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Sabres Analysis

Best and Worst Sabres Draft Picks of the 1970s

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best worst Buffalo Sabres NHL draft picks 1970s Gilbert Perreault Taro Tsujimoto Punch Imlach

As we near the 2024 NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres will be participating in the annual event for the 55th time. This week, we’ll run through the picks that shaped the organization for better or worse. The 1970s saw the Sabres start their inaugural year with a spin of a wheel, select an imaginary center from Japan, and pass on one of the best goal scorers in NHL history.

The legendary Punch Imlach was the first general manager in Buffalo Sabres history, as he ran the hockey department from 1970 to 1978. John Anderson took over in the interim until June 11th, 1979 – two days before the 1979 NHL draft. The Sabres then hired another legend as coach and GM, Scotty Bowman, who ran the final draft of the decade.

In this series, the best and worst draft picks of each decade will be highlighted. Today, let’s start with the best.

Must Read: Sabres Draft Marner, Not Eichel in 2015 Redraft

Best Sabres Draft Picks

Gilbert Perreault

Draft Year: 1970

Round: 1

Overall: 1

It took a spin of the wheel for the privilege of selecting first overall in 1970, as the Sabres and Vancouver Canucks were the latest additions to the league’s expansion. The lucky spin turned out to be one of the biggest blessings for the organization, as Gilbert Perreault was as good as advertised and more.

The alternative was Dale Tallon, a two-time NHL All-Star defenceman who played 10 seasons. While a good player in his own right, Perreault went on to have a long, Hall-of-Fame career and is widely regarded as a top-two player in franchise history.

Rick Martin

Draft Year: 1971

Round: 1

Overall: 5

The 1971 NHL Amateur Draft was stacked at the top, with Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne, and eventual Buffalo defender Jocelyn Guevremont going first, second, and third respectively. The first round tailed off after that, but the Sabres and Imlach selected Rick Martin with their fifth overall pick.

Martin, of course, joined Perreault to form two-thirds of the legendary “French Connection” line. Considering the next four selections had unimpressive careers, he was a steal.

Danny Gare

Draft Year: 1974

Round: 2

Overall: 29

Any time a player drafted outside of the first round has his number hanging in the rafters, it’s a bargain of a pick. In this case, Danny Gare’s number 18 was retired in 2005 to join the “French Connection” and the late Tim Horton.

Gare is fourth in franchise history in goals with 503. He only trails Perreault, Martin, and Dave Andreychuk. Considering he only played seven and a half seasons in Buffalo, that’s an impressive number for the two-time 50-goal scorer.

Worst Sabres Draft Picks

Ric Seiling

Draft Year: 1977

Round: 1

Overall: 14

Labeling Ric Seiling as one of the worst draft picks in franchise history is less an indictment on him, and more on what could’ve been. The New York Islanders chose legendary goal scorer Mike Bossy with the next selection after the Sabres passed due to concerns about his defensive responsibility.

The Islanders went on to win four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, thanks in large part to Bossy. Meanwhile, the Sabres fell victim to the Islanders in the 1980 Conference Finals despite being the higher seed. They were never able to recover and found themselves starting anew by the middle of the decade.

Seiling had 387 points in 738 games for Buffalo.

Morris Titanic

Draft Year: 1973

Round: 1

Overall: 12

There’s some irony in sharing a last name with a sinking ship and that Morris Titanic didn’t register a single point for the Sabres. The forward only appeared in 19 games without finding the scoresheet.

The three picks after him all went on to be NHL All-Stars – Darcy Rota, Rick Middleton, and Ian Turnbull. Middleton was the best of the bunch, with 988 points in 1,005 NHL games.

Taro Tsujimoto

Draft Year: 1974

Round: 11

Overall: 183

When Imlach decided to make up a player to draft because the event was dragging on it was essentially a forfeited selection. Although the tale of Taro Tsujimoto, the center for the Tokyo Katanas, is one of the most entertaining in league history, the pick was wasted.

Its contribution to the NHL, however, has some value. The league now holds a seven-round draft, instead of the 25 in the 70s.

If you look in NHL records today, Tsujimoto’s name has been replaced by the term “invalid claim”. That’s likely a sentiment shared by many for including this in the “worst” draft picks in franchise history, due to its novelty and popularity.