Sabres stock up on centers in NHL draft

Associated Press Modified: June 22, 2012 at 11:18 pm •  Published: June 22, 2012
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — One way or another, Darcy Regier had no intention of leaving the NHL draft in Pittsburgh without addressing the Buffalo Sabres' most pressing need at center.

After it became clear that the price was too steep to engineer a trade for an established top-line player, the Sabres general manager settled on the next best option by selecting two centers in the first round on Friday night.

The Sabres opened the draft by selecting play-making Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko with the 12th pick. Regier barely had time to make his introductions with the new addition before he swapped selections with Calgary to select Zemgus Girgensons — a hard-hitting center out of Latvia — two picks later.

In exchange for Calgary's 14th pick, the Sabres dealt the No. 21 pick and the first of two second-round selections, No. 42, to the Flames.

"It certainly was a focus of ours to try and cover off the center position in this draft," Regier said. "In Grigorenko's case, his skill level and play-making ability is exceptional. In Girgensons' case, he's a very good playmaker and has a physical component to his game. So I think they complement each other."

Grigorenko, listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, played for Quebec of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. He led the league's rookies with 45 goals and 85 points in 59 games despite dealing with an illness at the end of the season.

Girgensons, 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, has spent the past three seasons playing in North America. Last season, his second with Dubuque of the U.S. Hockey League, he led the team with 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) in 49 games, with six of his goals game-winners.

Both players have the potential to fill a big void on the Sabres, who have been lacking at center since losing Danny Briere and Chris Drury to free agency on July 1, 2007.

Selecting Grigorenko was a departure in philosophy for the Sabres, who were among several NHL teams that had avoided drafting Russian players in recent years because of a fear of having them stay home to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

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