NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manager gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Buffalo Sabres best draft class.
Buffalo Sabres Best Draft Class
1982 NHL Draft
The Sabres have actually had some solid to great draft classes in their history. This was one of the more heated debates on which class was the best Buffalo had. The old debate is quantity versus quality and the runner up class of 1983 had that. However, 1982 class was too strong to ignore with two Hall of Famers taken in the club’s first three picks in Phil Housley and Dave Andreychuk.
Buffalo coming into the draft had been in the playoffs in all but three seasons since coming into the league in 1970. The Sabres were on an eight-year Stanley Cup Playoffs run before the 1982 NHL Draft.
Phil Housley, 1st round, 6th overall
Housley came from South St. Paul High School and Minnesota and became one of the best American-born defencemen in the history of the league. The Twin Cities native made an immediate impact with 19 goals in first season. He would consistently range 15-25 goals in his tenure with the Sabres. Housley was a three-time All-Star with Buffalo, and led them to the postseason in all but two seasons in Western New York.
Housley would play with the Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs before calling it a career. He held the record for most games played by an American before Chris Chelios broke the mark in 2006. The veteran made the Hall of Fame in 2015 after an inexplicably long wait to get in. Housley returned to the team as head coach in 2017, but became one of the many in the revolving door of bench bosses.
Paul Cyr, 1st round, 9th overall
The famous rock singer Meat Loaf once said “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.” Cyr was taken ninth and didn’t have the career of Housley or Andreychuk. However, he did score 101 career goals in 470 games with the stints in Buffalo and with the New York Rangers. The Port Alberni, British Columbia native did score 20 goals twice, including a 22-goal season in 1984-85.
Cyr was traded to the Blueshirts, but injuries plagued his career before his retirement in 1992-93 in the AHL. He sadly died of a heart attack at the age of 48 in May 2012.
Dave Andreychuk, 1st round, 16th overall
The Sabres did some wheeling and dealing to land three first-round choices and Andreychuk was the last of those three picks. Andreychuk has gone down as one of the best left wings to ever play the game with a career total of 640 goals. His most productive season in the Queen City was in 1988-89 with 41 goals on his way to 368 career goals for the team.
The Hamilton, Ontario native was part of a blockbuster trade in Feb. 1993 along with Darren Puppa and a draft pick to Toronto for Grant Fuhr and a conditional pick. Andreychuk continued to be productive and even posted his career-best season with 53 goals in 1993-94. He finally got his Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04 and reached the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Only Jeff Parker would play more than 100 games out of this class for the Sabres after this trio.
Other Draft Classes
1983 NHL Draft
1st Round Picks
This is the draft class if you want quantity, as seven went onto play over 300 games in the league. Tom Barrasso was the fifth overall pick of that draft and played parts of six seasons with the club on his way to the third-most wins (369) by an American-born goalie. The Boston native won the Calder Trophy for the league’s top rookie and was a First-Team All-Star in 1984. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won two Stanley Cups.
Buffalo had three first-round picks like the year before and took Normand Lacombe (10th) and Adam Creighton (11th) also in the first. Lacombe played 319 games and scored 53 goals, but would last only parts of three seasons before going to the Edmonton Oilers, where he would have the majority of his success. Creighton lasted pieces of four seasons with Buffalo and scored 18 goals in 1986-87. However, his biggest success was with the Blackhawks, including a 34-goal campaign in 1989-90. The Burlington, Ontario native played 708 games before retiring in Germany in 1988-99.
2nd Round and Later
John Tucker posted a 31-goal season in 1985-86 after being the 31st overall choice in 1983. He played with the club until 1989 when he was traded to the Washington Capitals. Tucker would return, but have a small rebirth with the Lightning. He’d retire in Japan after the 1999-2000 season and coached in Italy. Daren Puppa led the league in wins with 31 in 1989-90, but never could nail down the starting job long-term. He did have a successful stint with the Lightning, which was a solid career for the 74th pick.
Christian Ruuttu was picked in the seventh round and was a consistent 15-25-goal scorer as a middle-six centre. He’d play 621 games in the league before retiring in his native Finland in 1998-99. Uwe Krupp came into his own later in Buffalo and was the second German to make the All-Star Game. The 11th rounder involved in the Buffalo trade with Pierre Turgeon to the New York Islanders that brought in Pat LaFontaine and Randy Wood. Krupp did get a Stanley Cup after scoring in the clinching-goal for the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.
1988 NHL Draft
This class deserves a mention for Alexander Mogilny breaking down the door for other Soviet players. It was considered a wasted pick to take a Soviet back then, but the Sabres managed to get Mogilny following a harrowing escape from Sweden. The future Hall of Famer was taken in the fifth round and paired with Lafontaine to form a fearsome duo. Keith Carney was taken in the round before and played in 1,000 career games. The Sabres also grabbed beloved pugilist Rob Ray in the fifth round, eight picks after Mogilny.