Not sure if anyone’s heard, but there’s a No. 2 overall pick skating with the Sabres. His name is David Legwand.
Like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Legwand was taken second in his NHL Draft. Unlike Buffalo’s top prospects, Legwand isn’t trying to break into the league.
“I asked Jack the other day and he said he was born in ’96,” Legwand said Saturday. “I said I was drafted in ’98. That makes me really old.”
The 35-year-old is on the downslope of his career, but the Sabres hope he has enough left to be a contributor on the ice and in the dressing room. Legwand is centering the fourth line for left wing Nicolas Deslauriers and right wing Marcus Foligno, and he’s also sharing tips he brings from 1,112 games in the NHL.
“I think I can still contribute and play key roles and do whatever the coaches ask of me,” Legwand said in First Niagara Center. “Just to play in the league is fun. It’s a great spot to be.”
Ottawa insisted that any trade for Robin Lehner would include an unwanted salary, so Legwand and his $3.5 million paycheck came to Buffalo with the goaltender in June. Legwand had nine goals and 27 points in 80 games with the Senators last season, but he totaled a respectable 14 goals and 51 points in 83 games with Nashville and Detroit the previous year.
“David’s definitely into the veteran category of his career, but he’s always been a guy who is kind of a straight-line-skating guy, up and down,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “There’s not a lot of flash and there’s not a ton of — I know he’s going to read this and comment on it tomorrow — but there’s not a ton of playmaking, there’s not a ton of hockey sense. He’s a fast skater, an aggressive skater. He’s a smart hockey player, and that’s how he’s got to play.
“He’s got to bring that no matter how old his legs might be.”
The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder, who is in the final year of his contract, adds leadership to the locker room. He’s already warned Eichel and Reinhart how long the debut season seems and how quickly the following years zip past. He’s explained that a short memory is essential in a league that plays games every night.
“These kids are coming up now, and the foundation’s there for them to be great hockey players in this league for a long time,” Legwand said.
The longtime center actually started his NHL journey in the Sabres’ arena. Buffalo hosted the Draft in 1998, and Nashville traded up to select Legwand after Tampa Bay drafted Vincent Lecavalier with the No. 1 pick.
“I remember San Jose had the second pick, and my agent looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to Nashville.’ I said, ‘Whoa,’ ” Legwand said. “Other than that, it was pretty much a whirlwind day. It was exciting, obviously. It’s like it comes full circle to get the chance to play where you’re drafted.”
With the Bills set to play the most anticipated early season game in recent memory, the frenzy in the Buffalo sporting world is off the charts.
“Being at the Bills game, you see the hype around the Bills and they get a big first win,” left wing Matt Moulson said. “You could feel the energy just being in that stadium, and you see the excitement around the city.
“This city’s dying for a team to win. Hopefully, we can both accomplish that. I don’t think there’s a much more fun city to win in than Buffalo.”
While the Sabres experienced the opening win against the Colts, they’ll miss the start of the showdown with the Patriots. The Sabres are scheduled to practice from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the arena.
“Hockey first,” Moulson said.
Ryan O’Reilly has quickly made an impression in Buffalo with his on-ice skills and off-ice demeanor. The players on the other side of the blockbuster trade are getting comfortable in Colorado.
Former Sabres first-round picks Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko are skating in their first camp with the Avalanche. Grigorenko opened in a highly coveted spot as the center for right wing Nathan MacKinnon and left wing Alex Tanguay. Zadorov skated with longtime NHL defenseman Francois Beauchemin.
“I’m really happy we finally started,” Grigorenko told the Avs’ Website. “I think I’ve got the skill level and all the tools. I just need to work and compete as hard as I can every time I step on the ice, and I should be fine.”
Zadorov gave a glowing review of his time in Buffalo.
“It was the best time of my life, a great two years,” he told the Denver Post. “It was the greatest organization, great people there, great teammates, and I always will be thankful to them for drafting me. They made a hockey player of me. I learned a lot there and had some bad lessons, too, but everything else was great.”
While praising the Avs’ combination of General Manager Joe Sakic and coach Patrick Roy, Zadorov may have taken a shot at Sabres GM Tim Murray.
“As soon as I heard ‘Colorado Avalanche,’ I was happy,” Zadorov told the Post. “It’s always nice to play for a GM who’s actually been here and knows what it’s like for the players when you’re playing and working hard.”