PHILADELPHIA -- The NHL draft is first and foremost about distributing the league's future talent among its franchises, but it's also an opportunity for each team to assess its overall needs and set the course of the organization for the coming weeks and months. With that in mind, we set to grade each team's efforts at the hockey-palooza that is the draft weekend. Each team received a grade for the talent they managed to acquire and another grade for how well the team's fortunes fared in the same 48 hours.
Corey Pronman provided the talent grades and emptied his notebook (including re-printing each first-rounder's scouting report from Friday's live blog) to give you a comprehensive glimpse at each team's future, while Frank Provenzano graded each front office's weekend.
Buffalo Sabres | GRADE: A
2014 draft class
*PDR: Corey Pronman's pre-draft ranking. ** Goalies ranked separately.
Top Pick: Sam Reinhart is the best pure passer in the draft class. His ability to dictate tempo elevates his game to a distinct level. Reinhart can make all kinds of plays with the puck, and his elite hockey sense stands out regularly. He has average size but will work hard in battles for the puck. Some of the skills that distinguish Reinhart are his smart play in the defensive zone and his ability to shut down opposing top players, and he is an asset on the penalty kill.
Day 2 picks: Lemieux is a very strong winger who is physical and intense every shift. He is an above-average skater, though I've gotten mixed reviews from scouts on that area of his game. He isn't an overly skilled player, but he's decent offensively, with good instincts. Lemieux needs to work on reigning in his emotions and not taking bad penalties, which he does often. ... Cornel is a skilled puck-possession forward with top-six upside at the NHL level. As with many skilled prospects, he can try to do too much on the ice, turning the puck over. He works hard, but his off-puck reads and value are underwhelming. Cornel needs to bulk up, and isn't the best in the physical game. ... Karabacek controls the puck with some flashy skills, and good overall instincts and decision making. His shot has developed well, as he gets the puck off his stick quickly and with accuracy. His size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) is a limitation, but not to the same degree as some of the other skilled forwards on this list. ... Johansson is the kind of goalie who doesn't move very much in the net, but takes away shooting space with his angles. He can be effective taking away second chances. Scouts are split on his athletic skills, with some saying he's good in that area and others saying he doesn't wow them as much when he has to move a lot. His reads and reactions are solid to above average. ... Martin's first-pass and transition game get praise from NHL sources. Martin is a clear above-average skater with solid to above-average puck skills. He's a physical player who leans on his checks and battles well. Martin can be fine in his own end, and while he'll still make the odd mistake typical of players his age, he understands the game defensively. He doesn't really stand out in any area. ... Max Willman is a bit of a late bloomer, but he's certainly toolsy. Willman can skate, and has above-average puck possession tools. The Brown commit is a bit of a project, but he's an intriguing upside pick. ... Chris Brown has intrigued some scouts with his above-average skating and puck skills. He plays in Michigan high school though, which is a pretty low level of play though and has made it tough to evaluate him.
Summary: With Reinhart the Sabres' depth down the middle in young players is elite currently. They added a bunch of talent after Reinhart, adding several top forward prospects and a former top prospect in Brycen Martin who has been up and down in the WHL. There were no pluggers, and even though Lemieux is a physical player, he has offense to his game too. They have an elite farm system, and after today, you need a really convincing argument to say they don't have the best pipeline in the NHL. -- Pronman
Organizational assessment: The Sabres used this draft to continue their trawl of the hockey talent ocean, adding the highly-talented center Sam Reinhart in the first round to go along with five other picks in the subsequent two rounds. With probably the best prospect pipeline in the NHL and oodles of cap space, the Sabres are poised to rapidly scale the NHL standings ladder in the near future. Grade: A+ -- Provenzano