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Inside the Sabres: Poor drafts sunk the depth

There were 210 players selected in the 2010 NHL Draft. Nearly half – 102 – have reached the NHL.

Only one of those players was picked by Buffalo, and Mark Pysyk isn’t even on the team anymore.

If anyone is wondering why the Sabres’ depth is lacking, the NHL Draft tells the answer.

The mid- to late 2000s were a time of big misses by the Sabres’ draftniks, led by former General Manager Darcy Regier. Picks made (or not made) a decade ago are the ones hurting Buffalo today.

Marek Zagrapan, Philipp Gogulla, Dennis Persson and Drew Schiestel lead the list of first- and second-round letdowns. None made it to the NHL. While draft mates such as T.J. Oshie, James Neal, Nick Foligno and Alec Martinez are contributing to victories and Stanley Cup runs, the Sabres’ quartet is skating in Europe or out of the game completely.

The Sabres rarely lucked out with later picks, further hurting the cause. Not one of the 13 players selected in rounds three through seven in 2008 or 2010 made it to the NHL. Those are the guys who should be helping out in Buffalo.

Instead, the Sabres’ call-ups this season have combined for three goals and six assists in 68 games.

The NHL Draft is a crapshoot for any team. Projecting how 18-year-old kids will play as 24-year-olds isn’t easy. But of the 71 players drafted by the Sabres from 2005 to 2013, only 17 have made an impact, and sometimes it’s with another team.

The Sabres’ lack of blue-line depth is obvious. During the aforementioned nine-year span, Buffalo selected 26 defensemen. Just eight have made an impact.

Here’s a look.

2005

Numbers: The Sabres selected nine players, with three playing at least one game in the NHL.

Who they picked: The Sabres selected Zagrapan with the 13th overall pick and tabbed Gogulla in the second round. It’s a top priority for teams to hit on their first- and second-round picks. Buffalo missed on both.

Zagrapan played three years with the Sabres’ minor-league teams before embarking on a journeyman career that has taken him to Russia, Czechia, Finland, Austria and Slovakia, where the 30-year-old is playing this season. Gogulla played the 2009-10 season with the Sabres’ minor-league team but has spent the rest of his career in Germany.

Who they could have picked: Martin Hanzal (No. 17), Oshie (24) and Andrew Cogliano (25) are among the forwards who went after Zagrapan in the first round.

Who made an impact: The Sabres selected defenseman Chris Butler in the fourth round and forward Nathan Gerbe in the fifth.

2006

Numbers: The Sabres selected six players, with three playing a game in the NHL.

Who they picked: For the second year in a row, the Sabres whiffed in the first round. They picked Persson at No. 24. The defenseman spent parts of four years with Buffalo’s minor-league teams before returning to Sweden.

Who they could have picked: It was a poor draft for defensemen, but forwards Patrik Berglund (No. 25), Foligno (28) and Milan Lucic (50) went after Persson.

Who made an impact: The Sabres selected goalie Jhonas Enroth and defenseman Mike Weber in the second round.

2007

Numbers: The Sabres selected eight players, with three making it to the NHL. They did not have a first-round pick after trading it to Washington for forward Dainius Zubrus.

Who they picked: Buffalo picked two D-men in the second round, selecting T.J. Brennan at No. 31 and Schiestel at No. 59. Brennan has scratched out 53 NHL games, while Schiestel is playing in Austria after not making the big leagues.

Who they could have picked: P.K. Subban went between Brennan and Schiestel at No. 43, while defensemen Yannick Weber (73), Martinez (95) and Jake Muzzin (141) went after the second round.

Who made an impact: The Sabres selected Paul Byron in the sixth round.

2008

Numbers: The Sabres selected eight players, with three making it to the NHL.

Who they picked: The Sabres had two first-round picks and hit on Tyler Myers (No. 13) and Tyler Ennis (26). They drafted Luke Adam in the second round.

Who they could have picked: While Myers worked out, defensemen that went after him in the first round include Erik Karlsson, Jake Gardiner and John Carlson. Derek Stepan and Adam Henrique were among the forwards still on the board when Buffalo selected Adam at No. 44.

Who made an impact: None of the five players drafted after Adam reached the NHL.

2009

Numbers: The Sabres selected six players, with four making it to the NHL. Buffalo had no second-round pick after shipping it out as part of the Craig Rivet deal.

Who they picked: The Sabres drafted forward Zack Kassian at No. 13.

Who they could have picked: Forwards selected after Kassian include Marcus Johannson (No. 24), Kyle Palmieri (26) and Ryan O’Reilly (33).

Who made an impact: Buffalo picked defenseman Brayden McNabb in the third round and Marcus Foligno in the fourth.

2010

Numbers: The Sabres selected nine players, with only one making it to the NHL. They had no second-round pick after shipping it out as part of the Rivet deal.

Who they picked: The Sabres took Pysyk at No. 23.

Who they could have picked: Buffalo selected Jerome Leduc, Kevin Sundher and Matt Mackenzie with its three third-round picks. Brendan Gallagher, John Klingberg, Petr Mrazek and Mark Stone went after them.

Who made an impact: None of the eight players selected after Pysyk made it to the NHL. Ottawa, which had just four picks, and Vancouver, which didn’t draft until the fourth round, were the only other teams to have just one player make it.

2011

Numbers: The Sabres selected six players, with three making it to the NHL. For the third straight year, they did not have a second-round pick. It was dealt away for Brad Boyes.

Who they picked: Buffalo took Joel Armia at No. 16.

Who they could have picked: Forwards Vladislav Namestnikov, Rickard Rakell, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad and Nikita Kucherov went in the opening two rounds.

Who made an impact: Only Armia, and that was by being part of the Evander Kane-Zach Bogosian deal with Winnipeg.

2012

Numbers: The Sabres selected eight players, with four appearing in the NHL.

Who they picked: Buffalo had two first-round selections, taking Mikhail Grigorenko at No. 12 and Zemgus Girgensons as No. 14.

Who they could have picked: Tomas Hertl and Tanner Pearson were among the forwards taken later in the first round.

Who made an impact: Buffalo picked Jake McCabe in the second round and Linus Ullmark in the sixth.

2013

Numbers: The Sabres selected 11 players, with four appearing in the NHL.

Who they picked: Buffalo had two first-round selections, taking Rasmus Ristolainen at No. 8 and Nikita Zadorov at No. 16.

Who they could have picked: Curtis Lazar, Andre Burakovsky and Anthony Duclair are the only ones drafted after Zadorov who have played more games.

Who made an impact: Ristolainen is the team’s No. 1 defenseman. Zadorov and second-round pick JT Compher were part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade.

Prospects taken in 2013 include Nick Baptiste, Justin Bailey and goalie Cal Petersen. They’ll need to make an impact or Buffalo’s depth crisis will continue.

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