Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Yes, the Buffalo Sabres have the first overall pick on Friday when the 2021 NHL Draft gets underway, but there’s much more than that. Buffalo has two picks in the second round, including the 53rd overall pick from the Boston Bruins courtesy of the Taylor Hall trade.
They don’t have their own pick in the third round, because they traded it to the New York Rangers for Jimmy Vesey. The Sabres do have two picks in the third round. They have the Florida Panthers' pick that they got for Brandon Montour, as well as the Montreal Canadiens' pick for Eric Staal.
The Sabres have their own fourth round pick and Montreal’s fifth round pick, which they also acquired in the Staal deal. The New Jersey Devils have Buffalo’s fifth round pick from the Wayne Simmonds trade in 2020.
The Sabres have their own sixth round pick and the Colorado Avalanche’s sixth rounder, which they got for goalie Jonas Johansson.
Buffalo has its own seventh round pick, so general manager Kevyn Adams and his staff have 10 picks overall.
Sabres associate general manager Jason Karmanos and director of amateur scouting Jerry Forton will be running the draft for the Sabres. Buffalo has been criticized because many think they only look at video and don’t have scouts looking at players in person. Forton said they have a very good mix.
“Our staff did an extraordinary job of getting to games, going through COVID protocols, but still finding a way to get to games," Forton said on Thursday. "So I’m very confident that we have extensive live and video coverage.
"We had a World Juniors this year, we had five of our staff members down at the Under-18’s this year. We had great coverage in Europe live, we had great coverage in Canada live, we have four or five scouts covering the U.S. live this year plus we’ve incorporated the video an awful lot and I believe we have two of the best analytic minds in the game of hockey.”
With COVID-19 making players play in different leagues or not play hockey at all, it made scouting very difficult.
“I think this year it is different," Karmanos said. "We always try to project these kids as players and also as people. So we’re trying to think of everything that we’d normally bring to the table in terms of evaluating players, but also given the unique nature of this year, it’s the challenges that they faced and how certain players have faced those challenges. It maybe gives us more of a book on who they are as people.”
This is the first time we’ve gotten a chance to speak with Adams about his new Vice President of Hockey Strategy and Research, Sam Ventura. Adams thinks having one of the top analytics people in the business will help the Sabres keep up in that ever-changing world.
“What you’re trying to do is create a process where you’re learning and getting all of the information of what the data is saying," Adams said. "You’re getting the scouts' input and you’re putting it all together, and sometimes it’s great when it all matches. But sometimes it doesn’t and then you ask, why?
“I think the reality of where we’re going in terms of technology and puck tracking. There’s just so much more that’s coming that I think we’re just scratching the surface of where we’re headed as a league, so we’re going to continue to add to that, because it’s a really important piece of our organization.”
Karmanos has been in Buffalo long enough to know what this organization is all about.
“It’s what I expected when I came in," he said. "I believe we’re in a much better spot than is perceived. We’ve got a young core that we, rightfully so, think very highly of that can be part of our success in the future.
“The teams that win have an incredible amount of depth throughout the organization, and we don’t have that yet. We need the various modes that we have in place to acquire players and find talent, and we need to do a good job in making those decisions.”
Join us for our NHL Draft coverage on Friday beginning at 7 p.m. ET on WGR with Joe DiBiase and Brayton Wilson.