The Buffalo Sabres Almost Drafted This Star Defenseman
The Buffalo Sabres missed the playoffs for an 11th consecutive season, which is not only a franchise record, but the current longest playoff drought of the four major North American sports (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB).
Despite the fact the Sabres missed the playoffs, they played much better from February onward.
Young players like Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, Peyton Krebs and Casey Fitzgerald impressed; along with Dylan Cozens. Jeff Skinner played like his old self again and they have the two top players in the American Hockey League, who could crack the Sabres full-time next year (JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn).
However, past draft and free agent mistakes haunt the Sabres. The mistakes made during the Tim Murray and Jason Botterill era are well known by fans, but there is one mistake that fans might not be aware of, as it came to light last week.
According to Jeff Marek, the Sabres had a big decision in the 2016 NHL Draft, which was actually the draft held in Buffalo at KeyBank Center.
The Sabres were selecting 8th overall. According to Marek, the two players Buffalo talked to on the day of the draft, were forward Alex Nylander and defenceman Mikhail Sergachev.
The Sabres went with Nylander, while Sergachec went 9th overall to the Montreal Canadiens. Sergachev was later traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin.
Sergachev has gone on to be one of the best young defenceman in the NHL and a key piece in the Lightning's potential dynasty.
Nylander didn't do much for the Sabres. After a disappointing start, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenceman Henri Jokiharju. Nylander is now buried in the AHL as a draft bust.
So, why didn't the Sabres draft Sergachev over Nylander?
Marek says it's because the Sabres head European scout Andres Forsberg lobbied for Nylander. Both Forsberg and general manager Tim Murray had drafted many Swedish players with the Ottawa Senators, and they felt comfortable enough to go with Nylander.
Listen to the clip from Marek below.
They had also drafted Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko in the few years prior, which did not work out for different reasons, so perhaps they wanted to stay away from another Russian player.
That proved to be a mistake, as Sergachev is now a great D-man for Tampa. Buffalo later found their way to Jokiharju with the Nylander trade, but this is another example of a costly mistake made during the Tim Murray era.