5 Best Sabres Longshot Draft Picks of All-Time

Although the Sabres have yet to win a Stanley Cup — they sure came close in the 1975 Final against Philadelphia — Buffalo has boasted some interesting and competitive teams.

Fans can thank the Sabres’ birddogs who came up with a bunch of then-unknowns who were down low on the draft totem pole.

These are the details on Buffalo’s longshot draft picks:

1 Peter McNab (6th Round, 85th Overall, 1972)

Although he may be long-forgotten among Western New York hockey fans, big, hard-shooting Peter McNab was the first of many draft longshots to produce dividends. His genes were excellent since Peter was the son of ex-Red Wings hotshot Max McNab.

Drafted by the Sabres, Peter would go on to a 14-year NHL career. Overall he played 954 big-league games, scored 363 goals, and tallied 450 assists. His 107 playoff games were no less impressive nor was his overall benefit to the three other NHL teams (Boston, Vancouver, and New Jersey) that comprised his career. McNab was one of many Sabres gems at the draft meetings.

Born in Vancouver, where his father, Max, guided the minor league Vancouver Canucks, Peter learned his hockey in balmy San Diego when Max was running the pro team in Southern California.

Tall and rangy, Peter seemed destined for a pro diamond career after receiving a baseball scholarship to Denver University. But when he made the DU varsity hockey team, he played well enough to command the attention of Buffalo scouts. Sure enough, he was signed by the Sabres and alternated between Buffalo and the Sabres Cincinnati American League farm club in 1973-74.

It was in the following year that the oversized center gained a permanent job with the Sabres and seemed destined for a long and fruitful career with the Western New York franchise. But he was dealt to the Boston Bruins in 1978 whereupon his career flowered under the coaching of Don “Grapes” Cherry. He later moved on to the Vancouver Canucks and completed his successful career with the New Jersey Devils where his father then was then-General Manager.

One day, Peter walked into Max’s office and declared, “Dad, I’m retiring.” And so he did, pursuing a career as a TV hockey analyst, most recently with the Colorado Avalanche.

2 Don Edwards (5th Round, 89th Overall, 1975)

Goaltending was part of the woof and warp of the Edwards family. Before Don Edwards became a star in Buffalo, his Uncle Roy enjoyed a solid career with the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins.

A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Don was said to have one of the best catching hands among NHL goaltenders when he was in his prime. That, too, was an asset passed on by Uncle Don. But to become Buffalo’s ace between the pipes, Don had to climb the hockey ladder and eventually replace Gerry Desjardins and Bob Sauve, both very serviceable puck-stoppers.

Once he had the Sabres crease to himself, Edwards proved his worth and in the 1977-78 season, Don played in a league-high 72 games. Better still, he led the NHL with 38 wins. That was good enough for him to gain a roster spot on the coveted 1981 Canada Cup team.

Following his Sabres career, Edwards later played for Calgary and Toronto. When his playing career was over, Don worked for both the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators as a goaltending coach.

3 Alexander Mogilny (5th Round, 89th Overall, 1988)

One of the most compelling of Buffalo’s longshots was a dynamic forward who actually wore the same number [89] that coincided with his draft position — 89th overall in 1988. Eventually teamed with Pat LaFontaine, Alexander Mogilny arguably was the ultimate forward “find” in Sabres’ annals.

While scouting at the World Juniors Championships in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1989, Buffalo Sabres Director of Player Personnel Don Luce met with a young Russian fifth-round pick who was in Alaska with his Soviet junior team.

A few months later, Luce received a long-distance call from Stockholm. It was Alexander Mogilny, asking for assistance to come to America and to Buffalo.

Literally that same evening, Luce and Sabres general manager Gerry Meehan boarded a plane to Sweden, and returned a few days later with a player who would change the Sabres franchise, and the NHL, forever.

The entire hockey world knew he was the next Soviet star. Wearing No. 89 in recognition of the year he arrived in America as well as his draft position, Mogilny scored his first goal on his first NHL shift.

Alex would later score 76 goals in 77 games during the 1992-93 season, playing alongside superstar center LaFontaine. With magical chemistry, both established team records in numbers categories and led the Sabres to a first-round playoff victory for the first time in almost a decade.

In the fall of 1993 however, LaFontaine was forced to undergo knee surgery and was out of the lineup for almost two years. The duo would never again be reunited.

In due time, Alex exited Buffalo for Vancouver after which he was traded to New Jersey, winning the Stanley Cup in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils.

4 Brian Campbell (6th Round 156th Overall, 1997)

A lesser but extremely competent longshot was defenseman Brian Campbell. Not many skaters picked 156th overall (1997) can claim to star for a team for more than a decade but Campbell, a sixth-rounder, could make that statement.

To this day, it’s hard to believe that a defenseman who served so competently as Campbell was overlooked by so many scouts, for so long. Then again, it’s equally difficult to understand how come no bird dog pushed harder for him after Brian won the Red Tilson Trophy as the Ontario Hockey League’s Most Outstanding Player, as well as the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the league’s Defensemen of the Year.

And that’s not all, he also was named the OHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player, as well as the Canadian Hockey Player of the Year.

Having said that, how do you figure that Campbell wasn’t picked until the sixth round in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft?

He made his Sabres debut in the 1999-2000 season and remained with Buffalo — wearing No. 51– until February 2008 when he was traded to the San Jose Sharks.

His active career continued with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers and, this past season, the Blackhawks again.

Not bad for someone selected 156th overall.

5 Ryan Miller (5th Round, 138th Overall, 1999)

As for yet another Sabres goaltending jewel, there was Ryan Miller, buried in the fifth round during the 1999 Entry Draft. Judging by his exceptionally competent record, it’s hard to believe that Ryan wasn’t picked earlier than the 138th position.

A member of a distinguished hockey family, Ryan had three cousins — Kelly Miller, Kip Miller, and Kevin Miller — who all played in the NHL. Like his cousins, Ryan gained fame playing hockey for Michigan State University.

After three seasons at Michigan State, Miller enjoyed a cup of coffee with the Rochester Americans before moving between the NHL pipes to stay in 2006-07.

ƒFor a time, it appeared that Ryan would be an eternal Sabre, but in 2013-14 he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues and in the last three seasons has been the top goalie for the Vancouver Canucks.

A testament to Ryan’s popularity is underlined by the fact that he has collected an assortment of nicknames. The easy one is “Miller Time” while the Toronto media gave him the sobriquet “Leaf Killer: Ryan Miller.”