CHICAGO – Jason Botterill thinks only two or three prospects from this draft class can make the immediate leap to the NHL. The Sabres pick eighth.
With those two things in mind, Buffalo’s general manager is sticking with his “best player available” philosophy for Friday night’s first round. The GM just doesn’t know what the team will look like when the prospect is ready for the big leagues.
“Our team could drastically change over the next 12 months or 24 months,” Botterill said. “We’re going to take the best player and see where it goes.”
The Sabres have organizational holes at defense, wing and goaltender. But if a center is the best player on the draft board, Botterill plans to take him.
“Our staff has done a very good job in preparing for whatever happens in the first seven picks,” Botterill said. “We’ll look at different scenarios about possibly moving up, moving back, but right now our mindset is we’re going to be choosing at eight.
“I think they’ve done a good job in sort of making sure no matter how the draft plays out – guys go defense, guys go forward – we’re going to be prepared and we’re going to like the player we go with.”
Although many draft picks have made immediate impacts recently, including the Sabres’ Jack Eichel, Botterill doesn’t see a lot this year.
“You look at the success of some of the guys in recent years, these kids are better prepared,” the GM said. “They have strength coaches at such a young age, mental coaches, skating coaches. You look at the combine now, oh my goodness, they’re so prepared for the interview process, so I think they’re ready to step in at a younger age.
“You look at a lot of the players at the top this year, they do have to get stronger. It’s a scenario where you don’t want to force them into the National Hockey League, but I would expect maybe two or three players next year stepping into the National Hockey.”