BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Sabres' 2021 off-season started on the right foot with Wednesday night's draft lottery. For the second time since 2018, the Sabres have the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. General manager Kevyn Adams weighed in on expectations for the selection, his disgruntled superstar, and the ongoing head coaching search.
Three Observations from Wednesday night's call:
Don't rush this prospect
No matter the prospect, Adams has made it clear that he's not going to rush him to the NHL level. After taking over for former GM Jason Botterill, he found himself left with a failed attempt to rush a first round pick into blue and gold: center Casey Mitteltstadt.
Buffalo's 2017 first rounder saw his game improve tremendously under interim head coach Don Granato, but the Minnesota product certainly isn't the only instance of a prospect being rushed, and flopping as a result. When it comes to this summer's selection, Adams and company will balance the needs of the player and the team.
"These guys are 18-year-olds, so you're not just looking at next year," Adams said. "We'll have no problem, whether it's number one or later in the draft, just saying 'okay, let's slow this down and make sure we get this right.'"
Some of the Sabres' best options are coming out of the University of Michigan. Defenseman Owen Power already has NHL-ready size at 6'5" and 214 pounds. His teammate, center Matthew Beniers, played at a point per game pace up front for the Wolverines this year. Every first overall pick from the last decade has impacted their NHL team right away.
No hurry for the coaching hunt
If you're impressed with what Don Granato got out of the likes of Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson after taking over behind the bench, imagine what he could do with Owen Power or Matthew Beniers. All signs point to the interim head coach staying in the running to drop the interim title, but the due diligence is still running its course.
"I really think it's important to talk to a lot of different people," Adams said. "I don't have a timetable for when this will wrap up."
Adams said he's spoken with coaching candidates who have experienced the NHL, the AHL, the NCAA, and top leagues in Europe. Former NHL coaches Bruce Boudreau and Rick Tocchet have both been linked to the Sabres.
An update on Jack Eichel
Selecting Beniers could point towards an Eichel deal, but the superstar center seems to be on the road to recovery. At season's end, the recommended road to recovery, that did not include surgery, had yet to be completed. The timetable was 12 weeks; and 12 weeks have passed. But as of Wednesday, there's little communication between the Sabres and their captain.
"We're just still not comfortable with any type of surgery that's never been done on a hockey player before," Adams said. "That hasn't changed."
Eichel's no-move clause kicks in at the end of next season; the former second overall pick carries a $10 million cap hit. The NHL Entry Draft will begin on July 23rd.