Buffalo was a system to worry about at one point. While their system had a good number of players to be confident would be NHL'ers, the high end skill was lacking, and a lot of the cupboard was ready to graduate, leaving questions about the long term pipeline. Utilizing it's two first round picks on two big centers, and grabbing some sleepers along the way and Buffalo once again has a system with some hope.
1. Mikhail Grigorenko, Center
Quebec Remparts, QMJHL
12th Overall, 2012
6'3, 205 lbs
Despite the rumors around this Russian, coupled with his mono and birth certificate, Grigorenko is a blue chip prospect. An elite-level thinker, Grigorenko can dissect the play better than most, burning defensive systems with slick passing. He owns an NHL quality release and can more often than not, find the back of the net. To go with that, he's got size that he'll need to grow into and utilize more effectively to get to the net.
Upside: First Line Center
NHL Comparable: Joe Thornton meets Alexei Kovalev
2. Zemgus Girgensons, Center
Dubuque Fighting Saints, USHL
14th Overall, 2012
6'2, 200 lbs
When Zemgus has the puck he doesn't go around you, he goes right through you and to the net. While he found some injury issues this past year, he was a warrior for his USHL squad as Captain. He's explosive out of the gate, finishing checks and looking for open ice. He backs off defenders with speed and has a real heavy shot. He fights for every inch on the ice and leaves it all out there.
Upside: Top Nine Power Center
NHL Comparable: Ryan Kesler-lite
3. Joel Armia, Center/Right Wing
16th Overall, 2011
6'3, 200 lbs
A finisher through and through, Armia uses his size well to protect the puck and draw defenders in. He can make timely plays with a good understanding of the game, but prefers to do a lot of work on his own. He has a heck of a release, and loves to pick spots on a goalie. WHile big, Armis is a mobile player with an array of offensive abilities.
Upside: Top Six Goal Scoring Forward
NHL Comparable: Jeff Carter
4. Mark Pysyk, Defense
Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL
23rd Overall, 2010
6'2, 190 lbs
Still growing, Pysyk is a sizeable defender with a good defensive game. He's a mobile skater and uses that to neutralize opponents by angling them to the boards. He moves the puck well and quick, but doesn't have a strong offensive game to wow you. He'll need to get stronger along the boards, but shows good defensive instincts, breaking up plays with his stick and positioning.
Upside: Top Four Two-way Defender
NHL Comparable: Mark-Edouard Vlasic
5. Brayden McNabb. Defense
Rochester Americans, AHL
66th Overall, 2009
6’4, 218 lbs
McNabb is mean. He likes to hack and whack, and then throw a huge hit along the wall. You know when he's on the ice. He's got a good first pass and some offensive ability to his game with a big shot. While mobile, he does have some issues with speedier forwards in his footspeed.
Upside: #3-#5 Two-Way Defender
NHL Comparable: Shea Weber, without the awesome beard, huge contract, and Norris nominations