In the 1983 draft, the Sabres would select seven players who would play at least 319 NHL games. The Sabres had three picks in the first round. They selected goaltender Tom Barrasso (5th overall), Normand Lacombe (10th overall, 115 career points) and with the very next pick took Adam Creighton (403 career points). Other players drafted included John Tucker (436 career points including 0.78 points per game average while a member of the Sabres), quality back-up goalie Daren Puppa, steady but unspectacular Christian Ruutu (432 career points) and solid defensemen Uwe Krupp (281 career points).
The Sabres franchise got off to an excellent start in large part to having three successful drafts from 1970-1972 which saw them draft the likes of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Bill Hajt, Craig Ramsay, Peter McNab and Jim Schoenfeld. Unfortunately for the team and its die-hard fans such success would not be duplicated in the 1973 draft. The Sabres had eight picks and the only player selected who appeared in an NHL game was the team’s 1st round pick Morris Titanic. Selected 12th overall, Titanic’s career sank quickly as he recorded 0 points in 19 games. The players selected right after Titanic were Dary Rota (Chicago), Rick Middleton (New York Rangers) and Ian Turnbull (Toronto).
With the next pick…
In the 1986 draft, the Sabres held the 5th overall pick and drafted defenseman Shawn Anderson who played parts of four seasons with Buffalo before rounding out his career with stops in Quebec, Washington and Philadelphia. Overall, Anderson recorded 62 points in 255 career games. With the 6th overall selection, the Maple Leafs picked Vincent Damphousse from Laval of the QMJHL. In 1378 NHL games, Damphousse would go on to record 432 goals and 1205 points. While not quite a hall of famer, Damphousse would certainly have been a solid addition to a Sabres team at the time that included Tom Barrasso, Dave Andreychuk, Mike Ramsey, Mike Foligno, Adam Creighton, Uwe Krupp and Phil Housley.
Late Round Bargain:
The best last pick in Sabres history is Ken “The Bomber” Baumgartner. A cerebral person off the ice, Baumgartner was an in your face, high energy player who never shied away from the fisticuffs. He would never actually play for the Sabres but lasted long enough in the league to appear in 696 career games and record 16 goals along with over 2200 minutes in penalties.
In 1988, players in the former Soviet Union were not yet being selected with any regularity by NHL teams despite the abundance of talent in the country. Given the political climate at the time, most teams knew that the probability of drafting and subsequently getting a Russian player over to the NHL was highly unlikely. In the late 1980’s, three top flight Russian forwards were regarded as among the very best young players in the world. The three players were Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny who formed a dynamic junior line that excelled and dominated at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Three NHL teams decided to swing for the fences and draft these players. The Sabres selected Alexander Mogilny in the 5th round of the 1988 draft. While in the 1989 draft the Red Wings drafted Sergei Fedorov in the 4th round while Vancouver picked Pavel Bure in the 6th round. Each of these teams had the opportunity to draft all 3 players but did not. Of course other teams by-passed on all three altogether. Hindsight is of course 20/20 but it is conceivable that had one team been willing to take a risk in those two drafts the reward would have been well worth it. Imagine a team with Fedorov, Bure and Mogilny! The landscape of the NHL would certainly have been altered if such a team had been bold enough to orchestrate such selections.
Mogilny would make his NHL debut for Buffalo in 1989 after defecting from the Soviet Union. He would go on to have a long and productive NHL career which included 1032 points and 473 goals in 990 games. Alexander the Great would also win a Stanley Cup with New Jersey and enjoy an electrifying 76 goal season while playing alongside Pat Lafontaine with the Sabres.