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Jankowski brings intriguing element to Sabres scouting department

The Sabres' new director of amateur scouting has spent the past three seasons working for Hockey Canada, and that could be a bonus come draft time.

We don’t commonly do blogs about the hiring of a director of amateur scouting, but the Buffalo Sabres just made an intriguing move in snagging Ryan Jankowski.

Though Jankowski has previous NHL experience with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders, his most recent gig was with Hockey Canada, where he was the head scout and then the director of player personnel.

So here’s where it gets interesting: not only has Jankowski been honing his scouting chops by selecting rosters for major events such as the world juniors and world under-18s, but he has also been picking lineups for younger brackets of Canadian national teams. The World Under-17 Challenge should be of particular interest to Sabres fans.

At that event, Canada fields three teams – the logic being that the national body wants to get more kids to suit up and soak up the experience, rather than just putting together one super-team that would likely win the tourney every year.

So Jankowski was responsible for picking more than 60 kids for roster spots, rather than the standard 22. Last year’s crop will be eligible for the NHL draft in the summer of 2018 – Jankowski’s first draft as Buffalo’s new amateur scouting guru. He already has a nice head start on his homework, since he has a base level of knowledge on players such as Ryan Merkley, Jack McBain, Benoit Olivier-Groulx and Jett Woo, all of whom play in different leagues (Andrei Svechnikov and Alexander Khovanov were also in the tourney and I’m sure he took a peek at them along the way).

For some NHL organizations, the immediate draft class is all they really care about – scouts will keep an eye on certain underaged kids who happen to shine, but they’re not a priority. Other organizations break regions up and the scouts in each area are responsible for the area, including kids who won’t be up for the draft for another year or two. I can’t tell you which is more effective, but it is an interesting debate point: do you benefit from viewing a prospect for multiple seasons, tracking their growth along the way, or can your judgment be clouded by a couple early bad impressions? Teens aren’t exactly the easiest people to get a read on, after all.

Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see what Jankowski can bring to the table in Buffalo. Canada had some triumphs and some failures during his tenure and yes, I would consider last year’s silver medal at the world juniors a positive – no shame in losing one of the greatest games in that tournament’s history in a shootout to a stacked archrival. Some of the failures I chalk up to coaching (the previous world juniors in Helsinki), while others just have to be judged on their own merits (not medalling at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament). And it’s only fair to point out that Canada no longer has a monopoly on junior talent. The days of these tourneys alternating between Canadian and Russian/Soviet dominance are long gone.

Overall, I don’t think the Sabres have done a bad job at the draft in recent years. Would Leon Draisaitl have been a better selection than Sam Reinhart? Maybe. Would Tomas Hertl have been an upgrade on Mikhail Grigorenko? Sure. But overall, new GM Jason Botterill is clearly bringing in new talent that intrigues him and Jankowski fits the bill. He comes with an interesting perspective and a lot of experience for a 43-year-old.

And with the rival Maple Leafs flush with young talent, you can bet Jankowski will be pumped to even up the scorecard at next year’s draft.



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