By Budd Bailey

Hannu Virta of the Sabres

Taken in Round 2 in 1981

The next pick: Dean Kennedy played defense with a number of teams starting with the Kings. He spent the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons in Buffalo.

Other picks in that round: After the Virta and Kennedy selections, the Canadiens took another defenseman in the No. 40 slot. Chris Chelios turned out to be a Hall of Famer once he was done playing … and it took until 2009-10 until he played his last game of 1,651. Future Sabre Scott Arniel was the first choice in that round, while Jan Erixon and Gord Dineen also had good-sized NHL careers.

The details: This is the one pick by the Sabres in 1981 that worked out reasonably well, at least for a while. Virta, a native of Finland, came over late in the 1981-82 season to play a few games. He then stayed for the next four seasons. Hannu wasn’t a scorer, but he was rather dependable. Virta then returned to Finland to play for TPS Turku until 1996-97. He did some coaching in Europe after that.

Other 38s: Cody Ford only has played two seasons with the Bills, and the 2020 version was cut short by an injury. He may take over this numerical distinction from Virta in a year or two. Ken Charles turned out well for the Braves, spending three seasons mostly as a third guard during their best years. Scott Hutchinson was a backup defensive lineman for the Bills in the late 1970s/early 1980s for four years. Denis Tsygurov was the first player drafted by the Sabres in 1993. He didn’t show much in the NHL, and went back to Europe for a few years of play during the rest of the 1990s.

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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