McGee started us off with the first round pick of 4 players who we haven't beat to death about selecting (Zary, Quinn, Lundell, and Gunler).
This post begs the question: who do we take at 38?
The past few years the Sabres have played it uber safe in their second round selections. Passing up on players like Kaliyev/Bobby Brink/Nic Robertson for Ryan Johnson. Passing up on Jonatan Berggren for Samuelsson. Marcus Davidsson over Hepo/Jason Robertson. You get the point.
So I'm going to offer up three prospects to swing for at 38 that are a bit contrarian to the typical answers. You can go mine or McGee's rankings to get a better sense who we would be excited about...but for me the likes of Lukas Reichel, JJ Peterka, Thomas Bordeleau, and Topi Niemela are all realistic options in this spot as well.
Today I give you two names. One has been soaring up draft boards, and another has been tumbling down. Both I am infatuated with.
Marat Khusnutdinov, C, MHL
44gp, 13g, 38pts
At this point he's becoming much more of a dream pick than a reach at 38 as he has climbed inside Bob McKenzie's first round of 10 scouts polled. There's a ton to like about Marat...and we'll get to that...but I want to start with what drew me to Marat. He first appeared on my radar during the u18s last year when he played as an underager. He's skating looked effortless, he was quick with his passes and was very hardworking on the forecheck and his own end.
Fast forward to this year and he's just been constantly been improving. He captained the Russians in the Hlinka and looked good albeit not great. He was buried on a stacked MHL club as a 3rd line center to start the year, but eventually his speed and skill just clicked. He moved up the lineup earning top 6 minutes and PP time. He is so good at the center position. He gets the puck and then immediately moves the puck up the ice. In the offensive zone he is masterful to watch as he dictates where the play will go.
The man. The myth. The Marat.— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) December 12, 2019
Marat Khusnutdinov almost puts Russia ahead late in this one! What a drive to the net, just couldn’t beat Matthew Davis of Canada-West! #WJAC #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/Y315wvUeki
I'm not being hyperbolic when I say this: but in 3-5 years I could see him being the 2nd or 3rd best center to come out of this draft. His skill is very good, his playmaking is outstanding, his shot is very good, and his skating is superb. He plays a 200 foot game, and if you want a center that is going to get the puck up-and-down the ice for 60 minutes you'd want 4 Marat's on your team. He's light on his skates which causes him to get knocked around too much for my liking at the moment, but with a couple years of putting on muscle he could be a real steal.
Never going to stop posting clips of my favorite prospect Marat Khusnutdinov. His skating and puck skills are satisfying to watch. He is so smooth on his feet.#2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/L5ljn2Z5RL— Clare McManus (@claremcmanuss) July 5, 2020
When I "scout" the MHL it's unlike any other league I'll look at seriously. There's such a different feel to the game that production metrics can feel misleading. A lot of low danger shots, not a lot of engaged defense, and average skaters can thrive in the open ice. Marat doesn't fall into any of those traps. He's a longer term project...not because of his DOB (July 17th) but because of his size.
I don’t understand how you can’t love Marat Khusnutdinov. #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/Qaaan6lhxp— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) June 5, 2020
If you want me to make the data argument for Marat using scouching.ca 's metrics:
His Per 60 stats:
100th percentile in Pass attempts per game and 98th in passes completed
89th percentile in shot attempts against
89th percentile in defensive zone entries uncontrolled
83rd percentile in offensive zone entries controlled
He is a transition king, with offensive flair to boot. Run to the podium at 38 and take him and skip away happy if we're this lucky
One of the things that I love about Marat Khusnutdinov is how well he reads the situation on the fly. Khusnutdinov is defensively responsible. Drops back for his defenseman who is out of position and comes away with a shot block. pic.twitter.com/44Y5vHcgrB— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) May 8, 2020
Zion Nybeck, RW, SuperElit
42gp, 27g, 66pts
While a different type of player there are some consistencies when it comes to what I love about Nybeck and Khusnutdinov: very good motors, very good in the defensive zone, excellent transition players, and both have boatloads of skill.
Zion Nybeck has scored his first SHL goal for HV71! Nybeck has had a dominate season in the Swedish junior leagues and finally gets rewarded in the SHL. He maybe small but he’s one of the most offensively dangerous players in the draft.— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) March 5, 2020
Nybeck is my #19 for the #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/tqcPLObGJI
While Marat is a bit more flashy than Zion and is a step ahead as a skater at the moment, there are a lot to like about Zion's game. He's a complete player: very good shot, very good puck skill and passing skill, and his motor almost makes up for him not having that elite gear. He ripped apart the SuperElit this year, but was given less than 5 minutes of ice time when he moved up to the SHL. He did well in the SHL, albeit it was in a very limited role.
Ahahaha check out this shot from Zion Nybeck from last week.— Will Scouch (@Scouching) February 4, 2020
Smol boy shoot good. pic.twitter.com/BRRBCscQ0z
He is a guy who makes things happen on the ice. He is very stocky for his frame and with his low center of gravity it was hard to move him off the puck in the SuperElit. He was quick to get out in transition and was both equally good at creating a shot for himself or finding a teammate in transition. He's got the puck on his stick a lot even as a winger as he ended up in the 83rd percentile in passes attempted and completed and was often used to start the transition from the back-end. He facilitates play at such an exceptionally high level.
Zion Nybeck is the #2020NHLDraft’s shortest top prospect. He also broke records this season.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) May 29, 2020
I spoke to HV71 staff to make sense of those two things. Then I reviewed 136 of his shifts and broke down the tape: https://t.co/VVZpD8WWXJ pic.twitter.com/VesxL6rrcW
His size is a legit concern, and has caused him to go from a prospect ranked consistently in the 25-40 range to some people dropping him as far back as 60-80. McKenzie has him as a third round pick. However, this is about betting on upside, and outside of Reichel/Peterka/Brisson in this projected range there isn't a forward who could hit like Nybeck can with his skill.
LW Zion Nybeck (2020) created a nice scoring chance with his speed and puck-handling skills. #HlinkaGretzkyCup pic.twitter.com/FylVSiO5BR— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) August 10, 2019
I'd be super excited to land Nybeck at 38, but alas, there is definitely more of an argument against him than Marat at the moment.