By Mike Harrington
NEW YORK -- When the Sabres held their draft preview press conference last week, amateur scouting director Kevin Devine made it clear one of their 10 picks Sunday in the Prudential Center would be a goalie. Then Devine raised the antenna of those assembled when he said "maybe even a goaltender comes into it" when talking about the No. 16 overall pick, the Sabres' second in the first round.
That could mean only one player: Halifax 18-year-old Zach Fucale, the netminder who played behind draft superstuds Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin to lead the Mooseheads over Seth Jones-led Portland in the Memorial Cup championship game.
Fucale attended the annual Prospects Luncheon Friday afternoon in Weehawken, N.J., on the shores of the Hudson and the Quebec native dropped a mini bombshell when I asked him what teams brought him in for their own combines. The answer? Montreal and Buffalo.
Teams ahead of the Sabres who figure to have some interest in Fucale as well include the Devils at No. 9 (they need to develop a propsect behind Martin Brodeur at some point, right?), the Flyers at No. 11 and the Islanders at No. 15. But if the Sabres keep the No. 16 pick -- and that's a big if -- Fucale seems to be a legitimate option.
"I don't have to look very hard," Fucale said when asked if he's pondered Buffalo's fluid situation in goal. "With all the information we're exposed to these days, it's not too complicated. Especially for goalies. We know the teams that might need one but so many things can change on draft day that you have to just wait."
But would the outlook change if the Sabres were to deal Ryan Miller between now and, say, 4 p.m. Sunday?
"I guess it would," Fucale said with a laugh. "I don't really know what to say to that. Sunday is when I imagine this is all going to play out and when you're in my situation, you're just excited to be a part of this whole thing."
The Sabres, of course, just signed Jhonas Enroth to a two-year deal and have Matt Hackett, acquired from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville deal, likely to back him up. They have other goalies in the system as well, notably Andrey Makarov, their undrafted free agent signee from last season who went on to star for Saskatoon and even beat Halifax in the Memorial Cup. Their sixth-rounder the last two years has also been a goalie (Nathan Lieuwen and Linus Ullmark). But do any of them project down the road as an elite, top-of-the-line goalie? Hmmm.
Be sure to read my story on Fucale, including the thoughts of MacKinnon and Drouin on their goalie, in Sunday's editions of The Buffalo News. Apologies for no audio from Fucale here, but his 12-minute session with the media hopscotched between French and English and more of it was in French.
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