Niagara Gazette

Sports

July 1, 2013

GETTING DEFENSIVE

Sabres restock blueline in 1st round of NHL draft

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — The added pick gave the Sabres 11 through the seven-round draft, with which they used to select three defenseman, seven forwards and goalie Calvin Petersen (129th overall), who spent the past two seasons playing for Waterloo of the U.S. Hockey League.

The trades that didn’t materialize on Sunday were ones involving Miller and Vanek. Both are entering the final years of their contracts, leaving their futures uncertain as part of Buffalo rebuilding plans.

“We’d still love to have those guys in Buffalo,” Rolston said. “They’re still part of our team and we’re happy about that. And we’ll make those decisions later.”

The main focus, Rolston said, was on transforming a blueline that will look much different than the one that opened last season. Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff and newly re-signed Mike Weber are the lone veteran holdovers on defense after Buffalo traded Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and T.J. Brennan in separate deals last season.

The question now becomes how quickly their top-two draft picks can begin making an impact at the NHL level.

Ristolainen is regarded as having the best chance of playing in Buffalo as soon as this season. The 18-year-old combined for six goals and 23 points in 92 games with TPS.

“He’s a mobile, strong, offensive-minded defenseman with very good puck-handling and passing skills,” NHL director of European scouting Goran Stubb said, in describing Ristolainen. “He’s one of the best young defenseman in Europe in his age group. He’s a leader on the ice and plays with confidence.”

Ristolainen made the switch from forward to defense as a 12-year-old in 2006, and has attempted to pattern his game after idol, Nashville Predators star defenseman Shea Weber.

Zadorov finished second among OHL rookie defensemen last season with 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 63 games in helping London with the OHL title.

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