It might not be quite as short as our old friend Tim Murray used to make his draft announcement, but here’s our best guess at how new Sabres GM Jason Botterill might sound on the podium at this year’s draft.
“With the 8th overall selection in the 2017 SBNation NHL Mock Draft, the Buffalo Sabres select...defenseman Cale Makar.”
Weight: 175 lbs
Date of birth: October 30, 1998 (18 years old)
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Makar has been one of the fastest risers in this draft process, thanks to an impressive set of offensive skills that has quickly become highly valued at the NHL level. His skating, puck moving, and stickhandling are all at an elite level, and he’s become the prototype prospect for a new breed of NHL defenseman that values mobility and possession over size and toughness.
Speaking of size, that’s obviously Makar’s weakness. Standing only 5’11’’ means he won’t be cross-checking guys in the head a la Ristolainen, but Makar is Karlsson-lite on the ice, keeping the puck on his or his teammates’ sticks and limiting his opponent’s opportunities. He’ll be spending next season playing NCAA hockey for UMass, which will be a good chance for him to learn to play against bigger, stronger competition.
While his size will always limit him, Makar has the potential to be a very good defenseman in the NHL, and should be a superstar on the power play. His dynamic skating and puck-moving ability combined with a good shot and strong offensive instincts have all the makings of a #1 power play QB.
The picks that went before us were:
1. New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier
2. Philadelphia Flyers: Nolan Patrick
3. Dallas Stars: Casey Mittelstadt
4. Colorado Avalanche: Miro Heiskanen
5. Vancouver Canucks: Gabriel Vilardi
6. Vegas Golden Knights: Owen Tippett
7. Arizona Coyotes: Timothy Liljegren
While we considered the available forwards for a hot minute, with the way the mock draft fell, the choice for me after pick #6 was simply between Makar and Liljegren, and when Arizona scooped up the smooth Swede at #7, it was an easy choice to take Makar.
By selecting Makar, the Sabres would add an immediate influx of talent to what is currently the position where their prospect pool is weakest. If you’re assuming that Guhle will spend much or all of next season in Buffalo, that leaves players like Will Borgen, Casey Fitzgerald, and Anthony Florentino as your top prospects along the blue line. Yikes.
Makar won’t help the team next season, but at pick #8 in a relatively weak draft class, the Sabres would be hard pressed to find any player who would. What he does do, along with players like Alex Nylander, Will Borgen, and Rasmus Asplund is ensure that Buffalo has a consistent influx of young talent coming to the NHL over the next few seasons.