The 2014 NHL draft could well be the turning point for the Buffalo Sabres.
The franchise this season went full tilt into rebuilding mode, auctioning off anyone even close to NHL ready in the name of stocking up for the future. The team already had the top-rated system heading into this week’s draft, and NHL experts believe they only got better.
With the No. 2 overall pick the Sabres selected Sam Reinhart, who many believed was the best prospect in the entire draft. They later grabbed the steal of the 2014 NHL draft when Brendan Lemieux, son of former NHL player Claude Lemieux, somehow fell to the second round.
With Lemieux the Sabres have a talented player with a big chip on his shoulder after watching all 30 teams pass him by.
“I’m definitely to love going in their arenas and really making it hard on their guys because they decided to pass me over, so I’m just going to use this as fuel,” he said after the draft. “They gave one of the more fiery guys in the draft, I’d like to say, a lot more fire.”
Much of the change for the Sabres comes from general manager Tim Murray, who took over for the fired Darcy Reiger by completely revamping the team’s scout evaluation system. Murray also made some difficult roster moves that could pay off in the future, like unloading franchise goaltender Ryan Miller to stock up on draft picks.
That is already paying off. Hockey experts have given the Buffalo Sabres the highest marks in the 2014 NHL draft, with several rating their picks as an A.
Murray is making an impression around the league.
“He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, as you know,” Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, Tim’s uncle and former boss, said after the draft. “It looked like just watching and talking to a few people, it looked to me like they were organized, knew what they wanted and went about doing it. There’s no question in my mind Tim’s an outstanding evaluator, and that team will turn around fairly quickly.”
There will be more roster moves on the way for the Buffalo Sabres. Shortly after the 2014 NHL draft ended, Murray announced that the team was parting ways with defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who wanted out of the team.