Kevin Devine joined Kevin Sylvester and guest co-host Paul Hamilton on Sabres Hockey Hotline on Wednesday to provide some insight into how the Buffalo Sabres scouting department prepares for the NHL Draft. Devine, the director of amateur scouting, is in New York City with the other scouts to finalize their lists for the 2013 draft that starts Sunday at 3 p.m. in Newark, N.J.
At the time of the interview, Devine was in meetings to discuss prospects that are likely to be taken in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. Some players projected to be picked in those rounds attended a combine in Buffalo in early June.
“It’s like the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of our time is spent on the 20 percent of the top guys in the draft,” Devine said. “Most of our time is spent on the first two rounds and then, like today, we’ll get those late round guys in order, hopefully.”
Sabres general manager Darcy Regier stated in a press conference Thursday that moving up to obtain one of the top four or five picks in this year’s draft will be “extremely difficult, if not impossible.” Devine reiterated that some teams ahead of them in the draft order are pretty much set on making a selection in their current position.
“I think people are going to sit tight, knowing that they’re probably locked in on one or two or three players,” Devine said.
Devine also said that teams have inquired about the availability of Buffalo’s top pick at eighth overall.
Many teams are likely unwilling to part with a top pick because of the perceived depth of this year’s draft class. Throughout the pre-draft process, Devine has spoken very highly about this crop of prospects.
“I think it is the best draft since I became head scout of the Sabres six or seven years ago now,” Devine said. “…It’s definitely a good draft. It’s a deep draft. So teams that in earlier years wouldn’t get a great player in the late [stages of] the first are going to get a good one this year.”
There have been many comparisons made to the 2003 draft, when 16 players selected in the first round went on to become NHL All-Stars. Buffalo selected left wing Thomas Vanek with the fifth-overall pick that year. Devine was still working in pro scouting at the time, and while he remembers the 2003 draft well, he said it is tough to compare the two classes.
For some international prospects, like right wing Valeri Nichushkin, playing in the KHL in Russia over the NHL is an option. Devine said that teams will have to weigh that carefully when they put their lists together. It will be one of the discussions the scouts will have with Regier when he arrives in New York on Wednesday.
Nichushkin is ranked No. 2 among international skaters by NHL Central Scouting and is likely to be selected within the first 10 picks.
“Obviously he’s a big talent, but there are a lot of good players at eight there, too. It’s not like there’s a huge significant difference that if you do take a pass on him,” Devine said. “But you can’t deny he’s 6-foot-4, he can fly and he’s got a lot of talent, so it’s definitely going to be in the discussion here over the next three or four days.”
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