The Buffalo Sabres have had some major successes in the NHL Draft, starting with their first franchise selection of Gilbert Perreault, to Hall-of-Famers Tom Barrasso and Pierre Turgeon, to their most recent top overall picks of Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, but where there is success, there is inevitably failure. For the next entry on the list of Sabres first-round failures, we look at a defenseman drafted high in the first round who never panned out.
#2 Shawn Anderson
The Sabres under GM Scotty Bowman selected three Hockey Hall-of-Famers in Phil Housley, Dave Andreychuk, and 2023 inductee Tom Barrasso, but when Bowman missed on a player, he did so in spectacular fashion. In 1983, he hit on Housley with the sixth-overall pick and the following year with Barrasso at #5, but three years later after missing the playoffs for the first time with Buffalo, the Sabres were picking again in the top 5 and selected defenseman Shawn Anderson.
The 18-year-old blueliner was projected to go as high as second overall after Detroit selected Joe Murphy with the top pick, but he fell to Buffalo after Pittsburgh took Zarley Zalapski as the first defenseman. Anderson had split time in his draft year between the University of Maine and Canada’s National team. The Sabres once again followed the same blueprint as they had with Housley, Andreychuk and Barrasso, putting them in the NHL as teenagers. That did not have the same success with Anderson.
The young blueliner split time in his first pro season between Buffalo and AHL Rochester, scoring 13 points in 43 NHL games as a rookie. The following season, Bowman resigned in the opening month, so there is no way to know if he would have had a positive effect on Anderson’s future. For the next three seasons, he split time between the AHL and NHL and was unsuccessful in being able to hold onto a roster spot.
By 1990, Buffalo had given up on Anderson at the age of 22, trading him to Washington for depth defenseman Bill Houlder. He was claimed off of waivers by Quebec and spent the three seasons playing spot duty for Washington, Philadelphia and various AHL teams before heading to Europe and playing mostly in Germany from 1997 until his retirement in 2004.