He's also had phone discussions with players, including Rasmus Dahlin and Jeff Skinner.

Video: 1-on-1 with Ralph Krueger

Wednesday marked Krueger's first day in the office. He toured KeyBank Center and its surrounding area, making time along the way to converse with everyone from the staff across the street at Bakery 55 to Kyle Okposo and Jason Pominville, who were working out at the team facility. 

Krueger then sat down for his formal introduction with the media, during which he spoke about his meetings with the players, his timeline for hiring a coaching staff and his own philosophy, among other topics. 

We have the rundown of what he had to say here.

He hopped on The Instigators on Thursday as well:

Video: Ralph Krueger with The Instigators

 

Sabres Chatroom: Biggest Draft Day Steal

It's time for another Draft Preview edition of Sabres Chatroom. Who is the biggest Draft Day steal in Sabres history? 

Martin Biron, Sabres TV Analyst: Wow. Looking at the list there's a few guys that stand out right away. 

First of all, I'm going for the player's contributions to the Sabres as my first priority. 

1989 saw Donald Audette drafted in the ninth round (183rd overall). He scored 166 goals in 421 games with the Sabres. I had a chance to play with Donald a little bit and I've never played with anybody that wanted to score goals as much as Audette, even in practice!!!

Paul Gaustad was a seventh-round pick (220th overall) and was such a big part of the two trips to the conference finals in the mid-2000s. He didn't skate all that well - probably why he fell that far in the draft - but he made up for it with his work ethic and leadership. 

Is drafting a goalie in the fifth round a steal? Lots of goalies get drafted late and have great careers, but Ryan Miller in the fifth round in 1999 (138th overall) could very well be the biggest steal. 

Goalies drafted ahead of Miller that year:

  • Brian Finley (6th overall, NSH)
  • Maxime Oulette (22nd overall, PHI)
  • Ari Ahonen (27th overall, NJD)
  • Alex Auld (40th overall, FLA)
  • Simon Lajeunesse (48th overall, OTT)
  • Jan Lasak (65th overall, NSH)
  • Evgeny Konstantinov (67th overall, TBL)
  • Craig Anderson (77th overall, CGY)
  • Johan Asplund (79th overall, NYR)
  • Jean-Francois Laniel (80th overall, FLA)
  • Adam Hauser (81st overall, EDM)
  • Sebastien Caron (86th overall, PIT)
  • Cory Campbell (92nd overall, LAK)
  • Evan Lindsay (107th overall, MTL)
  • Jean-Francois Nogues (133rd overall, LAK)

Some teams got to draft two goalies (I'm looking at you L.A. and Nashville!) and passed on Miller. A side note here, Seamus Kotyk, the Sabres' goalie development coach and scout was drafted by the Boston Bruins nine spots after Miller!!!

Brian Duff, Sabres TV Host: Define steal. That's what I'm wrestling with.

Chris Ryndak, Sabres.com: Well, I wrote the question so you could just ask. 

Duff: For whatever reason I immediately go beyond the first 100 picks of a draft, so therefore - and to no one's surprise - I agree with everything that Marty said.

What I never realized is that arguably the Sabre with the sickest flow of all time - hopefully a topic for another Chatroom - is 20th all-time in franchise scoring! That would be Christian Ruuttu, taken 134th in 1983 out of Assat in Finland.

Ruuttu spent six full seasons with the Sabres, made the playoffs five times, appeared in the 1988 All-Star Game in St. Louis, and was an interesting player in a very transitional time for the team.

He ranks 8th in points per game (0.76) among Sabre draft picks that played more than 400 games with Buffalo. The seven ahead of him: Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Dany Gare, Dave Andreychuk, Phil Housley, Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy. Six first-rounders, one second-rounder, and Ruuttu.

The class of 1983 was led by the likes of Steve Yzerman, Pat LaFontaine, and Rick Tocchet.

Ruuttu emerged as the 19th highest scorer from that draft, outscored by only one player taken after him - Philadelphia's Pelle Eklund who was taken 161st. Someone should have stolen his ugly bucket along the way, but I'd say Christian Ruuttu qualifies as a steal for the Sabres.

Ryndak: I think you have to look beyond the fourth round to really consider anything a true "steal" - unless it's a late first-rounder that everyone else clearly missed on. 

So how about a guy that the Sabres literally had to steal in order for him to play in the NHL. Alexander Mogilny was selected in the fifth round (89th overall) of the 1988 NHL Draft, and with the assistance of Sabres general manager Gerry Meehan and head of player development Don Luce, Mogilny defected to North America the following year.

All Mogilny did was score a franchise-record 76 goals in 1992-93 and open the door for more Russians to play overseas. He ranks 13th in Sabres history in points (444), is second with 1.17 points per game and was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 2011. With 1,032 points in 990 career games, he ranks 77th all-time in NHL scoring. Of the players ahead of him, only Mike Bossy, Sidney Crosby, Peter Stastny, and Mario Lemieux have played fewer than 1,000 games.

And of course, eight picks later, the Sabres took some guy named Rob Ray, who has a rule named after him. 

 

The NHL Draft begins June 21

Speaking of the NHL Draft, we checked in with director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski on what lies ahead in the organization's scouting process:

This year's class is all but locked in at the top, with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko expected to be taken with the top two picks. After that, the first round becomes unpredictable. That said, Jankowski said the class is deep enough that the Sabres can feel confident in bringing two strong assets into the organization in the first round.

"You don't know what other teams are thinking, so you really just want to focus on being prepared," Jankowski said. "You can walk through scenarios all you want about what's going to be there at seven. At the end of the day, what's going to be there at seven is there at seven. 

"It's exciting, because it's a mixture of players and we'll have our order and we're excited to get the highest player we can in that order. In the end, it's about focusing on us and not worrying so much about what other teams are going to do or what mock drafts say."

The full story is here.

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