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Sabres Analysis

Best and Worst Sabres Draft Picks of the 1980s



1980s Buffalo Sabres Draft Alexander Mogilny Keith Gretzky Scotty Bowman Gerry Meehan

The evaluation of Buffalo Sabres draft history looms as the 1980s saw some iconic players taken by the team. On the reverse end, the Sabres struggled to draft well in the last half of the decade and restock the prospect pool. A failed and a successful defection, a league record-setter, and the brother of the greatest player in NHL history helped define the decade’s drafting.

Hall-of-Famer Scotty Bowman continued as general manager until resigning in December 1986. Former Sabres captain Gerry Meehan was named his replacement and carried the role into the following decade.

We’ll continue highlighting each decade’s best and worst picks in this series, starting with the best.

Best Sabres Draft Picks

Dave Andreychuk

Draft Year: 1982

Round: 1

Overall: 16

The Sabres had three first-round draft selections in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, selecting 6th, 9th, and 16th. Their last selection was perhaps their best, as Dave Andreychuk became one of the best scorers in NHL history.

Andreychuk played 12 total seasons for the Sabres – 11 to begin his career and a second stint that lasted one season. His 24-year career is a feat in itself, but he amazingly scored 20 or more goals in 20 of those seasons. By the time he retired, he held the all-time powerplay goal record with 274. Alexander Ovechkin has since surpassed the record.

Phil Housley was taken with the 6th overall selection in the same season, pairing with Andreychuk to mark the only time the Sabres selected two eventual Hall-of-Famers in the same draft.

Alexander Mogilny

Draft Year: 1988

Round: 5

Overall: 89

Getting Alexander Mogilny to the United States was risky, but the payoff was enormous. He has the franchise record for goals in a single season with 76. Mogilny also averaged well over a point per game in his six seasons in Buffalo.

Selected eight picks ahead of iconic Sabres enforcer Rob Ray, Mogilny panned out as one of the best value bets in Sabres history. The risk, of course, was in his escape from the U.S.S.R. and CSKA Moscow, before the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

He was also involved in one of the biggest trades in franchise history after the Sabres ran into financial constraints. Mogilny was traded to the Vancouver Canucks along with a fifth-round draft pick for Michael Peca, Mike Wilson, and a 1995 first-round pick which became Jay McKee.

Donald Audette

Draft Year: 1989

Round: 9

Overall: 183

Donald Audette flew under the radar most of his career, which mimics the reason why the Sabres were able to draft him so late. It wasn’t often that a ninth-round pick made the NHL, leading to the league constricting the draft to only seven rounds.

Audette was the exception to the norm, as he quietly went on to register 509 points in 735 NHL games. Like Andreychuk, he had a brief second stint with the Sabres after playing parts of nine seasons to begin his career in Buffalo.

Besides the Sabres, Audette also spent time in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Montreal, and Florida.

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Worst Sabres Draft Picks

Jiri Dudacek

Draft Year: 1981

Round: 1

Overall: 17

If you’re wondering who Jiri Dudacek is, well, that’s because he never played a single NHL game. As the 17th overall pick in 1981, that’s certainly not ideal.

Dudacek starred in the 1980 World Junior Championships for his native Czechoslovakia before being drafted. Czechoslovakia was a Communist country at the time, however, causing a roadblock in his departure to North America. His father was a member of the Communist Party, and Bowman’s lobbying attempts with country officials to allow him to play were denied.

Dudacek played 13 seasons in the Czechoslovak Extraliga and parts of three others across Europe before retiring for good.

Keith Gretzky

Draft Year: 1985

Round: 3

Overall: 56

Yes, the Sabres drafted a Gretzky. Yes, Keith is Wayne Gretzky’s brother. No, he never played in the NHL.

Keith Gretzky went on to play two seasons for the Rochester Americans before moving on to the ECHL and Europe. He’s now with the Edmonton Oilers serving as the assistant general manager.

Joel Savage

Draft Year: 1988

Round: 1

Overall: 13

The 1988 first round was loaded with top talent, including Mike Modano, Trevor Linden, Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind’Amour, and Teemu Selanne. Unfortunately for Buffalo, all five went in the top 10.

The Sabres selected Joel Savage with the 13th overall selection, and the forward only suited up in three games for the Sabres. They were the only three games of his NHL career, spending time with Rochester in the AHL, heading to the IHL, and eventually moving on to Europe.

Must Read: Best and Worst Sabres Draft Picks of the 1970s