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Sabres Notebook: Most scouts safe; NHL's role in hirings; Eichel scores

The Bills’ scouts headed into the NFL Draft with the feeling it could be their last in Buffalo. Sure enough, they got fired along with General Manager Doug Whaley.

The Sabres’ scouts should feel more confident despite the team’s regime change. The turnover typically isn’t as severe.

Of the 20 employees remaining on the Sabres’ scouting staff, 13 worked for Buffalo before Tim Murray arrived. While the next general manager will certainly want to bring his own people aboard, it’s unlikely there will be a complete overhaul like the football team.

After Murray assumed the general manager title from Darcy Regier in January 2014, the scouting department barely changed. Murray added one person while four departed, according to the Sabres’ media guides for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

The employees who worked for the last two GMs include Kevin Devine, the director of player personnel; Graham Beamish, the pro scouting coordinator; pro scouts Jon Christiano, John Van Boxmeer and Jim Kovachik; Austin Dunne, the amateur scouting coordinator; and amateur scouts Yuri Khmylev, Paul Merritt, Eric Weissman, Teemu Numminen, Norm Poisson, Keith Hendrickson and Brandon Jay.

Jerry Forton, the Sabres’ assistant director of scouting, was with Buffalo prior to Murray as an assistant coach. He steadily rose up the scouting department under the former GM.

The biggest changes under a new general manager will come at the top. Buffalo has already let go of Rob Murphy, the director of scouting, and Greg Royce, the director of amateur scouting. Murray hired both.

The departed GM also brought aboard Anders Forsberg, the director of European scouting; Jeff Crisp, the head amateur scout; Seamus Kotyk, who serves as an amateur scout and roving goalie coach; and amateur scouts Jan Axel-Alavaara, Kevin Prendergast and Mike Rooney.

After firing Murray, Sabres owner Terry Pegula said Crisp is in charge of amateur scouting. This is Crisp’s first season in Buffalo. He spent 14 years in Anaheim and was hired while Murray was with the Ducks.

The next GM will rely on the Sabres’ scouts early. They typically gather in mid-May for organizational meetings and to finalize their draft lists. The NHL Scouting Combine is May 28 to June 3 in Buffalo. The protected list for the expansion draft must be submitted June 17. The NHL Draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

The new GM will need the scouts’ input heading into the events.

Deal keeps NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo through 2019


The Pegulas are leading the Sabres’ hiring search, and they’re reportedly getting help from team President Russ Brandon and the NHL. Based on responses from other teams, Michael Gilbert, the Sabres’ vice president of administration, is also playing a role.

It is not uncommon for the NHL to get involved in team matters, but that doesn’t mean the league has a say in any decisions.

The NHL is merely a resource for teams in any area of their business, a source with knowledge of the league’s role said Tuesday. The NHL doesn’t initiate guidance or engage itself in talks. The league’s involvement is defined entirely by the organizations, who may elect not to seek counsel.

With Sabres 'close' to hiring, here's look at candidates


As the world championship nears, the Sabres’ Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly are at the top of the depth chart for their respective countries.

The United States and Canada played exhibition games Tuesday. Eichel was the No. 1 center for the United States during a 5-2 victory over Italy, skating between left wing Anders Lee of the New York Islanders and right wing Johnny Gaudreau of Calgary. Eichel scored just 1:24 into the game.

Sabres goaltending prospect Cal Petersen did not dress for the Americans, who used Detroit’s Jimmy Howard and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck in net.

As is often the case when O’Reilly plays for Canada, he shifted from center to wing for a 4-1 victory over Switzerland. He was the top right winger, skating with center Mark Scheifele of Winnipeg and left wing Jeff Skinner of Carolina.

The world championships start Friday in Paris and Germany. They conclude May 21.


The Sabres have announced the death of retired defenseman Ken Breitenbach. The native of Welland, Ont., was 62.

Breitenbach played in the Sabres’ organization from 1975 to 1979. He appeared in 76 games for Buffalo, recording one goal and 15 points.

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