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PHILADELPHIA – Brendan Lemieux didn’t think he’d end up in Buffalo after his combine interview with the Sabres in May.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray and the hockey department asked tough questions and many of the prospects coming out of those meetings said Buffalo was one of the harder interviews in the League.
It turns out Lemieux had similar feelings.
“I thought it was my worst interview. They weren’t easy on me but I guess they liked the way I reacted,” he said after being selected by Buffalo with the first pick of the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft on Saturday.
Partly because of that interview, Buffalo wasn’t really on his radar entering the draft.
“I was one of those guys trying to figure out for a long time where I was going to go. You don’t know and nobody really knew but I had no idea,” he said. “I had no idea I would drop out of the first round. I had no idea I’d be picked this morning. I walked in the arena like two minutes before I got picked. I had no idea.”
While Lemieux may have been disappointed with his performance in that combine interview, Murray liked what he heard.
“I know that he felt that. We didn’t feel that. We felt that it was outstanding. We made it uncomfortable for him a little bit, fairly,” he said. “We went after him a little bit about his relationship with teammates and different things. So I assume he didn’t think that Buffalo was going to draft him at all.
“And that’s how some interviews go. He thought it was tough and we thought it was great. We thought he responded very well to some tough questions.”
Murray said he also challenged first-round pick Sam Reinhart during the interview process and rehashed some of those conversations on Saturday.
“I didn’t get involved in a lot of interviews. I did on Reinhart. I asked him about that today. I questioned him on leadership and different things that he responded very well [to],” he said. “I questioned Lemieux on his character and how he gets along with teammates and different things like that and I thought that he responded well too. But I could see that he thought it was a tough one maybe.”
Murray said that the Sabres had Lemieux in their Top 30 and that the combination of his tenacious style and offensive upside made him a very appealing prospect.
Lemieux, who models his game after his father Claude – an infamous agitator – is going to use the perceived slight of being passed on in the first round as extra motivation to progress his career.
“Definitely I was disappointed. I expected to be a first-round pick and never even really looked at the second round,” he said. “But that being said, things have a way of working out and I think it could be a blessing in disguise that I had to wait it out. I’m proud to be picked with the first pick of the second round and I’m just going to use it as fuel now.”
PHILADELPHIA -- Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray wasted no time making the second-overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. He didn’t thank anyone or make a long speech. He announced the selection of center Sam Reinhart and stepped away from the podium.
“It was good. I liked it,” Reinhart said. “Didn’t stall at all. It shows the confidence he has in me and makes me feel better.”
Murray didn’t see any reason to take more time up on the stage.
“He was the first player on our list,” Murray said. “You shouldn’t hesitate when you’re getting the first player on your list.”
Murray said he’s been scouting Reinhart since the day he took the general manager’s job in Buffalo back in January. He had a trip planned to watch Reinhart play in Western Canada right away.
It’s Reinhart’s vision and hockey smarts that separated him from the other top prospects in the draft.
“Hockey sense, seeing the play three, four, five seconds before it happens, which most good players, I’d say it’s a couple seconds or whatever fractions you want to use. And I just think he has an ability to make wingers better,” Murray said. So now our job is to make sure that we have the proper guys to play with him.”
Reinhart’s next visit to Buffalo will be his first.
“I’ve never been to Buffalo so I’m pretty excited about it. Before they had the pick, I saw some of the city [in an intro video on the video board] so I’m looking forward to it.”
He’ll be in town for the team’s development camp July 14-18 and Murray said he’ll be involved in both that as well as the prospect tournament in Traverse City. Whether he’ll be ready for the NHL come October will depend on how he progresses.
“He’s a young prospect so he has a big summer ahead of him,” Murray said. “He’s got a development camp, a rookie tournament and training camp and exhibition games. And he will be judged each and every day of that schedule.”
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Buffalo Sabres had their choice of forwards with the second-overall selection of the 2014 NHL Draft on Friday. They went with center Sam Reinhart, the Western Hockey League's Player of the Year.
What does Reinhart think separated himself from the other top prospects?
“I think the biggest thing is I feel ready to play. It’s a young team. I’m very familiar with the organization and I’ve pictured myself in this uniform for a very long time,” Reinhart said. “I’m very excited and I’m very motivated to step into the League next year with a young team that’s developing very well and to make an impact.”
Reinhart said that Buffalo was one of his most challenging interviews and that they really pushed him with their questions.
“They did and I think that’s only positive for them to do that,” he said. “It gives you a lot of confidence in them and with what they can do in those sorts of interviews. I’m thrilled and happy and I’m very thankful that they selected me.”
After his junior season wrapped up, Reinhart joined Team Canada for their training camp in Switzerland as they prepared for the IIHF World Championship. He was able to meet Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers and get a first-hand look at the professional lifestyle.
He’s studied up on the Sabres organization over the past few months and knows he’s going to have to work hard to make the team in the fall.
“It’s not going to be given to me right away,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to step in and make an impact and take advantage of every opportunity.”
PHILADELPHIA – All is quiet on the trade front, according to Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray.
During his availability with the media Friday morning prior to the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft, Murray acknowledged that he’s tried to make some trades but no one around the League is returning phone calls.
The Sabres hold the second-overall pick in the draft and based on the conversations he’s had with his counterparts, it looks like Murray will use that pick.
WATCH: TIM MURRAY ADDRESSES THE MEDIA
“As of right now? Yeah. I have no other options right now so that’s my plan,” he said.
Murray said he’s tried to make some moves that would bring veteran players to Buffalo who can help change the culture and bring skill to the lineup. However, it doesn’t look like those talks are gaining any traction at the moment.
“[With] the amount of talking that we’ve done in the last three weeks, for it to come to down to this and look like that we may not do anything, I don’t know if it’s disappointing,” Murray said.
“I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been around this a long time but it’s quiet. I think a lot of people, including myself, did a lot of tire kicking. And I thought I did more than tire kicking. I said there must be a blockbuster going on because no one’s reaching out to us right now anymore.”
He said he has received some calls inquiring about younger players in the organization, although he feels like every GM is getting similar calls.
“I’m not shopping our players,” he said. “And truthfully, I have gotten some calls on a couple of our players and I said, ‘I’ll listen.’ I’m not going to be extremely aggressive in trading young guys that we feel we can go forward with. But in saying that, I have to listen so I have listened to some of those.”
Murray hopes things will pick up once all of the GMs arrive at Wells Fargo Center in the 5 p.m. hour for the first round. But that might not give him enough time to accomplish everything he’d like.
“I’ve talked to three GMs this morning, but even late last night around 11 o’clock, I got a couple of calls and I guess we ask the same questions to each other, ‘Is anything going on?’” he said. “They’re telling me they’ve got nothing going on. I’ve had a lot of irons in the fire. That doesn’t mean nothing will happen.
“…But I have a couple of really complicated ideas so I don’t know if I can execute them in an hour. But we’ve got good people here so we’ll get it done if something happens.”
Those conversations – or lack thereof – however, don’t look to have much of an effect on Murray’s quest to acquire another pick later in the first round. He said that trade, if it comes to fruition, will happen on the draft floor.
The first round begins at 7 p.m. on Friday and can be seen on NBCSN in the U.S. and on TSN and RDS in Canada. Stay tuned to Sabres.com for complete coverage throughout the night.
PHILADELPHIA – Even with a nagging shoulder injury, Jake Virtanen put together a fine season for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League.
The left wing scored a team-high 45 goals and then went on to help Team Canada win bronze at the Under-18 World Championship in Finland, tying for the team lead in points.
Virtanen had surgery in May to repair his partially dislocated left shoulder and was thus unable to partake in the fitness testing at the NHL Combine at the end of the month.
He said he first sustained the injury in the middle of the season but re-injured it sometime after and then again in the playoffs. When the combination of rest and rehab wasn’t working well enough, he elected to have surgery to repair the torn labrum once his season ended after much discussion with his family and agent.
Virtanen is NHL Central Scouting’s sixth-ranked North American skater and is expected to be a Top 10 pick Friday night.
He hopes to be ready by mid-October and he doesn’t think that his recovery will negatively impact his draft stock.
“I’ve told quite a few people that with the technology nowadays, I think that won’t hurt me,” Virtanen said on Thursday. “They have some great doctors and I know I had my surgery by great doctors. I think it won’t hurt me too much.”
Doctors have told him that he’ll be able to do all of the things after rehab that he could prior to the surgery.
“I’m doing great. I think my shoulder’s done really well so far and my doctor has said it’s one of the best-looking shoulders from rehab he’s seen,” Virtanen said. “So that’s good news and I’m happy about that news. It’s something you can look at and say I can only get healthy from this.”
PHILADELPHIA – Even though Anthony DeAngelo lives right across the bridge in New Jersey, the NHL has booked him a hotel room in Philadelphia as the NHL Draft approaches.
The first round will take place on Friday at Wells Fargo Center and for the past few days, the players eligible for the draft have been able to explore the city. However, even though he only lives 20 minutes away, DeAngelo has been about as much a tourist as the other prospects.
“I don’t know if I’ve been the tour guide as much. They’ve just had me mic’ed up,” the Sarnia Sting defenseman said on Thursday. “I was kind of doing some touring of my own. I don’t tour very much, so the Philadelphia museum, the Rocky steps, all that kind of stuff, it was my first time doing it too.”
DeAngelo said he’s going to have over 100 people in attendance at the draft and hopefully they’ll get to hear his name called Friday night. He said having friends, family and old coaches and teammates there will make it that much more special.
The sightseeing tour on Wednesday included stops at those infamous Rocky stairs, meals at Pat’s and Geno’s Cheesesteaks, a look around the Betsy Ross House and a Philadelphia Phillies game.
Before the ballgame, some players were able to partake in batting practice. Was anyone able to hit a home run?
“Oh no. No. Not even close,” left wing prospect Michael Dal Colle said. “I hit it pretty far, but I’m not a power hitter, I’ll tell you that.”
PHILADELPHIA – While next year’s NHL Draft will feature high-profile names like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, one player in this year’s class wants to make sure no one is sleeping on his peers.
“I think some people are overlooking this class, looking at the next year probably,” Oshawa Generals forward Michael Dal Colle said on Thursday. “But I think there are a lot of great players in this draft and to be honest with you, in my opinion, it’s a very strong draft year.”
Dal Colle, a 6-foot-2, 182-pound left wing, finished his season in Oshawa with 39 goals and 95 points in 67 games.
NHL Central Scouting ranked him the fifth-best North American skater and he – along with defenseman Aaron Ekblad and centers Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl – is expected to be a top pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, which begins Friday night.
That no one has really separated himself from the pack as the clear-cut first (or even second or third) overall pick has led to more intrigue when it comes to this class. For the players eligible to be selected, it’s added a bit more anxiety as well.
“I think in this draft particularly, it’s kind of a weird draft because there’s not really a consensus No. 1 right?” Dal Colle said. “If you look at mocks, they have about four different guys going No. 1 and I think there’s a lot of speculation.
“You never know if Florida’s going to trade the pick. You never know if teams that are way back want to trade up and I think it’s a weird draft. I think you can see a lot of moves tomorrow. So that’s what makes it a little more nerve-wracking for us.”
PHILADELPHIA – While he would like to go first overall in the NHL Draft, Sam Bennett isn’t going to lose much sleep Friday night if he ends up being selected a few picks later. He knows he'll face the same challenges as other prospects no matter where's he's picked.
“I think about it a little bit but I don’t think it’s that important in the end. It is just a number and everyone’s going to be in the same spot come training camp,” the Kingston Frontenacs center said Thursday afternoon. “You’re all going to have to still make the team. But obviously it would be pretty special to be that top guy.”
Bennett is NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater and has been very busy in the past month. He celebrated his 18th birthday on June 20.
Bennett said he’s been training constantly and has had more meetings with teams. He’s also taken part in special events with the other top prospects.
He, along with Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl and Michael Dal Colle attended Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals and on Thursday, some of the top prospects took a tour of Philadelphia. Stops included meals at Pat’s and Geno’s Cheesesteaks, a run up the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and batting practice at Citizens Bank Park.
He can’t believe that the first round of the NHL Draft is now only one night away.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “This year has gone so fast and to think that I could be drafted tomorrow night, it’s crazy.”
A lot was made at the NHL Combine at May when Bennett was unable to do an overhand pull-up during the fitness testing. However, he’s taken the criticism from some media in stride and has used it as a learning tool for how to deal with the scrutiny that will come with being an NHL player.
“It didn’t bother me too much. I guess I take it as I have more of an advantage over the other players because I got a chance to deal with some criticism at a young age where most people won’t experience that until they’re in the NHL,” he said. It was different, it was new and I took what I could from it.”
The 2014-15 regular-season schedule is out.
Here are some dates to keep an eye on:
- Buffalo has 25 home games on weekends – including Fridays – and holidays. Last season, Buffalo hosted only 16 weekend and holiday games.
- The Sabres open their season at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, Oct. 9 and then head out to Chicago for the Blackhawks’ home opener on Oct. 11.
- Buffalo will play Anaheim in a 3 p.m. home game on Columbus Day (Oct. 13).
- The Toronto Maple Leafs come to First Niagara Center on Nov. 15 and April 1.
- Before Thanksgiving, check out the Sabres and Jets on Wednesday, Nov. 26.
- Buffalo will face the defending Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings at home on Dec. 9.
- Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a match between Buffalo and Tampa Bay at 6 p.m.
- All-Star Weekend will be held on Jan. 24-25 in Columbus this season.
- Right after the break, Buffalo will head West for games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. They then go right to Montreal before a five-game homestand from Feb. 7-15.
- The Sabres will then have five road games in a row from Feb. 28-March 11 with stops in Florida, Tampa, Ottawa, Washington and Toronto.
- Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks return to town on April 3.
- The home portion of the regular-season schedule ends on April 11 when the Penguins come to town.
- On Saturday, the NHL will announce the date of each club’s home opener.
- The full NHL schedule is set to be released Sunday afternoon.
- On Monday, the Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its Class of 2014. Former Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek is eligible for induction this year. Hasek was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in April and will have his No. 39 retired during the 2014-15 season.
- On Thursday, the NHL Board of Governors will meet in New York City.
- On Friday, June 27, the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft will begin at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
- Round 2 will begin on Saturday, June 28 at 10 a.m.
Stay tuned to Sabres.com for developments on all fronts.