The Sabres have done pretty well when drafting defensemen in the first round

June 22, 2018

Dallas, TX (WGR 550) - We all know the Sabres are going to use the first pick in Friday’s NHL Entry Draft to take defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. In the Sabres' history, they’ve taken defensemen in the first round 18 times. 

The first defenseman they snagged with their first round pick was in their third season. Jim Schoenfeld was the selection with the fifth pick overall. The big red head played 719 NHL games and was a solid choice, and a fan favorite. The former Sabres captain was traded to Detroit in 1981. Schoenfeld returned to the Sabres organization in 1984-85 to coach Rochester, but injuries forced him back with the Sabres as he played 34 games.

In 1974, Buffalo used the 11th overall pick to take one of the strongest men to ever wear the uniform. Lee Fogolin played 924 NHL games, and guys that played with him would just gush about how strong he was. Fogolin was traded to Edmonton in 1987.

The Sabres went for pure toughness in 1978 when they took Larry Playfair 13th overall. You could get away with playing Playfair on your third pair, but in 688 games the tough guy amassed 1,814 minutes in penalties. In 1986, Playfair was traded to Los Angeles and then the Kings sent him back to Buffalo in 1988.

The only man that still should have his number retired by the Sabres is Mike Ramsey. Ramsey was taken 11th overall and is the best defenseman in Buffalo Sabres history. Nobody was a better shot blocker, and the former captain played 1,070 NHL games after winning a gold medal with Team USA in the 1980 Olympics. I really don’t understand how Ramsey has not had his No. 5 retired by the Sabres. Ramsey was traded to Pittsburgh in 1993.

Current Sabres coach Phil Housley was the first of three first-round picks for the Sabres in 1982. The Hall of Famer played 1,495 games in the NHL and was often used at center by Sabres coach Scotty Bowman. In 1990, Housley was traded to Winnipeg.

The next defenseman taken came in 1985 and he was another one that played forever in the NHL. Calle Johansson was the 14th overall pick and played in 1,109 NHL games. Johansson went to the Capitals in 1989.

I would say none of the first round defensemen taken to this point had been busts, but the first one came in 1986. Shawn Anderson was the fifth overall selection and only played 255 NHL games. Anderson was traded to Washington in 1990.

Kevin Haller was the 14th overall pick in 1989 and had a pretty decent career. Haller played 642 NHL games and was traded to Montreal in 1992.

The 1991 draft brought Philippe Boucher with the 13th overall pick. Boucher was always uncomfortable in Buffalo, because his English was weak. He played 748 games in the NHL and was sent to Los Angeles in 1995.

A complete bust was the 11th overall selection in 1992 in David Cooper. The D-man only played 30 NHL games and was traded to Toronto in 1998.

A solid NHL defenseman came with the 14th pick of the 1995 draft in Jay McKee. He played 802 NHL games and left for St. Louis in 2006-07.

Dmitri Kalinin was a smooth skating defenseman and played 539 NHL games, but he was the 18th overall pick in 1998 and I don’t know if he ever lived up to that. Kalinin was traded to the Rangers in 2009.

Keith Ballard was taken 11th overall in 2002, but he didn’t last long in Buffalo. He wound up being traded to Colorado in 2003 before he ever played a game in Buffalo. Overall, Ballard played 504 NHL games.

In 2006, Dennis Persson was taken 24th overall, but after three season in the AHL, he left and played back home in Sweden, which made him a wasted pick.

Tyler Myers was taken 12th overall in 2008 and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie. His play fell off after that and was traded to Winnipeg in 2015. Myers seemed to have found his game again as he had a real strong season for the Jets, including a nice playoff. So far, Myers has played 555 games in the league.

Mark Pysyk has been a solid defenseman in his 289 NHL games. He was taken 23rd overall in 2010 and was traded to Florida in 2016. However, Tim Murray hated his game because he wasn’t tough.

The only time in Sabres history that they took two defensemen in the first round was 2013 when they grabbed Rasmus Ristolainen eighth overall and Nikita Zadorov with the 16th pick.

There are times Ristolainen looks like a guy who deserved to be the eighth pick and there are times he looks like a street free agent. He’s only 23, so I’m not going to even go close to the word bust. Ristolainen has played 346 NHL games.

Zadorov was traded to Colorado in 2015 and was a regular this season. When he was in Buffalo, he was immature and not considered a good teammate, but he was also 18 and 19-years-old. The Russian defenseman has played 222 games in the NHL.

I think in their history, the Sabres have done pretty well in the defensemen they’ve drafted. Rasmus Dahlin is going to be the 19th defenseman to be drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Sabres and if he’s even 80 percent of what the hype is, he’s likely going to be the best of the bunch.

Join our draft coverage at 7:00 when Brian Koziol comes your way from (716) Food and Sport. I’ll be live in Dallas covering the festivities as they happen.