Share this article

print logo

From Booms to Busts: Sabres first-round history

Rasmus Dahlin will enter a long line of first-round picks for the Buffalo Sabres when the team selects him Friday night in Dallas. The club's history with their top pick is a roller coaster ride of results.

There are three Hall of Famers who were selected in the first round. There were stars of franchise annals and solid contributors, and there were several choices that simply didn't pan out – or even play a single game for the team.

The Sabres did not have a first-round pick in 1976, 1993 and 2007. They had multiple No. 1s in 1982, 1983, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2012 and 2013.

Here's a look back at rankings of Buffalo's past first-rounders, grouped into six categories:


Gilbert Perreault (1970). Mr. Sabre. A Hall of Famer and NHL100 player with 512 goals and 1,326 points in 1,191 games. There has never been another one like him and don't overlook longevity – played at least 72 games in 12 different years. Unfortunately, he's also one of the greatest ever to not win a Stanley Cup.

Phil Housley (1982). Current coach is an all-time great American defenseman who made the Hall of Fame in 2015. Never had fewer than 62 points in eight Buffalo seasons and scored at least 21 goals five times. Eventually had career-high 97-point season in Winnipeg. Retired in 2003 with 1,232 points for eight teams over 1,495 games.

Rick Martin (1971). Had back-to-back, 52-goal seasons and would be in Hall of Fame were it not for knee injuries cutting career short. Broke Perreault's NHL rookie record with 44 goals in 1971-72 and had five 40-goal seasons.

Dave Andreychuk (1982). Hall of Famer had seven 30-goal seasons for Sabres and a pair of 50-goal campaigns, one split with Buffalo and Toronto and a second with the Leafs. Finished with 640 goals, the '04 Stanley Cup with Tampa and a 2017 Hall ring.

Thanking family and Buffalo roots, Dave Andreychuk enters Hockey Hall of Fame

Tom Barrasso (1983). Imagine an 18-year-old high school goalie now? Sabres did that in 1983-84 and he won 26 games while taking home the Calder. Was the No. 1 man for five seasons and won 102 games before 1988 trade to Pittsburgh, where he won back-to-back Cups in '91 and '92.

Mike Ramsey (1979). The quintessential shotblocker extraordinaire, Miracle on Ice alumnus played 911 of his 1,070 NHL games with Buffalo from 1980-1993. Also served as assistant coach on '99 Cup finalists.

Jim Schoenfeld (1972). Big redhead took Bruins Wayne Cashman through the boards in iconic rookie season brawl, captained '75 finalists and even coached the team for a half-season. Played 584 games and was at least plus-24 in a season six times.

Pierre Turgeon (1987). Borderline Hall choice was franchise's last No. 1 overall before Dahlin. Had 40 goals, 106 points in 1989-90 before 1991 trade to Islanders netted Pat LaFontaine. Scored 120-plus goals for three teams and finished career with 515 for six clubs.

Thomas Vanek (2003). Starred for Minnesota in '03 Frozen Four here and immediately was taken at No. 5 pick a couple of months later. Had pair of 40-goal seasons for Buffalo and scored 254 goals in 598 games here. Has pushed career total to 357 in nomadic career that has included seven teams since leaving Buffalo in 2013. Finished this season in Columbus and will play 1,000th game next year.

Jay McKee (1995). Defensive stalwart played 582 games over 10 seasons, never scoring more than five goals or 17 points in a season. And the numbers meant nothing because no one could possibly complain about his heart. Sudden infection that cost him Game 7 of '06 East final – and maybe the team's first Cup – was cruel twist of fate. On career path to be an NHL head coach, as he currently leads OHL's Kitchener Rangers.


Brad May (1990). Author of May Day goal scored 67 times for Sabres and was a bruiser with 1,323 penalty minutes for Blue And Gold. Won Stanley Cup with '07 Ducks and career stretched to 2010 in Detroit.

'May Day!' 'May Day!' 25 years ago, iconic Sabres rallying cry was born

Bob Sauve (1975). Won 119 games for Sabres, including 20 in 1979-80, as team got to semifinals and he shared Vezina Trophy with Don Edwards. Had career-best 2.36 goals-against average that season. Finished career with Devils in 1989.

Martin Biron (1995). Loquacious broadcast analyst and from-the-bench chirper was the perfect bridge in net between Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller, posting 134 wins in 300 games with Sabres, and 96 more with Rangers, Flyers and Islanders.

Tyler Myers (2008). Won 2010 Calder after 11 goals and 48 points and never reached that level of play again over next 4 1/2 seasons before 2015 trade to Winnipeg. Had 36 points for Jets this year in deepest playoff push, to West final vs. Vegas.

Ric Seiling (1977). It wasn't his fault the Sabres selected him one pick before Hall of Famer Mike Bossy, but it's the epitaph his career could never overcome. And that's a shame because he was a quality two-way forward who played 664 games in a Buffalo uniform while collecting 176 goals and 376 points. He just wasn't Mike Bossy.

Larry Playfair (1978). Feared fighter was also a defensive mainstay who played at least 72 games for six straight years. Had 100 points in 577 games over two stints with Buffalo and has spent many years as key cog in franchise's alumni association.

Rasmus Ristolainen (2013). Massive Finn has endured a lot of losing in his 346-game career. Still only 31 goals, never more than nine in a season and coming off a minus-25 year. Does he stay to get a chance to play with Dahlin or do they give up on him?

Drew Stafford (2004). Got maligned more than he should have, largely due to four-year, $16 million contract. Scored 145 goals for Sabres, including 31 for 2010-11 playoff team. Moved on to Winnipeg, Boston and New Jersey, where he had eight goals this season in 59 games.

Tyler Ennis (2008). Current buyout candidate in Minnesota had 97 goals and three 20-goal campaign for Sabres before concussions derailed career. Scored overtime winner in Buffalo's last playoff win, Game 5 at Philadelphia in 2011.


Erik Rasmussen (1996). Best remembered for game-winning goal in clinching Game 5 of '99 Eastern Conference final in Toronto. Had 33 goals in five seasons in Buffalo and just two goals in 52 playoff games for Sabres and New Jersey. But that was one pretty big one.

Keith Ballard (2002). How can a guy drafted 11th overall who never played a game in Buffalo be listed here? Because he was involved in the deal that landed the Sabres Chris Drury. Ballard, by the way, eventually played 604 games for four NHL teams. Drury was acquired from Calgary for Rhett Warrener and Steve Reinprecht – the player Sabres got earlier the same day from Colorado for Ballard.

Nikita Zadorov (2013). Big Russian struggled with maturity during his 67 games in the NHL but his massive potential is a major reason Sabres were able to get Ryan O'Reilly from Colorado. Had career highs of seven goals and 20 points for Avalanche this season.

Zemgus Girgensons (2012). People want more stats from a first-round pick and with good reason. That said, he's played 348 games over five years – which is a lot more than many in franchise annals – made an All-Star team and a Latvian Olympic team. Has 44 goals and 101 points to date. Does he return for season six?

Mark Pysyk (2010). Analytics fans still rue his trade to Florida on draft day in 2016. Sabres never gave him a chance to play more than 55 games in a season over parts of four years but he showed huge potential. Has played all 82 games two years running in Florida.

Adam Creighton (1983). At 6-foot-5, gave Sabres size down the middle and had an 18-goal, 40-point season in 1986-87. Went on to play 708 games for five teams and scored 34 goals for Chicago in 1990. A regular visitor to KeyBank Center as a longtime scout for Bruins.

Paul Cyr (1982). Known for booming but often erratic slapshot, former Western League 50-goal scorer had a pair of 20-goal campaings for Sabres in mid-1980s. Career fizzled with Hartford. Had off-ice demons, which included a shooting in the Dominican Republic in 1987 and died of heart failure in 2012.

Daniel Paille (2002). Welland native had a 19-goal, 35-point season in 2007-08 but career truly blossomed as Bruins fourth-liner on 2011 Cup champions. Still active the last two seasons in Sweden.


Dmitri Kalinin (1998). Russian blueliner's inconsistency used to drive Lindy Ruff crazy but he played more than 400 games for Sabres, including stints as a regular on '06 and '07 East finlists. Has spent last nine years in KHL, playing 55 games this year for Moscow Spartak at age 37.

Mika Noronen (1997). Got 67 games over five seasons with Sabres from 2000-2006 but never got a shot with Martin Biron and Ryan Miller around. Best known for goal at Toronto in 2004, only one in history by a Sabres goalie. An aside: Sabres' '97 draft was hardly a failure because of Noronen. That was the year Buffalo took Henrik Tallinder in the second round, Maxim Afinogenov in round three and Brian Campbell in round 6.

Steve Patrick (1980). Best remembered for turning the puck over to Wayne Gretzky, allowing the Great One to score his NHL-record 77th goal of the season during a memorable Edmonton win over the Sabres at the Aud in 1982. Winger scored 21 goals for Sabres over parts of five seasons from 1980-85. Son, Nolan Patrick, was No. 2 overall pick by Philadelphia in 2017.

Lee Fogolin (1974). Rugged defenseman was a regular on blue line for five years, including 50 games as a rookie on '75 Cup finalists. Made his mark over eight seasons in Edmonton, winning Cups in 1984 and 1985.

Wayne Primeau (1994). Weird career for a forward: Played 774 games for seven teams over 15 seasons and never scored more than 11 goals in any of them. Had 13 points in 67 games for Sabres' 1999 Cup finalists, and scored three goals while playing in 19 of 21 playoff games that spring.

Sabres center Wayne Primeau shoots on Stars goalie Ed Belfour and scores in first period action.. (Buffalo News file photo)

Zack Kassian (2009). Pugnacious Peterborough product played 27 games in 2011-12 and was traded for Cody Hodgson in swap of frustrating first-rounders. Became regular on wing in Vancouver and has continued career last three years in Edmonton with seven goals in each of the last two seasons.

Jiri Novotny (2001). Winger played four straight years in Rochester from 2002-06 before cracking NHL for good with Sabres in '06-07, scoring six goals in 50 games. Was traded to Washington at deadline for Danius Zubrus and then finished NHL career in Columbus in 2009. Still active at 34, has spent last nine years in KHL

Philippe Boucher (1991). Was Buffalo's top choice in '91 draft held at the Aud but only played 65 games on defense for the team over three years before '95 trade to Los Angeles. Ended up playing 748 games for Sabres, Kings, Dallas and Pittsburgh, collecting exactly 300 points and retiring after winning Cup with Pens in '09.

Kevin Haller (1989). An 81-game career with Sabres blueline corps ended with 1992 trade to Montreal and he won Cup with Habs in '93. Eventually played 642 games with seven teams before retiring in 2001.

Shawn Anderson (1986). Spindly defenseman had six goals in 113 games with Sabres before moving on to Quebec, Washington and Philadelphia. Spent several years in Europe before 2004 retirement.

Calle Johansson (1985). Had 38 assists and 42 points in 1987-88 for Buffalo, making NHL All-Rookie Team. Played 118 games for Sabres until 1989 trade to Washington for Clint Malarchuk and Grant Ledyard and became an all-time regular for Caps, playing 983 games for them from 1989-2003. Had at least 35 points in a season nine times, topped by career-high 56 in 1991-92.

Mikael Andersson (1984). Swedish winger had just four goals in 99 games for Sabres before moving on to Hartford, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Long Island. Best season was 18 goals and 47 points for Whalers in 1991-92. Retired in 2003 after returning home for three seasons in Sweden.


Mikhail Grigorenko (2012). Highly touted Russian had 70 goals in two Quebec League seasons but dropped to No. 12 overall amid work ethic questions he never solved in the NHL. Had six goals in 68 games for Sabres and improved slightly in Colorado before returning to KHL in '17-18.

Joel Armia (2011). Finnish winger never made much of an impression in Rochester or Buffalo, getting one game for Sabres in 2014-15 and then being dealt to Winnipeg in Evander Kane trade. Had career bests this year for Jets with 12 goals and 29 points.

Morris Titanic of the Buffalo Sabres

Normand Lacombe (1983). Twelve goals and 30 points in parts of three seasons in Buffalo. Had a 17-goal season in Edmonton to highlight nondescript career.

David Cooper (1992). Best known as a regular on defense for Amerks' 1996 Calder Cup champions, he never got to Buffalo. NHL career was limited to 30 games in Toronto.

Joel Savage (1988). Played just three games with Sabres in 1990-91, collecting one assist for only NHL point. Had long career in Europe that lasted until 2004. But much like Noronen, all was not lost in that draft year: In the fifth round in '88, the Sabres got Alexander Mogilny and Rob Ray.

Dennis Persson (2006). Three-year regular on blue line in Portland and Rochester from 2009-2012 who never made NHL. Retired after '15-16 season in Sweden.

Marek Zagrapan (2005). Slovakian averaged 19 goals and 52 points over three seasons with Sabres affiliates in Rochester and Portland from 2006-2009 but never made NHL and has spent rest of career overseas. Now 31, played 2017-18 in Switzerland.

Artem Kryukov (2000). Never came to North America, as he spent parts of 17 years playing in Russia before retiring in 2016.

Barrett Heisten (1999). University of Maine pick never signed in Buffalo, getting in 10 games for '01-02 Rangers. Selected a few days after No Goal game. Back then, nobody here thought Sabres needed to worry about the draft but this kind of pick caught up to them eventually.

Morris Titanic (1973). After Perreault-Martin-Schoenfeld, this was franchise's first failure. After 31-goal season at AHL Cincinnati in 1973-74, had no points, no penalty minutes in 19 NHL games. Injuries struck. Career over.

Jiri Dudacek (1981). Massive failure by Scotty Bowman. Couldn't get World Junior star out of Czechoslovakia and he never played an NHL game.


Jack Eichel (2015). Team didn't come close to the playoffs in his first three years and he missed substantial time due to injury in two of them. Still, he totaled 177 points in 209 games for a franchise that continues to be at the bottom of the league in offense. Get him some help. Trending toward Boom.

Jack Eichel (Harry Scull Jr./News file photo)

Casey Mittelstadt (2017). Most scouts already saying he's a steal at No. 8 overall. NHL brought him to '17 Cup final assuming he was a top-4 pick. First year featured 30 points in 34 games at Minnesota and five points in six games with Sabres. Big things expected. Trending toward Boom.

Sam Reinhart (2014). Has two 20-goal seasons in the NHL and has improved point total for three years running. But why does it feel we should be getting more? No. 2 overall pick is a tough label to live up to, but how do we view him if he scores 30 next season? Trending toward Solid.

Alex Nylander (2016). Poor choice by former GM Tim Murray at No. 8 overall with the franchise needing defensemen and quality blueliners still on the board. Just 18 goals over 116 games in the AHL and one goal in seven NHL games. Still only 20 years old but needs to take significant steps in third pro season. Trending toward Bust.


Story topics: /

There are no comments - be the first to comment