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Williamsville's Bailey on becoming a Sabre: 'It's just absolutely amazing'

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- Justin Bailey waited through 51 picks -- including two in the second round by the Buffalo Sabres. Then his hometown team pulled the trigger, making the Williamsville native and Kitchener Rangers winger their third pick of the second round this evening.

Pretty heady stuff for a guy who has known Matthew Barnaby since he was a tot and played for Pat LaFontaine's Long Island Royals. If you missed John Vogl's story on the life of Bailey today, you must go to this link and check it out.

"It was amazing for my family and myself," said Bailey, who had nearly 30 family members and friends with him in the Prudential Center. "You grow up and you're playing hockey and especially for me loving the Sabres, quoting Rick Jeanneret when I was younger, knowing every guy on the team and growing up with them as well. It's just absolutely amazing."

The 6-3, 186-pound Bailey had 17 goals and 36 points in 57 games this season. He's a bit of a project, likely 2-3 years away from the NHL.  But he said it was "surreal" to don a blue Sabres jersey when he was selected Sunday.  And he's a week away from skating at First Niagara Center in an official capacity as part of the team's development camp.

"It's incredible. I love that rink and I can't wait to go out there and show them what I have," he said.

Speaking of incredible, Vogl and I had quite a talk a few minutes ago with Bailey's mother, Karen Buscaglia. She recalled a few years ago having Justin hanging around Amherst getting Sabres autographs.

"I was in the rinks at the summer skates at the Northtown Center and he'd make me wait there and I'd be like, 'We already have their autographs' and he'd get them 500 times," she said. "He had Afinogenov and all those guys. It's just amazing to see this little kid that stood out at the rinks and now he's pulling the jersey over his head for the team."

For more from Bailey, listen to the audio below:

Round 2 drama: Sekera dealt for McBain; Compher and Hurley taken

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Sabres have traded defenseman Andrej Sekera to Carolina for defenseman Jamie McBain and the Canes' No. 35 pick. The Sabres then drafted winger J.T. Compher of the US Development Program with the pick.

With the No. 38 pick, the Sabres have taken Connor Hurley, a Minnesota high school center who finished his season with Muskegon of the USHL and is committed to go to Notre Dame in 2014-15. He will be a high school center this fall.

We're approaching the Sabres' pick at No. 52 and waiting on Justin Bailey's selection as well.

More to come.

No. 16: Zadorov, new project on blueline, says 'I really like to hit'

Zadorov
Nikita Zadorov dons his Sabres gear. (Getty Images)

By Mike Harrington

NEWARK, N.J. -- The numbers are all over the place on Nikita Zadorov depending on what Web site you look at, but I can vouch he's a big boy. So after he was done with his initial press conference as an NHLer, I returned to ask the 18-year-old Russian how big he was. He told me flat-out the Buffalo Sabres drafted a 6-foot-5 1/2, 225-pounder with their second pick in the first round today.

The highlight of his self-analysis: "I really like to hit."

Fair enough.

Zadorov spoke no English when he came to Canada last fall to play for London in the OHL. But he learned the language, as you can see, and made a major impact with the Knights. Zadorov led OHL rookies with a plus-33 rankings and finishing second among rookie defensemen with 25 points (6-19). The Knights won the league title with 50 wins, 105 points and Zadorov also had a game-winning goal against Saskatoon in the Memorial Cup.

A roommate of Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko during the World Junior Championships, Zadorov said Grigorenko wished him luck before he headed to New Jersey.

"He said, 'I'll be happy if you go to the Sabres' and I'm in the Sabres shirt right now so I think he's happy."

Zadorov is a project who's not expected to be NHL-ready next season. He said he came to London to learn the NHL game and the KHL is not on his radar.

"From playing in Russia, it's not like a physical game," he said. "Here in Canada, everybody plays physical and play against you stride for stride. You should be ready every second. I want to play in the NHL. It's my dream."

Click below for his session with reporters.

Regier still expects Sabres to keep Miller, Vanek through draft; happy to pick two big D

By John Vogl

NEWARK, N.J. -- Darcy Regier expects the NHL draft to feature a bunch of trades. He still expects Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek to not be part of the action.

The Sabres' general manager continues to believe the goaltender and leading scorer will remain in Buffalo through the weekend.

"Right now, I do, yeah, sure," Regier said this evening in Prudential Center after taking two defensemen in the first round.

The marketplace for Vanek and Miller could open up in the next week or two, Regier said.

"The draft is at the forefront," he said. "I think you’ll see free agency next, including the buyouts, and then I think teams will re-evaluate their positions, situations from there. Whether that changes our situation in respect to Ryan and Thomas, I don’t know. I really don’t know."

There was one huge trade so far, with Vancouver sending goaltender Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the ninth pick in the draft.

"I think that this is an unusual time because of the new CBA, the cap dropping and what I would consider an overabundance of players that teams have signed and would like to move," Regier said. "Maybe the marketplace isn’t there right now. Teams may not want what they’re offering, and you saw today sometimes you’ve got to go a little bigger."

The Sabres stuck with picks eight and 16 in the first round, though Regier tried to pry No. 5 from Carolina.

"It was fairly close," he said. "In the end, the decision was to go this direction."

Buffalo took 6-foot-4 Finnish blue-liner Rasmus Ristolainen at No. 8 and 6-5, 225-pound Russian Nikita Zadorov in the middle of the round.

"We want to become bigger," he said. "We want to become more physical. The game’s moving that way right now, and hopefully it will remain fairly consistent as these guys start their NHL careers.

"In Ristolainen’s case, the fact that he’s played in a men’s league, Finnish elite league, two years in a row probably positions him a little better to step in than Zadorov. It might be a stretch to think that he can play next year."

Sabres select Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with their first pick in NHL draft

NHL Draft Hockey_Naso
Associated Press photo

By John Vogl

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Sabres said they wanted Finnish forward and 2011 first-round draft pick Joel Armia to come to Buffalo with a friend or two. They made sure of it today.

The Sabres selected defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with the No. 8 selection in the NHL draft.

He is believed to be NHL-ready. The 6-foot-3, 201-pounder has been playing with men in Finland for two seasons already.

"Armia is a good friend for me," the 18-year-old Ristolainen said in Prudential Center. "He told me Buffalo is a very good place and very nice city."

Ristolainen led his Finnish team in scoring with three goals and 15 points while averaging more than 21 minutes per game.

"As a two-way defenseman, I have to do everything well in every situation," he said. "I try to play like Shea Weber. He’s like my idol. He’s a big leader, plays physical, has a good shot.

Ristolainen figured he would get picked in the 10-15 range.

"It was a good surprise for me," said Ristolainen, who figures he can play in Buffalo next season. "I think it’s maybe easier to get a spot on the team if they are rebuilding."

Road to the NHL Draft Recap: Catch up on our 30 prospects in 30 days series

By John Vogl

NEW YORK -- It's NHL draft day, and we've been preparing for it with a "Road to the NHL Draft" series over the past month. We profiled 30 prospects in 30 days, and here are links to all of them so fans can feel like they know they players when their names are called.

Seth Jones

Anthony Mantha

J.T. Compher

Adam Tambellini

Valentin Zykov

Zachary Fucale

Sean Monahan

Max Domi

Nathan MacKinnon

Eric Comrie

Jordan Subban

Frederick Gauthier

Valeri Nichushkin

Samuel Morin

Ryan Pulock

Aleksander Barkov

Kerby Rychel

Ryan Hartman

Rasmus Ristolainen

Bo Horvat

Juuse Saros

Hunter Shinkaruk

Elias Lindholm

Zach Nastasiuk

Mirco Mueller

Alexander Wennberg

Adam Erne

Curtis Lazar

Jonathan Drouin

Sean Malone

We also did full-length features on Darnell Nurse, Justin Bailey and the growing diversity that exists in the NHL and its draft.

Live blog at 3 p.m.: NHL draft

Regier expects Miller, Vanek to remain with Sabres through draft weekend

By John Vogl

NEW YORK – Darcy Regier entered draft weekend ready to gauge the marketplace for Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. As of now, he expects to exit draft weekend with them as members of the Sabres.

“Right now, I do, yes,” Regier said this afternoon.

Miller’s agent, Mike Liut, concurs in regard to his client.

“I am not expecting anything to happen,” he said via email.

The trade market has had a number of names added to it this weekend, but Regier says that doesn’t mean transactions will occur.

“As you add names and the supply gets greater, I don’t know what that will do with the asking prices and whether teams will be able to get the asking price or whether there will be any kind of adjustment in the marketplace for players or for the acquisition of players,” Regier said. “It’s really still a bit of a moving target that hasn’t settled yet.”

Miller and Vanek are the top names on the Sabres’ shopping list because they are set to enter the final year of their contracts. Buffalo is not expected to contend for the Stanley Cup and there is no guarantee the players will re-sign, so Regier cannot let them exit the organization next summer without getting assets in return.

“I entered this weekend recognizing that they both are in the last year of their contracts, and I have a responsibility to see what that means both with those players and also within the marketplace,” Regier said. “Unless you’re a highly competitive team, it’s very difficult to have players on your roster whose contracts are going to expire if you either choose not to or don’t have the ability to re-up them.

“Just to lose those assets, you try to get a sense of what the marketplace is like, and that’s a process that’s ongoing. I expect it will continue to move through the draft into maybe free agency and maybe beyond that. We’re actively keeping our finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the league, and we’ll have to just make our decision.”

The lack of trade activity extends to the draft, which will be held Sunday in New Jersey. The Sabres are set to pick eighth and 16th overall.

“Right now I expect that we will pick where we’re picking, and I say that only because there’s nothing that’s imminent or concrete,” Regier said. “But like I said, there are a lot of conversations, and they will continue right until the draft starts and even beyond that.”

Sabres' Gilbert honored, humbled to join USA Hockey staff for Sochi Olympics

Gilbert_michael-e1348668359384

By John Vogl

NEW YORK -- Mike Gilbert remembers being lucky enough to watch Team USA's triumph over Russia in the 1980 Olympics live on Canadian television. He's going to be even more fortunate next year. He'll be watching the 2014 Games live in Russia, and he'll be part of it.

USA Hockey today named Gilbert to its public relations staff for the Olympics in Sochi. The Sabres' longtime vice president of public and community relations is the only one selected to join Dave Fischer, USA Hockey's senior director of communications.

"It was a little humbling," Gilbert said. "I was surprised and I was honored at the same time to be recognized that way."

Gilbert was part of USA Hockey's news conference today in which it named Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma as coach and Nashville's David Poile as general manager. Pittsburgh's Ray Shero will be the associate GM and Brian Burke will be director of player personnel. The national team advisory group will include Stan Bowman (Chicago), Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia), Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles) and Dale Tallon (Florida).

"It really didn’t sink in a lot until today," Gilbert said. "You see all the GMs. Stan Bowman, who won the Stanley Cup a week ago, was right there. Dave Poile and Ray Shero, all these different people, and it started hitting home that, ‘Wow, these guys are the best in the United States,' and to be part of that in a small way was neat."

Seth Jones won't be offended if Avalanche draft a forward instead of him at No. 1

NHL Hockey Draft Pros_Naso(3)
Associated Press photo

By John Vogl

NEW YORK -- Seth Jones has been ranked No. 1 by NHL Central Scouting all year. When the Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery, it seemed liked a no-brainer that they'd stick with the rankings and take the former Denver resident and Avs fan with the first pick.

But the Avs have indicated they're leaning toward center Nathan MacKinnon, with Jonathan Drouin also a possibility. Jones understands the logic and Colorado's outspokenness.

"That’s the first time in a long time that anyone’s came out like that, but I don’t blame them," Jones said. "I’m not taking it personally. It’s professional sports. It would have been a nice story, but at the same time they’ve got to make a decision. It’s definitely a tough one this year. Nathan’s a great player, along with Jonathan."

Jones then displayed his knowledge of draft history.

"I mean, one’s very special, but Chris Pronger’s been No. 2, Drew Doughty has been No. 2, so there’s been a lot of good defensemen and players in general that have gone on to have great careers," he said.

Video: Bucky & Sully talk Pegula interview, Stanley Cup Final & more

News Sports Columnists Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan discussed a recent interview with Terry Pegula, the Stanley Cup Final, Patrick Kane, the NHL Draft and more on their weekly "Bucky & Sully Show" Friday morning at 10 a.m. on buffalonews.com.

On Terry Pegula interview and Darcy Regier:

On NHL Draft and Sabres' options:

On Stanley Cup Final and Patrick Kane:

On Scotty Bowman's work:

Watch more highlights from the show by clicking here.

A goalie at No. 16? Sabres have some interest in Halifax's Fucale

Fucale media
Zach Fucale meets the media Friday with the Empire State Building as a backdrop (Getty Images).

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.

Continue reading "A goalie at No. 16? Sabres have some interest in Halifax's Fucale" »

Road to the NHL Draft: Sean Malone

By John Vogl

Sean Malone

Position: Center

Junior team: U.S. Under-18 (USHL)

Born: Buffalo

Measurables: 5-foot-11, 183 pounds

2012-13 stats: 44 games, 13 goals, 14 assists, 27 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 62 (North America)

Lowdown: Malone has toured the world since leaving Nichols School last year. He’s played home games in Michigan and pulled the USA crest over his head in Sweden and Russia. He’ll play in Boston next season as a forward for Harvard University. He’ll also get a future stop on his resume when an NHL team drafts him.

Malone’s hustle and skating should pique the interest of teams starting in the middle rounds. He has international experience after playing in the under-18 world junior tournament and the Ivan Hlinka tourney. The exposure helped him make a 38-spot jump in the eyes of NHL Central Scouting, which had him at No. 98 in the midterm rankings.

The 18-year-old struggled at times during the under-18 world juniors. He had just one assist in the seven games and was minus-2 while averaging 13:14 of ice time per game.

He said it: "You see all these guys here, all the same age, all working for the same thing. You want to make sure you’re working hard because you’ve got other competitors here. If you put in the work in the offseason, you can maybe get a step above some of these guys.” – Malone after attending the NHL Scouting Combine.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Two high-ranked prospects feel they made good impression on Sabres

By John Vogl

NEW YORK -- There's no telling how the NHL draft will shake out Sunday before the Sabres pick eighth -- heck, there's no telling whether they'll even stay at No. 8 -- but it’s possible Hunter Shinkaruk or Sean Monahan could hear his name called when Buffalo steps to the dais.

They attended the Sabres’ scouting combine and interview session this month and walked away feeling both sides benefitted from the experience.

“I went on the ice and I was looking up, and it was another NHL rink that I’ve skated on now,” Shinkaruk, who totaled 86 goals the past two seasons for Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League, said today at a prospects gathering in Weehawken, N.J. "Everything went well."

Monahan was a one-man show on a poor Ottawa team, which allowed the center to learn every aspect of the game. His scoring ability and two-way awareness would fit in well with Buffalo.

“I think I had a pretty good impression with them,” he said along the Hudson River with the New York skyline in the background.

While the draft will definitely happen, there's not much market for trades at the moment, according to Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier.

"It’s a pretty quiet area right now," Regier told the Sabres' website this afternoon while answering a question about Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller.

Audio: NHL scouting director and top prospects Jones, MacKinnon get ready for draft

NHL Hockey Draft Pros_Naso
Associated Press photo --
From left, Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Hunter Shinkaruk, Sean Monahan, Jonathan Drouin, Zach Fucale, Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse.

By John Vogl

WEEHAWKEN, N.J. -- With the New York skyline as a backdrop, some of the NHL's top prospects summed up their feelings as they head toward the draft Sunday.

Seth Jones, a former Denver resident, knows it would be a great story if Colorado picks him first. The Avalanche, though, are looking toward Nathan MacKinnon. He's trying not to think about it.

To hear from them and Dan Marr, the NHL's director of Central Scouting, click the audio files below.

Dan Marr

Seth Jones

Nathan MacKinnon

Quick morning hits from around NHL

By John Vogl

NEW YORK -- Greetings from the Big Apple, where preparations have begun for today's NHL Draft Prospects Luncheon. Before catching a ferry to lovely Weehawken, N.J., here are some quick hits from the league:

*The Sabres signed Mike Weber, and neither Ryan Miller nor the agent for Thomas Vanek have much to say.

*Buffalonian and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs tells the Boston Globe the salary cap will rise significantly for the 2014-15 season.

*Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson has decided to play one more season.

*Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang has turned down a $54 million offer.

*The Chicago Blackhawks have taken out the following ad in the Boston Globe. BN2aglCCQAE-fgv.jpg large

Road to the NHL Draft: Jonathan Drouin

By John Vogl

Jonathan Drouin

Position: Left wing

Junior team: Halifax (QMJHL)

Born: St. Agathe, Quebec

Measurables: 5-foot-10, 186 pounds

2012-13 stats: 49 games, 41 goals, 64 assists, 105 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 3 (North America)

Lowdown: Drouin’s dream season included a Memorial Cup championship and nearly every award handed out, including Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year and MVP of both the regular season and playoffs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He can store the honors alongside his highlight packages, which include jaw-dropping goals and pinpoint passes. Many came during a 29-game points streak that featured 26 goals and 39 assists. He had 35 points in 17 playoff appearances, including a five-assist outing in the championship game.

Though skating alongside fellow top prospect Nathan MacKinnon certainly helped Drouin stand out, he played just as well without the superb center and made MacKinnon look good, too. Drouin is outstanding at reading plays, which allows him to intercept passes and start lethal transitions. The words “magical” and “magician” have been used often.

Drouin lacks the adult strength of MacKinnon and Seth Jones, so he may not be as ready to compete in the NHL as his draft mates. He’ll have to reach the top level and show why Quebec voted him as its top draft prospect.

They said it: "He had that swagger and inner confidence that he wanted to be a difference-maker every time he was on the ice. His skill set, hands and vision really are at an elite level, so he's going to be a prime-time NHL scorer." – Steve Spott, head coach of Canada’s world junior team, to NHL.com.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Weber signs three-year, $5 million contract with Sabres

By John Vogl

Mike Weber, who was set to become a restricted free agent July 5, has signed a three-year, $5 million contract with the Sabres.

Weber, who just finished a two-year deal that averaged $950,000 per season, will make $1.5 million in each of the next two years and $2 million in 2015-16.

There was no immediate word from the organization.

"Really excited to be staying in Buffalo for 3 more years," Weber wrote on Twitter, along with the hashtags "IsItOctoberYet" and "letgobuffalo." He then erased it.

The 25-year-old defenseman has spent parts of five seasons in Buffalo. He played 42 games last year, recording one goal, seven points and a plus-3 rating with 70 penalty minutes.

The 6-foot-2, 211-pounder was a healthy scratch to start the season but became one of the more dependable defenders by the end. Coach Ron Rolston continually praised his leadership.

Road to the NHL Draft: Curtis Lazar

By John Vogl

Curtis Lazar

Position: Forward

Junior team: Edmonton (WHL)

Born: Salmon Arm, British Columbia

Measurables: 6-foot, 190 pounds

2012-13 stats: 72 games, 38 goals, 23 assists, 61 points

Central Scouting rank: No. 20 (North America)

Lowdown: Lazar blew past Steven Stamkos. He left Sidney Crosby behind. That has a tendency to draw attention. The looks at Lazar began at the 2011 Canada Games, a biennial event that is the country’s largest competition for young athletes. Lazar led British Columbia to the gold, scoring 12 goals to break Stamkos’ record and 17 points to eclipse Crosby’s mark in only six games.

The Oil Kings’ assistant captain combines a hard-working mentality with offensive ability. A former teammate of Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk, Lazar led Edmonton with eight goals and 19 points in 20 playoff games en route to the Western Hockey League title in 2011-12. The speedy forward continued the goal scoring this season, pacing the team with 38. Lazar scored nine times in 22 playoff games but added just two assists.

Lazar doesn’t have the dazzling creativity many would like and has been knocked for taking the safe play. That is good decision-making for the NHL level, but scouts hope for a higher showing of skill at the junior level.

They said it: "He had a dry spell for a while, but when he was on he was around the puck and creating stuff all game. He can certainly take advantage of his opportunities. He's got real good puck-handling ability, is a smart offensive guy and skates well.” – Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting.

The Buffalo News is profiling 30 prospects in 30 days leading up to the NHL draft June 30.

Lecavalier becomes biggest name on buyout list as Lightning says farewell

By John Vogl

The first few NHL buyouts were expected. Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, Daniel Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov could see the farewells coming.

This morning, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent another big name packing, and it was more of a surprise. Tampa has elected to use a compliance buyout on Vincent Lecavalier, the captain who's been with the team since being drafted first overall in 1998.

"Vinny has been a significant reason for many of our past successes, including the 2004 Stanley Cup, and his contributions to the community are immeasurable," team President Steve Yzerman said in a statement. "The Lightning organization is indebted to Vinny; we thank him for all he has done here and we wish him well as he moves forward.

"After much internal deliberation, we believe this will prove to be a pivotal move for us as we strive to achieve our long term goal of competing at the highest level, year-in, year-out. The economics and structure of the CBA are necessitating this decision and we at the Lightning are excited at the newly created opportunities this presents to us."

The buyout cost ranges from $30 million to $32.67 million, according to reports. Lecavalier just finished the fourth season of an 11-year, $85 million. He has already earned $40 million in salary, which coupled with the buyout means he made at least $70 million for four seasons.

The 33-year-old becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Each team is allowed two compliance buyouts during this season and next, and the period opened at 11 p.m. Wednesday. It runs until July 4.

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | [email protected]

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]

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