With all the societal unrest, global pandemics, and general ennui present in the known universe, I thought I would try to provide a diversion for those of you who want one.
This Draft, as we know, will be more than unusual. Not only will it much later than usual (October 9th and 10th, as or this typing), but two things make it unique. First, there is one less pick in total than there has been since Vegas came into the NHL…due to Arizona having its second round choice taken away as punishment for violations. A relatively minor change, sure, but it’s something. Second, a number of European teams, players, and Leagues will be underway with their season during the Draft. This could lead to all sorts of players moving around the Board while their North American counterparts remain sidelined, wondering if the USHL, or NCAA, or CHL will truly return to action this year. Sweden’s Allsvenskan, basically their 2nd tier Men’s League, will be a month into their season when the Draft rolls around. So, for example, if a player like Tim Stuetzle came out flying in September, and put up some crazy numbers out of the gate and look great doing so, will that allow him to jump over someone like a Quinton Byfield? Sure, especially if Stuetzle is playing center. Secondly, I believe that most European leagues are keeping their players locked in for the season – so if you draft someone like an Anton Lundell, who may or may not be ready right now for the NHL grind, he won’t get a chance to find out…he’s obligated to remain in Finland for the duration of their season. So a pretty fascinating dynamic to keep an eye on, and why this is not my final Mock Draft.
To my recollection, there are an unusually high number of teams flush with picks – 10 or more – and most of those teams already have a lot of depth within their prospect pipeline. Teams like LA, Ottawa, even Carolina with a lot of picks and a stacked system might want to move up to add that one player they’re targeting, while New Jersey and Detroit both have a wealth of selections but should focus on adding to the depth of their pool...but they don’t have to. So we could see a lot of maneuvering around the Board this year, which should be really quite fun.
What about the Sabres, you may ask. If I was in charge of Drafting (which, thankfully, I’m not), my focus would be on three things:
1) Playing speed: guys who can flat-out beat opponents with the puck on their stick, can enter the O-zone with possession and drive off defenders with just the threat of their speed, guys who can make skill plays at high speed. Buffalo doesn’t have much of that…they desperately need more.
2) Size with speed: this is a twofold problem – the Sabres are generally small, and the bigger guys they do have can’t beat anyone down the ice to take advantage of their size. The League is trending this way, I think, when you look at teams like the Isles, Dallas, Colorado…they have a number of big guys who can skate and go to the net. Buffalo needs a LOT more of that.
3) Depth on the right side of the D-Corps: Buffalo has a good handle on the left side – Dahlin is young, McCabe is only 26, they’ve got Bryson, Samuelsson, and Ryan Johnson in the pipeline. All guys who could be Top 4. Even Cronholm and Worge Kreu, as unlikely as it is that they become NHL players, are lefties. But on the right side? With all the talk this off-season of moving Risto, Miller, Montour, all of the above or some combination, that leaves Joker and Will Borgen. They’ve got Casey Fitzgerald, but I’m skeptical he’s an answer there – they had to play him on the wing last year in ROCH – and Laaksonen, who had a tough year last year. Maybe it’s a blip on the radar, but some of the shine is off him as a prospect. So while I think the Sabres should be focused on forwards in this Draft, it wouldn’t hurt to grab a right-shot or two.
Lastly, with the hiring of Seth Appert and the promotion of Jeremiah Crowe, both guys who have a lot of familiarity and deep ties to the US NTDP Program, I would suspect that the Sabres Draft Room will feel very comfortable going with kids from the Program or even from the USHL. Guys who they’ve seen a lot of in the last couple years, or guys who they’ve recruited. This isn’t especially reflected in my Mock Draft here but will be more so in the final one I do. So I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see a couple kids from the NTDP, and another couple from the USHL. Being comfortable with a kid is an important part of making a selection…those are kids this group will be very comfortable choosing.
So without further ado, enjoy this (surprising!) Mock Draft. Look forward to folks’ thoughts in the comments, as always.
#1 NYR: Quinton Byfield, C, OHL: Gasp! What? Not LaFreniere?!? The Rangers haven’t been afraid to go Off The Board in the past (see Lias Andersson at #7, Vitali Kravtsov at #9, etc). Mika Zibanejad is a beast, for sure, but after him? Ryan Strome? Meh. Filip Chytil could possibly ascend to that role, but that’s a risky proposition. After him, the Rangers have Lias Andersson (not for long), and a couple later round fliers that could be an answer coming up, but no one in the same neighborhood as this kid. Byfield has the size, skill and speed to be a dynamic power-center. He’ll need some time and seasoning, but he’s got all the tools. The Rangers have plenty of nice wing prospects – Kaako, Kravtsov, Gauthier – but this could really load up their Top 6 for the next several years.
#2 LAK: Alexis LaFreniere, LW, QMJHL: This is a no-brainer. LaFreniere the most talented, most productive player in this Draft Class. He’ll get big minutes just as soon as the new season gets going. And the Kings have some really strong young center prospects coming up (Turcotte, Madden, Villardi, Akil Thomas). Plug LaFreniere next to any of those guys and you’ve got yourself a middle 6 line at worst. An easy pick.
#3 OTT: Tim Stutzle, C, GER: The Sens have a number of middle-line centers that can play several different roles – Colin White, Norris, Brown, Pinto – but none of those players are gamebreaking #1 center prospects. Stutzle is a speed demon and an explosive creator and can play any of the forward positions, but I think he can be a dynamic #1 centerman who will elevate the games of guys like Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson.
#4 DET: Marco Rossi, C, OHL: The Wings are in full rebuild. While they have some talented young forward prospects and roster players, they don’t have a pure skill guy in the bunch. Here’s a weapon they can add to the mix. He’s a really good skater but not blazing fast. He’s small, but stocky. He’s one of the oldest in the Draft Class. Lots of reasons NOT to choose him. But he’s ultra-productive, incredibly smart, and a true offensive playmaker. Whether its at center or wing, they need explosive skill players like this.
#5 OTT (SJS): Jaime Drysdale, RHD, OHL: It’s not every day you can get a shot at the best defender in the Draft. The Sens already landed an electric playmaker up front, and now they bolster a strong young back-end with a mobile, smart 2-way defender who needs to show more consistent intensity, but otherwise can do just about everything. Would make a wonderful future partner for Thomas Chabot.
#6 ANA: Cole Perfetti, C/W, OHL: Taking a high-end defender would make sense here, but Sanderson is really the only guy who could fit here, and the Ducks have Cam Fowler on the left side for a long time, Hampus Lindholm has been playing there on his off-side, and most of their defensive prospects are lefties. They also have a bunch of gritty, physical forwards both at the NHL level and in the pipeline. Enter Perfetti, who can definitely score, he’s a great stickhandler, and will make a ton of plays from the wing. He’s the high-end offensive player they can use to create, and they have the forwards to mask his defensive deficiencies.
#7 NJD: Jake Sanderson, LHD, US NTDP: They need everything, honestly. Lucas Raymond or Seth Jarvis would be decent fits here, but the gap between Sanderson and the next defender on the Board is significant. And they’ve got very little in the pipeline other than Ty Smith. For pure value purposes, landing maybe the top defender (with Jaime Drysdale) in the Draft might be more useful than a wing, so the Devils go grab rising defender Jake Sanderson. He’s big, mobile, and a really nice 2-way guy who could be a nice stud to play behind Chabot. Not too shabby.
#8 BFLO: Lucas Raymond, W, SWE: Adding speed and puck handling to a roster lacking in that area makes sense. Can he get stronger, can he process the game a touch faster? I don’t know, but it’s a good bet. Time to take a shot at a dynamic playmaker from the wing to go with Cozens and company up front. Eichel can’t carry the puck every time.
#9 MIN: Anton Lundell, C, FIN: Mikko Koivu is about ready to retire. Here comes his replacement. So the Wild have some talent up front in the pipeline, but not much: Kaprill Kaprizov if he comes over, Luke Kunin, Adam Beckman, Matt Boldy and Kevin Fiala. But all of those guys are likely wings at the NHL level. Here’s a guy who’s nearly ready, is a for-sure a center. They firm up the middle of the ice with a smart, savvy 2-way center who can possibly hit the ice as soon as next season. They could get riskier, but without Pittsburgh’s pick – which likely will get pushed to next year – they go with a safe bet.
#10 WIN: Connor Zary, C, WHL: Like the Wild, the Jets could use a high-end right-shot defender, but there just aren’t any available at this spot in the Draft. They could also use a center prospect, as no one has really been able to wrest away that 2C spot from Bryan Little despite having a bunch of center prospects – Roslovic, Harkins, Nate Smith, Nikkanen – forcing them to go out and get Paul Stastnys and Cody Eakins over the past couple of years. Zary could slot in between Scheiefle and Copp or Lowry, giving them some strong 2-way play down the middle for a long time.
#11 NAS: Seth Jarvis, RW, WHL: This just seems like a natural fit to me. He’s a bit smallish, sure, but that doesn’t bother the Preds, and at worst he’s a high-end defensive forward with speed, probably a 3rd line regular. At best, he’s a Top 6 contributor for whom everything clicked after New Years (he finished with 65 points in 29 games). He could really work some magic with Phil Tomasino down the road and put together a line that could be the speediest, most dangerous one the Preds have had in years.
TRADE: MTL #16, #48 -> FLA #12
#12 MTL (FLA): Rodion Amirov, W, RUS: The Habs are getting ready for a passing of the torch. Contracts for guys like Tatar, Armia, Danault, Lekhonen and others are nearing expiration. Young players like Suzuki, Poehling, Kotkaniemi, Evans, Caufield and Ylonen are getting ready to graduate to the NHL. They could use a versatile 2-way power forward to mix in with those centermen and smaller wings. Amirov is a hard-working, high-motor guy with some serious offensive chops who wins on the wall and in the corners but can be a threat on the PP as well. He’s got a high floor and has some Timo Meier in his game as well. They will happily let him percolate over in Russia as he develops his game, much like they’re doing with Alexander Romanov, and when he’s ready...bam! Plug and play.
#13 CAR (TOR): Slava Askarov, G, RUS: Carolina’s prospect pool is stacked. They have the AHL’s best team, a young, fast team at the NHL level, and more guys on the way. They’re deep up front, and on the back-end. One area they are not great is in net. Askarov is one of the best goalie prospects to come along in a decade or so, and even though they have Nedjelcovic, who’s been solid, Askarov is on another level. He can develop over in the KHL for a couple years a la Ilya Samsonov, then slot in behind that suffocating D.
#14 EDM: Alexander Holtz, W, SWE: The Oil could use some finishers to play with Draisaitl and McDavid, guys who can keep up and possess similar skill and vision. Holtz, who falls here, is a great get by the Oil. With one of, if not the, best shot in the Draft and a very good skater, he could ride shotgun with either of their pair of elite centers and easily put up 30 goals routinely.
#15 TOR (PIT): Topi Niemala, RHD, FIN: The Leafs may well move this pick, but for now, their obvious need is defensive depth, particularly on the right side. Here they reach a bit for a player with high-end skating, smarts, and savvy. He doesn’t have a ton of puck skills, and he’s not going to be creating from the top of the zone, but he’s sound and a good transition defender. Almost like a better-skating, Finnish Rasmus Sandin, who they’ve already proven they like.
#16 FLA (MTL): William Wallinder, LHD, SWE: Hey! Off the Board! The Panthers have a new GM, an aging blue line (2 of their Top 4 are over 33!), Pysyk’s a UFA, and not a ton is coming up in the system. Wallinder is a boom or bust choice, but his size fits the bill here at 6’4 but some really nice tools and a superb skater to boot. He should be ready to come over to the US in a couple years as Stralman and Yandle are moving on.
#17 CHI: Dylan Holloway, C/W, NCAA: The future of the middle of the ice in Chicago looks to be Toews and Dach, with Dylan Strome the odd-man out. Holloway brings that kind of physical, power-center style, can play either wing or down the middle, is a dynamite skater with an edge and some high offensive upside. Imagining him as their future 3C would be a good look for them. And if they stick with Stromer, he’s a great option as a middle-6 wing.
#18 NJD (ARZ): Jack Quinn, RW, OHL: Well, lookie here! The Devils manage to grab a steal here by adding one of the OHL’s two top scoring draft-eligible wings (Perfetti at #7). The Jacks Line could be coming together – Quinn alongside Jack Hughes could make for some high-powered scoring the likes of which they haven’t seen in Jersey since the Elias – Arnott – Sykora line. This could be a sensation pick for them, as Quinn plays a really solid 2-way game as well. He could fit alongside Hughes or Hischier.
#19 CAL: Murat Khusnutdinov, C, RUS: Calgary could go a lot of different ways here. They could use some help with young D, as they’re approaching a transition year as guys like Brodie, Stone, Gustafsson, and even Giordano are either on expiring deals or aging out. Enter Andersson, Kylington, and Hanifin…but there’s not much behind them. They could use another goal scorer, to play a middle-6 role. But they mostly could use another center. And Koosh is a great gamble at this point. Young, fast, determined, and super-creative, he’s on the smaller side and the Flames rarely invest in Russian kids, but they make an exception here.
#20 NJD (VAN): Lukas Reichel, W, GER: After landing Jack Quinn, the Devils look for a guy who can ride shotgun with Jack Hughes. Reichel has great bloodlines, can play that high-pace game that fits with Hughes, and is plenty creative himself. This kid is a speedy winger who can close the deal from the top of the circle in. He’s certainly one of the best goalscorers left on the Board, if not the best. He’ll need some development time, but the Devils are in no rush.
#21 CBJ: Dawson Mercer, RW, QMJHL: The Blue Jackets need offense, badly. And they’ve spent a lot of their prospect capital in the last 18 months, so rebuilding that depth is a must. Mercer is the closest thing to pure offense that also might fit what Torts likes to do systematically, he has the strength to play a tough defensive game and can create offense with the shot or the pass.
#22 OTT (NYI): Sam Colangelo, RW, USHL: The Sens are building a roster with a lot of size and physicality – Tkachuk, Pinto, Brown, Batherson, Norris, and Formenton. Here they add another big kid who plays a hard, heavy game but has plenty of skill to go with it. They’re going to be a formidable group of forwards coming down on the forecheck and attacking the crease.
TRADE: OTT #33, #54, #95 -> DAL #23
#23 OTT (DAL): Kaiden Guhle, LHD, WHL: The Sens move up to grab more speed and size on their blue-line. They are deep everywhere throughout their pipeline with solid prospects at every position. So now they have the luxury of taking the top guy still on the Board. Guhle isn’t my favorite prospect, but he’s big, physical and can really skate, which could be a nice skillset to partner with a Brannstrom or Drysdale down the line. And they can afford to let him develop slowly as they have some young defenders ahead of him in the pipeline.
#24 NYR (CAR): Braden Schneider, RHD, WHL: After surprising everyone with the 1st pick, they go a bit more conservative here. This draft is thin on top-end defenders, with a lot of smallish, offensive-minded types in the late 1st through the 3rd. Not a lot of big, hard-noses types who can really skate. Schneider might be the best of the blueliners left on the Board and other than K’Andre Miller, the Rangers don’t have that type of defender in the pipeline. He could certainly become a fixture in the Top 4, and the kind of guy who logs a lot of minutes when the game is on the line. Not flashy, but I’d say he’s closer to game-ready than maybe any other D-Man left.
#25 PHI: Justin Barron, RHD, QMJHL: Philly is loaded at almost every position, but one spot where they’re a bit thin is right-shot D. But thanks to that depth, they can afford to gamble. Barron was a Top 10 caliber player coming into the season but played sluggishly early only to miss a big chunk of time due to blood clots. He’s big, rangy, can really skate, and has some offensive upside. And the Flyers can afford to be patient with him, make sure all his medicals check out, while they move up guys like Myers, Wylie, and Attard. This could be an absolute steal for the Flyers if it works out right for them…lately, the way they are handling prospects, it should.
#26 WAS: Noel Gunler, W, SWE: This was a tough one, because the Caps are an old team. 4 of their Top 6 are at or over 30, and both of their top pair D. They have took Vrana, who’s turning out to be prescient choice and a bit of a steal, and here they do it again, grabbing the player who may have the purest talent left on the Board in Gunler. He’s a goal scorer, a pure passer, and he’s got some good size and certainly possesses the skill and smarts to make an impact quickly. They like big forwards, and a grouping of Gunler, McMichael, and Vrana are a good group to start retooling.
#27 STL: Ridly Greig, C/LW, WHL: The Blues need to replenish their pipeline. They have some nice young players – Thomas, Kyrou, Sanford, Barbashev, Blais, Dunn – but most of those guys, if not all, along with some of their higher end prospects are getting ready to make a permanent jump to the NHL. And there’s not a lot behind them. They like guys they can slow-cook. Greig is a very late birthday who got progressively better from Day 1 to the final day of the season. He’s skilled, versatile, plays a gritty, physical game. He’s the kind of guy the Blues would love.
#28 COL: JJ Peterka, RW, GER: Gritty, relentless, attacking forward who sometimes is so eager to play that high-tempo game he gets himself caught in bad positions, Peterka is a high-motor, goal-scoring machine who never stops moving. Adding some refinement to his game could make for at worst, a high-octane defensive forward, but at best, a great 2-way player who can chip in 25 goals a year and play on your 2nd line with regularity. And the Avs play at a blazing fast tempo, so Peterka should fit right in.
#29 SJS (TBL): Jacob Perreault, C/RW, OHL: The Sharks have been known to take a chance on uber-talented OHL’ers with character concerns (Merkley, Chmelevski, Goldobin). Welcome Jacob Perreault. An underrated playmaker, his best attribute is a wicked release and a laser of a shot. Perreault has the talent, like Merkley, to be a Top 10 pick. But does he have the brain for it? The Sharks are willing to take that chance. If he can put in the effort consistently, the Sharks could’ve gotten themselves a steal here…
#30 LVG: Joni Jurmo, LHD, FIN: The Knights could’ve gone a few different ways here, but 4 of their starting D will be 30 when the season starts, and they have a little in the pipeline, but not a ton. They also really like bigger defenders. Jurmo is a monster at 6’4 who can really skate and carry the puck. He could really see a meteoric rise as he puts his game together, and Vegas does do a good job of letting their prospects develop.
#31 ANA (BOS): Jean-Luc Foudy, C, OHL: A bit of a surprise pick here, Foudy is quite possibly the best skater in this entire class. He’s got blinding speed, and his lateral movement is outstanding. He’s also got a big of an edge to his game. The problem is, he tends to be a perimeter player and take himself out of the play too often. But with a little coaching, the Ducks bet they can turn him into a superior forechecker and maybe a dynamic middle-line center who can help them move from a big, rugged, grind you down team into a speed and pressure style club.
#32 DET: Helge Grans, RHD, SWE
#33 DAL (OTT): Hendrix Lapierre, C, QMJHL
#34 SJS: Ryan O’Rourke, LHD, OHL
#35 LAK: Yan Kuznetsov, LHD, NCAA
#36 ANA: Emil Andrae, LHD, SWE
#37 NAS (NJD): Jaromir Pytlik, C, OHL
TRADE: BFLO #38 -> LAK #50, 60
#38 LAK (BFLO): Tyson Foerster, C/W, OHL
#39 MIN: Mavrik Bourque, C, QMJHL
#40 FLA (NAS): Brandon Brisson, C, USHL
#41 WIN: Brock Faber, RHD, US NTDP
#42 CAR (NYR): Luke Evangelista, RW, OHL
#43 FLA: Luke Tuch, LW, US NTDP
#44 TOR: Roby Jarventie, W, FIN
#45 DET (EDM): Thomas Bordeleau, C, US NTDP
#46 CHI (LVG/PIT): Jan Mysak, C/W, OHL
#47 MTL: Lukas Cormier, LHD, QMJHL
#48 FLA (MTL/CHI): Michael Benning, RHD, AJHL
#49 CAL: Daniel Torgersson, RW, SWE
#50 BFLO (LAK/VAN): Jack Finley, C, WHL
#51 OTT (CBJ): Pavel Novak, W, WHL
#52 OTT (NYI): Will Cuylle, LW, OHL
#53 CAR: Jeremie Poirer, LHD, QMJHL
#54 DAL: Eamon Powell, RHD, US NTDP
#55 PHI: Martin Chromiak, LW/C, SVK
#56 DET (WAS): Justin Sourdif, RW, WHL
#57 MTL (STL): Emil Viro, LHD, FIN
#58 SJS (WAS/COL): Ty Smilanic, C, US NTDP
#59 TBL: Theo Neiderbach, C, SWE
#60 BFLO (LAK/LVG): Danill Guschin, RW, USHL
#61 BOS: Tristan Robins, C, WHL
#62 DET: Donovan Sebrango, LHD, OHL
#63 OTT: Ozzy Wiesblatt, RW, WHL
#64 DET (SJS): Alexander Pashin, W, RUS
#65 LAK: Samuel Knazko, LHD, SVK
#66 ANA: Brandon Coe, RW, OHL
#67 NJD: Shakir Mukhamadullin, LHD, RUS
#68 CAR (BFLO): Roni Hirvonen, C, FIN
#69 NAS (MIN): Anton Johannesson, LHD, SWE
#70 NAS: Simon Kubicek, RHD, WHL
#71 OTT (WIN): Kasper Simontaival, W, FIN
#72 CAR (NYR): Will Villenueve, RHD, QMJHL
#73 FLA: Ian Moore, RHD, US HS
#74 COL (TOR): Rory Kerins, C, OHL
#75 EDM: Jake Neighbours, RW, WHL
#76 PIT: Alex Cotton, RHD, WHL**
#77 MTL: Tyler Kleven, LHD, US NTDP
#78 CHI: Ronan Seeley, LHD, WHL
#79 WAS (COL/ARZ): Vasily Ponomaryov, C/W, QMJHL
#80 CHI (CAL): Zion Nybeck, C/W, SWE
#81 VAN: Dylan Peterson, C, US NTDP
#82 LAK (TOR/CBJ): Brett Berard, LW, US NTDP
#83 NYI: Simon Knak, RW, WHL
#84 CAR: James Hardie, LW, OHL
#85 NYR (DAL): Luke Prokop, RHD, WHL
#86 TBL (SJS/PHI): Carter Savoie, LW, AJHL
#87 MTL (WAS): Ville Miettinen, RW, FIN
#88 STL: Dimitri Ovchinnikov, W, RUS
#89 FLA (COL): Carson Bantle, LW, USHL
#90 TBL: Emil Heineman, F, SWE
#91 LVG: Kasper Puutio, LHD, WHL
#92 BOS: Blake Biondi, W, US HS
#93 TBL (DET): Thimo Nickl, RHD, QMJHL
#94 DAL (OTT): Evan Vierling, C, OHL
#95 CAL (BFLO/MTL/SJS): Joel Blomqvist, G, FIN
#96 LAK: Connor McClennon, RW, WHL
#97 MTL (ANA): Nico Daws, G, OHL**
#98 NJD: Oliver Suni, W, OHL
#99 BFLO: Jack Thompson, RHD, OHL
#100 MIN: Drew Commesso, G, US NTDP
#101 PHI (NAS): Oliver Tarnstrom, C, SWE
#102 MTL (WIN): Ruben Rafkin, RHD, OHL
#103 NYR: Sean Farrell, W, USHL
#104 FLA: Alexander Nikishin, LHD, RUS
#105 TOR: Luke Reid, RHD, USHL
#106 DET (EDM): Issak Phillips, LHD, OHL
#107 PIT: Zayde Wisdom, RW, OHL
#108 MTL: Colby Ambrosio, C, USHL
#109 CHI: Jacob Truscott, LHD, US NTDP
#110 ARZ: Ethan Edwards, LHD, AJHL
#111 VAN: Ryan Francis, RW, QMJHL
#112 LAK (CAL): Axel Kumlin, RHD, SWE
#113 CBJ: Trevor Kuntar, C, USHL **
#114 NYI: Daemon Hunt, LHD, WHL
#115 NJD (CAR): Nick Malik, G, OHL
#116 DAL: Christopher Sedoff, LHD, WHL
#117 ANA (PHI): Antonio Stranges, C/LW, OHL
#118 WAS: Mitch Miller, LHD, USHL
#119 STL: Ty Tullio, C, OHL
#120 COL: Ethan Cardwell, C, OHL
#121 TBL: Adam Wilsby, LHD, SWE **
#122 TOR (LVG): Alex LaFerriere, RW, USHL
#123 NJD (BOS): Charlie Desroches, RHD, QMJHL
#124 DET: Stephan Halliday, RW, USHL
#125 SJS (OTT): Oskar Magnusson, RW, SWE
#126 SJS: Jan Bednar, G, CZE
#127 LAK: Calle Clang, G, SWE
#128 ANA: Joel Maatta, C, USHL
#129 NJD: Dmitri Zlodeyev, C, RUS
#130 BFLO: Chase Yoder, C, US NTDP
#131 MIN: Noah Ellis, RHD, USHL
#132 NAS: Samuel Hlavaj, G, QMJHL **
#133 WIN: Cross Hanas, LW, WHL
#134 NYR: Owen Pederson, C, WHL
#135 MTL (FLA): Will Dufour, RW, QMJHL
#136 FLA (TOR): Tomas Chlubna, RW, CZE
#137 EDM: Zach Uens, LHD, NCAA **
#138 PIT: Leo Loof, LHD, SWE
#139 MTL: Ryder Rolston, W, USHL
#140 CHI: Vsevolod Skotnikov, G, RUS
#141 ARZ: Pavel Tyutnev, C, RUS
#142 VAN: Victor Persson, RHD, SWE
#143 CAL: Wyatt Kaiser, LHD, USHL
#144 CBJ: Axel Rindell, RHD, FIN **
#145 STL (CAR): Aidan Campbell, G, OHL
#146 NYI: Cameron Tolnai, C, OHL
#147 DAL: Cameron Butler, RW, OHL
#148 PHI: Jacob Dion, LHD, QMJHL
#149 WAS: Landon Slaggert, C, US NTDP
#150 STL: Max Glotzl, LHD, GER
#151 COL: Theo Nordlund, LHD, SWE
#152 OTT (TBL): Jake Ratzlaff, RHD, US HS
#153 TOR (LVG): Lucas Ramberg, LHD, SWE
#154 BOS: Ville Ottavainen, RHD, OHL
#155 DET: Jake Boltman, RHD, USHL
#156 OTT: Tucker Tynan, G, OHL
#157 OTT (SJS): Michel Krutil, RHD, CZE
#158 LAK: Lleyton Moore, LHD, OHL
#159 ANA: Victor Mancini, RHD, SWE
#160 NJD: Elliot Ekmark, C, SWE
#161 DAL (FLA/BFLO): Ivan Didkovsky, W, RUS
#162 MIN: Karri Aho, LHD, FIN
#163 NAS: Mason Langenbrunner, RHD, US HS
#164 WIN: Ryan Kirwan, RW, USHL
#165 NYR: Evan Bushy, LHD, US HS
#166 COL (FLA): Xavier Simoneau, W, QMJHL **
#167 TOR: Artur Akhtyamov, G, RUS
#168 EDM: Jesper Vikman, G, SWE
#169 PIT: Isak Garfve, C/W, SWE
#170 MTL: Hugo Styf, LHD, SWE
#171 CHI: Maxim Beryozkin, W, RUS
#172 ARZ: Dylan Garand, G, WHL
#173 VAN: Cameron Berg, C, USHL
#174 CAL: Samuel Johanessen, RHD, SWE **
#175 CBJ: Maxime Groshev, RW, RUS
#176 TOR (CAR): Yevgeni Oksentyuk, W, OHL **
#177 NYI: Jake Uberti, C, OHL
#178 DAL: Marko Stacha, LHD, SVK
#179 PHI: Grant Slukynsky, W, US HS
#180 LAK (WAS): Tag Bertuzzi, W, OHL **
#181 OTT (EDM/STL): Michal Gut, LW, WHL
#182 TOR (COL): Albert Lyckasen, RHD, SWE **
#183 TBL: Karel Klikorka, LHD, CZE
#184 LVG: Wyatt Schingoethe, C, USHL
#185 BOS: Jackson Kunz, C, US HS
#186 DET: Oskar Tellstrom, RW, SWE
#187 MTL (OTT): Mark Hillier, RW, CA HS
#188 TOR (SJS): Logan Morrison, C, OHL
#189 LAK: Alec Belanger, LHD, OHL
#190 VAN (ANA): Ben Meehan, LHD, USHL **
#191 NJD: Christian Jimenez, LHD, USHL
#192 BFLO: Joona Kiviniemi, LW, FIN
#193 MIN: Luke Toporowski, RW, WHL **
#194 NYR (NAS): Joe Miller, C, US HS
#195 TOR (WIN): Bogdan Trineyev, W, RUS
#196 NYR: Mikael Pyyhtia, C, FIN
#197 COL (FLA): Brett Brochu, G, OHL
#198 CAR (TOR): Josh Groll, W, USHL **
#199 EDM: Tanner Dickinson, C, OHL
#200 SJS (PIT): Lucas Sjevkovsky, C/W, WHL
#201 PHI (MTL): Grant Riley, G, NAHL
#202 MTL (CHI): Joonas Oden, RW, FIN **
#203 ARZ: David Ma, LHD, US HS
#204 NYR (VAN): Mattias Rajaniemi, LHD, FIN
#205 CAL: Gage Goncalves, C, WHL **
#206 CBJ: Mateus Szurowski, C, SWE
#207 TOR (CAR): Garin Bjorklund, G, WHL
#208 NYI: Otto Latvala, RHD, FIN **
#209 BFLO (DAL): Mason Lohrei, LHD, US HS **
#210 PHI: Alexei Tysplakov, W, RUS **
#211 SJS (WAS): Theo Rochette, C, QMJHL
#212 TOR (STL): Hayden Fowler, C, OHL
#213 TOR (COL): Noah Delemont, RHD, QMJHL
#214 TBL: Cameron Rowe, G, USHL **
#215 LVG: Jack Smith, C, US HS
#216 BOS: Devon Levi, G, CCHL
Lucas Raymond, W, SWE: Given my focus for the kind of talent I’d like to add if I were the Sabres’ scouting director, Raymond is the easy choice at this spot. The first thing that stands out to me about his game is the motor. His feet are always moving, with or without the puck, and he never gives up on a play on either end. He’s always trying to maneuver into the middle of the ice or to the front of the net on offense, either carrying the puck there or passing it to the slot, while on D he’s relentless in tracking the puck. He’s a very good 1-v-1 defender, exerts a lot of puck pressure, and is a furious backchecker. Unfortunately, he can get pushed around due to his size and because of that, I think he can be hesitant to engage in puck battles on the wall or in the corner. Another of his outstanding attributes are his instincts. Has that uncanny sense of knowing where to go, and when to be there. Head is always up looking for ways to get the puck to a teammate in scoring position, or if he’s off the puck, finding openings in the dangerous parts of the ice to receive a pass. Always manages to find a lane to the net and keeps his stick on the ice.
Loves to attack, but not carelessly. He doesn’t overcommit or chase the puck too much. But he’s one of the best in the Class at recognizing opportunities. D-Man gets turned around? He attacks. Forward back to defend because the D got caught up ice? Attacks. Someone bobbling the puck? He attacks. Love that about the kid. And he understands spacing really well. Knows how to create space for himself to make a pass or get a shot off, to draw defenders and dish it, use fakes or his eyes to open lanes, or to open up enough room to fire off a one-timer. He’s a very good skater, maybe great, with elite lateral movement. His feet are really light. Very shifty, slippery, but not blazing fast up and down the ice. Which is fine, because coupled with his tremendous stickhandling, he’s still a zone-entry machine. Like a lot of high-end Swedes, he’s very cognizant of puck possession and values that in all 3 zones rather than going for the highlight reel dangle. Not crazy about his shot – it’s accurate when he gets time to load up, and he’s got a good one-timer – but it’s not going to scare anyone with velocity or hardness. Maybe that, like his board work, will improve as he gets stronger.
He didn’t have a great year this year, but much of those lackluster stats were not a result of his play. He missed almost a month of the season with an illness (mono?) starting in late November, which left his World Juniors debut a bit underwhelming, while he played on an elite Men’s team in the SHL, which limited his minutes and opportunities. Finished with 10P in 33 games for Frolunda but dazzled in his time at the U-20 level, with 14P in 9 games there. Also chipped in with 4P in 7 games at the World Juniors. Honestly, I think he would be a safe pick. He’s got the smarts, speed, and drive to be a good middle-line, 2-way forward, but the big upside to be a 75P+ wing and PP tablesetter if he gets stronger and more confident working along the walls and in the corners.
Jack Finley, C, WHL: Now for something completely different. It’s more of a long-game selection, and it might be a reach right now, but Finley is a beast at 6’5 210#. He’s also one of the very youngest kids in the Draft Class, missing the cut off by less than 2 weeks. So it’s not inconceivable he doesn’t get even bigger. But we’re not selecting him strictly because he’s massive. Nope, there’s more there to work with. From last season’s rookie year in the WHL, he went from 19P to 57P in 61 games this year, nearly a PPG despite not playing regularly on the top line with WHL scoring champion Adam Beckman. That’s more than just being tall. And that is while being used more as a shut-down guy, a role in which he excelled. Notched 54% in the face-off dot, played big minutes on the PK, and often matched up with the other team’s top guys. In fact, Finley matched up with Buffalo’s own prize prospect Dylan Cozens once this year. The result: Finley 1-2-3, Cozens 0-0-0 and -5. Finley is a very good, but not great, skater who is a still a bit ungainly in his stride and could use work on his lateral quickness.
Adding more strength and shortening it up a bit will lead to more explosiveness, which I think will come. But he chews up ice with just a couple steps, so he covers a lot of ground. He’s not a big hitter, but his defensive game is predicated on his length, his strong stick work, and his ability to use his body to disrupt plays and swallow up smaller forwards by sealing off the middle of the ice and pushing them into the walls, where he can take the puck away. Smart, with a great sense for understanding developing plays and neutralizing them before they can be completed, Finley has the potential to be a very good defensive centerman. But don’t ignore that there’s offense there too. Sure, he’s not going to razzle-dazzle you with his stickhandling and he won’t dance through a crowd of defenders, but the kid is a monster in the possession game, where he can just wear you out on the cycle and come off the wall to make a head’s up pass to a cutting forward or carry the puck to the net with a guy on his back. He’s actually a pretty good passer, especially below the dots, and always seems to have his head up while using his length to survey the ice as he holds off defenders. In fact, he was in the Top 10 among all WHL players in even-strength assists. Not too shabby.
Like all big guys, he’s hard to handle around the net, and Spokane used him as a screen on the PP where he put his surprising good hands to use tipping pucks, finding rebounds, and using that short-area passing ability to be a dual-threat in the crease. Would like to see him shoot the puck more, but that’s a tool that needs some improvement. It’s not particularly hard, nor does he place it well. But shooting can be improved through repetition if nothing else. He needs to get stronger, and maybe play with a little more of an edge, but there’s a ton of potential here. I would love this pick.
Danill Gushchin, RW, USHL: Small? Yes. Dynamic? For sure. Explosive offensive player? No doubt. Guschin is one of my favorite players in the Draft, a 1st-round caliber talent that unfortunately for him is stuck in a 5’8 165# body. But make no mistake, this kid can play. Gushchin is a fantastic skater, first off. He’s incredibly elusive, weaving through traffic with or without the puck, slipping checks, getting behind defenders and finding open space. With explosive top-end speed, he can beat defenders up ice, he can dance around them, or catch guys from behind if he needs to. That ability to change direction instantly leaves the guys trying to check him in the dust, and he can do it down low, in the NZ, or exiting his own zone. One of the top skaters in the Draft. His skill package is high-end. A crazy good shot, he gets the puck off in a flash, before a goalie can even set up, and can place the puck wherever he wants. He’s a sniper in the truest sense of the word. Has every shot in the arsenal, and all of them are deadly, including his backhand and wrister.
In the Top 5 in the USHL among draft-eligibles in goals, he wasn’t playing on a powerhouse team either. The kid led Muskegon in scoring, with 47P in 42 games, 11 more points than the #2 scorer despite playing in 7 fewer games. And he was 3rd on the Russian U-18 team in goals, behind only Pashin and Tyutnev (both players likely to be drafted this year) and ahead of guys like Kushnutdinov, Zlodeyev, Trineyev and Ponomaryov, all guys who should be drafted and a couple who could go quite high. So he’s got the juice. Some of the silkiest set of mitts you’re ever going to see, he’s electric with the puck on his stick. A tremendous stick-handler, he’s can deke you all day, even in the tightest spaces he’s a puck magician. When you couple it with his wheels he’s a terror in transition. And he’s so shifty and slippery that he gets into the dangerous areas of the ice despite his lack of size. And he’s super-smart when attacking…he can lure defenders into spots where he wants them, open up some space, then dangle them or just uses his burst to slip past them.
So, you might ask, if he’s so good, why isn’t he rated higher by the consensus? A couple reasons. First, he’s small. 5’8 is very much on the short side for an NHL player, which is codeword for ‘risky’, but he’s got a later birthday…it’s entirely possible he still has time to grow a couple inches, and that would make all the difference. Second, he’s Russian. We all know about the Russian Factor, but he’s been playing in the US for 2 years now and was on schedule to play in the OHL next season before COVID, so there’s a familiarity with the North American style and the rinks. Third, and most importantly, his effort is all over the place. There are games where he ghosts you. At times, that intensity level wanes, and that high-end skating vanishes as he floats around. This can swing wildly from shift-to-shift, and game-to-game. And his lack of interest in the D-zone is very concerning, at times completely lax in pursuing either the puck or his man. But suddenly, he can turn it around and be an absolute terror on both ends of the ice, scoring on one end and hounding opponents into turnovers on the other. You can see it here, where you weren’t sure he suited up in the 1st couple periods, and then… BOOM. And boy, is his skill set tantalizing. To grab a guy with these kind of skills on the cusp of the 3rd round? Why not take a gamble? Remember, when Nikita Kucherov came out, he was 5’9 ½ and was criticized for his lack of defense, his consistency, and strength (and being Russian). He got selected late in the 2nd round. Sound familiar?
Jack Thompson, RHD, OHL: Given BFLO’s lack of depth on the right-side in the prospect pool, adding someone with Thompson’s skill set is a solid investment. What skill set is that? Thompson is a smooth-skating, highly mobile and agile defender. Blessed with good size (6’1, 180#) and an attacking mindset, he’s more offense than defense on the back-end but there’s a general consensus that he’s still got a lot of upside, and his development has kind of happened in fits and starts. That suggests that while he’s got an attractive toolbox, he hasn’t figured out how to use all the tools just yet. Again, his skating is the draw here. He’s got great pivots, transitions instantly and easily from forward to backward and his four-way skating is very good. Lateral movement, especially moving to close gaps while defending transition as well as walking the line on offense, is exceptional.
He could be a tremendous puck carrier, but too often a poor decision – passing it up ice when there’s plenty of open ice in front of him, or trying to lug the puck into a crowd of defenders – neutralizes this ability. When he makes the right decision, it’s a thing of beauty. Just needs to improve his situational awareness and recognition. The superior skating also helps him defend. Positionally, he’s pretty good for someone so raw, but when he does get caught out of position, that four-way skating helps him get back into position in an instant. He recovers pucks well, transitions from D to O quickly, and will break up a lot of zone entries with his ability to stand opponents up at the blue-line and if he gets beat, recover quickly. Offensively, he’s got all you could want. Big, booming clapper from the point – he scored the most goals for draft-eligible D in the CHL with 13G – and really sharp vision, can manipulate defenders with his lateral movement and then fire quick cross-ice diagonals to open teammates, both in the NZ or the O-zone. Where he loses points is his tendency to turn the puck over around his own blue line.
As mentioned above, he can get crosswise when trying to break a well-structured forecheck and will try to make the more difficult play rather than the simple pass, which more often than not leads to an ugly giveaway. So he’s a bit of a project player, but Thompson has a lot of upside and has really flashed at times. Notched 32 points in 63 games, not an amazing total, but 3rd in the OHL among draft-eligible blueliners. A big of a gamble, but why not?
Chase Yoder, C, US NTDP: This speedy 2-way centerman is a later birthday that got a bit lost in the wash with a crowd of similar forwards at the Program. But the more I watched the US team, the more Yoder stood out to me. At a robust 5’10 ,175#, Yoder is a dynamite skater who can really motor up and down the ice. Excellent burst right out of the blocks, he’s got good lateral movement and powerful crossovers to generate a lot of power as he chases down pucks or drives to the middle of the ice in transition. A great glue-guy type of player, Yoder’s speed and tenacity make him a relentless backchecker who uses his strong stickwork to harass puck carriers into turnovers all over the ice, while a terror as a forechecker when you add in his willingness to level some big hits on defensemen much larger than him who don’t get rid of the puck in time. Loves to pressure the puck, whether on the PK or at evens. Playing a more conservative style, the responsible Yoder is the guy who always seems to be covering for D-Men who get too deep, or linemates that get out of position, as he has exceptional all-ice awareness. But don’t pigeonhole him as a defensive forward - he’s got some offense to his game as well. Plays a very fast game, partly due to his skating, partly due to the fact his reads are so good and he ‘sees’ the flow of the game so well.
Always seems to be around the top of the crease or between the circles despite his size; will power his way to the net with or without the puck and create havoc. Hands are pretty good, although not elite – he’s not going to dangle you to death or leave a bunch of broken ankles behind him as he stickhandles through a crowd. And his release isn’t instantaneous, but he’s got enough dekes and subtle fakes to make him an effective finisher in transition. Certainly didn’t blow up the scoreboard for the NTDP, with 20P in 43 games, but he rarely got time on the top 2 lines or on the PP, and this year’s group didn’t exactly light it up offensively as is. They played a tight-checking, defense-minded game most of the time. And Yoder was the go-to shutdown center on that team. Off to Providence next year, which has done some admirable work with Nate Leaman as HC there…turning out a couple NHL players seemingly every year lately.
Joona Kiviniemi, LW, FIN: Slick Finnish wing who has had some development hiccups along the way. Missed almost his entire Draft -2 year with injuries, then came over to North America to play in the WHL. Unfortunately for him, last season he played for a terrible Swift Current team, but still managed to lead the team in goal scoring in his first year on this side of the pond. This year, he started hot with 10P in 15 games on a similarly bad team, but after he was traded mid-season, he returned home to Finland where he took a break from hockey. He came back with Karpat in the U-20 league and finished in the top 5 in PPG for that team (which includes possible #1 overall selection in next year’s Draft, Aatu Raty). So he’s taken a long, winding road. But there’s some real talent there, especially on the offensive end. He’s got a big, heavy shot and has some good accuracy with it, so he can beat goalies clean from the top of the circles on in. Excellent one-timer. Scores in bunches. Nice possession player. He’s really smart about using his body to shield the puck while getting to the net and crashing the crease. Hands are very good, he gets pucks up in tight, can make a move or two around the net to create space and get a chance. But he’s at his best in transition. Great give-and-go player. Screaming down the wing, he can carry the puck in and fire a heavy shot, one-time a centering pass or curl up to the top of the circle, find space, and set up for the big shot.
I think he would be better served being more of a North-South player, because he wouldn’t be so tempted to try to dangle his way East-West and lose the puck. But when he’s on his game, he stays in his lane, keeps his stick down and head up, and is always ready to make a play whether he’s leading the rush or trailing the play. A volume shooter, Kiviniemi has good size (6’2 180#) and is a very good straight-line skater with an extra gear in transition. Smart player, he’s got an active stick on D and is quick to turn the puck from defense to offense quickly. Not a great passer, and he’s been so limited in how much he’s played and who he’s played with, it’s hard to tell what his upside is. But he’s definitely flashed the ability to be an effective scorer from the wing.
Mason Lohrei, LHD, USHL **: Huge, mobile 6’5 200# defender who finished second in the USHL in D-Man scoring as an over-ager. A great precision passer, he sees openings and gets the puck through on the tape to his forwards streaking up ice. Excellent first pass. For his size, he’s an exceptional skater especially his lateral movement. Can walk the line smoothly, almost Tyler Myers-esque in that regard, and make those subtle side-step moves to improve passing and shooting angles. He has great reach, and has some solid defensive chops, especially in his ability to snuff out odd-man rushes as they enter the zone with good stick work and his tremendous reach. Despite his old-school size, he plays a modern game and moves the puck quickly and accurately after puck recovery. Doesn’t have the big shot, but similar to the way he executes breakout passes, his lateral movement helps him get a lot of shots through to the net where they can be cashed in.
He is very accurate with both his passing and his shot. Would like him to shorten his release a bit, and his backwards skating could improve as he relies more on his active stick and length to disrupt plays than his footwork at times, but for a 7th round pick, I think Lohrei’s upside is too good to pass up. Notched 37P in 48 games for Green Bay, runner-up to only Owen Power (who could be the #1 overall pick next season) for D-Men in the USHL. He did get an invite to Vegas rookie camp last year, so there already are some eyes on him. Off to play at Ohio State next season.