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Sabres stock up on centers in NHL draft

Friday, 06.22.2012 / 10:05 PM / News
Associated Press
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Sabres stock up on centers in NHL draft

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - The Buffalo Sabres took a bold approach in addressing their biggest need by stocking up on centers in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday night.

After selecting Russian Mikhail Grigorenko with the 12th pick, the Sabres made a trade with Calgary to draft Latvian Zemgus Girgensons with the 14th pick. Buffalo sent its second first-round pick, 21st overall, and the first of its two second-round selections, 42nd overall, to the Flames.

Grigorenko, listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, played for Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. He led the league's rookies with 45 goals and 85 points in 59 games despite dealing with an illness at the end of the season.

Girgensons, 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, has spent the past three seasons playing in North America. Last season, his second with Dubuque of the U.S. Hockey League, he led the team with 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) in 49 games, with six of his goals game-winners.

Grigorenko has the potential to be ready to play in the NHL next season. Girgensons has committed to play at Vermont.

The Sabres made no secret of their intention to improve their center position either in the draft or packaging one or more of their top four draft picks in a trade to acquire an experienced player.

Selecting Grigorenko was a departure in philosophy for the Sabres, who were among several NHL teams that had avoided drafting Russian players in recent years because of a fear of having them stay home to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Both general manager Darcy Regier and chief amateur scout Kevin Devine had repeated those concerns earlier this week regarding what assurances they could get from any of the top three Russian prospects available in the draft.

"There are no assurances," Devine said. "No matter what they say, it's very hard to predict."

Grigorenko's stock dropped in the draft, as NHL Central Scouting had him ranked third among North American skaters. One reason he fell was a result of a big run on defensemen. Eight were taken in the first 10 picks.

The Sabres were among the NHL's biggest flops last season in missing the playoffs for the third time in five years. Expectations had been high in Buffalo after the Sabres went on a high-priced shopping spree last offseason in new owner Terry Pegula's bid to build an immediate contender.

Those hopes unraveled due to a rash of injuries and a lack of chemistry. Despite closing the season with a 15-5-4 run, Buffalo dug itself too big of a mid-season hole to climb out of in finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Buffalo owns six picks on Saturday, when rounds 2-7 will be held.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Hodgson 72 20 24 -26 44
T. Ennis 80 21 22 -25 43
D. Stafford 70 16 18 -19 34
C. Ehrhoff 79 6 27 -27 33
C. Stewart 63 15 11 0 26
C. Conacher 79 7 19 1 26
T. Myers 62 9 13 -26 22
Z. Girgensons 70 8 14 -6 22
M. Foligno 74 7 12 -17 19
J. McBain 69 6 11 -13 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 4 8 2 .921 2.78
J. Enroth 4 17 5 .911 2.82