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POSTED ON Saturday, 06.28.2014 / 1:24 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

Buffalo went back into the high school ranks for their 151st selection with Christopher Brown, the son of former NHLer Doug Brown. A center from Cranbrook Kingswood in Michigan, Brown accumulated a ridiculous 84 points (26+58) in 28 games this season. Brown has committed to Boston College, and is expected to play with the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers in 2014-15. His uncle, Greg, is a coach at BC and was drafted by the Sabres in 1986.

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POSTED ON Saturday, 06.28.2014 / 12:32 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

After having the fourth round off, Buffalo used their lone pick in the fifth round (121st overall) to take Max Willman, a left winger from Williston-North Hampton High School in Massachusetts. Willman, who will attend Brown University in the fall, had 44 points (21+23) in 25 games this season.

WATCH: WILLMAN MEDIA SCRUM

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POSTED ON Saturday, 06.28.2014 / 11:39 AM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

The Sabres went for a goalie with their first of two picks in round three, going to Sweden for 6-foot-4 Jonas Johansson at number 61 overall. Johansson, the second-ranked European goalie by Central Scouting, spent most of the 2013-14 season with Brynas of the Swedish junior league, posting a 2.32 GAA and .911 save%.

Brycen Martin became Buffalo’s first defenseman selected, as they took him with the 74th overall pick. The 6-foot-1 Martin finished second among defensemen on Swift Current with 37 points (6+31) in 72 games, while playing alongside Julius Honka (14th overall, DAL) on the Broncos’ blueline.

WATCH: MARTIN MEDIA SCRUM

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POSTED ON Saturday, 06.28.2014 / 10:57 AM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

The Sabres owned three picks in the second round to start day two of the 2014 NHL Draft. With the first pick of the second round, Buffalo opened the day’s proceedings by taking left winger Brendan Lemieux from the OHL’s Barrie Colts with the 31st overall selection. Brendan had a team-leading 145 PIMs along with 53 points (27+26) last season, and is the son of former NHLer Claude Lemieux.

WATCH: LEMIEUX MEDIA SCRUM

Buffalo then traded pick 39 to Washington in exchange for the Capitals’ 44th and 74th picks this year. With the 44th pick, the Sabres selected Eric Cornel, a centerman from the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. Cornel finished third in team scoring in 2013-14 with 62 points (25+37) in 68 games, often lining up alongside Nick Ritchie on the top line.

WATCH: CORNEL MEDIA SCRUM

With their third and final pick of the second round at 49th overall, the Sabres grabbed left winger Vaclav Karabacek. In 65 games with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL last season, the native of the Czech Republic had 21 goals and 47 points, good for fifth in league rookie scoring.

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POSTED ON Friday, 06.27.2014 / 7:30 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

The wait is finally over - the Buffalo Sabres selected forward Sam Reinhart with the second overall pick in the 2014 Entry Draft.



Reinhart led Kootenay with 105 points (36-69—105) in 60 games during the 2013-14 season, tying for fourth overall in the Western Hockey League with Leon Draisaitl (No. 4-ranked North American Skater) of the Prince Albert Raiders.

He also led his team with 23 points in 13 playoff games (6-17—23), advancing three rounds before Kootenay fell to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Conference Championship.

AUDIO: REINHART REACTS TO BEING DRAFTED


EXPERT ANALYSIS

Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com
There is little flash to Reinhart's game, but the lack of sizzle is made up with consistent smarts, vision and character that puts the productive pivot among the elite forwards in the 2014 draft class. He can slow it down and speed it up, and his ability to see open passing lanes is a skill that cannot be taught.

The Hockey News
On a disappointing Canadian WJC team, Reinhart was one of the best and more consistent forwards, behind Ottawa Curtis Lazar. “He’s so smart that it makes up for his weaknesses,” said one scout. “He takes away space and uses his angles. He’s a good enough skater, deadly on the power play and his linemates get five or six chances a game because of him.


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POSTED ON Friday, 06.27.2014 / 12:25 AM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

A lot has changed since Larry Playfair was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 1978.

When Playfair was selected 13th overall by the Sabres that year, the 22-round Amateur Draft was held in a ballroom at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. (This was the last draft to be referred to as the Amateur Draft. It became known as the Entry Draft in 1979.)

There was no television coverage or social media. There were no prospects or fans in the room, just representatives from the league’s 17 teams.

When the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft takes place on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the building will be full of aspiring NHLers and their families, and fans will be able to watch the live television broadcast in the United States and Canada.

The draft is now just a seven-round affair, with rounds two through seven expected to be rundown in under four hours on Saturday starting at 10 a.m.

More than 14,000 free tickets were available for both days of this year’s draft, and they were gone instantly. There’s now a waiting list in Philadelphia for people to come watch future hockey players not play hockey in a building with no ice.

Playfair, who grew up in British Columbia, recently shared his draft day experience with Sabres.com. It really goes to show just how much the draft process has changed in 36 years.

“My agent Peter Smith called me at 7:30 a.m. (PDT) to let me know I’d been drafted.

I borrowed my mom’s car and left the house to go tell my dad. He worked for the town as the superintendent, and I found him fixing someone’s water line about three blocks away.

Later on that morning, I was out at a friend’s shop changing the motor in my pick-up truck when the office called the shop. It was around 12:30 p.m., and they announced over the shop’s PA system that Sabres GM Punch Imlach was on the phone and he wanted to talk to me.

The first reporter I spoke to that day was Warner Hessler from The Courier-Express; he called me on the phone later that afternoon.”

Playfair went on to play 688 games over 12 seasons with Buffalo and Los Angeles.

 
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POSTED ON Thursday, 06.26.2014 / 5:29 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

PHILADELPHIA – The blockbuster trade that saw Wayne Gretzky go from Edmonton to Los Angeles in 1988 sent shockwaves through the sports world. It also made hockey cool in Southern California, spawning the growth of the game at all levels. One of the residual effects from that growth should hear his name called in the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday night.

Thatcher Demko, NHL Central Scouting’s top-rated goalie, was born seven years after the Gretzky trade in San Diego. He grew up playing minor hockey for the San Diego Junior Gulls and Los Angeles Junior Kings. The 6-foot-4 Demko is now a standout at Boston College, and is expected to be the starter for Team USA at the 2015 World Junior Championship.

Demko, who still calls San Diego home, is the first to admit that without the Gretzky trade, there’s probably a very good chance he’d be doing something else.

“I remember my dad telling me that before Gretzky came, there was no hockey in the state,” Demko said on Thursday. “Then there was that boom so to speak when he got there, and clubs started forming. You’ve got to think that without him coming to Los Angeles, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into hockey.”

Demko credits his father, Brenton, – who has dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship – for instilling his passion for hockey.

“Ever since I can remember I’ve always wanted to play goalie, but I couldn’t tell you why,” Demko said with a smile. “It was my dad who gave me that kick into the sport that I needed. He has supported me ever since, always buying me gear. He was always trying to find me the cheapest gear that he could when I was growing up, probably so he could still pay the mortgage. He was always doing what he could for me to play, and I still appreciate that.”

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POSTED ON Thursday, 06.26.2014 / 4:49 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / 2014 NHL DRAFT

PHILADELPHIA Two years ago, Leon Draisaitl hadn’t even heard of a city called Prince Albert. That didn’t stop him from packing his bags and moving from Germany to play junior hockey in third-largest city in the Western Canada province of Saskatchewan.

“I knew quite a bit about the Western Hockey League,” Draisaitl said during Thursday’s media availability at The National Constitution Center. “But to be honest, I didn’t even know there was a city named ‘P-A.’ That was something else for sure when I finally got there”

The move has paid off for Draisaitl, who is ranked as NHL Central Scouting’s fourth-best prospect heading into Friday’s Entry Draft. After collecting 58 points in his 64-game rookie campaign in 2012-13, the big centerman led the Prince Albert Raiders in scoring this season with 38 goals and 105 points in 64 games.

Looking back on the move, Draisaitl said he has no regrets on leaving home as a 16-year-old to play hockey in North America.

“I had some offers from Finland, Sweden and Germany. So there was a possibility to stay there and probably make more money. But for me personally it’s not about the money. It’s about developing myself and getting better. And the best way for me to do that was definitely in Canada.”

There could be another move in Draisaitl’s immediate future following Friday night, but where it will be is anyone’s guess right now. Regardless of what team selects him, the confident 18-year-old believes he could step into the NHL as early as next season.

“I have a lot of respect for the NHL and what the level of hockey is like. But if I work hard and get better at certain things – I’m kind of lacking in some strength – I think I’m ready.”

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POSTED ON Saturday, 03.22.2014 / 7:35 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / BEYOND THE BOARDS
Nathan Lieuwen

VANCOUVER – Good luck trying to wipe the smile off Nathan Lieuwen’s face.

The 22-year-old was born and raised less than an hour away in Abbotsford, BC. On Sunday he’ll be the starting goaltender at Rogers Arena facing the Vancouver Canucks, the team he grew up cheering for.

Lieuwen was grinning from ear-to-ear when he spoke with reporters following today’s practice.

“It’s incredible. Obviously this past week has been a whirlwind for me. This is just pretty special,” said Lieuwen, who was sporting a freshly shorn buzzcut. “The Canucks were my team growing up. It’ll be cool to play in this building.”

Sunday’s homecoming will cap off a wild first week of NHL action for Lieuwen. After playing on consecutive nights with the Rochester Americans, Lieuwen was recalled to Buffalo last Sunday when Michal Neuvirth went down with a lower body injury. He was then thrust into action that night against Montreal when Jhonas Enroth suffered a leg injury late in the second period. That was followed by his first career start in Calgary on Tuesday, where he made 23 saves in a 3-1 loss, after holding the Flames scoreless through the first 38:58 of action.

With everything that he’s gone through in the last seven days, Lieuwen says he’ll have to rely on his training and preparation to maintain his focus against the Canucks.

“I’ve just gotta kind of block it out. There’s obviously going to be a lot of emotions, and a lot of extra stuff that could creep into my head. I’ve just got to stay focused on my process and what I have to do on the ice. If I stay focused on that I’ll be fine.”


Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan had anticipated having Neuvirth back Sunday, but said today the goaltender had a slight setback in his recovery process.

“We’re trying something different. He’s been feeling really good, and then he goes on the ice and it doesn’t feel well. We’ll try to keep him off until he feels over 100 percent, and then we’ll put him back on.”

Nolan also said that Matt Hackett, coming off his first NHL win in two years, will get the start in Montreal on Tuesday.


Nolan said there won’t be any lineup changes on Sunday, which means that Ville Leino will be scratched for a second straight game.

There was one minor line swap at today’s practice. Matt Ellis was shifted to a line with Matt D’Agostini and Brian Flynn, while rookie Nicolas Deslauriers was dropped back to the right wing on a line with Zenon Konopka and John Scott.

Deslauriers is pointless in eight games with the Sabres since coming over in the deadline day deal that sent Brayden McNabb to Los Angeles. Nolan believes it’s simply time to reel in the 23-year-old Deslauriers a bit.

It’s like anything else, you don’t want to give a young player too much, too soon. He has eight games in the NHL and it’s all about development. Truth being told, if we were a healthier group he wouldn’t be here right now. It is what it is. It’s up to us to watch and monitor. You don’t want to put a kid in a position of failure; you want to put him in a position of success. We’ll taper him back a little bit. I like his game, but we’ve got to get back to the basics with him and develop him."


SUNDAY’S PROJECTED LINES
Marcus Foligno
Tyler EnnisDrew Stafford
Cory Conacher
Cody HodgsonTorrey Mitchell
Matt Ellis
Brian Flynn – Matt D’Agostini
John Scott
Zenon KonopkaNicolas Deslauriers

DEFENSE PAIRS
Christian Ehrhoff
Rasmus Ristolainen
Jamie McBain
Mike Weber
Chad Ruhwedel
Henrik Tallinder

GOALIES
Nathan Lieuwen
Matt Hackett

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POSTED ON Friday, 03.21.2014 / 2:52 PM
By Kevin Snow - Sabres.com (@kwsnow) / BEYOND THE BOARDS

When I woke up on Tuesday morning in Calgary, there was a text message waiting for me from my sister, Michelle. Since she lives 90 minutes away, we were hoping to use this road trip as a chance to get together.

So far, you’re reading this and thinking – big deal. A guy on a business trip trying to coordinate a visit with his sister. Happens all the time, right?

Not with Michelle and I. Because until Tuesday night, we’d never met before.

And how is this possible?

I was adopted.

I was born in July, 1969 in Calgary, Alberta, and my adoption was finalized almost immediately. Less than a year later, my parents relocated to Toronto. This trip to Calgary was the first time I’d been back “home” since that time.

Being an adopted child has never been an issue for me. For as long as I can remember, my parents made it seem like something special. I can still remember seeing the announcement card in my baby book that proclaimed “I wasn’t expected, I was selected.” People would regularly comment that my brown hair and darker features didn’t jibe with my younger brother’s blonde hair and fair skin. I’d simply say, “I was adopted.” While I didn’t know what it really meant, I was proud to share the news with anyone who’d listen.

To this day, it still makes me laugh when people say that I look like my mother or act like my father. And speaking of my parents, I couldn’t have asked for two more supporting and loving people. Whether it was my dad being my baseball and hockey coach for all those years, or my mom encouraging me every step of the way as I searched my for birth mother, they are the ones clearly responsible for who I am today.

But when it came to my personal growth, a few things started to change as I got older.

The youthful innocence of being an adopted child started to give way to questions from a curious teenager. Who do I look like? What’s my ethnic background?

Some of this information actually came to light when I did a class project on adoption in grade 13. My mother had some adoption documents that she shared with me, with the most revealing being that my ethnic background was primarily German. This immediately debunked my long-held theory that I was part Italian. Regardless, it was a start.

***

As any expectant parent knows, the early stages of pregnancy involve numerous doctor visits. A staple of these visits are the personal questions that must be asked in order to ensure the baby’s health. When my wife became pregnant with our daughter, those were the questions that spurred me to pursue more information about my family history.

With every passing visit, my frustration grew. It was easy for Christine to answer questions about her family’s medical history, but for me it always came down to the same answer: “I don’t know. I was adopted.”

Shortly after my daughter, Alexandra, was born in July, 2002, I contacted an adoption agency in Alberta to initiate the search for my birth parents. Up until that point, Alex was the first and only blood relative I’d ever known. I wanted that to change.

***

The highs and lows of the next few years were unbelievable. Much to my surprise, the social worker assigned to my case was able to locate my birth mother within a matter of months. However, this didn’t result in immediate contact between the two of us. Instead, the social worker would act as a third party, relaying questions and answers between the two of us via email.

In all the communication I was having with my birth mother, the one thing I always tried to stress was that I wasn’t in this for anything other than trying to learn more about my past. I wasn’t looking for a new family and to become best friends. I’d grown up in a healthy and happy home, and this was more about me just trying to fill in some of the blanks in my life. And if she had ever wondered over the years, I also wanted her to know that I’d done alright for myself over the years: great parents, plenty of friends, and now a beautiful wife and daughter.

But it wasn’t going to be that simple. Just when I’d take one step forward with her, she’d go two in the other direction. She’d explained that there were some personal and family issues that were hanging over her, and she wasn’t 100 percent comfortable in continuing the process. As much as it frustrated me, I had to respect her wishes. This would delay things for months at a time. The social worker would stay in regular contact with me, but unreturned emails and phone calls to her by my birthmother had us in a holding pattern.

As the process played out over several more months, I’d also asked the social worker to let me know if she came across any information about my birth mother’s children. This unexpectedly resulted in my contact with Michelle.

The social worker spoke to Michelle and gave her my contact info. Our first phone conversation lasted three hours. I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly what we talked about; because it was more like what didn’t we talk about.

Through Facebook and emails, Michelle and I have kept in contact ever since then. It was a learning process for both of us, but one that we were both comfortable with. We’d often say how it would be great to finally meet in person some day, but were never able to make any firm plans.

***

Fast forward to Tuesday.

Knowing I’d be tight for time during the day, and that we were flying to Edmonton immediately after the game, I offered to get Michelle tickets to the game. A few text messages later, everything was all set. Michelle was coming to the game, and bringing her two daughters along for the ride. As the kids like to say these days, things were about to get real!

We’d hoped to see each other before the game, but Michelle was delayed by traffic. Our final plan was in place: I would come find them during the first intermission.

As you can imagine, the first period was a blur for me. It was 1-0 Buffalo, but the score could’ve been 7-6 in the greatest period in NHL history and I couldn’t have cared less. With every second that ticked off the clock, I just kept thinking, “I’m about to meet my sister.” As the period came to a close, I got up and started making the walk from the press box to section 228 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Anyone who’s tried to navigate an arena concourse during intermission knows what I was about to deal with. But in a way, the congested mass of humanity served as something of a distraction for me as I searched for Michelle and her daughters.

That’s not to say I wasn’t thinking about anything. My brain was moving a mile a minute. I’d thought about this moment so many times, and I still had no idea what was about to happen. How am I supposed to react when we first meet? What do I say? What if we don’t hit it off? You name it, I was thinking it.

Then it happened. I spotted the sign for 228, and turned to my left. While moving quickly through the crowd, I spotted a pair of familiar brunettes out of the corner of my eye. Until now I’d only known them from emailed pictures and Facebook photos. But I recognized Michelle’s daughters, Myranda and Jayden, instantly. Standing right next to them was Michelle. My sister.

What happened next? Couldn’t tell you. Pretty sure I made some awkward attempt at saying hi. Then we hugged.

After that, the four of us stood and talked for at least an hour. What about? Everything. Just like that first phone call several years ago, the conversation flowed as easy as I’d hoped it would. Michelle even took a jab at me for having an “American accent.”

And while I’m horrible for spotting familial resemblances between men and women, I could definitely see glimpses of my daughter in both Myranda and Jayden. Not just physical attributes, but personality as well. I could definitely see the three of them getting along famously some day.

As much as I could’ve talked with Michelle and her daughters all night long, I reluctantly told them I had to head back upstairs to the press box. We hugged again, and I thanked her for making the drive up on such short notice so that we could finally get together.

“Are you kidding me? I left work early today,” Michelle said. “I told everyone I was leaving to go meet my brother.”

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