• Elite Hockey Experience

Buffalo Sabres' Draft Review


With how the 2018-2019 season went (and all previous seasons under GM Roberto Martucci), the draft was the most exciting time for management and fans. It’s no secret that since hired, Roberto has tried to rebuild this franchise through the draft, and has had some successful drafts in the past. This season was a little different, however. He wanted to do something bigger, something before the draft to get the fans excited.

Just 4 days prior to the draft, news out of Buffalo was that 2 trades had been made. Firstly, a trade with the New Jersey Devils, which saw the Sabres acquire the 11th overall pick in exchange for the 18th overall pick and Emil Bemstrom. And then, shortly after, the big one came through. The Buffalo Sabres made a move with the Boston Bruins and acquired Matt Dumba for Alex Alexeyev, Josh Norris and the 10th overall pick. This trade came out of left field and shocked many. This is what the Sabres GM had to say about these deals:

“We are extremely happy with both moves that were made. With New Jersey, this was something that had kind of been in the works. We had discussed the possibility of a swap and when we got to talking we found a fit that satisfied both teams.

Our deal with Boston was out of the blue, for myself included. We love Dumba, and I made that sentiment known to Adam the moment he took on the job as GM in Boston. After approximately 10 minutes of discussion, the deal happened. We are extremely excited to have a player of Dumba’s caliber in Buffalo, and he will solve a huge need for us on the blueline, something we haven’t been able to address since the previous management team dealt away Hedman. We can’t wait for the near future in Buffalo.”


With the pre-draft day trades out of the way, we turn our attention to the draft. Let’s take a look at the picks the Sabres and what we think about them.


11th Overall – G Spencer Knight

This was a pick that surprised a few GMs. One GM was even quoted saying he could see Knight falling out of the first round and being selected in the early second. Well, that wasn’t the case, and he only had to wait a few minutes before hearing his name being called. Knight had a great season with the USNTDP, and while he is still young, he projects to be a #1 goalie. This was the Sabres guy all along, and there wasn’t anything that was going to stop them from drafting Knight here.


30th Overall – C Ryan Suzuki

The Sabres traded back in to the first round to snag Suzuki when he was still available and falling. Suzuki has a package of skills that could make him an exceptional player. His vision and playmaking abilities make him a very polarizing player at the junior level, however there are still areas of his game which need to be refined. The potential he has is an excellent pick at 30, now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if he can develop in to the player the Sabres are hoping he can be.


41st Overall – D Jackson LaCombe

LaCombe is an interesting one, as he wasn’t always a defenseman. A few years ago his high school team faced injury issues and Jackson made the what-was-supposed-to-be temporary move to defense. What we know now is that wasn’t temporary and being a defenseman worked. LaCombe is extremely talented and put up a ton of points. He is an excellent skater and has great offensive skills. His defensive game needs some work, but it has been improving. This is another pick which Roberto shot for potential and is hoping it pays off.


53rd Overall – D Vladislav Kolyachonok

This is a guy the Sabres really liked and they were extremely delighted he fell to them at 53. This guy can skate, no other way to say it. One of the best skaters in the draft with a nice mix of skills, he can become an impactful player in the pros. He may not be a PP QB and put up a ton of points, but he can become a very reliable, smooth skating transition Dman.


72nd Overall – C Shane Pinto

The biggest surprise of the draft was seeing Shane Pinto falling as much as he did. The Sabres kept an eye on Pinto, they almost selected him at 53, but it’s a good thing they didn’t. Lots of chatter about Pinto was heard. Why is he falling? Where will he end up? Will he ever get selected? Perhaps some GMs forgot he was still on the board, but when it looked like he would no longer be there, Roberto traded for the 72nd overall pick and drafted Shane Pinto, ecstatically. For a guy with his offensive capabilities and what he can do on the ice, it’s a miracle the Sabres were able to draft him at 72.


Danton Heinen

The Sabres also made a move for an NHLer during the draft, acquiring Danton Heinen from the Chicago Blackhawks for what was essentially 2 3rd round picks, a 4th rounder and a 5th rounder (2 deals happened here where the Sabres traded pick 72 for Heinen and then reacquired it to select Pinto). While the deal may look like it was quite the price, those late round picks are no guarantee, and Heinen is already a regular in the NHL. “Thomas informed me about Heinen, and we were in constant communication about him. At first I wasn’t sold on losing some of my early picks for him. But when the draft moved along and he was still available, I knew I had to make the move. Heinen will have an immediate impact in Buffalo and will get an opportunity to play in our Top 6.”


The draft came and went and management is extremely happy with what happened during draft week. The Sabres were able to bring in a top pairing defenseman, a top 6 winger and the draft’s top ranked goalie prospect. Buffalo seemed to have gone for high potential players in the draft, so it’s a waiting game on whether they will turn out. These picks can either look like brilliant moves, or the type of picks that give you nothing to show for it. On top of that, Roberto did a good job this year focusing on his pro roster as well as the draft. The Sabres will look a little different next season with the influx of talent they will be getting.