NHL Draft Summary: Sabres and Islanders Hit Home Runs Early

Future Watch: Top 3 picks Connor McDavid (middle), Jack Eichel (right) and Dylan Strome (left) pose for a photo op. AP Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Future Watch: Top 3 picks Connor McDavid (middle), Jack Eichel (right) and Dylan Strome (left) pose for a photo op.
AP Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

The first round of the 2015 NHL Draft was fast moving. Following the Oilers selecting Connor McDavid and the Sabres grabbing Jack Eichel, the Coyotes opted to keep their pick and take Dylan Strome. The younger brother of current Islander Ryan. With Arizona going for Strome, highly touted Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin fell to five where the Hurricanes grabbed him. Prior to Hanifin going to Carolina, the Leafs scored big with scoring forward Mitchell Marner.

With Marner and Hanifin off the board, the Devils went for big Czech center Pavel Zacha. Ironically, a player who idolizes Patrik Elias will get the chance to become a teammate of the all-time franchise scoring leader. He also plays with an edge which should please Devil fans. Zacha plays for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL and put up 34 points (16-18-34) in 37 games.

Rounding out the top 10, the Flyers landed big scoring Russian defenseman Ivan Provorov who TSN’s Bob McKenzie gushed over referring to him as “the best defenseman in the draft.” After failing to trade up for the Coyotes third overall pick, the Jackets also took a blueliner grabbing American Zachary Werenski. One of the Rangers’ trade targets for Cam Talbot, the Sharks instead kept the ninth pick and took forward Timo Meier. With the 10th pick, the Avalanche went for Finn Mikko Rantanen.

While the draft was running smoothly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was busy announcing #WeHaveATrade to the Florida Panthers crowd. The biggest one was made by the Sabres who went big going for center Ryan O’Reilly. The much rumored two-way forward was dealt by Colorado with winger Jamie McGinn to Buffalo for a big package that included former first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher, defenseman Nikita Zadorov and the number 31st overall pick in Round 2.

Such a move was accurately predicted in this space. For the Sabres, it made plenty of sense to acquire someone with O’Reilly’s skill set. Still only 24, he’s been in the league for six years already making the Avs roster as an 18-year old second round pick in 2009. O’Reilly played all 82 games for Colorado tallying 17 goals and 38 assists for 55 points. He has totaled 246 points (90-156-246) in 427 career games.

Once the Avs dealt for former Bruin pivot Carl Soderberg, the writing was on the wall. O’Reilly is signed one more year and will earn $6.2 million. He can turn unrestricted next summer. Buffalo’s plan is to pair him with Eichel forming a dynamic 1-2 center duo. A significant upgrade from buyout candidate Cody Hodgson. Buffalo gave up a ton for O’Reilly. So, I doubt he’s going anywhere. What GM Tim Murray has masterfully done is buy time for 2014 first round pick Sam Reinhart who now won’t have to be rushed.

Don’t forget too that Murray used another first rounder, Brendan Lemieux and Tyler Myers to acquire Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian from Winnipeg. Former Sabre Drew Stafford was also in that deal and is unrestricted July 1. The Jets used the 25th overall pick on American prospect Jack Roslovic. The full deal included Joel Sarmia going to the Jets for goalie Jason Kasdorf.

McGinn isn’t chopped liver either. The 26-year old former Av is a top nine forward with some scoring touch. In 2013-14, he tallied a career high 19 goals with 19 assists for 38 points. However, injuries limited him to just 19 games and six points this past season. He’s due $3 million in 2015-16 and then becomes unrestricted.

With Buffalo now featuring O’Reilly, Kane, Eichel, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson, there’s a lot to like. They also upgraded in net acquiring Robin Lehner who they hope will become the number one goalie they’ve lacked since dealing away Ryan Miller. They were willing to take on David Legwand’s salary with Lehner for the 21st pick which Ottawa spent on American center Colin White. No. Not the former Devil defenseman. 😉

While the Sabres were big winners, so too were the Islanders. Entering the draft, GM Garth Snow had no first round picks. By night’s conclusion, he wound up with a pair in two trades. The first one featured defenseman Griffin Reinhart who was dealt to the Oilers for picks 16 and 33. When Bettman went up to make the announcement, many Rangers fans thought it was about to be for Talbot.

Instead, Snow trolled us by using a chip to grab Canadian center Mathew Barzal who slipped thanks to the Bruins going off the board with two of their three picks. A player who idolizes Patrick Kane and whose favorite non-hockey player is LeBron James, Barzal put up 12 goals and 45 assists for 57 points in 44 games for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds. He overcame a knee injury and fell down which is why Snow traded up to get him. A move which was universally praised by TSN’s panel including McKenzie and Pierre McGuire.

In dealing away Reinhart, Snow had a position player the Oilers needed. Reinhart is 21 and was originally selected by the Isles fourth overall in 2012. So, he has a high ceiling. However, with other defensemen passing him in a deep Islanders system, Snow dealt from strength and got a player he wanted. That he also got the Oilers’ 33rd overall pick was a bonus which came in handy. He did extremely well.

For what it’s worth, Reinhart looked out of place in the eight games and one postseason game he got into. It doesn’t mean he can’t reach his potential. A former Edmonton Oil King is back home and will now be counted on by the Oilers on the back end. Reinhart tallied 22 points (7-15-22) in 59 games for Bridgeport in his first pro year. Maybe the scenery change will work.

Snow wasn’t done wheeling and dealing using the 33rd pick he got from Edmonton along with his 72nd to select pesky forward Anthony Beauvillier. A player compared to Pat Verbeek. Beauvillier is listed at 5-10 173 pounds. He led the Shawnigan Cataractes of the QMJHL in goals (42), assists (52) and points (94) with 72 penalty minutes over 67 games. He also added seven points (2-5-7) with 14 PIM in seven postseason games.

The irony was that the second trade also involved the Rangers’ first round pick which they originally included in the Ryan Callahan trade for Martin St. Louis with the Lightning. So, the 28th overall pick became the Isles. The second consecutive year Snow traded up to select someone at number 28. Last year, it was Josh Ho-Sang who originally was the Rangers 2014 other first rounder in the same St. Louis deal. In last year’s draft, the Bolts traded the rights to Ho-Sang for two second round picks (Dominik Masin and Johnathan MacLeod). Got all that?

In another move, the Devils acquired forward Kyle Palmieri from the Ducks for the 41st pick in the second round. It’ll be a homecoming of sorts with the 24-year old Smithtown, New York native getting the chance to play in Newark. A top nine forward, Palmieri posted 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 57 contests for the Ducks while adding a goal and three helpers in the postseason. In 198 total games, he has 89 points (43-46-89). Set to earn $1.6 million, he’ll become restricted next summer.

Palmieri has never been a big scorer at the NHL level but did score a combined 61 for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate Syracuse. He also hasn’t always been healthy. We’ll see if the change of scenery works. For more on the Devils, please check out Hasan’s post on Pavel Zacha and Palmieri.

For the entire first round summary, please refer here. The rest of the Draft continues Saturday with Round 2 getting started at 10 AM. Rounds 2 thru 7 will be televised on NHL Network. At least it’ll be seen without interruption. With a flurry of activity pushing the first round over NBCSN’s 10 PM time slot due to Running, they eventually had to go live for the Women’s 100 Meters in Oregon prior to the Coyotes’ 30th overall selection of Nicholas Merkley which I believe they got wrong calling him Barkley. Oops. Arizona acquired the pick from the Blackhawks. 

All in all, NBCSN did a great job. They at least went back to tell us who the Coyotes picked even if they accidentally said Nick Barkley. I thought everything was top notch from Bettman’s #WeHaveATrade to Panthers fans going nuts when their pick of Lawson Crouse which was a steal at 11th overall. I also loved John Davidson congratulating the Blackhawks and actually acknowledging the Panthers for their hard work hosting. So many executives didn’t show any courtesy with Flyers GM Ron Hextall wasting no time.

When all is said and done, we’ll be following McDavid and Eichel closely. But this is a deep draft and there will be other good players who come out of it. Let’s not forget that. As for Talbot, I have no clue what Sather is thinking. But he doesn’t have to trade him if he doesn’t like what’s offered. If Cam doesn’t get moved later today, he’s probably staying which still gives the Rangers the best backup. Might not be a bad thing considering Mackenzie Skapski recovering from hip surgery and Cedric Desjardins unproven. Only time will tell.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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1 Response to NHL Draft Summary: Sabres and Islanders Hit Home Runs Early

  1. hasan4978 says:

    The Isles really ticked me off too lol…Snow might be the best GM in the league on draft day. When I first heard they traded for the Oilers pick I assumed they’d probably blown up next year’s draft since they had nothing this year to move up with. But apparently the Oilers love Reinhart from his days playing with the Oil Kings.


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