What was the process used to select high-scoring winger Jack Quinn?
If you've followed the Buffalo Sabres the past decade you had to know that this was a possibility. After a long seven-month off season due to the pandemic and Buffalo's failure to make the expanded playoffs, new Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams stepped up in a virtual setting and made his selection for the 8th-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, RW Jack Quinn of the Ottawa 67's.
Quinn was second in the Canadian Hockey League in goal-scoring with 52 goals in 62 games after scoring just 12 goals in 61 games the previous season. The 19 yr. old with a wicked wrist shot scored in many ways and in all situations (5v5, powerplay, shorthanded) while finding those soft spots around the net. At 6'0" 176 lbs. Quinn has a projectable frame and if he continues to put in the work, which he has diligently done recently, he should be physically ready to begin his NHL journey next fall.
Most were aware of Quinn's meteoric rise this past season and he was considered a mid to upper-mid first round pick at the draft. That Buffalo took him at No. 8 was a surprise in most circles and was met with mixed emotions in Sabreland and beyond.
With the board unfolding the way it did as two defensemen were taken top-six, the Sabres were looking at selecting a very nice player at No. 8 including the possibility of drafting one of two centers--Marco Rossi and Cole Perfetti--at least one of whom many believed would be gone by the time Buffalo made their pick. After the New Jersey Devils selected a sniper in winger Alexander Holtz, it seemed as if Sabreland was facing a simple situation of taking sides between Rossi and Perfetti with neither really being a bad pick. When Adams selected Quinn, Sabreland devolved into two different groups of those who got that sinking feeling and those who were on the side of hope that the new GM had done well.
On the plus side, Quinn is a very good prospect who displayed some impressive qualities and the Sabres most definitely could use some scoring from the right side of center. Quinn is "a pure sniper" according to Kyle Woodlief, chief scout and publisher of the Red Line Report, a premier draft guide. In his analysis of Buffalo's pick for USA Today Woodlief called Quinn an "aggressive winger...[who] has a knack for sifting through the wash and winding up in dangerous scoring territory without being noticed."
On the other side Corey Pronman of The Athletic had Quinn rated 16th amongst prospects writing that although he didn't call him "an elite sniper, Quinn is just super skilled and smart player who scored a lot of goals around that net." Pronman nailed it in his final mock draft where he had the Sabres selecting him. "Trying to figure out the Sabres has been tough with the moving pieces from new management coming in," he wrote, "but the two names I've heard most are the two Ottawa forwards in Quinn and Rossi. I've been hearing Quinn more often now and think he could be the pick."
Which makes a lot of sense. Most thought Rossi, who led the CHL with 120 points (39+81) in 56 games would be off the board when the Sabres picked so leaning towards Quinn was a matter of elimination. What caused Adams to take the second best player on that 67's team?
"Jack's a Sabre," said Adams right off the bat in a Zoom call after the first round and he went on to credit his scouting staff with giving him insight into Quinn's entire game. "[It's] not just the goal scoring," said Adams, "his overall game kept showing through as we did the work. We see the ability for him to keep getting better, his athleticism is high and just the metrics we use scouting he met, and then some."
When asked what he meant by "Jack's a Sabre" Adams said "he was looking for certain characteristics, whether it's on the ice and the process they use to get their results. You're talking about the competitiveness, the athleticism, some of the measurables...when you package it all together, we felt he was a Sabre."
Whatever those measurables were, the analytical side of the equation didn't seem to be foremost in Adams' thoughts. Jeremiah Crowe was promoted by Adams three months ago to be the head scout of the pro and amateur departments in Buffalo. In an interview posted on the Sabres website the 34 yr. old Crowe called it "a unique opportunity knowing what's been laid out by Kevyn's vision...the buzzwords being analytics, video and scouting."
We didn't really hear Adams mention anything from an analytics standpoint last night. Instead he offered up a generic thoughts on numbers, which is somewhat expected as no GM will get into specifics. As the call unfolded he seemed to focus on Quinn's journey as a determining factor, along with his goal-scoring prowess and all around play. Adams said he "really dug in with his scouts to understand [Quinn's] path" which is one of a dogged determination to get to this point. That path included being cut numerous times in triple-A and also his rookie season in the OHL. Quinn had never worked out in the summers as a 15 or 16 yr. old opting to play competitive golf and other sports, but once he got with a trainer, his path to the draft ramped up.
"We interviewed him and he had a lot of interesting answers to the questions I personally asked him," said Adams of Quinn. "He has a really good self-awareness of who he is as a player and he also has a determination in that I see him getting better and better. He's got that growth-mindset kind of mentality where you can see he wants to get better and he was upset when he was younger that he didn't feel he was where he wanted to be as a hockey player. Then he started doing thing to help him improve. To me you see that trajectory, that arc.
"He's got a big ceiling."
From the pick to the call Adams seemed to bypass what he's been preaching the last seven months. From what he conveyed during the Zoom call, this didn't seem as if it was an analytics-driven pick and from just looking at comparative stats from Rossi and Quinn, two players on the same team, it looks like a reach as they seemed to have bypassed a "best player available" approach and drafted for a position of need. How much of a reach, if it is at all, is to be determined.
Quinn seems like a really good prospect with plenty of upside and no doubt Buffalo could use some scoring on the wing. In my mock I surmised that they'd select Holtz with the eighth-overall ahead of Perfetti. It will be a couple years, at least, before we see how Adams' first draft pick, and draft, unfolds but both sides of the Quinn pick have legit arguments as to why or why not this was the best pick for the Buffalo Sabres. The initial reaction here that of disbelief enveloped in that sinking feeling. And to repeat, it's not that Quinn is a bad prospect, but when a fan base has been subjected to mismanagement for years, they have every right to feel skeptical when a consensus mid-first round pick gets taken at No. 8 ahead of two consensus top-six picks, one being his own teammate who led the CHL in scoring. Having said that I, like 99% of those reading this don't have access to the information the Sabres scouting department has, so this writer defers.