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Sabres opted for safe pick instead of possible ‘home run’ Nichushkin

Jul 2, 2013, 8:25 AM EDT

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Round One Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres, with the eighth overall pick in Sunday’s NHL Draft, had their doubts about Russian prospect Valeri Nichushkin.

And so, they passed up on him. The risks, they felt, weren’t worth the potential rewards of selecting the touted and towering forward.

Instead, the Sabres went the safe route, and chose defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen out of Finland.

“We thought that Ristolainen, he was close. Nichushkin, he could be a home run, but if things don’t work out,” Kevin Devine, the Sabres’ director of amateur scouting, told the Buffalo News.

“He’s been quoted in the paper as saying if he didn’t play and some things didn’t go right this year he was going back to the KHL. Then if he goes back there, do we ever see him again?”

However, it didn’t take long for an NHL club to select Nichushkin. Two picks later, the Dallas Stars grabbed him at 10th overall.

“We plan on signing him as soon as possible,” Stars GM Jim Nill told the Dallas Morning News recently.

“He’s free. His contract is free from Russia. We have notice from the NHL, from the KHL. So there was no problem that way for us. That’s not a concern.”

  1. hockey412 - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    I think they did the right thing…because I think Ristolainen is going to end up being one hell of a pick. Zadorov as well.

    • lordfletcher - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:06 AM

      Buffalo is showing EDM how a team properly drafts.

      Love everything Buffalo has done recently.

      -Wild fan (I still don’t think fans should put too much hope in Hackett)

    • elemeno89 - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      Buffalo’s defense will be pretty scary in a few years. Especially if Zadorov and Ristolainen develop properly while not losing their edge…

  2. REDSKINSFORLIFE - Jul 2, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    I wish Evgeny kuznetsov would be free of contracts in mother Russia.

    • qpla - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      Think we should cut Russian and European payers some slack. It’s not easy for a fresh 18-year-old to make the jump to North America, since there’s so much to get used to not only on the ice but also off the ice. I’ve heard several great Finnish players such as Selänne and Lehtinen mention one of the best decisions they’ve made was delaying their NHL debut.

      Kuznetsov has said he’d be willing to join the Caps after the 2014 Olympics, and when he does, I’m sure he’ll get a warm welcome.

      Go Caps

  3. mehetmet - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    I think the more we doubt these Eastern European/Russian players the less likely they are to come. I mean really, every time any prospect comes over from the KHL the ONLY story is “Is he going to leave if he doesn’t get what he wants”

    Put some faith in these guys, and maybe they will be more likely to stay. Think about it, would you want to go to a foreign country where everyone hates you and thinks that you are spoiled and will just go back home if you don’t get what you want? I know I wouldn’t, just let me stay home get paid and play there, where everyone will love me and I’ll be a hero.

    Some guys are here trying to fight through it like champs, despite us ragging on them all of the time, the Ovie’s and Kovalchuk’s. Let them be the examples, not the Radulov’s.

    • timmeh022 - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      I think when they come over from the KHL they get put under a lot of pressure sometimes (i.e. Cervenka in Calgary) and he underperformed there and got a lot of flack for it, now he’s back in the KHL. GRANTED that’s a different story cause he wasn’t a draft prospect.

  4. travishenryskid - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    They went high risk, high reward last year with Grigorenko. You can’t do that every year. I would have actually loved to get the Russian, but passing on him is completely understandable.

    • mehetmet - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      I don’t care if they passed on him, but I think they should have gave a better reason. The smart thing to do (in my opinion) would be make your pick look good, rather than making the one you didn’t take look bad.

      For example:

      “We picked Ristolainen because we thought he was the best possible choice for our future plans, and Nichushkin didn’t fit our needs as well as Risto. While Nichushkin has the potential of being an elite player in this league, we also believe Ristolainen will be an elite player at a position that better suits our need”

      You say this, you motivate your guy, make your pick look like the one you really wanted, and don’t look like a jackass for calling out another guy on something that may or may not be true.

      • travishenryskid - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM

        I think they did do that though. From the looks of it, Ristolainin has as good of a shot of being in Buffalo next year as Nichushkin does in Dallas. The difference is that they aren’t being held hostage by a guy who says he must play this year or else. Defensemen aren’t as flashy as scoring forwards, but Ristolainin is a big time prospect who is more NHL ready than the guy drafted immediately before him in Darnell Nurse. People in Buffalo are panicky right now, but this is an excellent foundation move.

  5. mathieug79 - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    They will have some of the best defensemen in the league if both guys develop the right way and Tyler Myers can become the guy he used to be!

  6. isphet71 - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM


  7. redridershoottheireyeout - Jul 2, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Way back when there was a player named Mo Titanic, another guy they said couldn’t miss, boy were the experts wrong there. Time will tell.

  8. billsin20xx - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    You really didn’t expect regier to go out on a limb, did you?
    That clown won’t do anything that isn’t no risk..

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