Saturday, June 30, 2018

On Carter Hutton and Jay Beagle

Published by, 6-29-2018

The Buffalo Sabres need an NHL goalie after allowing starter Robin Lehner to walk and unrestricted free agent Carter Hutton seems to be their guy.

This year's crop of free agents may be one of the thinnest ever and it's not much different when it comes to netminders available. Jonathan Bernier, who was with the Colorado Avalanche last season may be the best of the group but word on the street is that he's leaning towards the Detroit Red Wings. Kari Lehtonen is hitting the open market after finishing a 5yr/$29.5 million contract with Dallas as a back up to Ben Bishop last season. Veteran Stanley Cup winning goalie Cam Ward is leaving the Carolina Hurricanes, the only team he's ever played for, and it looks as if he'll end up with the Chicago Blackhawks. The rest of the group includes names like Jaroslav Halak, Peter Mrazek, Eddie Lack and Andrew "The Hamburglar" Hammond.

With the release of Lehner and back-up goalie Chad Johnson moving on as well, the Sabres entered the off season with 24 yr. old Linus Ullmark and his 24 NHL games as their only goaltender. Buffalo GM Jason Botterill said at the end of season presser that Ullmark would be in Buffalo but never fully defined his role and as the off season is playing out, it looks as if he might be part of a 1A/1B goaltending tandem.

In which case Hutton seems like a pretty good addition to the team.

Hutton came out of UMass-Lowell and joined the Philadelphia Flyers organization as a free agent in 2010. The next three seasons would see him bounce between three different teams for two different organizations before getting his first-ever NHL start for the Blackhawks. He would move on to the Nashville Predators organization as a back-up to Pekka Rinne. In three years with the Preds Hutton appeared in 66 games posting a 33-23-12 record with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

After Nashville it was on to St. Louis and an opportunity to land the starter's job. But after two seasons the Blues settled on Jake Allen and Hutton is now on the move again, although this time he has some pretty impressive numbers to negotiate with. Last season the well-travelled journeyman went 17-7-3 with a 2.09 GAA and .931 sv% for the Blues.

The fit is good for Buffalo, but the price tag for his services might be steep as initial reports had him with a possible three-year deal at a $4 million cap-hit. Those numbers seem to have come down a bit with the three-year term remaining but with a price tag of $10-11 million, which is still pretty high for a career backup who may be looked upon in a 1A/1B role.

However, it's a thin market and as many as eight teams were said to be after his services so that's the price Buffalo will need to pay if they want him.

From what's been printed, Hutton is said to be a great locker room guy who knows his role and accepts it. He's made a long journey to get to the NHL-level and part of that was in Nashville when Sabres head coach Phil Housley was an assistant coach there. With Buffalo continuing to build with character being a necessary trait, if Hutton has that and can play his role effectively, which includes mentoring Ullmark, paying a 25-30% premium in a market like this shouldn't scare anyone away.


Word on the street is that it's not a matter of if center Ryan O'Reilly could be traded but more like when. However, until a deal is consummated, O'Reilly is still valuable to the Sabres as No. 2 behind Jack Eichel and as protection for 19 yr. old Casey Mittelstadt as he enters his first full season of pro hockey.

Botterill isn't going to give O'Reilly away but should they end up trading him there's been many thoughts on who the Sabres could get to help ease Mittelstadt's transition to the No. 2 center role. Various names have been floating around but one I haven't heard yet is that of Washington's Jay Beagle. Although he was fourth on the depth-chart amongst Washington's centers, he anchored the Captial's penalty kill unit which finished 15th in league this season and was on the ice for every key faceoff the team had.

Like Hutton, Beagle left college and has been working his way up the ranks. The University of Alaska-Anchorage product joined the Capitals' organization as a free agent and signed his entry-level deal in March, 2008. Ten years later he has himself a Stanley Cup ring to add to his Kelly Cup and Calder Cup rings.

Beagle and his linemates faced the opposition's top talents and because of it his analytics took a beating. But in doing so, according to Peter Hassett of, "he’ll be beloved in the area for decades as the meat-and-potatoes guy who grounded the Caps depth so that the top-liners could soar. And that ain't bad.

Might not be bad for Buffalo either.

Friday, June 29, 2018

On the Sheary/Hunwick to Buffalo trade

Published by, 6-28-2018

As is often the case when an protégé moves on from his mentor, Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill tapped into his ties with former boss Jim Rutherford to make a deal. Botterill acquired LW, Conor Sheary and veteran defenseman Matt Hunwick for a conditional fourth round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft in what turns out to be a hockey trade as the Sabres got two players to help them transition and the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to dump $5.25 million in combined salary.

Botterill spent 10 years in the Pittsburgh organization, his last three under Rutherford with two of them ending with the Stanley Cup, before taking Buffalo's GM position last season. He was invited to join the Penguins on the ice when they celebrated their second of back-to-back wins in 2017 and seemingly has maintained a strong relationship with the club.

In the deal for Buffalo, the Sabres get themselves some help at left wing. Just where Sheary ends up will be determined in September and October but for now he replaces another former Pen, Scott Wilson, as the only left-winger in the top-nine. Botterill sent a fifth round pick to the Detroit Red Wings last year for Wilson and he moved up and down the left side all season. The 26 yr. old native of Oakville, Ontario was not tendered a qualifying offer and is an unrestricted free agent.

The 26 yr. old Sheary had a breakout season for the Penguins two years ago scoring 53 points (23+30) in 61 regular season games but slid to 18 goals and 12 assists in 79 games last season. Perhaps most troubling in the eyes of Rutherford was that he scored only four goals in his last 44 games and played on the fourth line in the playoffs.

The need at left wing was an obvious reason to land the undrafted left winger, but Botterill told the gathered media yesterday that team was also "looking to improve even-strength scoring" and that Sheary "creates a lot of chances out there."

It's been quite the run for the undrafted free agent who signed an amateur tryout contract with Pittsburg's AHL team in Wilkes Barre-Scranton after graduating from UMass-Amherst (Hockey-East.) He produced 11 points (6+5) in 15 playoff games for the 'Baby Pens' and was rewarded with a two-year entry-level deal. After a highly successful year-and-a-half with Wilkes Barre (27 goals and 54 assists in 88 games,) Sheary got the call to Pittsburgh and never looked back. He made his mark in the 2015-16 playoffs with 10 points (4+6) in 23 playoff games as a rookie as the Pens won the Cup then followed that with his breakout season.

Although last season's struggles may be pointing to an unhappy ending to his fairy tale story, Sheary will bring much needed speed on the wing in Buffalo and he'll be put into a position to play with some very talented centers no matter which line he's on. "He can come in here," said Botterill, "whether it's with Jack [Eichel], Ryan [O'Reilly], Casey [Mittelstadt] and can play with one of our offensive centermen,(and not only) finish off chances from them but also get in on the forecheck and get pucks to our centermen."

Botterill did his old boss a favor by taking on Hunwick's contract in a salary dump for Pittsburgh. The addition of the 33 yr. old Hunwick further clogs the Sabres defense corps and it's hard to see him fitting in anywhere amongst the top-seven, much less the top-six. Botterill emphasized a couple of things when talking about him yesterday, "[he's] a player I followed closely over the years just with the ties to the University of Michigan," said Botterill, a Wolverine alum, "and how he handles himself as a pro."

Although Hunwick has the mobility that Botterill wants on his blueline, the former seventh-round pick and his $2.25 million AAV for the next two seasons looks to have been a necessary piece in landing Sheary.

For the Penguins, they get needed cap relief as they're looking to tweak their roster a bit. Pittsburgh extended winger Brian Rust with a 4yr./$14 million deal and still have a lot of holes to fill as they're edging upwards to the cap. Word on the street also has them interested in defenseman Jack Johnson who they hope will sign a friendly contract to play with good friend Sidney Crosby.

In all, the term 'hockey trade' usually involves players but this one gives both teams what they want and need and puts them in a win-win with little risk involved. The fourth-round pick Botterill sent to Pittsburgh could become a third rounder, according to capfriendly, if Sheary scores 20 goals or totals 40 points or if Hunwick is traded before the 2019 draft.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Players to watch at Sabres development camp--Rasmus Dahlin...(and)

Published by, 6-27-2018

Workouts begin today at HarborCenter for the Buffalo Sabres Development Camp.

Here's the schedule via

Wednesday, June 27:  2:30 to 3:30 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m.
Thursday, June 28: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Friday, June 29: 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. and 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.
Saturday, June 30: French Connection Tournament: 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Forty-two players are scheduled to be in attendance including 2018 first-overall pick Rasmus Dahlin as well as Buffalo's other five draftees from this past weekend:

--LHD Mattias Samuelsson, 32nd-overall
--C Matej Pekar, 94th
--LHD Linus Lindstrand Cronholm, 117th
--RHD Miska Kukkonen, 125th
--LHD William Worge Kreu, 187th

Center Eric Cornell represents the ranking member of the 2014 draft class as he was selected 44th-overall that year while Worge Kreu, as the last pick in for Buffalo in the 2018 draft, represents the newest member.

Cornel is amongst eight players who played at the pro-level last season while GM Jason Botterill, AGM Randy Sexton and Co. invited 12 undrafted players, two of which have already been signed by the Rochester Americans to AHL contracts--LW, Pascal Aquin (Charlottetown, QMJHL) and D, Tobie Paquette-Bisson (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL.) The invitees include six wingers, four defensemen and two goalies.

Outside of the eight who played at the pro level and the invitees, the breakdown of where the rest of the prospects played can be found here. Ten players attended college last year, nine played overseas, two (Samuelsson and Pekar) played in the USHL and one player, Cliff Pu, was in Canadian Junior.

Having said that, it's probably best to remember that this is a development camp and not training camp. Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen put it this way when talking about his camp. “I’ve always said this: ‘It’s not an evaluation camp in July. It’s an educational camp — fun, teaching what it means to be a pro," he told the Columbus Dispatch. "We’ll evaluate them when we get to hockey season. Not in July.”

Which is how it should be as players are coming in from all areas of the world having finished their seasons at different time and having vastly different periods away for team workouts and on-ice competition.

However, the Sabres brass and those in attendance will come away from the workouts and eventual 3-on-3 with some thoughts on these prospects and where they might be later this summer and into the fall. We're very familiar with the likes of Casey Mittelstadt and Brendan Guhle, who will take on more of a leadership role for this group, but there are others who have plenty of intrigue surrounding them, as well as another group that are looking to make a great impression. Here are some players to look at during this week's Sabres Development Camp.

LHD, Rasmus Dahlin

Obviously. Sabreland will get the opportunity to watch some of the traits that make him so special, like his skating and stickwork and in the 3-on-3 they'll be able to see how he navigates in tight areas.

LW, Alexander Nylander

With him it will be his size and the shape that he's in. Everything is critical for him right now in the eyes of the organization.  “Probably the most important offseason of training in his young life, really,” Sexton said to the gathered media post-draft on Saturday. “It’s critical for him.”

We know he has the skill, which will be on display, but where's that compete. Hopefully we'll see
some of that in the 3-on-3.

LW, Victor Olofsson

Will be great to see first-hand just what kind of sniping ability the SHL's leading goal-scorer last season has

LHD, Lawrence Pilut

Pilut signed with Buffalo after winning the Swedish Hockey League's Defenseman of the Year Award. This camp will be more about his skating and stickwork as opposed to the way he loves to jump into the play in games.

RHD, Casey Fitzgerald

The right side on defense will have openings in the near future and the offensive-minded Fitzgerald has had his name brought up by Sabres brass recently. For him it will be if he's improved upon his skating which was pretty solid to begin with. Botterill and Co. will get the opportunity to see if he's improved in those areas and hopefully can figure out why his overall numbers have dropped since his banner freshman season of 27 points (4+23) in 39 games with a plus-27 rating for Boston College (Hockey East.)

RHD, Will Borgen

Another d-man who has opportunity in front of him on the right side of the defense corps. Borgen got a good taste of the AHL this year while playing in eight games for the Amerks after leaving St. Cloud State early. The defensive defenseman is an excellent skater and he keeps it simple in his own end. Maneuverability in tight should be his focus although he should be able to handle any of the forwards thrown at him in competitive drills.

G, Jonas Johansson

As part of the 2014 draft class, Johansson is one of the "elder statesmen" of camp. The 6'5" 214 lb. Johansson made the move to North America full time last season and struggled while spending most of his time in the ECHL. Last year's backup to Linus Ullmark, Adam Wilcox, just re-signed with Rochester and looks to be the starter. Unless Johansson can make an impression, beginning this week.

LW, Linus Weissbach

Enjoy his hands and skating ability. The seventh-rounder (2017, 192nd) continued to impress after making the jump from Tri-City of the USHL (19g, 28a in 49 games) to the University of Wisconsin
where he scored 26 points (10+16) in 34 Big-10 games.

D, Griffin Luce

Staying in the Big-10, Luce has the bloodlines (grandfather Don Luce is a former Sabre) and some impressive size (6'3" 214 lbs.) When his Michigan Wolverines played Mittelstadt and his Minnesota Golden Gophers, Luce was relentless in his pursuit and coverage of Buffalo's 2017 first-rounder showing the ability to stay with talented players. A solid player with definite hockey tools.

C, Cliff Pu

Pu is back again and look for him to take charge in his third development camp. The 6'2" 191 lb. center just signed his entry-level deal after working on his all-around game in the OHL this season.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Rasmus Dahlin and fellow prospects hit the ice tomorrow for Sabres D-Camp.

Published by, 6-26-2018

There's a lot of love being thrown around Washington Street these days. Everyone in Sabreland loved the fact that the lottery was kind, giving Buffalo the first overall pick this year, Buffalo fans love what their seeing in the future as defenseman Rasmus Dahlin joins center Jack Eichel as cornerstones of the franchise and Dahlin himself said he loves the fans and Buffalo as well.

"Yeah, they are great fans. I heard so many great things about them," said Dahlin post-draft to the gathered media. "Like they love hockey in that city and I can see that, when they come to me, they know me and I don’t even play in the NHL. So they probably love hockey. So, yeah, I’ve heard so many great things about them. I’m super excited to meet all the fans.

"I've been like finally -- put on the Buffalo Sabres jersey. I've been [to Buffalo] twice and I love that city.  I can't wait to get everything started."

Dahlin has all kinds of love, beginning with the game he plays. "I love to play hockey and why put pressure when you can paly the game that you love."

The cool part about Dahlin's selection, which came after the tank, the drafting of Eichel and 2014 second-overall pick Sam Reinhart, the coaching changes and the fall back to the bottom of the league, is that through it all, he's not the lone centerpiece of a rebuild. As GM Jason Botterill said at Dahlin's introductory press conference yesterday, "We're excited about our young players such as Jack (Eichel) Sam (Reinhart), Rasmus Ristolainen," Botterill told the gathered media yesterday. "He can be part of this group to grow together. We certainly have to have better results on the ice. But in communicating with other players, they're certainly excited to bring Rasmus into our group here and just how they can grow together as a core.

"He doesn't need to be the savior."

Conspicuously omitted from that core was the name Ryan O'Reilly. The center has been the subject of trade rumors for much of the off season so perhaps there was a bit of a Freudian slip there. Or perhaps when Botterill was talking "core" it was simply that the 27 yr. old O'Reilly didn't enter his thought-process when grouping those young players who are all 23 or younger.

Regardless, the cool part is that there is core, and a very talented one at that, whom Botterill will build around.

The Sabres do have some players already on the team that they will be moving forward with and some young players with pro experience who may make the jump to the big club or might be very close. Botterill's core plus those groupings will make up the team near-term but the future, after Eichel, Dahlin, et al, really centers around the prospects and they'll be in town this week for Sabres Development Camp this week.

Originally a rather quiet affair that took place in early July at Dwyer Arena, tucked away on the campus of Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY, the camp has evolved into an event. With owner Terry Pegula pumping huge money into HarborCenter and all it's first class facilities, the team made moved camp to downtown Buffalo.

The structure of the camp has changed as well. As usual, the on-ice workouts are there over a three-day period but the team put an emphasis on the annual three-on-three tournament as it's keynote event. Prior to last season, the big event was the Blue and Gold Scrimmage which took place on the fourth day of camp and saw 17,115 fans come out on a hot July day to watch Eichel on the ice in 2015. The following year it was moved to HarborCenter where some 1,600 fans attended and last year the scrimmage was eliminated.

The three-on-three tournament was always on the final day and was geared more towards the hockey department than the casual fan and as of last year, The French Connection Tournament, as the three-on-three tourney was named, took center stage as the closing event. The event will take place at 10:45 am on Saturday and will be streamed live on

A total of 42 prospects are scheduled to hit the ice beginning tomorrow including all six players selected at the 2018 NHL Draft as well as camp invitees.

The list (Jersey number, Position, Name, League[s] last year, Drafted, **2017 Camp attendee)


46--C, Eric Cornel (AHL) 2014, 44th-overall **
34--G, Jonas Johansson (ECHL, AHL) 2014 61st **
45--D, Brendan Guhle (AHL, NHL) 2015, 51st **
43--D, Will Borgen (NCAA, AHL) 2015, 92nd, **
53--D, Devante Stephens (ECHL, AHL) 2015, 122nd **
92--LW, Alexander Nylander (AHL) 2016, 8th, **
83--C, Vasily Goltov (QMJHL, ECHL, AHL) 2016, 190th **
37--C, Casey Mittelstadt (NCAA, NHL) 2017, 8th **


44--D, Brandon Hickey (Boston U., H-East)  2014, 64th (CGY)
57--C, Max Willman (Brown, ECAC) 2014, 121nd  **
77--C, Christopher Brown (Boston College, H-East)  2014, 151st **
48--D, Ivan Chukarov (UMass, NCAC)  2015, 182nd  **
56--D, Casey Fitzgerald (Boston College, H-East) 2016, 86th  **
81--LW, Brett Murray (Penn State, Big-10) 2016, 99th **
86--D, Philip Nyberg (UConn, H-East) 2016, 129th  **
73--D, Jacob Bryson (Providence, H-East) 2017, 99th  **
63--LW, Linus Weissbach (Wisconsin, Big-10) 2017, 192nd**
52--C, Andrew Ogilvie (Notre Dame, H-East) 2018 FA


59--RW, Cliff Pu (London/Kingston, OHL) 2016, 69th  **


61--LW, Victor Olofsson (Frolunda, SHL) 2014, 181st  **
74--C, Rasmus Asplund (Farjestad, SHL) 2016, 33rd  **
62--C, Marcus Davidsson (Djurgardens, SuperElit, SHL) 2017 37th  **
01--G, Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen (LeKi, Metsis/HPK, SM-Liiga) 2017 54th  **
10--D, Lawrence Pilut (HV-71, SHL)  2018 FA
26--D, Rasmus Dahlin (Frolunda, SuperElit, SHL) 2018 1st
65--D, Linus Lindstrand Cronholm (Malmo U-18, SuperElit)  2018 117th
41--D, Miska Kuukonen (Ives U-20, Jr. A, SM-Liiga) 2018 125th
67--D, William Worge Kreu (Linkoping U-18, SuperElit)  2018 187th

USA Hockey

42--C, Matej Pekar (Muskegon, USHL) 2018 94th
85--D, Mattias Samuelsson (U.S. NTDP, USHL) 2018 32nd

Camp Invitees

76--LW, Pascal Aquin (Charlottetown, QMJHL) FA, Rochester
24--RW, Vito Bavaro (Sacred Heart, NCAA)
54--Brandon Biro (Penn State, Big-10)
38--RW, Cole Coskey (Saginaw, OHL)
51--RW, Max Patterson (Swift Current, WHL)
75--LW, Joe Snively (Yale, ECAC)
58--D, Griffin Luce (Michigan, Big-10)
72--D, Connor Mackey (Minnesota State, WCHA)
70--Tobie Paquette-Bisson (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL) FA, Rochester
78--Andrew Peski (Univ. of North Dakota, NCHC)
50--G, Jake Keilly (Clarkson, ECAC)
33--G, Hunter Shepard (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Day-2 of 2018 NHL Draft was a quirky one for the Buffalo Sabres.

Published by, 6-24-2018

After the Buffalo Sabres added four more defensemen to the stable in the second day of the 2018 NHL Draft, the post-draft from the media scrum was not so much on the players picked as it was on how they got there.

Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin was selected first overall, as expected, but as we headed into Day-2 of the draft no one was sure where the Sabres would go. The first round had finished up with a group of players having first-round ratings falling to the second round and Buffalo ended up selecting one of them in Mattias Samuelsson, son of former NHL'er Kjell Samuelsson.

Samuelsson was a familiar name at the draft and as the Sabres moved down the rounds the names became more obscure eventually, even for draftniks. Buffalo was without a third round pick and with the first pick in the fourth round they selected USHL Rookie of the Year, center Matej Pekar, who would be the only forward taken by the Sabres in the draft this year.

Buffalo used their second fourth-rounder (from Minnesota) to select LHD, Linus Lindstrand Cronholm who's name, like last year's pick of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (UPL) is being shortened with the acronym (LLC.) In the fifth round Buffalo stayed in Scandinavia to select Finnish  RHD Miska Kukkonen and they ended their day with seventh round pick, LHD William Worge Kreu, their third Swede of the draft.

There's a lot to digest with Buffalo's selections which includes why GM Jason Botterill traded away the first pick in the sixth round this year to Toronto for their sixth-rounder in 2019. It was a move that left many scratching their head and added another area of intrigue in a Buffalo draft that was anything but conventional, especially when you consider that Botterill, a native of Canada, didn't select a player from the CHL for the second year in a row.

In trying to figure out what transpired yesterday, a good place to start would be with the team Botterill put together and how he allows them to do what they were hired to do. Last year the first time GM had to wing it with a staff from the previous regime as a May hire didn't allow any time to build his own. Botterill brought in Randy Sexton last season as assistant general manager and point-man for an amateur scouting staff directed by Ryan Jankowski.

At the conclusion of the draft Botterill told the gathered media, "there was an awkwardness last year," he said explaining that he was trying to get a feel for the people he had plus the uneasiness of the unknown with a new GM in charge. Botterill brought in Sexton, someone he'd worked with for seven  years in Pittsburgh and Jankowski who, ironically in terms of this draft, was head scout then director of player personnel for Hockey Canada.

This year with his guys in place, he let them do their thing. "[As GM] you're part of amateur scouting, I follow it throughout the year, but it is a situation where you have to trust those people in those roles," he said. "If you dabble in it a little bit you almost mess it up a lot of times."

As point-man, Sexton took center stage at the post-draft media scrum and after being asked lightheartedly, "How's your Swedish," delved into some of the Sabres philosophy when it come to the draft.

"We don't draft by region. We don't draft by country," he said. "We scour the world for the best players that we can find that play a style that we want to play like going forward and then we work very diligently to learn as much as we can about them as human beings so that they map to our character criteria. We put them in the order that makes most sense based upon the highest probability to become a Sabre and we layer over a little bit of list management so that we can manage our list in a way that gets us the highest number of prospects at the highest part of the list we can get.

"This year it happened to fall that there were a lot of Swedes."

Dahlin was the first of six Swedes taken by NHL teams in the first round and there were 28 taken overall which equaled record highs set in 2009 and 2014. In those two years, defenseman Victor Hedman (TBL,) who just won the Norris Trophy and LW, Gabriel Landeskog (COL,) respectively, were taken with the second-overall pick. Dahlin was taken first overall following Mats Sundin (1989, TOR) as the only two Swedes to be selected with the top pick in the draft.

In all, NHL teams took 247 Swedes during the last 10 drafts with the nation of just over 10 million people (as of 2018 census) pumping out the most players, by far, of any other European country. For Botterill it's not a surprise.

"You look around at the success they've had at the international game, and in the NHL," he said. "So many Swedish defensemen have stepped in and played extremely well. They've done an outstanding job as a country from the development process, especially on the back end [with] the mobility [and] how a lot of NHL teams are now. Swedish players played [that style] growing up."

"We have the SHL and we put the young guys in the senior hockey league pretty quickly," said the 18 yr. old Dahlin, who's been competing against men for nearly two full seasons. "You learn to play against men. That's probably one of the things that helped me so much. I needed to compete every single shift in all situations out there because I was not the strong guy everyone else was, so it helped me out a lot."

Dahlin was the top pick and there were 18 other Swedes selected before the draft reached the top of the fourth round and Buffalo at pick No. 94. The Sabres selected Pekar, a USHL product who will be attending Miami (OH) University, before heading back to Scandinavia for their final three selections. With Samuelsson also heading to college (Western Michigan University) and the three picks from overseas, for the second year in a row the Sabres, even with Jankowski on board, did not select a player from Canadian Junior.

Strange? Maybe. Until we get to the reasoning behind it.

As laid out, the Sabres had their list. Samuelsson for them was the definitive pick at No. 32 and it's hard to argue with the fourth round selection of Pekar, who was named the 2017-18 USHL Rookie of the Year with 54 points (14+40) in 56 games.

After that it almost looked as if the CHL was shunned by Buffalo. But that wasn't the case. When asked if it was a coincidence or whether or not it's something they shy away from, Botterill stated that when it comes to mid-latter round picks, "the fact that you control [CHL] rights for only two years, you have to make a quicker decision on that.

"In a scenario where you have an extended period of four years, in most situations for Europeans or college players," he continued, "it allows you more opportunity to develop."

Sexton said simply that, having worked with Botterill seven years, "there was never a strong desire either way to select CHL players or not select them.

"It's just the luck of the draw."

A case in point for the extended development period can be seen in 2014 seventh round pick (181st,) Victor Olofsson. The smaller 5'11" 172 lb. winger took three years to find his game amongst pros before breaking out last season and winning the Borje Salming Trophy for most goals (27) in the league. The Sabres signed him to his entry-level deal in April.

Center Sean Malone is another example. The West Seneca, NY native was taken in the sixth round (159th) of the 2013 draft and spent four seasons at Harvard. He signed with the club last year, had a real strong rookie campaign in Rochester to the point where he is being looked at as a possibility for Buffalo's opening night roster this coming season.

Most in the hockey world will say that the training and coaching players receive from the time they're young until their draft eligible and beyond puts many on a fairly equal footing, pure talent not withstanding. Drive and desire are huge aspects for the Sabres (in addition to talent) as is the overall makeup of prospects as human beings.

Buffalo's Swedish scout Jan-Axel Alavaara has been with the club for two years (although he'll be moving on to take a position with Germany's Alder-Mannaheim.) In an interview with an overseas website concerning Dahlin, Alavaara delved into his work as a scout. " We have met and discussed 120 players. That's how scouting goes," he said using Google translate. "Everyone has different opinions and you will come up with who you want to bet [on]. Rasmus is a high profile guy, but there are some out there in the world who are great hockey players."

"We assess the entire package," continued Alavaara. "You talk to parents, with friends, with coaches, with everyone. As hockey looks like today, you really do not have any weaknesses at all as players. You have to keep an eye on everything around."

That would include a player like Samuelsson, the son of a NHL player, who was graded in the mid-lower first round of the draft but was still there at No. 32 to start Day-2.

According to Sexton, the Sabres had "lots of calls about trading that pick" but decided to go with the big (6'4" 218 lb.) left-handed defenseman from the USHL. "He was a player that we clearly had a high desired to have in Buffalo," said Sexton of Samuelsson, "and as a result there was no interest in trading away that opportunity."

Bloodlines played a role in the desire to keep pick No. 32 to select Samuelsson, according to Sexton. "The biggest [part] bloodlines can play besides natural talent is the true and deep understanding of what it takes to play at the NHL level," he said. "And I don't mean that lightly

"It's very difficult to play in our league," he continued, "and I've always believed that player who grew up in a hockey family, who's had a family member that has played and has gone through the difficult path it takes to get [to] and stay in the NHL, has a competitive advantage over some of the other players.

"In Mattias' case, he does have a clear understanding. In getting to know him through the interview process, we were struck by his maturity, we were struck by his strength of character, we were struck by his leadership and we were clearly struck by his true understanding of what it takes, and the commitment it takes to not only get to the NHL-level, but to stay and excel at he NHL-level."

And they'll have four years to determine if/how he fits into their plans.

This is year-two of the Botterill regime in Buffalo and it's his first draft with his scouting department in place. The 2018 NHL Draft for Buffalo will go down as a somewhat quirky one, especially with the rarely, if ever, seen trading of a top pick in the sixth round for a blind sixth-rounder the following year. To set the record straight on that, Botterill said that the team felt as if the player(s) they wanted at that spot would still be there at the top of the seventh round and therefore opted to land another pick in next year's draft.

Sabres development camp starts this coming week so most, if not all the players selected by Buffalo will be in attendance. Perhaps there will be more questions surrounding this quirky draft and how they came to find and select LLC, Kukkonen and Worge Kreu.

The Sabres went heavy with defensemen yet still have glaring holes in the pipeline in goal and on the wings which should be addressed, at  least somewhat, during free agency. Buffalo selected four defensemen, also signd defenseman Lawrence Pilut out of the SHL and traded for soon to be UFA Brandon Hickey, who just completed his fourth and final season at Boston University and was a team mate of Jack Eichel's for a year.

One could assume that the prospect pool on defense is well stocked right now but we still might be left to wonder what would happen next year if the highest rated players on their board at the time of their selection happened to be defensemen?

Jason Botterill via

Sunday, June 24, 2018

On Rasmus Dahlin and the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

Published by, 6-23-2018

To no one's surprise, Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin was selected first overall by the Buffalo Sabres last night to kick off a rather uneventful 2018 NHL Draft.

The 6'3" 185 lb. defenseman brings his franchise-changing game to a Sabres team that has struggled the last several years. Buffalo embarked on a rebuild, purposely dove to the bottom of the league two-years running, started on the road to respect then fell to last place last season. The NHL Draft Lottery was unkind to the Sabres in 2014 and 2105 as their last-place finished netted them the second overall pick but they year it smiled upon them as they won the rights to draft Dahlin.

The superlatives thrown at Dahlin and his game have been endless, yet warranted. He's an extremely gifted skater with a very high hockey IQ that lets him see things on the ice as if it were in slow motion. His highlight reels almost inevitably included rushes through a maze of players on the opposition who can't get the puck from him. Not on the highlight film is his game-to-game play from the back end where scouts have touted how well he starts the transition game from his own end through laser precision passes to the forwards.

As an 18 yr. old, his defense needs a little work but he has all the tools which includes great stickwork, excellent body positioning and angles plus great turns to defend an on-rushing player. He's pretty strong in front of the net and has been known to lay out some pretty good hits, but will need to bulk up a tad to be able to handle the best and strongest that the world has to offer at the NHL level.

What has come across so surprisingly during this whole process, however, is how maturely Dahlin has handled the media crush. His poise off the ice is equal to his poise on the ice and he fields questions as if he's been doing this for years. Dahlin was asked by the Sabres Brian Duff last night if he was an emotional guy to which Dahlin responded, "Yeah. I pretty much keep it inside." With a rather calm demeanor, a shrug and a little smile he continued saying, "Yeah, I'm super emotional right now, actually."

You couldn't tell.

Perhaps Jourdon LaBarber put it best when he wrote, "Dahlin's humility off the ice seems ironic, considering his play on the ice is anything but humble."

The Dahlin-era in Buffalo has begun.


There were a record 14 defensemen taken off the board in the first round yesterday. Which was expected. It was a real good crop with all of them having the puck-moving traits that make for the defenseman d jour in the NHL today. The run on defensemen after Dahlin was selected first overall somewhat surprisingly began when Quinn Hughes was taken No. 7 by the Vancouver Canucks.

Hughes and fellow d-man Adam Boqvist (No. 8) were expected to go a little higher as many of the draft analysts rated them in the top five or six of this class.

At a draft where there was pretty much a consensus top-four featuring Dahlin and RW Andrei Svechnikov at Nos. 1 and 2 plus wingers Brady Tkachuk and Filip Zadina flip-flopping between Nos. 3 and 4, the Montreal Canadiens, in a very NFL-like move, opted to take center Jesper Kotkaniemi with the third-overall pick.

The Habs have been at the epicenter of trade rumors surrounding Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly. With a dearth of talent down the middle, Montreal was said to be going after O'Reilly with some implying that the third-overall pick could possibly be involved. But the Canadiens kept it and much like NFL teams do when trying to land a franchise quarterback with their first pick, took the best center on the board.

Quality centers are hard to come by in the NHL. It's not that Kotkaniemi doesn't have top-six or even top-line potential, but it seemed to be somewhat of a reach for the Habs as they drafted for a position of need.

The same might be said for the Arizona Coyotes who drafted center Barrett Hayton who was generally considered amongst a group in the 11-20 range. They recently traded for Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk who they look to as a center despite the Habs punting that notion when trading him. 'Yotes GM John Chayka is a huge analytics fan so maybe he saw some numbers that jumped out at him, bur for all intents and purposes, Arizona's pick of Hayton at No. 5 was the surprise of the top-five.

Tkachuk went No. 4 to the Ottawa Senators who may need to top end defensemen if Erik Karlsson bolts via free agency next season. However, the took a player that was clearly the best player available. Dropping to No. 6 was Zadina who many thought was a top-three pick.

Heading down the draft all the names that one would associate with their pre-draft rankings made it into the picks until the Columbus Blue Jackets selected center Liam Foudy with the 18th-overall selection. The Philadelphia Flyers followed by picking another center in Jay O'Brien who was ranked in the lower second round then the Los Angeles Kings selected a center in Rasmus Kupari who dropped a few spots compared to his ranking.

Defenseman Ryan Merkely, who has top-10 or even top-five talent but had been the subject of reports concerning off ice maturity issues, was selected by the San Jose' Sharks with the 21st pick. He'll join a franchise in San Jose just re-signed a very talented winger in Evander Kane who's known for some  off-ice issues of his own.

After some rankings/draft stability things began to get a bit out of whack leaving defenseman Rasmus Sandin, who had a top-20 ranking, there for the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 29.

The biggest drop came at the expense of center Joseph Veleno who was ranked consistently in that 11-15 range before falling to the Red Wings at No. 30. Detroit used the pick they got from the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to select Veleno, which is rather ironic in itself. The Wings were the model organization as they made the playoffs 25 straight years, which included three Stanley Cups, but sent forward Tomas Tatar to the Knights for their 2018 first rounder as Vegas was bolstering their lineup for a playoff run that would take them to the Cup finals.

Finishing off the first round was the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals who selected Russian defensemen Alexander Alexeyev.

Cheers to you, Ovie!


Rounds 2-7 begin today at 11 am as Buffalo is once again ready to start the draft.

The Sabres have plenty of options there which includes selecting from a number of players who had first-round rankings but dropped. Forwards Noel Serron and centers Akil Thomas and Ryan Mcleod were all ranked in the top-16 North American Skaters by Central Scouting while defenseman Jared McIsaac was ranked 13th and fellow d-man Bode Wilde came in at No. 17.

Having projected first round talent in those numbers dropping to Buffalo gives them plenty of options which includes a trade-down. The Sabres do not have a third round pick thanks to last summer's trade with the Minnesota Wild and won't have another selection after No. 32 until pick 94. As mentioned in a previous blog, that's a prime area to land a goalie, which the Sabres system could really use.

I look to the Montreal Canadiens as a trade partner in that scenario. The Habs have four picks in the second round this year and perhaps they'd be interested in moving from No. 35 up to No. 32. Although they probably wouldn't give up pick 38 in the process, perhaps one of their late rounders (Nos. 56 or 62) could be had.

Perhaps Wilde, a 6'2" 198 lb. right-handed defenseman from the US National Program, could be the pick. He's an excellent skater with a great shot who could help fill a RHD void in the system but like other high-end offensive d-prospects, needs some work in his own end.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dahlin-Day in Buffalo plus 7 forward prospects to keep an eye on

Published by, 6-22-2018

It's a beautiful day, and it will be an even better night once GM Jason Botterill and the Buffalo Sabres entourage head up to the podium in Dallas, TX to select Rasmus Dahlin first-overall in the 2018 NHL Draft.

For the organization, it's the opportunity to put seven years of rebuilding angst, anger and frustration in the rear view mirror and start heading towards the future. It was a stretch that hopefully will be forgotten soon and like a bad relationship that went on way too long, time will have healed all wounds with the pain and apathy of those years reduced to an unpleasant memory.

Forgive me for waxing poetic. I know I've been there before when we thought we said goodbye to the tank years with the 2015 draft-day makeover highlighted by the selection of Jack Eichel second overall. It didn't work, and with the trades that former GM Tim Murray made to augment Eichel and 2014 second-overall pick Sam Reinhart being moved on from, it's Botterill's gig and things seem to be going very well for him.

In the last two blogs we looked at a very thin prospect pool in goal, which will be taxed even further as the Sabres will not qualify RFA starting goalie Robin Lehner, and a pretty thin collection of defensemen. Luckily for Buffalo they won the lottery and the selection of Dahlin will not only help the d-corps fall into place, the Sabres also have the option of keeping their top d-prospect, Brendan Guhle in Rochester at least for some of the season.

The forward group has been much maligned for their lack of top-level talent and overall speed. While the latter is true from a physical standpoint, they may have been more the victim of playing the game slower. Most forwards on the Sabres last season had NHL skating ability, but the mess that was the team, which included a rookie coach in Phil Housley wouldn't allow for playing the game at a faster pace.

That will change beginning this season as the forward group should see an influx of both speed and talent, albeit those two traits being mutually exclusive in some of the players that will be in Buffalo next season. Who will be a part of the opening day roster is still up in the air beginning with Ryan O'Reilly and stretching down to Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson.

For as much grief as Murray got for his trades, and it's warranted as all three of his big-time acquisitions may be gone after only three years, his drafting was pretty solid. That includes the aforementioned Guhle (2015, second round) plus D, Will Borgen (2015, fourth round) and a few players that are apart of our Top-7 forwards to keep an eye on.

Having said that, the top forward prospect that has all of Sabreland quite excited is a 2017 pick from Botterill's first draft as a GM.

C, Casey Mittelstadt (2017, 8th-overall)

How many times have you heard "I can't believe he dropped to us there" when talking about a prospect at the draft. Such was the case with Mittelstadt as many viewed him as a top-five pick but the Sabres were able to land him at No. 8.

The 2017 Mr. Hockey winner from Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota joined the NCAA's Minnesota Golden Gophers for one season before signing his entry-level deal with the Sabres in March. He played in six games for Buffalo registering his first NHL goal and adding four assists.

There's a lot to be excited about when it comes to Mittelstadt and what he has to offer. He's got size (6'0" 199 lbs.) and plenty of skill (11 goals and 30 points in 34 games as a freshman for the Gophers) to go along with his excellent skating ability. Although he isn't the fastest he's pretty quick to areas and his hockey sense allows him to play the game at a faster pace. Mittelstadt faced a lot of rugged defensive hockey in the BIG 10 last season and had plenty of gumption to get where he needed to go, which were often the dirty areas of the ice, and find the player in open space.

Where he plays next year in Buffalo is wholly dependent upon O'Reilly. Should they trade the veteran center, Mittelstadt will be looked to as the team's No. 2 center but should O'Reilly stay, it's likely that he'll be moved to third-line center. Although I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of him getting time on the wing in that scenario.

The Sabres will be adding two high-end prospects this season in Dahlin and Mittelstadt. It's a duo that has those of us in Sabreland pretty excited.

C, Sean Malone (2013, 159th)

Is Malone the No. 2 forward prospect for Buffalo? No, not by any stretch, but this isn't about ranking prospects, its about prospects to keep an eye on and he looks like he'll be knocking on the door of the NHL this coming season.

The West Seneca, NY native was more that a token local pick when the Sabres snagged him in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Draft. The solid 6' 0" 190 lb two-way center left Nichols High School and embarked on a collegiate career at Harvard. While with the Crimson he scored 42 goals and 99 points in 115 games which included a 18-goal, 42-point breakout in his senior season. Malone got a one game taste of the NHL at the end of the 2017-17 season and spent last year in Rochester.

After adjusting to the speed of the pro game, Malone ramped up his game to the point where he said he felt like himself. That player he's talking about plays a 200' game with a lot of speed and determination. Although he doesn't have the skill-level to crack the top-six or even top-nine, once he gets up to speed at the NHL level, Malone has the ability to be a stalwart and clutch faceoff guy in a fourth-line checking role.

LW, C.J. Smith (2017, FA)

Smith is another player who isn't top-three amongst the prospect rankings, but one we should keep an eye on heading into the season.

The Sabres have no left wingers to speak of and the U-Mass Lowell product showed plenty of skill and speed to be considered for the openings on Buffalo's left side. At 5'11" 185 lbs. Smith doesn't have ideal NHL size, but he proved last season he could hang with the big boys at the pro level. Smith tied for second on the Amerks with 17 goals and was third on the team in scoring with 44 points, which tied him for 10th amongst rookies in the AHL.

In addition to his skills on offense, Smith plays a solid two-way game and is strong on the defensive side of the equation. What he has to offer at the NHL level is still unknown but he has a nice foundation with which to build upon, quite possibly in a third-line left wing role for the Sabres.

LW, Alexander Nylander (2016, 8th)

What was said about Smith's opportunity on the left side in Buffalo is also true for Nylander. So why is an eighth-overall pick behind a free agent who plays the same position? It's how the two seem to have approached the game in Rochester. As a free agent, Smith had a lot to prove whereas Nylander comes off as a player who's been in prima donna mode.

Nylander may have had the highest skill-level at the 2016 NHL Draft but the knock on him was that he disappeared, something we've seen in Rochester the last two seasons. In 116 games for the Amerks he's scored only 18 goals and 55 points. Put that up against what Smith has done in less than half the games.

Having said that, it's still a bit too early to give up on him. Nylander is an extremely gifted hockey player who has all the tools to take a spot in the top-six. But until he gets his head on straight, he's looking more like a bust than he is an NHL player.

C, Rasmus Asplund (2016, 33rd)

There has been a lot of anticipation with Asplund and when he would finally arrive in North America and the reason for it was his exceptional play at the pro level in his native Sweden.

Asplund won't wow you with his stats (8+20 in 50 games for Färjestad BK last season) but he does everything else extremely well. "He's quick and shifty, using his speed and turning ability to gaine time and space," reported The Draft Analyst, and he plays a full 200' game. Asplund is not afraid of the dirty areas on the ice and has a high compete-level.

Should he continue to develop properly, Asplund has all the attributes of a top-end, third-line center.

RW, Nicholas Baptiste (2013, 69th)

The right side of Buffalo's forward group is pretty full right now with Reinhart, Kyle Okposo and Jason Pominville in the top nine and Baptiste hasn't had much time, if any, on the left side. That makes for a pretty tough road to hoe for him.

At this point in his career, the 22 yr. old Baptiste is out of waiver options so if the Sabres want to keep him, he'll need to stay in Buffalo or they risk losing him. It's been a pretty choppy ride for Baptiste thus far in his pro career as he's spent most of it in Rochester. His AHL stats are decent (38+31 in 121 games) and he's managed seven goals (plus four assists) in 47 NHL games. But he just hasn't been able to break through quite yet.

We've seen spurts of what Baptiste can be as he has plenty of speed and can score from all areas using a wide array of shots. It's consistency that's lacking in his game, which is typical of young player and if he ever gets that ironed out, because of the speed and skill he has, Baptiste could be a force in the top-nine or even top-six.

He's got a lot riding on this season and it would behoove him to have a great camp and bust his way into the top nine.

RW, Victor Oloffson (2014, 181st)

Although there hasn't been much anticipation about Olofsson making his North American debut prior to last season, the numbers he put up in 2017-18 certainly raised some eyebrows.

Olofsson was a beast in Sweden with Frolunda as he lead the SHL with 27 goals while finishing with 43 points. It took the 5'11" 172 lb. sniper three full seasons to break out in Sweden's top league but did so in style as he finished with the Håkan Loob Trophy for most goals scored in the season.

Frolunda used him in the circle on the powerplay where Olofsson unleashed a deadly shot and there's no doubt that he's one of the most skilled shooters in the Sabres prospect pool. Can he find his place in Rochester playing on the smaller North American rink is one of the questions with Olofsson as is how he'll be able to keep his smaller frame out of trouble with the bigger, stronger, heavier competition in the AHL.

That said, having an influx of talent like his should bring good things for the Amerks and hopefully , Buffalo as well.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sabres will need to be sharp to land an NHL-caliber goalie propect

Published by, 6-20-2018

The Buffalo Sabres have the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft and they have the top pick No. 32, which starts the second round. It's with almost 100% certainty that they'll select defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the top pick and you could say that it's with nearly a 100% certainty that they'll take a skater with their second pick.

Barring any changes Buffalo will be waiting until pick No. 94 at the top of the fourth round to make their selection. The Sabres traded away their third round pick (No. 63) this year to the Minnesota Wild in a trade that also sent Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis to the Wild for Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville. Buffalo also received Minnesota's fourth-rounder this year (No. 117) as a part of the deal.

Being so high in the draft while not having a third-rounder means the Buffalo does not have a pick in a prime area to take one of the better goalies in the draft.

Thoughts on where to draft goaltenders has changed throughout the years. Rick DiPietro was the No. 1 pick in the 2000 NHL Draft and the only other goalie picked first was Marc-Andre Fleury (2002.) Kari Lehtonen was taken second-ovearll in 2001 and Carey Price  fifth-overall in 2005. There were four goalies taken in the first round in 2006 and after that the most selected in the first round was two which happened three times (2008, 2010, 2012.)

Jack Campbell was selected 11th overall in 2010 and represents the highest slot amongst goalies taken since 2006 when Jonathan Bernier was also selected at No. 11. From 2007-17 there have been only eight goalies taken in the first round and in the last five years it's happened only twice.

With the game changing more towards speed and offense, teams are focusing on the skaters much more in the first round while waiting until the second or third rounds to snag a goalie prospect. There have been 71 goalies taken in the second and third rounds since 2007 with the highest total being nine in 2012. The next highest number was eight in 2016 and on five other occasions, seven goalies were taken in those rounds.

The Sabres philosophy on where to draft goalies has also changed. The success of Ryan Miller, who was drafted fifth-overall (138) in 1999 gave GM Darcy Regier a reason to wait until the latter rounds to pick a goalie. Only Jonas Enroth (2006, 46th) was selected with a pick higher than the fourth round. Enroth played in 152 NHL games. Regier drafted six other goalies before he was fired in 2013 with the highest being Ghyslain Rousseau in the fourth round (2000, 111th) and of that group, only Linus Ullmark (2012, 163rd) has hit double digits in NHL games played.

Of note, the Sabres also drafted Cal Petersen in the fifth round (129th) of the 2013 draft but he signed with the LA Kings.

Tim Murray actually broke the trend of drafting goalies late in the draft for Buffalo when he selected Jonas Johansson with the 61st pick in the 2014 draft. He would not select another goalie in the following two drafts and was fired in 2017.

After taking over the reigns as GM last season, Jason Botterill selected Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (whom the team just signed to an entry-level deal) with the 54th pick. He was the second goalie off the board and was one of seven total selected in the second and third rounds.

Right now, the Sabres prospect pool in net consists of Ullmark, who will be with the Sabres in a not yet fully defined role, Johansson who will be in Rochester in a not yet fully defined role and Luukkonen, who's expected to spend at least one year (probably two) in his native Finland playing at the pro-level there. There's nobody from the system to man the net in Cincinnati this year and no one between the 22 yr. old Johansson and the 19 yr. old Luukkonen.

The Sabres will once again be looking for outside help in net and for the foreseeable future will need to ride with a very thin prospect pool. Having them without a pick in a prime area at the draft to land a goalie prospect will extend that thin pool out another year.

Regardless of that fact, neither Buffalo nor any other team, has their goalie positions at all three levels filled by homegrown picks. Botterill will once again be in the market for an AHL goalie and will need to find two for the ECHL. And by the looks of it, he'll probably be looking to fill an open spot in Buffalo should they move on from Robin Lehner.

If the Sabres draft a goaltender and they hope that he at the very least fills the pipeline at the minor league level, they'll need to be pretty sharp. On average, seven goalies have been taken prior to round four over the last 11 years.

Kris Baker of the Athletic Buffalo, called this crop of goalies "average at best" in his draft preview. Baker has been following the draft and Sabres prospects for over a decade through his site for over a decade and was tapped by the Athletic to do the same for them.

Baker might be reaching a bit when he lists Czech goaltending prospect Jakub Skarek as a possibility for Buffalo at pick 94 this year. Skarek, who's ranked highly at a number of sites, has the size at 6'3" 192 lbs. that fits the way the NHL is trending and, according to Baker, "checks a lot of boxes for a solid goaltending prospect."

Skarek "[has the] ability to cover a lot of net when dropping to make a butterfly save," continued Baker, "[has] high goalie IQ that allows him to read and anticipate, and extremely sharp reflexes."

After that Baker sees Djurgarden IF goalie Olof Lindbom as a possibility with Buffalo's second fourth-rounder at No. 117. Lindbom also has size (6'2" 185 lbs.) and has a strong lower body that allows him to use "powerful pushes with both legs that get him post-to-post with ease."

It should be noted that the goalie rankings are pretty much all over the place this year outside of a couple of names leading the pack. QMJHL products Oliver Rodrigue and Kevin Mandolese are ranked as the top two goalies by International Scouting Services while NHL's Central Scouting has both of them atop their rankings of North American Goalies. (CSS has Skarek ranked No. 2 amongst European goalies.)

Ryan Jankowski was hired by Botterill last July to head the amateur scouting department and he'll have his work cut out for him past pick-32. The goalies in that sweet spot of the second and third rounds will be gone (barring a trade) and he'll be left with a lower graded pool of "average at best" goalie prospects to choose from.

On the flip side, however, of all the positions in the crap shoot that is the NHL Draft, goaltender is the toughest one to try and figure out. First and foremost goalies are a rare breed spending nearly all of their time alone in net with their thoughts and second, they have the longest incubation period. A lot can happen between a goalie being drafted at 18 and being ready for regular pro duty in their early 20's.

The certainty with which the Sabres will draft Dahlin at the top of the draft is the complete opposite of drafting a goalie, especially in the latter rounds. Jankowski and company will need to be pretty sharp to nail the latter.

Dahlin helps Buffalo's thin, but slowly improving prospect pool on defense

Published by, 6-21-2018

While going through past blogs prior to the NHL Entry Draft, I came across a piece from 2015 just prior to the draft. In it we looked at the defense core depth and it was extremely thin at the time.

The 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs showcased a Norris Trophy defenseman in the Chicago Blackhawks' Duncan Keith and a future Norris winner in then 24 yr. old Tampa Bay Lightning d-man, Victor Hedman (who just won the trophy last night.) The duo put on a clinic in the finals that year.

At the time Keith was 31 yrs. old and the elder statesmen of a group of high-quality d-men featuring Norris Trophy winner PK Subban, who was with the Montreal Canadiens, and fellow Norris winner Erik Karlsson (OTT) who lead a group of 25 yr. olds that included Drew Doughty (LAK,) Alex Pietrangelo (STL) and Roman Josi (NSH.) After Hedman there was another wave of d-men just cutting their teeth in Oliver-Ekman Larsson (ARI,) Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton (BOS,) Olli Matta (PIT) and 19 yr. old stud Aaron Ekblad (FLA.)

The Sabres at the time were coming off a scorched-earth rebuild that left their team mostly barren on the back-end. At the time just before the 2015 NHL Draft, the Sabres had young players with promise in 23 yr. old Mark Pysyk, 20 yr. olds Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov and...that's about it. The pipeline had Jake McCabe and Chad Ruhwedel at the top followed by Brady Austin, who played five NHL games and Jerome Leduc, who never saw the NHL ice. Anthony Florentino and Brycen Martin, both of whom are in the minors, rounded out the group.

Since that piece was done, the Sabres traded Zadorov and Pysyk and allowed Ruhwedel to walk. Buffalo's depth on defense struggled for the last three seasons as players drafted beginning in 2015 began making their way up through the system and GM's tried to fill holes with minor-league vets and free agent signings.

The Sabres did well in landing coveted college free agent Casey Nelson in 2016 and SHL Defenseman of the year, Lawrence Pilut last month. They also signed Victor Antipin out of the KHL in 2017 but that didn't work out so well. Antipin had a rough season that ended with him being carted off on a stretcher with four games to go. Buffalo GM Jason Botterill recently said that, contrary to some reports, Antipin has not signed a KHL contract and is looking to come back to the NHL.

As dreary as the last few years have been on defense, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the drafting of defenseman Rasmus Dahlin will shove this slow moving train even closer to the bright light of tomorrow. Dahlin is considered a franchise defenseman (some say generational) and will immediately be plugged into the lineup in a top-four role. What that does for the depth chart can't be understated as those on the big club will begin to fall into roles to suit them while those in the pipeline can continue to develop at lower levels.

There are still big holes on the back-end from Buffalo on down, but make no mistake, the selection of Dahlin allows for the organization to build quality depth, something that's desperately needed.

Barring any trades, the Sabres lineup on defense looks to have Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Zach Bogosian, Jake McCabe, Casey Nelson and Nathan Beaulieu right now with the possibility that their top d-prospect could be in the mix.

Although semantics will have Dahlin as the Sabres top prospect from the time he's drafted until opening day, why bother putting him there for this exercise? We'll start with the idea that he'll be with the Sabres beginning October 4 against the Boston Bruins and look at these tree as Buffalo's top d-prospects right now.

LHD, Brendan Guhle (2015, 51st-overall)

Guhle began his first pro season with the Rochester Americans and spent plenty of time playing top-pairing minutes in all situations. There's a lot to like about the 6'2" 196 lb. native of Edmonton, Alberta and Sabres fans are still wondering how he dropped to Buffalo at pick No. 51. Guhle is very athletic and skates extremely well, has exceptional on-ice vision and moves the puck seemingly with ease, all of which was on display in Rochester to start the season.

However, Guhle did hit some speed bumps along the way. After a short, two-game call-up in January he was sent back to Rochester and suffered a lower body injury. He would be recalled again for an extended 16-game stint in Buffalo where he struggled a bit before being sent down to Rochester for the AHL playoffs at the end of the NHL regular seaosn. In the latter part of that call-up he suffered an upper-body injury that cause him to miss an April 2 game against Toronto. He seemed well after that but had a miserable performance as the Amerks were swept by the Syracuse Crunch (TBL) in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

What happened to Guhle, when it happened and how much it affected him is still somewhat of a mystery but his playoff performance against a very fast and talented Crunch team left the organization with question marks. Maybe he's not quite ready to join the Sabres on the opening night roster and will need a little more seasoning before he and the team can feel comfortable with him up in Buffalo.

Having Dahlin in the top-six is huge for the organization as they can do what Botterill wants to do with all of his prospects, let them fully develop before bringing them up. If Guhle has an outstanding camp and makes the opening night roster, fine. If he doesn't he can get more seasoning in Rochester. It's a win/win for player and team.

LHD, Lawrence Pilut (FA, 2018)

This could be a huge signing for Buffalo as Botterill and Co. were able to land the SHL's 2018 Defenseman of the Year. The 22 yr. old Pilut has been playing in Sweden's top professional league for the last four years and had a breakout 2017-18 campaign with 38 points which lead all SHL defensemen.

Pilut is an offensive-minded defenseman who skates well and has a good shot which you'll see in the highlights that are out there but here's what his coach, Johan Lindbom also had to say about his defenseman. "Larry (as the team called him) was very talented at a young age," said Lindbom. "Maybe a little too small from the beginning but he's a fighter. He takes his hockey very seriously. He practices very hard and that's what makes him successful.

"He's not the toughest, he's not the strongest in front of the net but he reads the play really well."

Lindbom and his staff were keen on honing the defensive aspects of Pilut's game as the 5'11" 179 lb. rearguard never saw a play he didn't want to jump into, and that's what he'll need to work on in North America, especially with the smaller rink.

Were it a year or two ago, Pilut could have been considered a candidate to make the Sabres if he had a strong camp. Right now, with the addition of Dahlin and having Guhle with a full pro season under his belt, Pilut slips nicely into the No. 2 d-prospect spot.

RHD, William Borgen (2015, 92nd)

There was a lot of fear rippling through Sabreland wondering whether or not the Sabres would be able to sign the St. Cloud State University standout. Buffalo fans had already been jilted by Jimmy Vesey and Cal Petersen, both college prospects who finished school and opted for free agency.

Borgen, however, chose to sign with Buffalo after his junior season in college. The 6'2" 189 lb. native of Moorehead, MN finished his career with five goals and 36 assists in 106 games for the Huskies and came in for a brief eight-game cup of coffee on an amateur tryout with the Rochester Americans this season.

Other than his NHL-ready frame, one of the things that stands out with Borgen is that he's a righty, something severely lacking in the Sabres d-prospect pool right now. He's also a defensive defenseman but don't let that lead you into believing he's some pylon on the back end as he has excellent skating ability.

Borgen was tabbed for the 2016 US World Junior squad and was also selected for the 2018 Olympic team, though he never dressed. He's projected to be a long-term project player that will continue to hone his defense while trying to find some of the scoring touch he had in high school. With Dahlin Guhle and possibly Pilut paving the way the next few years, Borgen will have all the time he needs to develop properly.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Dahlin week? Nah. Let's play, Finish the Ryan O'Reilly Deal

Published by, 6-18-2018

Just how much Rasmus Dahlin can one take? Apparently a lot more than one might think.

The Buffalo Sabres have the No. 1 pick in the NHL Entry Draft this Friday in Dallas, and the excitement over selecting a potential franchise defenseman has reached a fever pitch. All Dahlin, all the time is the mantra, as if everyone wants to say they were on top of it if/when the Swede helps lead the Sabres to the promised land.

There's nothing wrong with loving the fact that Dahlin is a special player and the Sabres were lucky enough to win the lottery for the first-overall pick, even if Steve Kourianos of The Draft Analyst rated left wing Alexei Svechnikov as the No. 1 prospect in this year's draft. Like lunaion commented last night, "wow, I thought this would finally be the year where 'that guy' didn't exist."

Me too.

However, as much as we love the prospect of drafting Dahlin, and we very much do, what kind of say would it be if we didn't discuss Ryan O'Reilly. After all, one can never get enough O'Reilly chatter.

Buffalo's No. 2 center was very unhappy with the way things went this past season letting out some revealing things at locker cleanout and we're still wondering whether it was actually a veiled plea for the Sabres to trade him. Phrases O'Reilly used that day included having "lost his love for the game at times" and the team being "stuck in the midset of losing," both of which were like bright neon billboards advertising just how messed up the locker room was last season.

Locker room division and dissention, which reportedly had been present since the middle of the 2016-17 season leading to the prior coach and GM getting fired, may have been the biggest reason that the team finished with a woeful 25-45-12 while playing some of the worst hockey Buffalo has ever seen. There were other factors but as the saying goes, "a house divided against itself will not stand."

Sabres GM Jason Botterill was visibly ticked at the end of season presser and had this to say about his team moving forward, "When you finish where we were, you have to look at everything. That means looking at even changing up some of our core players."

That lead us to the names of three players that constitute the core outside of the untouchable Jack Eichel--O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen.

A case can and has been made for each of those three to be traded and to be kept but the name that's continually been in the rumor mill is that of O'Reilly's. The 28 yr. old is a veteran still in the middle of his prime and plays a position that's coveted in the NHL. Plus there's an added bonus of him being a top-six center which, as we know in Buffalo are very hard to come by, leading to a number of teams actively in the hunt for a top-six center because of their relative scarcity.

Why would the Sabres trade away a commodity like that when they're so difficult to come by? By the looks of it, O'Reilly seems as if he's ready to move on and the Sabres seem as if they might be ready to move on from him, for the right price. That makes for a pretty smoky situation in terms of the fire that's said to be burning beneath all these rumors. Buffalo doesn't need to trade O'Reilly but if some team comes along with a great offer, than he'll probably be on the move.

What is a proper offer? Depends upon the buyer's perception of O'Reilly. He's generally thought of as a top-six center with some of the belief that he's a legit No. 1. His production has been very consistent throughout the years, he plays in all situations, is one of the best faceoff men in the business and he's worn a letter in Colorado and Buffalo. On the downside, his production lately has relied too much on powerplay points while his leadership qualities might be overstated.

Which leads us to the teams who might be interested in him and what they might be willing to offer up for him in a trade. As of now there have been a few teams with interest

We'll begin with a trade proposal offered up by Sportsnet.

To St. Louis - Ryan O'Reilly
To Buffalo - 2018 1st (Winnipeg's), Robert Thomas, Vince Dunn

We liked it somewhat, but fixed it:

To St. Louis--O'Reilly, rights to RFA goalie Robin Lehner
To Buffalo--2018 1st (WPG,) Klim Klostin, Jake Allen

Got it.

Have fun.

To Montreal--O'Reilly, 2019 2nd
To Buffalo--Jonathan Drouin, Max Pacioretty and a 2018 second rounder

To NY Rangers--O'Reilly
To Buffalo--Chris Kreider, Libor Hajek and a 2018 first rounder (TBL)

To NY Islanders--O'Reilly, 2019 2nd
To Buffalo--2018 12th-overall, David Quennville, Linus Soderstrom

Monday, June 18, 2018

Thoughts on....

Published by, 6-17-2018

Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill is ramping up as he, like his fellow GM's, have a very busy couple of weeks ahead. The NHL is set to announce the 2018-19 salary cap sometime this week and the 2018 NHL Draft takes place Friday and Saturday which is quickly followed by the "interview period" next Sunday as teams may begin talking with unrestricted free agents.

On Monday June 25 teams must tender qualifying offers to their restricted free agents then the following day another "interview period" begins with RFA's being allowed to talk offer sheets with other teams. The buyout window closes on Saturday, June 30 and July 1 heralds the beginning of free agency where unrestricted free agents are free to sign with any team.

While we were busy with the 2018 Mock Draft, Botterill did get things rolling with some moves and some Sabres-related chatter this past week. Time to play a little catch-up with thoughts on Sabres-related moves.

Botterill talks with WGR550's Paul Hamilton on a few subjects.

--The GM implied that there probably wouldn't be any changes to a coaching staff on a last place team that was wretched at times, mostly at home where Botterill was said to take out his frustrations on tables, doors and an unsuspecting taco bar. However, the status quo shouldn't be completely comfortable in their positions as Botterill left some wiggle room.

"Right now we feel comfortable with our guys," he told Hamilton. "We continue to talk with Phil [Housley] from that standpoint, but right now our staff is the same as it was.”

Last month Alexander Nilsson, who covers hockey in Sweden and follows the Sabres tweeted the following, "Sabres is interested in bringing in Sweden men's national team head coach Rikard Grönborg according to Sportbladet. Carolina also interested. Unknown in which capacity. Grönborg has one more year on his contract with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association."

Grönborg just finished coaching Team Sweden to their second consecutive IIHF World Hockey Championship and the dual Swedish/U.S. citizen isn't opposed to moving back to the States.

With Buffalo projected to draft Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall on Friday and with their recent signing of SHL Defenseman of the Year, Lawrence Pilut, it makes sense that they'd be interested in the former St. Cloud State defenseman, but in what capacity?

Changes should be made to coaching staff after the terrible season the team just went through, and with all due respect to assistant coach Chris Hajt, that defense was a mess as he looked way in over his head. But bringing in Grönborg this season as an assistant might put too much pressure on Housley, who's entering his sophomore season as a head coach.

Until Grönborg signs somewhere else, it's a name to keep an eye on, possibly as head coach in Buffalo should Housley not make adequate year over year progress.

--For those looking for the team to buyout ugly contracts, Botterill was pretty firm in his statement to Hamilton. "I don’t see us having any buyouts this year," he said. "Obviously things could always change over the next little bit here, but from our standpoint, just the way some of our contracts are structured, we don’t want to have cap hits beyond this year, so we see it being more beneficial to ride the year out and go from there.”

That means Matt Moulson and his $5 million contract are on the books for one more (probable AHL) season. It also means that Zach Bogosian and the two years remaining on his $5.14 AAV contract are here for at least this season and players like Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson will be playing out the remainder of their deals this season. Barring trades, of course.

And that's the way it should be this year. The Sabres don't need the cap room so why bother?

--Botterill also brought up a name that we thought was a one-and-done in Buffal0--defenseman Victor Antipin.

Last we saw of Antipin on the ice was him literally laying there after being plastered into the boards by Nashville's Scotty Hartnell in a boarding play that went unpunished. Antipin was stretchered off the ice, missed the final four games and it was thought he was back to Mother Russia to play in the KHL.

Not so fast.

"In our conversations with his agent and in our conversations with him," said Botterill, "he wants to play in North America again next year. Because of his past resume, there will always be that option in the KHL, but it’s my understanding, he hasn’t signed there.”

Perhaps he'll have another opportunity, maybe even with the Sabres. Or at least in Rochester. Too bad his one-year free agent deal had an option to head to the KHL should he be sent to the AHL. He needed time to adjust to the North American game. It would be worth taking a shot on him as long as he starts in Rochester.

Hudson Fasching trade

Former GM Tim Murray's first trade for the Sabres (and his first as a general manager) sent defenseman Brayden McNabb, forward Jonathan Parker and two second round picks to the LA Kings for forwards Hudson Fasching and Nic Deslauriers, whom he described as "heavies."

It turned into a bad trade for the Sabres as neither Deslauriers, who was traded to Montreal this past season, nor Fasching, who was just traded to the Arizona Coytoes, are with the club.

McNabb played a top six role for the Kings before he fell down the depth chart and was left unprotected by Los Angeles in the 2017 expansion draft. The Vegas Golden Knights snatched him up and he played top-pairing minutes for the 2018 Stanley Cup runner-up. The two second round picks Buffalo gave up in the trade were the two second rounders the Kings had previously traded to the Sabres for defenseman Robyn Regehr. In 2014 defenseman Alex Lintumiemi was selected 60th-overall in the draft and has spent the last two seasons with the Ontario Reign, LA's AHL affiliate. Defenseman Eric Cernak was selected in 2015 (43rd-overall) by the Kings and his rights were traded to Tampa Bay in the Ben Bishop trade on February 26, 2017.

Fasching was a forward that ended up in the wrong conference at the wrong time. The Kings won the Cup in 2014, their second in three seasons, with strong goaltending and a very Western Conference, heavy-style team and Murray was locked into that style when he made the trade. Also at the time of the trade the Sabres prospect pool was heavier on defense than it was on forwards, so he pulled the trigger.

Regardless of the circumstances and thought process involved, it was a bust for the Sabres. Even though McNabb is usually overrated by many Sabres fans because of the terrible seasons Buffalo has had, because of the hate directed towards Murray and/or maybe because everyone traded away is looked at as upper-echelon simply because Buffalo never can do anything right, they lost this one. Even if the other parts of the trade never make it to the NHL.

Coming back from the 'Yotes in the trade are the rights to BU defenseman Brandon Hickey and unrestricted free agent Mike Sislo.

“We would’ve been qualifying [Fasching]," said Botterill to Hamilton, "but with players like Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, bringing in Danny O’Regan, bringing in Andrew Oglevie, we felt we had an abundance at right wing and we’ve looked to try to bring in more defensemen and continue to work with them.

“We’re very excited about young players such as Brendan Guhle and having players such as Casey Fitzgerald within the organization and we plan to bring more players into that too, so that’s why we signed a player like Lawrence Pilut and with Brandon, we bring in a player whose skating is an asset and we’re looking forward to working with them the next few years.”

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen signs entry-level deal

The Sabres announced on Thursday that goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen signed his entry-level deal. The 6'4" 198 lb. native of Espoo, Finland was a part of Botterill's first draft class last year and was selected in the second round (54th overall.)

Luukkonen's contract is a three-year deal worth as much as $2.775 million which may slide next year should he stay in Finland, which is likely.

Buffalo has a really thin goalie pool right now with Linus Ullmark (2012, 163rd) getting the call to Buffalo full-time this season and Jonas Johansson (2014, 61st) as the only goalies in the system drafted by the Sabres.

Ideally Buffalo would have a third rounder this year to use on a goalie but they'll need to make due with a fourth-rounder. Perhaps any trade concerning Ryan O'Reilly will include an additional second or third rounder that they can use to add a goaltender to the system.

Ryan O'Reilly

Yup, it wouldn't be a blog with out a ROR mention.

The Montreal Canadiens, who seem to be the hottest destination for the top-six center and they made a trade this week sending Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi. It's a trade that really has nothing to do with O'Reilly as the Canadiens still need a top center, but it was worth mentioning.

Domi scored nine goals last season for the 'Yotes, four of them empty netters. For a little perspective, Girgensons had seven goals, zero empty-netters.

Happy Father's Day to all the Dad's out there. I'm very thankful for my children who are the best a father could hope for.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Picks 1-32. Full 2018 NHL Mock Draft

Published by, 6-16-2018

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft will be held in Dallas, TX June 22-23 and the Buffalo Sabres have the first-overall pick. Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the man and don't let anyone try to tell you anything different. The Carolina Hurricanes made a huge jump at the draft and will select second-overall. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that the 'Canes will select winger Andrei Svechnikov.

Most believe that the draft begins at No. 3 with the Montreal Canadiens. There's a lot going on in Montreal as GM Marc Bergevin is looking to land a No. 1 center. Unfortunately for them there's a great winger available in in Filip Zadina and another one in Brady Tkachuk with the former very close to being NHL ready if he isn't already there. After those two there's an array of defensemen available in all shapes and sizes.

The draft starts with Dahlin and is followed by the next tier of Svechinkov and Zadina. The next group begins with Tkachuk and stretches down to about No. 8 or 9 with the following 10-20 picks very close. After that there's said to be a large group that goes deep well into the second round where all are very similarly graded.

For Sabres fans in particular, it seems as if there will be some action at or around the draft and the name that at the for is Ryan O'Reilly. It would seem as if his time on Buffalo is done with both he and the Sabres presumably ready to move on. O'Reilly is a top-six center and is a very valuable commodity right now, especially to a team like the Canadiens who do not have a top-six center like him.

Could O'Reilly be traded for the third-overall pick in this year's draft? Maybe. But we didn't go there as we slowly released this mock draft five picks at a time. It's a straight up mock.


2018 NHL Mock Draft Picks 31-32

Published by, 6-15-2018

31. Washington Capitals--C, Akil Thomas. The cool thing about having 31 teams and releasing a mock draft five teams at a time beginning at the top, is that it leaves the Stanley Cup Champions with their own section. Even in a couple years when Seattle (presumably) expands the league to 32 teams, the last two teams standing will have their own blog using this format.

However, for this year it's about the Caps, and with pick No. 32 belonging to the Buffalo Sabres, a dip into the next round as the Sabres lead off with the first pick in round two.

There were a lot of hockey fans that were happy Washington finally won the Stanley Cup and there were various reasons. There were fans in Washington finally saw their hockey team win a championship after 44 years of frustration, and there was a large contingent who just couldn't stand an expansion team winning the Cup in their first season, despite how driven the Vegas Golden Knights was to even make it to the finals and there were some who wanted to see the greatest goal scorer of his generation, Alex Ovechkin, finally reach the promised land. Some, like myself, were real happy to see a coach like Barry Trotz finally win one as well.

Talent won out in this series as the Golden Knights just couldn't match what the Caps had to offer. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and company put forth a valiant effort, but the best and most skillful players inevitably break through no matter how unreal a defense and goaltending can be. Credit to the Knights as they kept it tight throughout the series with hard work and some skill of their own, but the momentum that carried them to the finals, although not fully depleted, was not quite enough to overcome the definitive talent discrepancy the Capitals had over Vegas.

Props to the Golden Knights for a great year, to Washington for the championship win and to Capitals greats Rod Langway, Olaf Kolzig, Mike Gartner and Peter Bondra, all of them who were amongst the best at their positions at one time, with Hall of Fame nods to Langway and Gartner, but never reached the promised land.

With the post-Cup parties over and the parade a thing of the past, it's time to move forward and the Caps are jumping right into post season mode with the draft next Friday. Waiting for them at No. 31 is 6'0" 170 lb. Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) center, Akil Thomas, a highly skilled playmaker whom nearly every draftnik believes should be more selfish. Thomas has the brains and a junkyard dog competitiveness to go along with his skill package and if he fills out his frame in a few years while adding strength, he could be an upper-level, two-way center.

32. Buffalo Sabres. LW, Blake McLaughlin. Although I said this three years ago, I truly hope that the Sabres won't be in this position again. After drafting Jack Eichel second-overall in 2015 it was believed that Buffalo had bottomed out. But they didn't. It ended up being a bounce and they fell right to the bottom again. Something just hasn't been right in Sabreland but the future looks bright, especially since this drop tot the bottom netted them a franchise d-prospect.

However, the Sabres aren't done by any stretch of the imagination and still need to do a ton of work to fill the prospect pool with quality players. It's a tough call between three players for the Sabres and they really cant' go wrong with any of these USHL products. Defenseman K'Andre Miller is a big defenseman who can skate well, has soft hands and a great shot but will be on a long development curve. A sentimental pick would be Jack Drury nephew of former Sabres centerman Chris Drury who's an AGM with the NY Rangers. Drury checks off all the boxes his uncle did with things like compete-level and drive and he also tallied 24 goals and 65 points in in 56 games for the Waterloo Blackhawks.

Waiting for the Sabres at No. 32 is McLaughlin, a player on par with the others but one who also fills a position of need at left wing.

The scoop on the Chicago Steel product is that he flies up and down the ice on a slender 6'0" 157 lb. frame. Sure that's skinny, but he'll have plenty of time to fill out said frame in the proper way as he heads to the University of Minnesota this year.

McLaughlin is a pleasure to watch skating and can beat a defenseman a number of ways. He had 52 points (23+29) in 54 games for the Steel while also tallying three goals and seven points in seven game in the playoffs. He has the vision and a quick release shot that can be deadly. Add 20 lbs. to his frame and he'd probably go somewhere in the middle of the first round. If he can add that weight and not have it affect any part of his game, he should be a real good find in the second round.

Friday, June 15, 2018

2018 NHL Mock Draft Picks 26-30

Published by, 6-14-2018

26. NY Rangers (from Boston)--RW, Dominik Bokk. Rangers landed a gem with the pick of Bouchard early in the draft and have another pick at No. 28. They could go a number of ways but opt to add offense with the selection of Bokk, a raw talent with room to fill out his 6'1" 176 lb. pro-frame. The word on Bokk is that he possesses elite stick skills and offensive-minded instincts but needs to work on his play away from the puck. Rangers have no problem with that as this pick helps strengthen the right side of the prospect pool up front while allowing Bokk adequate time to develop.

27. Chicago Blackhawks (from Nashville)--C, Ty Dellandrea. Hawks have balance at the top of the prospect pool between forwards and defensemen and opt for best player available which happens to be Dellandrea. The Flint Firebirds center has an NHL frame at 6'0" 183 lbs. and possesses keen on-ice instincts and was second in scoring (27 goals, 32 assists) on a Flint team that was last in the OHL's Western Conference. When watching him you get the sense that there's some Jonathan Toews to his game, which suits him well having Chicago draft him.

28. NY Rangers (from Tampa Bay)-- LHD, Adam Ginning. It's never a bad idea to have a defensive defenseman holding the fort while the rest of the skaters are on the offensive, and that's where Ginning comes into play. The 18 yr. old has great size at 6'3" 196 lbs. with room to grow into that frame. Word is that he'll need a couple more years in his native Sweden before making the move to North America which will give him time to build some upper-body strength and to acclimate to playing against pro talent. Which is fine with the Rangers. A project player with the third of three first rounders is a pretty solid approach to adding organizational depth, which they'll need as they'll always be in on top-priced free agents and will need quality players on the cheap to fill out the roster.

29. St. Louis Blues (from Winnipeg) RHD, Calen Addison. Blues are ticked that they missed out on a player like Fabree, amongst others, up in the top-15 but they can still land a good player that helps balance out a prospect pool a bit heavy on forwards in the top end. Addison is on the smaller side, but he's got moxie and is an extremely good skater who plays an offensive-minded game from the back-end. As with all players in the lower first round he'll need some work, which includes strength for the pro game, but the Blues may have gotten themselves a nice player here at No. 29.

30. Detroit Red Wings (from Vegas)--C, Jacob Olofsson.  About the only thing stranger than both the Rangers and Blackhawks in their draft positions is the expansion Vegas Golden Knights trading away their first rounder for a playoff run and having the pick be the second-last in the first round. It's quite the rabbit hole we've fallen into. The Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Finals while the Red Wings have missed the playoffs two years running after a quarter century of playoff participation that included three Stanley Cups. The Wings snared a fine d-prospect in Boqvist early and land another fine prospect a No. 30. Although 10 goals and 21 points doesn't seem like a lot here in North America, Olofsson was named best junior player in Sweden's second-tier pro league joining previous winners Filip Forsberg and William Carlson. Oloffson might not be an elite scorer but his smarts, positioning and all-around play could see him as at least a top-nine pivot at the NHL level.