NEWARK, N.J. — The Sabres had a plan to draft six forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender Sunday. They followed it almost to the letter.
After drafting a pair of blue-liners in the first round, the Sabres went big on forwards. The prizes came in the second round when they took three players very familiar with Buffalo.
J.T. Compher, a center from the U.S. National Team Development Program, played in Buffalo in September in the All-American Prospects Game.
He left town impressed, and he’ll bring the same attitude when he returns for development camp next week.
“I’m very excited to be part of this organization,” said Compher, who was taken 35th after the Sabres acquired the pick from Carolina as part of a deal that sent Andrej Sekera to the Hurricanes. “It’s great to be wanted. It’s a great organization. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for me in the next couple years to try and make the club.”
Compher is a 5-foot-10, 184-pound agitator who had 15 goals and 42 points in 49 games in the United States Hockey League.
“My two years in the national team program were amazing,” he said. “They physically developed me, mentally developed me, made me into a good player and overall-rounded player.”
Three picks later, the Sabres took Minnesota high school center Connor Hurley. He just finished his junior year by winning the prestigious state championship with Edina High. The 6-1, 174-pounder had 15 goals and 43 points in 25 games.
“Playing for Edina and winning a state championship is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid,” said Hurley, who attended the Sabres’ scouting combine. “I liked them and their organization very much. Their building is unbelievable. I’m so happy they picked me.”
Hurley will eventually attend Notre Dame, as will fifth-round pick Cal Petersen.
Petersen, a goaltender, models his game after Boston’s Tuukka Rask and the Sabres’ Ryan Miller.
“He’s a tremendous goaltender,” he said of Miller. “I’ve grown up idolizing him, and to be drafted to the same team he plays for is really an unbelievable thing.”
Petersen also came to Buffalo for the scouting event.
“I went to the combine after the NHL Combine and really fell in love with the whole atmosphere and the professionalism they brought,” said the 6-2, 183-pounder for Waterloo of the USHL. “I’m pretty athletic, and I like to use that athleticism and quickness to kind of move around the crease as efficiently as I can.”
Buffalo used its third-round pick on right wing Nicholas Baptiste. The 6-foot, 189-pounder for Sudbury of the Ontario Hockey League was one of the most improved players this year in the eyes of NHL Central Scouting. He was 105th in its midterm rankings and vaulted to No. 61 at the end of the season.
“This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life, so I had to take the right approach off the ice and on the ice to do so,” said Baptiste, who had 21 goals and 48 points in 66 games. “Hard work and doing anything for the team, that’s what I pride myself on. That’s what I’m going to bring to Buffalo hopefully sooner than later.”
The Sabres had three fifth-round selections, and in addition to Petersen they picked up Swedish forward Gustav Possler and Connecticut prep school defenseman Anthony Florentino.
Possler, a 6-foot winger, had 19 goals and 40 points in 36 games with Modo Junior. Florentino is a 6-1, 209-pound bruiser who loves to play physical but has offensive skills as evidenced by his 21 goals and 53 points in 62 games.
“I’m a nice guy off the ice, but on the ice it’s a different story,” Florentino said.
Buffalo also drafted Williamsville native Justin Bailey in the second round, West Seneca’s Sean Malone in the sixth and closed its draft by taking center Eric Locke in the seventh.
Locke led Saginaw of the OHL with 44 goals and 97 points in 68 games.