Puck77

NHL Mock Draft Part Two: Selections 6-10

Part one is done, which looked at my prediction of the top-five National Hockey League entry draft selections, which means we are going through picks 6-10 for part two!

 

In this part I predict a trade, but other than that it is a straightforward prediction. For a quick refresher, Kappo Kakko went first, Jack Hughes went second, Cole Caufield at third, Alex Turcotte went fourth and Bowen Byram went fifth. 

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings trade back!

A trade kicks off part two, and it is a small one, but with a big impact. The Red Wings, I believe, are eyeing a prospect that should be available at 10th overall, owned by the Vancouver Canucks, and so they swap places, with Vancouver also eating Danny DeKeyser’s contract. Canucks fans have always complained about getting screwed over by the draft lottery, and so the team decides it’s time to move up, at the cost of DeKeyser’s hefty contract. Trade is Detroit’s 2019 sixth overall pick to Vancouver in exchange for the 10th overall pick, and Danny DeKeyser. So, here’s the pick:

 

Sixth Overall Pick: Vancouver Canucks select Trevor Zegras, Center/Both Wings, USNTDP

Zegras is like Alex Turcotte and Bowen Byram (who were selected in part one) in which he could arguably be the third overall pick. But with the Caufield selection at three, and Turcotte and Byram ultimately falling, Zegras is left available for the taking. (Why Detroit wouldn’t take him here will be explained when pick 10 rolls around).

For Vancouver, they have been dying to select a versatile, sure-fire future elite forward on draft day for a while. I know what you’re thinking, what about Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat? Pettersson was selected back in 2016, and needed a season before making the jump and, ultimately, becoming their best player. Boeser was everything but a sure-fire deal, being taken at 23rd overall in 2015. Horvat was drafted in 2013, at the tail end of the top 10 (ninth overall) and also wasn’t exactly a sure thing.

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So, it’s been a few years and the Canucks want more, and Zegras is probably the best forward (aside from Pettersson) that they have selected in the draft, and whether he ends up more vital to the team than Horvat and Boeser will be found out within a few years.

Zegras piled up 14 goals and 26 assists (40 points) in 27 games with the USNTDP juniors. The fact that he didn’t play up with Turcotte and Jack Hughes tells me he has about 1-2 years before making the jump to the NHL, but his playmaking ability is outstanding. He proved that when he played for the US National U-18 team for 60 games, where he put up 26 goals and 61 assists (87 points).

Next season, like with Caufield and Turcotte, he is committed to joining an NCAA club, and for him it’s Boston University. BU is well known in the hockey community thanks to Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle, just to name a few, so I feel that this is a big step in the right direction for Zegras.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, likely won’t join the NHL club at any point next season, unless he dominates with BU.

 

Seventh Overall Pick: Buffalo Sabres select Dylan Cozens, Center/Right Wing, Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL

This is an excellent selection for the Sabres. But then again, if any of the aforementioned players were available here, and the Sabres picked them, it would be excellent. That’s just how strong the top-10 prospects are in this class.

Playing in the WHL last season with Lethbridge, Cozens put up 34 goals and 50 assists (84 points) in 68 games, along with four goals and four assists (eight points) in seven playoff games. Cozens is leading the next wave of power forwards, that is currently led by Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Cozens is well balanced, with a good shot and good vision. But his defensive abilities, paired with his well-balanced scoring touch, prompted LastWordOnHockey’s Ben Kerr to believe he could be a first line center with a chance at winning the Selke Trophy. That’s big praise from a guy who does several scouting reports on all different players every year. Cozens could make the jump to the NHL off of a strong camp, but the chances are he needs another year or so to advance to the next level. 

Next Year’s Role: WHL time with Lethbridge, likely won’t join the club late in the season, but it is possible.

 

Eighth Overall Pick: Edmonton Oilers select Matthew Boldy, Left Wing, USNTDP


Why Matthew Boldy here? I know it’s a little off the board, and he is not the best player available. But that by no means says that he is not a good player. Boldy has good size (6’2”, 192 pounds), and he had a very good season with the USNTDP Juniors club. He racked up 17 goals and 26 assists (43 points) in 28 games, adding another 33 goals and 48 assists (81 points) in 64 games with the US National U-18 team. He might not be the best skater in the draft by any means, but as fellow Puck77 contributor Tony Ferrari points out, with some adjustment in his stride as well as a better first step and in general acceleration, he could wind up being one of the best players in the draft.

Now, when we head on over to Edmonton’s roster, we see they have a strong center core, both young and experienced (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira in the NHL, Ryan McLeod, Cooper Marody in their pool) as well as a solid bunch of right wingers with promise (Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi in NHL, Kailer Yamamoto, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Mafin in pool), as well as defenseman (Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse in NHL, Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Ethan Bear in pool).

As for left wings, they have Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder on the NHL club, and Tyler Benson in their pool. That is a very weak core, relative to their other positions (outside of goaltending), and while some players may go and new players will come in within the time that Boldy will be in the juniors/minors developing, they should still get a headstart in building up that very weak left wing.

Boldy is a safer pick than some guys who may have higher upside, but regardless, he fills a pretty large need the Oilers have. This is not that much of a reach either, it’s just that he was in the shadows of the earlier USNTDP picks and is, in my opinion, overlooked by the general fan. I believe this would be a great selection for Edmonton. He has committed to Boston College (NCAA) next season, where he will not be in anyone’s shadow.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, no chance he joins the Oilers late in season barring major injuries and/or he dominates in Boston College.

 

9th Overall Pick: Anaheim selects Kirby Dach, Center, Saskatoon Blades, WHL

Dach going to the Ducks is a match made in heaven. We all know the frustrating in-your-face, kind of dirty style of play that the Ducks utilize. While Dach isn’t necessarily dirty, he is a big guy, standing at 6’4, 198 pounds, and can very easily use that frame to fit the bill of a Duck.

The Ducks core is aging, and their prospect pool is very weak. They go best player available at this selection, and it really couldn’t be better for Anaheim. His size isn’t the only thing that is enticing.

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Dach had 25 goals and 48 assists (73 points) in 62 games played with Saskatoon, as well as five goals and three assists (eight points) in 10 postseason games played. He did not play any international games this past season with Canada, which is why he “dropped” to ninth (he ranges anywhere from third to 13th in this class) but he is still an intriguing prospect.

The knock on Dach is three things: 1) His acceleration is not good enough to translate to the NHL at this moment and he needs to really improve in that area to be a successful player at the next level. 2) He tends to keep his head down when skating with the puck, and despite his size, has gotten destroyed by hits on several occasions. 3) Finally, a lot of experts and fellow contributors on the site say that he does not have a very high ceiling (potential), but does have a very good skill set, or in other words, a high floor.

Next Year’s Role: Sticks with Saskatoon in the WHL all season, does not join NHL club at the end of Juniors.

 

10th Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings (via Vancouver) selects Victor Soderstrom, Right-Handed Defenseman, Brynas IF, SHL

First off, right handed defenseman are a rare breed, and whenever you have a chance to grab one through the draft in the first round (especially at tenth overall), you take that guy.

In Detroit’s case, they had the sixth overall pick, but I would consider it a reach if they took Soderstrom there, because of all the talented forwards. You’re probably thinking, why would Detroit, a rebuilding team, trade back when they had talented forwards to choose from? Because they have young NHL centers in Dylan Larkin and Michael Rasmussen, as well as young NHL wingers in Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi. Not to mention, forward prospects in Taro Hirose, Filip Zadina, and Joseph Veleno.

How about young NHL defenseman, that are right handed? Madison Bowey in the NHL, and Filip Hronek as a prospect. Most of their defensive prospects are left handed, including their top D prospects in Jared McIsaac and Dennis Cholowski. So Detroit does not necessarily need forwards, and they do need a right handed defenseman, who happens to be (arguably) the second best D-man in the draft class, while also off-loading a bad contract.

Soderstrom started the season with Brynas IF’s junior team in the U-20 division, where he played 14 games, with one goal and seven assists (eight points). When he made the jump to the SHL, which is Sweden’s version of the NHL, he produced just four goals and three assists (seven points) in 44 games, with a not-so-good -11 +/-. But, the fact that he was constantly relied on and kept at the highest level as an 18-year-old against men says something.

Playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, he recorded one assist in four games, which was also underwhelming production. But what makes him arguably the best defenseman available after Byram is taken, is his well-rounded skill set. He is a very good skater, and has an ability to get shots on net through traffic consistently. He is good transitionally, with the IQ to know when to join the rush and attack, and when to stick back.

Despite being 5’11, 182 pounds, he does a good job using his body to win battles in front of the net or in the corners. His floor, offensively, is really low at the moment, but he is playing against men and not kids in his age group, so that sets him back a step. But he has the skating and shooting ability to give him a base in which NHL coaches can build upon once he makes the jump.

As he bulks up, and gets stronger, the more battles he will win along the boards and in front of the net defensively, and playing against men actually boosts his ceiling for his defensive game. If he’s finding success this early with his size in the SHL (and he bulks up), he could be a very reliable defenseman in his own end.

Next Year’s Role: Likely stays in Sweden. I don’t see him coming to North America to play AHL hockey, or CHL hockey. It’s best he stays in Europe one more year against tough competition to build up on his defensive game.

 

All stats via Elite Prospects

Rankings inspired by other contributors on Puck77

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Puck77

IIHF World Championship: What Did We Learn From Day 1

Day one of the Worlds is in the record books, but what did we learn from it?

Four games were played on opening night at the IIHF World Hockey Championships. Three of them with a minor to major upset in them.

In Group A things are full-on chaos. Filled with North American worries as both Canada and USA fail to score even a single point against Finland and Slovakia.

In group B things are a little more ordinary. Russia lived up to the praise they received as they beat Norway with a lethal powerplay. The second game was feisty and Sweden, the reigning champions, were on the losing end against Czech Republic.

Finland 3-1 Canada 

Canada: Well that was horrible for Canada. They looked slow, sloppy and lazy. Just plain and ordinary. This might be the most plain I have ever seen Canada. Johnathan Marchessault and Matt Murray were the only ones who had a decent game. The rest looked awful. The defense seemed slow and they need to find an offensive dynamo somewhere.

Pierre-Luc Dubois and Tyson Jost have accepted invitations and will be joining the team, which could be the spark they need. Its only one game, but there are a lot of worries for Canada.

Finland: Wow! Who saw that one coming before the game? Finland being the better team for two periods. Kaapo Kakko was flying out there. Marko Anttila beating Canada in the physical game. Who needs NHL talent when you got fight and determination? And Kevin Lankinen turning it on after a bad first period, making some quality saves late in the game.

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Outside of the penalty kill this team delivered the perfect game and we might have underestimated them a little since the NHLers were lacking. It turns out Liiga is a pretty good league.

Slovakia 4-1 USA

Slovakia: An incredible crowd combined with a great will to win = A VERY WELL DESERVED WIN! They were slightly overwhelmed in the first period, but after that they DOMINATED the NHL stars from USA. They wanted it more and the crowd were behind them every single shift and second of the game.

Star performance in net by Patrik Rybar helped them keep the pressure at bay, but overall the entire team was the star. Hats off to Slovakia for that one! This one was fully earned!

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USA: There was so much hype for this USA lineup. However, after a nice first period it all came crumbling. What happened?

Jack Hughes was the best player for the USA and had a lot of nice looks and plays, but that’s where the positive for USA ends. Jack Eichel might have played with a lot of heart, but he used his energy poorly as he was trying to create offense with individual plays rather than playing smart hockey. Johnny Gaudreau was completely invisible, and Patrick Kane was only around for the first period and an assist. Its only one game but they must change their attitude and switch gears if they are to avoid another year without gold.

Russia 5-2 Norway

Russia: Man, what a powerplay from Russia. What an exiting team, and they are so much fun to watch. However, I honestly expected more. Norway had a lot of good chances and they fully deserved the two goals.

Russia didn’t look safe on the back end and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was called upon a little too much for my liking. Vasilevskiy made a few stunning saves in the third before allowing two near the ending, as the game was pretty much over. Still, with this amazing powerplay Russia is showing why many picked them as the favorites to win the gold.

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Norway: A great game from Norway but they simply took too many penalties. Doing so is suicide against Russia and it showed today. 2-2 was the score in 5 on 5 play, but Russia went 3 for 4 on the powerplays and Norway’s penalty kill looked awful. Allowing a powerplay goal after two seconds is never okay. Not even against Russia.

All in all, Norway can be very happy with the game and if this game is an indication on their form throughout the tournament, they are going to be a big challenger for the Quarterfinals in Group B

Czech Republic 5-2 Sweden 

Sweden: You need more than three great minutes to win a hockey game. A fact Sweden learned the hard way against Czech Republic.

Uncharacteristic mistakes from them, especially the defenders like Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Henrik Lundqvist allowed a soft first goal and things went rolling from there.

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The reigning champions have added John Klingberg and Alexander Wennberg, which will help them a lot. Klingberg on the defensive side is going to add stability which they desperately needed. Wennberg can be a good spark for the offense which needs to step up, cause in this game they didn’t win the battles in front of the net that a three-peat will require.

Czech Republic: A great first and third period was enough for the Czechs, who played a nice game of hockey to start the tournament. In front of their “home” crowd in Bratislava they played big and smart in what turned out to be a very physical game.

Jakub Vrana was the star of the game scoring two goals and taking advantage of his speed and great shot. Going forward the Czech Republic might be a team to watch out for. Especially with the huge support they will get from the fans, since the Czech border is only 70 km away.

Statistics provided by TSN

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres: At Look At Their Pending Free Agents

I recently spoke about the Buffalo Sabres possible draft selections. With that in the rearview mirror, it’s time for part two of their off-season: the re-sign phase.

The Sabres are a rising contender, and if they’re able to retain the players that are hitting the books, they should be taken very seriously next season.

Upcoming Unrestricted Free Agent Forwards: Jeff Skinner, Jason Pominville

Jeff Skinner (40 goals, 23 assists, 52.4 Corsi For%, Averaged 18:31 Time On Ice)

The Sabres, with the upcoming increase in salary cap, will have $30.208M in free space to work with. Jeff Skinner is the big fish in the Sabres pond, and he is a must re-sign. He had a 40-goal season on a team that missed the playoffs, which in itself is impressive.

But it’s also Skinner’s first time ever hitting that mark in his National Hockey League career. That tells me he just simply fits in well with this organization, and the fact that the team is young and has so much promise, there’s no reason to believe Skinner wouldn’t want to stick around and see where this team goes. At just 26-years-old, he is still smack dab in the middle of his prime. The Sabres should offer him a four-year contract for about $8.5M per year.

Jason Pominville (16 goals, 15 assists, 51.6 CF%, Averaged 12:28 TOI)

After the Skinner signing, the Sabres would have about $21.708M remaining in cap space. Jason Pominville is 36, but is still a solid bottom-six veteran. He produced over 30 points, making him a key offensive piece on that bottom-six, and should be re-signed.

The question isn’t whether or not he should get signed however. The Sabres are a young team, and they are nearly complete. What they need to get into the playoffs next season, are middle-six forwards, or even guys who can move up and down the lineup, while still producing. Pominville can still be that guy, as he has produced valiantly in his role.

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But that’s just it, he’s a role player. I don’t see Pominville being a guy who can play on the first line for extended periods and finding much success, especially given his age. Not to mention, the Sabres will likely (at least in the article I wrote) select Kirby Dach with the seventh overall pick, and I believe he could make the roster. His youth and offensive upside make him a more appealing forward from a production standpoint. His hard-nosed, physical play, along with his general size and strength to back himself up, allows him to also play in a role that Pominville would play.

For me, Pominville would be a good player to keep, but it’s just not necessary with the youth that’s ready to jump and the potential prospect they pick, and how close that player truly is to making the jump to the NHL squad. But for now, I have him as being let go. The Sabres can always circle back and give him an offer while he’s in the open market of course, but I believe it’s best to part ways now.

Upcoming Restricted Free Agent Forwards: Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues

Zemgus Girgensons (5 goals, 13 assists, 48.5 CF%, Averaged 13:37 TOI)

Still standing at $21.708M in free space, the Sabres have quite a bit of wiggle room. Girgensons brings something to the table that not many teams have; incredibly solid center depth. Buffalo has Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt down the middle on the top two lines, with Girgensons doing a solid job behind them on the third line.

Glancing at his statistics quickly, you’re probably thinking he’s not that great, why am I praising him? Well, you need to take a deep dive to figure out what went wrong this season.

In his career, Girgensons has averaged closer to 15 minutes of TOI, whereas this season he did not. He has also started his shifts in the offensive zone 42.5% of the time throughout his career. This season? His offensive zone start % (oZS%) was at just 15.3%. He started his shifts on the defensive end almost 90% of the time this past season. That’s just unfair for him, and it hurt his stats.

In the 2017-18 season, his oZS% was 49.5%, and his CF% was at 48.3% (career best). He still didn’t produce that many points, but his possession statistics were better, and he has always been a good penalty killer for the Sabres.

His importance to the team is major, because they clearly trust him in the defensive end if they deploy him there as often as they did this past season. I think they have to re-sign him for his defensive usage, and his lack of production and pedestrian possession analytics will make him cheaper than what his true value to the team really is. I’d say a 2-3 year deal, worth roughly $2.5M per season.

Johan Larsson (6 goals, 8 assists, 49.5 CF%, Averaged 14:18 TOI)

After the Girgensons re-signing, the Sabres would be left with $19.208M in free space. Larsson is in his prime like Skinner (26, going on to 27). But unfortunately, he too was left to fend for himself by  terrible line deployment. Similar to Girgensons, he had a oZS% of 15.6%, while he usually averages 32.3% oZS%. It’s concerning to me that these players, although usually reliable in their own end, are just thrown out there time and time again to play strictly defensive hockey.

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Larsson would be a nice re-sign here, but like Pominville, there are a lot of guys in the pipeline coming up. For example, Tage Thompson, Alexander Nylander, Victor Olofsson, and Rasmus Asplund, to name a few, are either very close to being NHL ready or will be set to make the roster next season. With that being said, there are other, likely better, options for Buffalo. It’ll also be cheaper on their end to call a young kid up then go re-signing a guy who hasn’t exactly been the most attractive third-liner.

Evan Rodrigues (9 goals, 20 assists, 51.3 CF%, Averaged 15:49 TOI, 74 GP)

With $19.208M still remaining in space, it’s likely the Sabres re-sign this man. Rodrigues, 25, has been a very productive and successful 2nd/3rd liner for the Sabres. His possession analytics are solid as his CF% is over 50%,, and he’s deployed like the average player with 41% oZS%. Although his production is down for a second liner, he should most definitely take a big step in the right direction over the next few seasons, especially with the growth of Mittelstadt, who he will more than likely play alongside with fairly often.

Due to his lack of production, his contract may be very cheap, despite the fact that he has been solid in possession statistics and his defensive zone play. The term should be a short “prove it” type deal, as he has shown promise but hasn’t quite hit his stride yet. Two years at $2.5M should be good for Rodrigues, leaving $16.708M in free space.

Upcoming Unrestricted Free Agent Defensemen: None

The defensemen on the Sabres are all very young and very talented. They’re either locked into an Entry Level Contract (ELC), are locked in long-term, or are restricted free agents. That is a huge cushion to fall back on, as if they can’t re-sign a defenseman, they can hold his rights and get something for that player, rather than have them walk for nothing at all.

Upcoming Restricted Free Agent Defensemen: Jake McCabe

Jake McCabe (4 goals, 10 assists, 48.4 CF%, Averaged 18:57 TOI)

McCabe has really started to look good in the Sabres organization. For the most part, his CF% has gotten better and better, and he may finally hit the 50% mark next season based on his recent trends.

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While his ice time has gone down over the past two seasons, people must also realize the talent that is around him. Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen make up the top two, while other defensemen consist of Zach Bogosian, Brandon Montour, Matt Hunwick and Marco Scandella. Taking into account the defensemen he is competing with, his value to the team takes a dip, as they have a few options to put in to replace McCabe, at least to the best of their abilities.

You then have to look at who can get called up, which includes Lawrence Pilut, Brandon Hickey, and William Borgen. Suddenly, McCabe is not a need. Pilut, in my opinion, is more than ready to compete and succeed at playing in the top four next season, effectively replacing the hole left behind by McCabe.

Because McCabe is restricted, the Sabres have options. The most likely option is a trade including his rights heading elsewhere, where a need for defenseman is growing. A team like the Dallas Stars may be a good fit, as they’re a great team as is and he could find a lot of success there.

Upcoming Restricted Free Agent Goalies: Linus Ullmark

Linus Ullmark (15-14-5 Record, 2 Shutouts, 3.11 Goals Against Average, .905 Save %)

Ullmark played in a career high 37 games last season, which is a step in the right direction for the young netminder. However, it was also his worst statistical year of his career. His save percentage (SV%) was terrible, and his goals against average (GAA) being above 3.00 is not pretty at all.

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When you look into their system, you find top goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and he could very well be ready next season to backup current number-one goaltender Carter Hutton.

I feel like Ullmark isn’t a fit in Buffalo, and should find a new job elsewhere with a stronger roster in need of a backup. A place that fits the bill would be the Colorado Avalanche, as they could be losing Semyon Varlamov, and the Vancouver Canucks, a rising team in need of a reliable backup behind Thatcher Demko.

Forwards Outlook

After moving on from Larsson and Pominville in terms of forwards, the Buffalo Sabres will have two open roster spots. Dach takes one right out of the draft in my series, while Thompson and Nylander can battle for the last spot.

I feel that all three guys should be slotted into the lineup, therefore a trade may be on the horizon. Conor Sheary could be a solid trade option and could bring in some decent draft capital, or even a solid prospect for the future. Sheary would fit best on a contending team looking for depth, and the easy selection is the Avalanche. I will get into potential trades in my next part of the Sabres offseason series.

Defensemen Outlook

If they do trade McCabe, that leaves them with seven defensemen at the NHL level. However, Casey Nelson and Hunwick aren’t exactly the most appealing bottom pair defensemen. They could look into their prospect pool and call up Pilut (which I touched on earlier), and move Nelson for a small draft package (perhaps a late round pick) to a team looking for a half-decent seventh defenseman.

Overall though, their d-core is the best thing this team has, and they’re all on the younger side of the spectrum. The main focus should be on goaltending and scoring, by adding another top forward.

Goaltending Outlook

Although they do not necessarily have a top end starter with either Hutton or upcoming rookie Luukkonen, they should have patience. Luukkonen has a very bright future, and the Sabres should not be desperate enough to sign a guy like Sergei Bobrovsky, which would only hurt Luukkomem’s growth moving forward. They need to just stay patient and let Luukkonen blossom into their future starter.

All stats via hockey-reference

All salary cap related info via capfriendly

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres: 2019 Entry Draft Options

The Buffalo Sabres had quite the start to the 2018-19 National Hockey League season. At one point, the Sabres were tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first in the Atlantic division. But as quickly as they rose, they fell right apart.

 

What exactly was the problem? Goaltenders Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark were not exactly good in net for the Sabres. Their defense is solid and deep (while also young) with plenty of growth ahead of them. However, the glaring issue is depth forwards, and just forward prospects in general. Drafting at number seven overall in the upcoming NHL entry draft, who are some of the players who could shore up the forward core as soon as next season, and become a star in the future?

 

Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades (Western Hockey League)

The 6’4”, 195 pound centerman in Saskatoon may not be available at the seven spot in the entry draft, but there’s about 10 players you can argue are top-five talent in this draft, and he’s one of them. If he slips to seven, Buffalo should be yelling out his name at the draft.

He posted 25 goals and 48 assists (73 points) in 62 games played, with an additional five goals and three assists (eight points), in 10 playoff games. Using DobberProspects PNHLe, (which measures a players NHL potential using their point production, the league they play in, their age, and their position), he checks in between first and second line talent.

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The one downside, he’s a center. The Sabres have Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt and Zemgus Girgensons down the middle. They could always move him or Mittelstadt over to the wing, but with him at center behind Eichel, the Sabres have a serious shot at matching the Pittsburgh Penguins one-two punch of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin down the middle.

 

Alex Turcotte, C, Committed to Wisconsin (NCAA)

Playing with the United States National Team Development Program juniors (USNTDP Juniors), the 5’11”, 194 pound Turcotte posted 12 goals and 22 assists (34 points) in just 16 games. With the USNTDP U18 team, the centerman posted 26 goals and 35 assists (61 points) in only 34 games. Those are remarkable numbers, and not just that, he is incredible at both ends of the ice. From DobberProspects’ Cam Robinson on Turcotte: “The Wisconsin commit blends exceptional defensive play with high-end speed and skill. Has played second fiddle to Jack Hughes for years, but is beginning to step out of his shadow. A [coach’s] dream.” That is incredibly high praise, and deservedly so.

Again, he is a center as Dach is, but with some shuffling, the Sabres will certainly make it work. Using the PNHLe scale again, they place Turcotte above first line potential, and trending towards superstar status, meaning the sky’s the limit for the young Wisconsin-commit.

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Peyton Krebs, LW, Kootenay Ice (WHL)

Finally, a winger! Now, Krebs isn’t as good as Dach and Turcotte are expected to be, but he was also on a very bad Kootenay team, and was one of the lone bright spots on the roster. If the Ice have a better team, he could prove to be a huge steal for anyone outside of the top five.  He also fits the Sabres needs better, and like Dach, isn’t committed next season, and can make the jump if the Sabres believe he’s capable, which most likely isn’t as likely as Dach making an immediate jump, but the option is still certainly there.

Posting 19 goals and 49 assists (78 points) in 64 games is extremely impressive for a 17-year-old on a very bad team. In the World Junior Championships with Canada, he potted four goals and three assists (seven points) in four games. In the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he put up two goals and three assists (five points) in five games. DobberProspects’ Cam Robinson had this to say about the winger: “Krebs takes creative lines to dangerous areas of the ice. He’s the type of player that sees plays develop before those around him and uses that to exploit the opposition.  Krebs is a playmaker who can impact the game on any shift. He’s also capable of playing all three forward positions but likely ends up on the wing in the NHL.” He’s not only versatile, but has very high hockey IQ and great vision.

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On the PNHLe chart, he’s almost exactly on par with Dach, between first and second line potential, but Dach is closer to a big impact at the NHL than Krebs at the moment. With the Sabres however, Krebs would probably have more success, as there is a need for wingers over centers at the moment. Krebs better fills that need.

 

Who Would I Pick?

For me, this is a truly difficult choice. All three are versatile, and can fill needs at both wings, and if necessary, center. Dach is the closest to being NHL ready, and could certainly play next season, which is a huge plus. However, Turcotte currently has a higher ceiling, but is committed to play college hockey next season, and who knows if he’ll be ready after next season either. He’s certainly worth the wait, but the Sabres are so close to having a contending team that they need a player who is as close to being NHL ready as they can be at seventh overall, and Dach is that player.

If he is gone, the Sabres should go with Krebs, but Turcotte’s potential is tantalizing, and it will be a very difficult decision. But really, the Sabres cannot go wrong here.  

 

Prospect Evaluations and stats via DobberProspects

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres: A Trade For Jesse Puljujarvi Makes Sense

Winger depth is an issue for the Buffalo Sabres and adding Edmonton Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi might be the best way to address those issues.

Last season, Puljujarvi played in 46 games with the Edmonton Oilers. Unfortunately for the Finnish national, he wasn’t too productive in those 46 games. He tallied 4 goals and 5 assists. 

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When the Edmonton Oilers took him with the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, I assume that they weren’t looking to snag someone who’d only register 9 points in their second season in the NHL. You would normally expect better results from a winger taken early on in the first round. But, sadly, the Oilers are in a tough spot. Do they keep Puljujarvi and hope that finally grows into a top six forward? Or, do they pull the plug on the experiment? 

The Oilers have a history of giving up on their prospects. The Oilers gave up on Nail Yakupov and Devan Dubnyk. If the Oilers chose to hold onto those players for a tad longer and give them time to develop, they could have emerged as studs. 

Edmonton’s Front Office

Unfortunately, the Oilers have been mis-managed. Former general manager Peter Chiarelli had no clue what he was doing and run the team into the ground. The Taylor Hall/Adam Larsson trade was one of his worst decisions. But, he also made several ugly acquisitions throughout last season which left a bad taste in many Oilers fans’ mouths. Adding players like Alex Petrovic and Ryan Spooner didn’t help the Oilers move forward. Instead, they set the Oilers back. 

Now, Oilers interim general manager Keith Gretzky needs to make up his mind on how he wants to proceed. Does he try to move on from assets like Puljujarvi and start building his version of the Oilers?

On The Flip Side

On the flip side, the Buffalo Sabres had a rough season. At a point early on, the Sabres were dominating the NHL. Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel were raking goal after goal after goal, but the Sabres failed to play consistent hockey. 

Defense wasn’t the problem. When you have a defensive unit composed of Rasmus Dahlin, Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour (trade deadline acquisition), Jake McCabe and Lawrence Pilut, it’s obvious that defense isn’t the issue.

Goaltending was a concern. Many folks across the NHL were unsure if Carter Hutton would put up similar numbers in Buffalo that he put up in his 2017-2018 campaign with the St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately, Hutton was awful for Buffalo. He registered a goals against average (GAA) of 3.00 and a save percentage (Sv%) of .908 in 50 games played. The Sabres back-up goalie, Linus Ullmark also failed to impress hockey fans in Upstate New York. In 37 games played, Ullmark posted an abysmal GAA of 3.11 and an ugly Sv% of .905. But, the good news is that the Sabres have a potential elite goaltender in the making. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was outstanding for the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves this season and will soon enough be the number one goalie in Buffalo.

But, as I brought up before, winger depth is the real long-term issue in Buffalo. Buffalo’s winger depth consists of Kyle Okposo, Skinner, Jason Pominville, Sam Reinhart, Vladimir Sobotka, Conor Sheary, Johan Larsson, Scott Wilson, Evan Rodrigues, Tage Thompson and Alexander Nylander.

That list isn’t great at all. Okposo is past his prime. Pominville is near the end of his career. Sobotka is a bottom 6 forward/grinder.

Skinner is a pending UFA. Sheary and Reinhart are serviceable, but both wingers have failed to produce consistent results. Nylander and Thompson do have promise and a ton of upside, but haven’t had consistent playing time at the NHL level. Without consistent playing time, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not they will be rock solid producers long-term.

Given the concern around offensive production of the Sabres winger depth, it wouldn’t hurt to make a trade for someone like Puljujarvi. Perhaps, Puljujarvi needs a change of scenery and might fare better if he were playing alongside Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt

stats from hockey-reference.com and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals