This may sound like a bit of an unusual question to be asking, especially in late March. Most conversation tends to revolve around the 1st round of the draft and the high-end prospects involved. However, there is a reason I am looking specifically at the Sabres’ second-round pick in 2020.
The signing of 2018 second-round draft selection Mattias Samuelsson reignited a debate that has been brought up regularly over the last few seasons. It centers around the Sabres’ selections in the secound round (or late 1st round) during Jason Botterill’s tenure as GM. There is a general feeling among the fanbase that the Sabres did not get maximum value from these selections. They could be considered “safe” picks and look to have a lower ceiling than players taken after them in the draft.
The purpose of this article is to look at players the Sabres could target with their second-round pick in 2020. These will be players that I think fit the mold of what the Sabres will look for but also have plenty of upside. The Sabres have certain patterns to their drafting in the Botterill era and we will look to use those to try and pinpoint possible candidates.
The vast majority of the Sabres’ recent picks have either been players going the NCAA route or players based in Sweden and Finland. Jason Botterill has stated previously that he likes having their rights for four years, instead of two years for players from Canadian major junior leagues. I’ve chosen to follow this pattern for the purpose of this article.
I have also focused mainly on forwards. There is an obvious organizational need for more forward depth that will need addressing during the draft. The second-round of the draft is still high enough for the Sabres to consider taking best player available but I hope they prioritize forwards this year.
NCAA committed prospects
The first player on the list is Brendan Brisson. He is a center who spent this season with the Chicago Steel of the USHL and is committed to the University of Michigan for next season. Brisson has had a rapid rise this season and some scouting sites have him going in the first-round. He is not the biggest of players (5’11” and 180 lbs) and will probably need two or three years in the NCAA before he is ready to turn pro.
His biggest strength is his playmaking ability. He can pass the puck as well as anybody and has made some truly outstanding plays this season. Patience and vision allow him to outsmart defenders and make plays. Brisson is not the fastest skater but he should still be able to skate well enough to be effective at the pro level. This, along with his physicality, should improve as he moves up to the NCAA.
Brendan Brisson’s one timer is *chef’s kiss*— Spencer (@spencerloane) February 9, 2020
His 20th goal of the season and 5th against his former team is the only goal of the first period, thus giving Chicago a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/thJOi2eltU
Another University of Michigan commit worth looking at is center Thomas Bordeleau. He has been an important part of the USNTDP team this season and is another player who has steadily improved throughout the year. He’s a smaller player than Brisson (5’9” and 180 lbs) but possesses high-end qualities that will make him worth a look.
Bordeleau is a highly-skilled player with a fantastic shot. He is a volume shooter and has the ability to beat goalies cleanly from anywhere. His hands also make him extremely effective at gaining the zone and setting up offensive opportunities. The flaws to his game are his lack of physicality and his two-way game. He has made some strides to improve the physical element of his game but this will need to keep improving in college before he could ever consider turning pro. For me though, his offensive gifts outweigh his (coachable) flaws.
The final NCAA commit we will look at is AJHL top prospect Carter Savoie. The left winger is committed to the University of Denver from next season. Savoie has sparked much debate in the scouting community, with some scouts believing he is a first-round talent, whilst others only see him as a 3rd or 4th rounder. His size (5’9” and 190 lbs) may be one reason for this, as well as the fact that he’s played Junior A this season.
Savoie is an offensive dynamo. He would rank near the drop of the draft in pure skill and he can make the game look easy. He can act as a playmaker or a goal scorer, whether that is using great hands to connect on cross ice saucer passes or using his shot to beat goalies from tight angles. His total of 53 goals in 54 games highlights his dominance. There is a lot of raw ability there and he could end up being a steal. His skating and his overall effort are obvious red flags though. He doesn’t have great speed and has also been known to float during games.
2) #8 Carter Savoie in a nutshell. Knocks the guy down, turns up ice in a hurry and absolutely wires one home. That release is sick. pic.twitter.com/nJrhZbyc5d— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 19, 2020
Swedish & Finnish prospects
Swedish defenseman Helge Grans is a player may interest the Sabres. He plays alongside Sabres prospect Linus Cronholm for Malmo Redhawks, so the Sabres should already be familiar with him. At 6’3” and 192 lbs, Grans has pro size and is an intriguing prospect. This may not be a popular pick among the fans for reasons mentioned above but Grans has a lot of qualities.
Grans is a skillful, puck-moving defenseman, which is unusual for a player of his size. His mobility allows him to carry the puck up the ice or jump into the rush. He sees the ice very well and is a strong passer, whilst also using his big frame to protect the puck. The biggest issue with Grans is one of consistency. He makes some poor decisions which leads to occasional poor showings and he also hasn’t performed great at international level. I feel like Grans could grow into a top-four type defenseman but it will take time.
The next player on the list is Finnish LW Roby Jarventie. This is another player who the Sabres should be very familiar with. He plays in the Ilves organization alongside Sabres prospects Oskari Laaksonen, Arttu Ruotsalainen and rumoured free agent signing Eemeli Suomi. It would be interesting to see the Sabres go back to the well again and draft Jarventie.
Jarventie’s strengths are his skating and his finishing. He is a great skater for his size (6’2” and 185 lbs), combining power with agility to allow him to separate from defenders. Once he gets that separation, he has a goal scorer’s touch. He put up 23 goals in 36 games in Mestis and could develop into a real offensive threat at the pro level. He will need to round out his two-way game and also play with more physicality but the tools are there.
A pair of neophytes combined on the game-winning goal as C Antti Saarela (CHI 4th/2019) powers into the zone, and draft prospect RW Roby Jarventie (Ranked No. 90) gets credit for his first career SM-Liiga goal as Ilves…— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) December 5, 2019
https://t.co/q0saoXywv4 via https://t.co/r0OWBqxU5A pic.twitter.com/Mr4nlkz1to
The final player we’ll look at is another Finnish winger, Kasper Simontaival. He is a very different build to Jarventie (5’9” and 172 lbs) and as a result, plays a different style of game. Simontaival’s game is based heavily around his shot. He is a natural goal scorer who can score many different ways. He has a lightning quick release, and his shot packs plenty of power.
His game is not just limited solely to his shot either. He good hands and can make passes, especially from down low. The knock on Simontaival previously was his skating, but he has made good strides in that area. Overall, he is a very nice prospect who could ultimately develop into a quality NHL winger.