PHILADELPHIA – The Buffalo Sabres entered the NHL Draft pretty stacked at defense and only took one blueliner, Swift Current’s Brycen Martin.
Selected in the third round at No. 74 overall, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Martin is a pretty intriguing pick. And he also had plenty of insight about playing against top choice and potential future teammate Sam Reinhart.
“He’s definitely a special player,” said Martin, who opposed Reinhart in both the Western Hockey League and the CHL Top Prospects Game. “I saw the clip up there of the first round when they were showing all his highlights and I remember him putting me down a minus in the prospects game. So I’m happy I’m a part of this organization and I don’t have to play against him.”
What makes Reinhart so special?
“You have to make sure everybody on the ice is taken,” Martin said. “He’ll definitely find a guy and put it through your legs something like that. You can’t worry about him too much personally, as much as everybody else becomes dangerous when he has the puck.”
Martin was ranked the 26th-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting but had an uneven year at Swift Current with 37 points in 72 games and was left off his team’s penalty-killing units.
“I saw good Martin. He was just inconsistent for expectations,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said of Martin, a former No. 2 pick in the WHL Draft.
“He’s a great skater, he has skill, he has hockey sense. His urgency needs to be ramped up.
“But a kid like that who’s a high pick I have to assume through pee wee and bantam, the game was easy. You get to major junior hockey and the game gets a little more difficult. Some guys adapt to that quicker.”
“I wasn’t trusted too much on the penalty kill this year but that’s just a minor setback,” said Martin. “It’s being able to play against top-end forwards and being trusted to shut them down. I tried to transition my defensive game with my offensive game.”
The middle pick of the second round was center Eric Cornel of Peterborough of the OHL, who was often in the middle for No. 10 overall pick Nicholas Ritchie (Anaheim).
Cornel had 62 points in 68 games and added four goals as Peterborough wiped out a 3-0 deficit to upset Sam Bennett-led Kingston in the first round of the OHL playoffs.
“Talking to my agent, there’s a lot of up and coming young guys and a lot of opportunity,” said the speedy Cornel, who switched from center to wing later in the season.
Murray said prior to the draft the Sabres didn’t have any immediate needs in goal. So he made a long-term selection there with the first pick of the third round in Jonas Johansson of Bryans IF in Sweden. The 6-foot-3, 198-pounder was a silver medalist at this year’s World Junior Championships.
“It wasn’t a shot in the dark because our scouts like him,” Murray said. “I didn’t see him. He’s athletic. That’s the one question I asked after you see the size. Is he athletic? They assured me that he was and we’ve got lots of time to develop him.”
In the fifth round, Buffalo took Brown University-bound left wing Maxwell Willman, a Massachusetts high schooler who had 21 goals and 23 assists in 25 games with Williston-Northampton. He’s a former youth teammate of Anthony Florentino, a defenseman Buffalo took in the fifth round last June.
Willman played public school hockey on Cape Cod and wasn’t recruited for hockey until playing prep school.
“It’s pretty overwhelming and really exciting,” he said. “It’s definitely a dream come true. I was a Bruins fan. I’m definitely a Buffalo fan now.”
Three of Buffalo’s picks did not attend the draft:
• Left winger Vaclav Karabacek of Gatineau in the Quebec League was taken 49th overall with Buffalo’s final pick of the second round. The Czech native finished the season fifth in QMJHL rookie scoring with 47 points in 65 games.
• Michigan high schooler Christopher Brown was taken in the sixth round (No. 151) after scoring 84 points, including 58 assists, in just 28 games for Cranbrook Kingswood. He will play this season with Green Bay of the USHL and attend Boston College beginning in 2015-16.
• Swedish right wing Victor Olofsson was taken in the seventh round (No. 181) out of Modo, where he had 32 goals and 21 assists in 44 games for the junior team and played in 11 senior league games.