Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

June 16, 2008

SCHMITT: Draft picks are ‘big’ for Sabres

The good news for NHL fans is the upcoming entry draft is deep. Maybe a dozen deep in elite-type talent, according to Kevin Devine, the Sabres amateur scouting director.

The bad news is the Sabres have the 13th pick.

Devine, oft-maligned as the lead channel clicker in a group of TV watching shut-ins, is as frank as they come, his candor a breath of fresh air at Monday’s pre-draft press conference at HSBC Arena.

At one point, Devine admitted that U.S. high school hockey was the lowest rung on the sport’s amateur ladder. He added that an interview with 2006 second-round choice Mike Weber was a “knockout,” good enough to push the defenseman up the team’s draft charts by six or so slots.

And he grumbled about the crapshoot of trying to project five years out on a group of pimply kids who could just as easily end up rolling trucks through Alberta as helping his team on the power play.

“If it was just the Canadian Hockey league players, it wouldn’t be an easy job, but it would be a lot easier,” Devine said. “Where’s the high school guy going to be in five years? And how big is he going to get?”

These are all pieces of Devine’s livelihood, a job thats moves can’t be evaluated for a half-decade.

Devine swears his department will stick to its draft credo next week, taking the best player available when that 13th pick rolls around, whether it’s one of the oodles of talented defenseman or yet another goalie for the stable. Goodness knows Buffalo has tried to stockpile blueliners the past few seasons. Three of the Sabres’ six picks in 2006 were defensemen, as were the top two selections in 2007.

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