Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — The Buffalo Sabres took a defense-first approach in rebuilding their roster at the NHL draft Sunday. And they’re not yet ready to part ways with either goalie Ryan Miller or forward Thomas Vanek.
Unable to find the right price to trade one or both of their veteran stars, the Sabres focused on going big in revamping their blueline.
The Sabres opened the draft by selecting Finnish defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen with the eighth pick, and then took Russian-born defenseman Nikita Zadorov at No. 16. Both have size, speed, and an offensive dimension to their respective games.
Ristolainen is listed at 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds, and spent much of the past two seasons playing for TPS of the Finnish Elite League. Zadorov, listed at 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds, made the jump to North America last season to play with the Ontario Hockey League London Knights.
“Currently we could use that size back there for us,” coach Ron Rolston said by phone from the draft in New Jersey. “For us to be able to build up our back end is important. And those two players are going to be big pieces to that.”
The focus on defense didn’t end there. The Sabres acquired defenseman Jamie McBain and Carolina’s second-round pick, 35th overall, in trade that sent defenseman Andrej Sekera to the Hurricanes.
Both players have had inconsistent careers. McBain had fallen out of favor in Carolina, while Sekera has never played to the offensive potential expected from him over six-plus seasons in Buffalo.
Rolston said the key to the deal was landing a third second-round pick, with which Buffalo used to draft forward J.T. Compher. He spent the past two seasons on USA Hockey’s Developmental Team and is scheduled to play for Michigan this fall.