1. Gil Perreault, 1970 (1st round, 1st overall). Yes, they had to get lucky with the famous Spin of the Wheel to take him. But when the first draft choice finishes with 512 goals, 1,326 points, makes the Hall of Fame and is forever the face of the franchise, that’s the quintessential good pick.
2. Ryan Miller, 1999 (5th round, 138th overall): The Sabres went bust at the top of the draft with the likes of Barrett Heisten and Milan Bartovic but hit with the former Michigan State Hobey Baker winner, who became the franchise’s all-time victory leader in goal before he was traded in February.
3. Tom Barrasso, 1983 (1st round, 5th overall): Taking a chance on an 18-year-old Massachusetts high schooler, the Sabres were immediately paid back by Barrasso winning the Calder and Vezina Trophy in his rookie year. No high school goalie had ever jumped directly into the NHL. Barrasso played six seasons in Buffalo and won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh.
4. Rick Martin, 1971 (1st round, 5th overall), Craig Ramsay (2nd round, 19th), Bill Hajt (3rd round, 33) – You’ve nailed it when you go 1-2-3 with a trio of franchise Hall of Famers and cornerstones on a Stanley Cup final team four years later.
5. Alexander Mogilny and Rob Ray, 1988 (fifth round, Nos. 89 & 97): An enigmatic Russian defector who put up a 76-goal season and a Canadian brawler who became the franchise’s all-time penalty minutes leader and a popular broadcaster. Back-to-back, eight picks apart.
6. Thomas Vanek, 2003 (1st round, 5th overall): With the franchise at a low point, you couldn’t miss and the Sabres didn’t with a two-time 40-goal scorer who was in his ninth season before being traded last October. Vanek was one of a dozen star players in the first round of what might be the best draft ever.
7. Don Edwards, 1975 (5th round, 89th overall): Bob Sauve was drafted first that year but it was the 5-9, 165-pound Edwards who took over late in the 1976-77 season and won 156 games over six years, third only to Miller and Dominik Hasek in franchise annals.
8. Mike Ramsey, 1979 (1st round, 11th overall): The University of Minnesota standout and Lake Placid Olympian remains the best pure defenseman in franchise annals. Even served time as an assistant coach on 1999 Cup finalists under Lindy Ruff – who was drafted at No. 32 in 1979.
9. Danny Gare, 1974 (2nd round, 29th overall): Lee Fogolin was actually the first round pick before the little winger from Calgary of the WHL was tabbed. He became a captain and one of the top snipers in franchise history with a pair of 50-goal seasons.
10. Jim Schoenfeld, 1972 (1st round, 5th overall): Just as Rick Martin proved the previous year and Tom Barrasso and Thomas Vanek would prove in later drafts, No. 5 has been a sweet spot for the Sabres. They got the captain of their 1975 finalists and a defensive mainstay for many years in their third draft. Solid pick.
11. Phil Housley, 1982 (the No. 6 pick): The Minnesota high schooler Phil Housley and Oshawa’s Dave Andreychuk (16) went on to have borderline Hall of Fame careers, both through their numbers in Buffalo and with other teams after they were traded. Andreychuk won a Cup with Tampa Bay.
12. Brian Campbell, 1997 (6th round, 167th overall): In a draft that started with Mika Noronen, Henrik Tallinder and Maxim Afinogenov, the red-headed defenseman from the Ottawa 67ers became the biggest find. A career that started slow saw him blossom into a mainstay player on back-to-back Eastern Conference finalists and a Stanley Cup winner in Chicago in 2010.
Best low-round talent: Donald Audette, 1989 (9th round, 183), Paul Gaustad, 2000 (7th round, 220), Uwe Krupp 1983 (11th round, 214), Derek Plante 1989 (8th round, 161), Ales Kotalik 1998 (6th round, 164), Patrick Kaleta 2004 (6th round, 176), Derek Smith 1974 (10th round, 168).