Now that the dust from the draft lottery is settled, we know exactly where the Buffalo Sabres will be drafting this year - and thanks to the luck of the envelopes, the Sabres have the #2 pick in the first round, with Florida at #1.
There are three big name players that could theoretically go first overall, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, and Aaron Ekblad. Let's take a look at the three players that NHL Central Scouting has ranked at the top of the draft.
Sam Bennett - C/LW
Bennett has been compared to everyone from Doug Gilmour to Jonathan Toews, and with good reason. He has elite scoring ability, tallying 91 points in 57 games this season, but also plays his game with an edge, flying around the ice at all times and doing whatever it takes to get the win. He sometimes plays a bit recklessly as a result, but his production more than makes up for the occasional mistake. Bennett plays a strong two-way game, but also excels on the power play. Add in his ability to play wither center or wing, and you've got an elite talent with great versatility.
Aaron Ekblad - D
A future first pairing guy for sure, Ekblad does everything well at age 18. He's mature in body (he's known among his teammates as the Man-Child) and in mind, thinking the game very well for someone so young. He'll be able to jump in to the NHL right away thanks to his big body, great positioning, and hockey IQ, and should be a pillar on defense for years to come. There's some question of whether he has the ceiling to be that super-elite player like a Shea Weber or Drew Doughty, but at the very least whoever drafts Ekblad will be getting a rock-solid defenseman whose smarts and skill will allow him to play and produce in all situations.
Sam Reinhart - C
The best pure playmaker in the draft, Reinhart has incredible passing ability and hockey smarts, and can play the game fast or slow, depending on the situation. Reinhart has great balance and is good at protecting the puck, but it's his production (105 points in 60 games) and his playoff production (23 points in 13 games) that tantalizes NHL teams. He could jump right to the NHL, and has future #1 center potential written all over him.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the Panthers pick doesn't matter here and the Sabres can take the guy they have rated #1 on their draft board, who do you think that player should be?