Video: 2019 NHL Scouting Combine Recap
From our coverage on Saturday…
Starting at the top with projected No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, the NHL's Class of 2019 is notable for the amount - and quality - of talent coming from the United States National Team Development Program.
Sixteen players from the program were present for testing day at the NHL Scouting Combine inside Harborcenter on Saturday. That list includes potential top-10 picks in Hughes, Matthew Boldy, Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras as well as a potential first-round goalie in Spencer Knight.
"This is a special group," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "We've spent time with them during the year, we've had them here all week, and they really live up to that projection of being a special group.
"I anticipate that USA Hockey will have the biggest smiles on their faces on Draft Day because of the number of players to go in the first round, the top three rounds, through the entire draft. I think they're going to set a record for that program."
It was a Buffalo native - and a current pro scout for the Sabres - who brought them all together. Jeremiah Crowe, a former assistant coach at Buffalo State College, worked as director of player personnel for the National Team Development Program for two seasons prior to joining the Sabres in 2017.
"I think he might deserve all the credit," Zegras said. "That was quite a team he picked."
Crowe scouted the players as 15 and 16-year-olds, attending games and making phone calls to build relationships along the way. John Beecher, an Elmira native who's ranked 49th among North American prospects, recalled the pressure of playing for a spot in the program.
"He'd come to games every now and then," Beecher said. "You'd kind of notice when he was there. It was a little nerve-wracking."
Read the full recap with other tidbits from the day here.
Check out the results from the physical testing portion of the combine here.
The Instigators were live from the Combine on Friday so check that show here:
Sabres Chatroom: Best Draft Class
We asked some of our staff… What's the greatest draft class in Sabres history and why?
Brian Duff, Sabres TV Host: For anyone who has an understanding of why this franchise was as good as it was as quickly as it was in the 1970s, this is the easiest question you will ever answer.
1971: Rick Martin (5th overall), Craig Ramsay (19th overall), and Bill Hajt (33rd overall) with their first three picks. All of them are in the Sabres Hall of Fame and Martin should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There was a lot of high-end talent in this class, yet the Sabres managed to select three players that would combine to play 2,609 games in the NHL - 2,605 of them with Buffalo! All three finished in the Top 9 of that draft in games played.
Martin finished third in goals (384) trailing only HOFers Marcel Dionne and Guy Lafleur, who were taken second and first overall, respectively. Martin (701) and Ramsay (672) would finish fifth and sixth in points from the class of '71, first and second among left wingers.
And Ramsay (plus-324) and Hajt (plus-320) were third and fourth in plus/minus, behind only the great Larry Robinson (plus-722) and the aforementioned Lafleur (plus-446).
The franchise was formed around Gilbert Perreault in 1970. The foundation was laid in 1971.
Martin Biron, Sabres TV Analyst: It's not fair. Duffer goes all hockey historian on us and now whatever we say nobody will pay attention to!!!
Jourdon LaBarber, Sabres.com: The Class of 1971 was good - so good that it featured three players who would one day be inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame.
That said, only one class has produced multiple Hockey Hall of Famers. Dave Andreychuk and Phil Housley were both selected in the first round in 1982, and both cemented their names in the franchise records books as they carved out resumes for enshrinement in Toronto.
Andreychuk accumulated 804 points in a Sabres uniform. Here's the list of players who have scored more: Gilbert Perreault. That's it.
Andreychuk's 161 power-play goals are a franchise record (not to mention a major chunk of his NHL record total of 274). He also holds the only five-goal game in franchise history (Feb. 6, 1986 at Boston).
Now look at the top 10 scoring seasons by Sabres defensemen - Housley holds eight of them, including his franchise-record 81-point campaign in 1989-90.
The team had a third first-round pick that year, by the way. The late Paul Cyr was selected ninth overall and went on to play parts of six seasons in Buffalo, including three seasons of 40-plus points. He was later traded to the Rangers for their fifth-round selection in the 1988 - the pick the Sabres used to select Alexander Mogilny.
Biron: 1982 was pretty good, but Housley and Andreychuk played lots of games on other teams.
1971 was probably the best with Martin, Ramsay and Hajt. All three were a huge part of the success the Sabres has in the mid-70s and going to the Cup Final in '75. You have a big-time goal scorer with Rico, a defensive forward mastermind that still got you 60-70 points with Ramsay, and a big steady defenseman with Bill Hajt.
I could also say 1983 because of the goalies with Tom Barrasso and Daren Puppa, but that means I would have to put the 1975 Draft in the same boat with Bob Sauvé and Don Edwards.
And on the flip side for the Sabres, 2010 was the worst!!!
Chris Ryndak, Sabres.com: No love for 1974 yet? It's the draft that brought Danny Gare to Buffalo and introduced the legend of Taro Tsujimoto. Poor Bob Geoffrion, who was picked after the fictional Japanese forward.
Gare is obviously one of the franchise's all-time greats - his No. 18 hangs in the rafters - but the draft also produced defenseman Lee Fogolin (11th overall), who played 924 NHL games (338 with Buffalo) and proud alumnus Derek Smith (168th overall), who played six seasons for the Sabres.
1979 was also a good one. Scotty Bowman, in his first draft as general manager, selected arguably the best defenseman in franchise history in Mike Ramsey with the 11th overall pick and then took another defenseman in Lindy Ruff with the 32nd overall pick in the second round.
When Gilbert Perreault retired 20 games into the 1986-87 season, it was Ruff who was named captain. Ramsey would later wear the "C" in 1991-92, establishing solid examples of leadership for the players who followed.
However, with all that said, it's tough to beat 1971 and the impact Martin, Ramsay and Hajt had on a franchise in its infancy.
Although, imagine for a moment if Punch Imlach took Larry Robinson instead of Ramsay. Robinson, whom the Canadiens selected one pick later, went on to have one of the greatest careers in NHL history, winning the Stanley Cup six times, the Norris Trophy twice and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1978. On the other hand, what would the Sabres have looked like without Ramsay?
Andrew Peters, The Instigators Host: 1998 sucked. Let's take a look:
1st Round - 18th: Dmitri Kalinin (underachieved; great guy though)
2nd Round - 34th: Andrew Peters, 47th: Norm Milley, 50th: Jaroslav Kristek
3rd Round - 77th: Pandalfo (Mike, not Jay)
4th Round - No pick
5th Round - Aaron Goldade (Yeah, I have no clue either)
6th Round - Ales Kotalik
7th Round - Moran (Brad, not Ian)
8th Round - David Moravec
9th Round - Edo Terglav
I rest my case...
Stay tuned to Sabres.com this week for more draft content and any breaking news. Sharpen Up will return next week.