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Sabres' scouting director hoping Murray can 'make some magic happen'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Greg Royce knows he needs to be on his toes with Tim Murray around.

Royce, the Sabres' director of amateur scouting, will head into Friday's NHL Draft armed with rankings of every prospect. Buffalo is scheduled to select second and 21st in the opening round (7 p.m., NBCSN), but Murray has made it clear No. 21 is on the market. Royce may need to check his list often depending on what the general manager does.

"Working with Tim in the past, he makes the draft very exciting," said Royce, who previously worked with Murray in Ottawa. "Being on his staff, we're not sure what he's going to do, what he's going to pull out of his pocket, if he's going to make some magic happen. It makes for an exciting time."

Trade winds blew along the beach Thursday as teams prepared for the Draft and next season. Colorado made one move, acquiring center Carl Soderberg from Boston, and listened to offers for Ryan O'Reilly. Vancouver GM Jim Benning said one of his goalies will be traded, with Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom available. Toronto acknowledged taking offers for right wing Phil Kessel.

Buffalo was mentioned as a possible destination for Lack, while rumors about O'Reilly have been going on for ages.

"We have a lot of options, different decisions to make, different questions," Royce said. "Where do we go at 21? What do we do at 31? Do we trade it for a player? There's lots of questions to answer, but it's an exciting time.

"Maybe Tim will be able to work some magic and get within that top 10."

The prospects not named Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are closely bunched, which could lead to a plethora of moves. If a team sees its favorite falling, a GM may jump.

"It's a very deep draft," Royce said. "The guy that we get at 21 and 31 and even 51 are future NHL players.

"I'm just glad we're not at 3. I don't know where that's going to go, but it'll be an interesting process."

Royce reiterated Murray's prior comments that Buffalo will go for the best player available. Though the organization is heavier at forward than defense, position will not factor into the picks.

"We have them all in order," Royce said. "We've done our homework, and regardless of position we'll take the best player. Guys have had their opportunities to make their case for every player. We'll just go right off the list."

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McDavid remains the focus of the Draft in every city outside of Buffalo.

"The pressure, I've been dealing with it for a while now and I'm pretty used to it," said the center, who will be drafted No. 1 overall by Edmonton. "All I can do is be the best that I can and be the best player I can be. Whether that meets expectations or not, that's not up to me to decide."

Dylan Strome, McDavid's draft-eligible teammate in Erie, is impressed by McDavid's ability to handle the attention.

"He's had it since he was 15 when he was the best player to come into the CHL since Sidney Crosby," Strome said of Canada's junior league. "Now he's coming into the Draft as the best player since whatever people are saying. ... For him, he likes putting high goals on himself and he likes challenging himself. When people say those things, it only makes him stronger, makes him better."

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Late Buffalo native EJ McGuire, the former director of NHL Central Scouting, remains on the minds of many at draft time. He'll be honored by his longtime friends Saturday.

Central Scouting will present the inaugural "EJ McGuire Award of Excellence" prior to the start of the second round in BB&T Center. The award will be presented annually by the NHL to the draft prospect who best exemplifies the commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.

McGuire died of cancer at age 58 in April 2011. He is survived by his wife, Terry, and their two children, Jacqueline and Erin.

"We are so honored that EJ is being remembered in this manner," the McGuire family said in a statement. "His whole career was spent reaching for excellence in the sport he loved, and this is quite a tribute. EJ always showed such a passion in encouraging the future of hockey, so it's fitting that the recipient is a young man exhibiting excellence at the beginning of his professional hockey career."

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