Final NHL 2021 Draft Rankings for the Buffalo Sabres

106 Player ranked, profiled, and with links to learn more about each of them

A very quick introduction before the rankings. First, I encourage you to come back to this as the draft is going on if you want to learn anything about the players we’re drafting or be directed to people who may go more in depth about these particular players

Second, yes I would take Owen Power sixth overall if I was running an NHL team. I think he’s got a lot of upside, but I also have seen just about every Michigan game this year and the World Championships. There are things I’m concerned about. However, I will not be flipping out or having a meltdown if we take Power over Beniers. This isn’t the Rossi vs. Quinn situation for me last year. He’s got a lot of tools to work with and he does have immense upside.

Lastly, every one doing this type of work values different aspects of a prospect differently. We all look at probably the same things, but for me the NHL game is played in the neutral zone. Controlling the puck into the offensive zone has a higher propensity for goals than dump-and-chase. Mitigating offenses from gaining the zone with control and then retrieving the puck and exiting the zone with control is what I want from defenders. Scoring goals, creating goals, and separating the player from the puck are also very important as well. There are definitely roles for players who do those three things (and other important aspects of the game as well) in the NHL. But when I get excited about a player: it’s usually because they play the neutral zone game so well AND have skill in both zones.

Tl;dr; How to Use These Rankings

As you read through these rankings, feel free to use it as a springboard for the 2021 NHL draft and remember these things:

1.) If you just want to see the numerical rankings without scrolling through this article: Here they are. The tiers are listed for you as well in the index.

2.) These are specific to what I’d like the Sabres to do, but in reality if these were in a vacuum I’d move up Wallstedt to #5 and Cossa to #18 and these would be my draft rankings. Not a big fan of taking goalies in the first round in general.

3.) IF the Sabres make a trade for another first round pick: who I’d pick is numerically ordered for that reason. However, I am a tier-based drafter so when I draft for the Sabres on July 23/24 I may not always pick the higher ranked player, but I will be selecting from the highest tier. Realistically, if you took each tier and put it in a blender I’d be okay with how it would spit out the players numerically.

4.) Most people have some personal experience with drafting with fantasy sports. If so, you know that just because you have someone ranked as the 5th overall pick doesn’t mean that’s where the consensus has them. If you can land a player you’d take 5th overall at 35th, then it’s up to you whether you want to gamble on reaching for the player instead hoping for the value of getting two players who may be in your top 10 rankings. Bob McKenzie’s rankings will come out in early-mid July, which is the barometer of where players are most likely to be selected.  I am 99% certain that not all of Logan Stankoven/Mackie Samoskevich/Simon Robertsson/Scott Morrow/Dylan Duke/Xavier Bourgault/Ville Koivunen/Ayrton Martino will be ranked inside the top 32. Some will be early second picks, some may be third round picks, and some may not even be listed in the honorable mentions. Use McKenzie’s list and my list (or your list, or anyone else’s list for that matter) to identify possible 2nd+ round value.

5.) Links on each person’s name will take you to a Scouching video, a Smaht Scouting profile, a full shift-by-shift video of the prospect, or a Dobber Prospects profile to learn more about the player.

6.) Shout out to Will Scouch, Tony Ferrari, AJ Gidaro, Jordan Malette,  Brian Stewart, Dylan Griffing, Josh Tessler, Mikael Holm, Joel Hendersen, Sam McGilligan, and countless others who I’ve talked prospects with these past 6 months whose work is featured in these rankings through Tweets or links attached to the players. Give them (Twitter links are on their names) and their work at Scouching (website and Youtube), FC Hockey, McKeen’s, Dobber, and Smaht Scouting a follow. They’re really good at what they do.

7.) Some other names you should follow: The Charging Buffalo guys are good peeps and also have started a 716 Prospect podcast: Austin Broad, Curtis, Joe Marino, and Walter Zurowski. Rachel Doerrie does amazing work and her podcast is a weekly listen for me; Gabe Foley at RecScouting is good people; sign up for Jack Han’s newsletter; when David St-Louis speaks...I listen; the premier USHL follow is Dylan Krill; Chris Peters might not be at ESPN anymore but he’s still pumping out amazing work; Sam Tirpak for all your Czech and Slovakian needs; fellow Buffalonian Paul Zuk over at Smaht; Josh Bell over at FC; Eetu Siltanen for anything to do with European hockey prospects; Byron Bader for any NHLe prospect modeling content; Lauren Kelly at EPRinkside does some real quality work; Lassi Alanen’s Tableau page is a must; The premier OHL gif maker and also has really good prospect takes Caitlin Berry; Sam’s DraftLook Hockey substack is a must read; Mitch Brown’s tracking dataset is absurd and worth the Patreon price; whether it’s prospect takes or learning about the Frog Time YouTube channel Sam Stern is worth the follow (though be prepared for all of the Eichel to the NYR trade talk); who’s starting the Mason McTavish at #2 hype? That’d be Cam Robinson; Josh Mallory is a fascinating follow and enjoy his work at McKeen’s and on Twitter.

Lastly, my favorite mainstream person Scott Wheeler whose profiles and prospect pieces are like 96% of the reason I still have an Athletic subscription.

8.) Just a thank you to Chad for this opportunity and being a great mentor. Thank you for answering my random Twitter DMs, your insight, and for being such a great person in general. It’s an honor to write along side you, Melissa, Anthony, and the rest of the DBTB crew.

Tried to put these rankings as close to Father’s Day as possible. Papa Doc...miss you every day. You badgered me to start sharing my prospect takes for the past 11 years and just started doing it the past few years: this one’s for you.

Let’s do this.

Tier I: Who I Want for the #1 Pick

1.) Matthew Beniers, C, NCAA (10/5/02)

6’1, 174lbs

24gp, 10g, 24pts

He is a dream come true as a prospect in my eyes. He’s a relentless, puck hounding,  transition king who owns the middle of the ice on every shift. He is almost never out of position, is always supporting his teammates on the puck, and has boatloads of skill to go with it.

He excels in the small areas of the ice and consistently is able to make unbelievable plays under pressure. He isn’t dependent on one trait to move the puck up the ice as he can just as easily stick handle his way through the neutral zone as well as he can hit a teammate for a controlled entry. He lives looking to pass in the medium-high danger areas of the ice, and isn’t afraid to make his way there to look for his own shot or to take the puck there to generate a chance on his own.

While he possesses very good playmaking ability; he plays a very gritty game. He is the type of player that championship teams are made of: he wants to ram the puck down your throat and is relentless in trying to get the puck back if his team doesn’t have it.

On a Michigan team that had Kent Johnson, Bordeleau, Brisson, and Beecher all vying to play center: he outplayed Brisson and Johnson to play down the middle. He looks like the best center on that team as a draft eligible player.

While he may never be the catalyst on your PP1 (mostly played the bumper role on the PP on Michigan) I get really defensive about saying he won’t be able to produce points in the NHL. He has 19/24 points as primary points, he does EVERYTHING 5v5 for the Johnson/Beniers/Pastujov line at Michigan. He sets up his teammates for dangerous area shots better than just about anyone in this’s not on him that his teammates haven’t been able to finish.

For a Sabres team that is desperate to have players transition the puck (especially if Eichel is gone); he’s an easy call for the number one preference for the Sabres in this draft.

2.)  William Eklund, LW, SHL (10/12/02)

5’10, 172lbs

40gp, 11g, 23pts

William Eklund is just good at everything. He’s a fantastic transition player who facilitates the puck up-and-down the ice and consistently is the player who facilitates the play that leads to controlled entries and exits at the SHL level. He’s a very good skater who separates well and has an extremely gifted ability to separate laterally on his edges.

Like Beniers, his brain is top-end. Despite being somewhat undersized he’s able to maneuver along the boards to create plays and finds open seems and spaces on the ice to generate his offence.

While he doesn’t possess an elite level shot: his passing ability is what makes him a high-end offensive talent. He’s able to make quick, accurate passes into high-danger areas and occasionally will be able to get to the dangerous parts of the ice on his own to generate his own shot. When you watch Eklund play with the puck on his stick you have the calming feeling that he’s about to find a teammate and put them in a situation to score.

He’s been given ample opportunity with ice time and linemates (playing with NHL draft picks Holtz and Josefson) and has shown that he’s not only able to play with them; at times he looks like the engine on the line.

Undersized, European wingers are usually undervalued in the NHL draft and fall farther than normally would. He should be picked in the top 5 (and I would argue should be in contention for the #1 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft), but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him fall into the second half of the top 10 based on position, where he’s playing, and his size.

Tier II: The Premier Offensive Defensemen in this year’s class (with some major defensive development needed)

3.) Luke Hughes, LHD, USNTDP (9/9/03)

6’2, 176 lbs

38gp, 6g, 34pts

When it comes to the many defensive prospects that are pegged to go in the top half of this year’s draft: none have impressed me like Luke Hughes has. He’s six days shy of being a 2022 draft eligible, skates like the wind, and has offensive talent that is among the best in this draft class. Despite reportedly tearing multiple ligaments in his foot thus ending his season; I’d still take the Michigan committed Hughes in the top three of this year’s draft.

The youngest of the the three Hughes brothers he plays a similar albeit different style than his elder brothers. He’s a smooth skating defensemen that doesn’t have the small area puck skills that his brother Quinn has, but instead looks like a tier-down version of Dahlin during his draft eligible year with the puck on his stick.

He transitions the puck very effectively on his stick or with a pass. He is very smart in the offensive zone on when to pick his spots to move up from the blue line and has my most coveted trait for an offensive defensemen in that he utilizes space very well at the blue line. He’s not dependent on rushes and odd-man situations to gather his offense, and is an engine from the blue line for the NTDP in generating offense when he’s on the ice.

He does have some defensive lapses in his own end, specifically with gap control on rushes and spatial awareness in the cycle game that can catch him out of position which generates either great scoring chances or getting beat on the rush (or in this instance...a penalty).

His mobility, offensive acumen, and birthdate give him the edge over the other blueliners in this year’s group for me. His defensive ability, while not consistent, has loads of potential and the tools are there for him to be on a team’s top-pair as well as their PP1 quarterback. Not to mention...he may have a little Trevor Zegras in his game:

4.) Brandt Clarke, RHD, Slovakia (2/9/03)

6’1, 181lbs

26gp, 5g, 15pts

At the start of this draft year I had Clarke as my number one prospect. A lot of the reasons why still hold true. He’s the most dynamic offensive defensemen in this class and at times will look like he’s a fourth forward on the ice the way he contributes in the offensive zone.

His lateral mobility is top-end. He’s able to walk the blue line at an elite level, and his shiftiness on his edges allows for him to generate space with the puck on his stick. I love his creativity and vision, especially in the offensive zone. At the u18s he did a great job of using his feet to exit the zone with control of the puck, which was something that wasn’t always evident in at the beginning of the year.

His defensive ability is better than I thought it would be, and his positioning has gotten better compared to where he was last year.

To me his slide is mostly due to his decision making with the puck on his stick this year and his average pace of play. He’s tried to make impossible passes too much this year, which could be attributed to his transition outside of the OHL to the Slovakian pro league. However, his lack of an above average straight line skating is going to hinder his true offensive upside in the NHL given the type of game he plays. He needs to get a step or two faster in order to really be able to produce like an elite-level offensive defensemen to justify the draft capital of selecting him in the top three. Fortunately, skating is something that with coaching and physical maturity that can be improved.

Tier III: #1 Overall Ceilings but I have Concerns

5.) Fabian Lysell, RW, SHL (1/19/03)

5’10, 168lbs

26gp, 2g, 3pts

You have no idea how bad I wanted to put Lysell at number three on this list. An absolute rocket on the ice who has the best combination of puck skill and speed in this class. Lysell is going to make teams look silly who pass on him if he gets out of the top five of this draft. With the NHL trending towards favoring forwards who play at high pace: Lysell is the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to generating offence off the rush and being able to play at a high-octane pace.

His wrist shot is lethal. It’s quick and deceptive and catches goalies off guard more often than not. He works his tail off in the defensive zone and is positionally sound as a winger and engages in puck battles and will work to get the puck back in the defensive end.

It’s a razor thin margin between Eklund and Lysell for the Sabres and you could argue either of them to me and I’d shrug and say “I love them both.” Lysell is going to have to bulk up as he gets pushed off the puck more than Eklund. He’s playing minimal minutes for his SHL club which explains the low production numbers, but his impact on the ice during those minutes is extremely positive. I like Eklund’s brain a bit more than Lysell which is why I gave him the edge. However, given his combination of speed and skill, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lysell be the best player to come out of this year’s draft.

6.) Owen Power, LHD, NCAA (11/22/02)

6’5, 214lbs

26gp, 3g, 16pts

The consensus number one pick this year falls to number six on my own list. I get it...I may be an outlier. However, when it comes to defensemen I really, REALLY value a defensemen’s ability to defend the blue line and stop controlled entries from happening. Owen Power’s backward mobility is going to be a huge problem if it doesn’t get better as he allows players to walk in on rushes with control far too often.

Another example:

His size is attractive, but he doesn’t use it very effectively in the defensive zone. He can be too cemented in his place, relying too often on his reach and stick checking ability to separate the man from the puck. There are countless examples of him being able to pin a player to the boards and nudge a player in a scissor cycle and he instead opts for a lazy stick check that misses. His pivot to go from backward to forward skating hinders his puck retrieval skills and oftentimes then panics when under pressure. He’ll take the wrong angle to pull a puck off the boards and put himself in precarious situations that against good collegiate teams, and definitely in the NHL, will lead to costly turnovers.

However, with the puck on his stick he is a monster...especially when he gets going with some speed. The Minnesota game before the World Juniors will forever be burned into my memory for Power as Minnesota threw out the three best forecheckers in college hockey at him all game and he just shrugged them aside to make plays.

There is no denying his offensive gift, his physical tools, and the production he was able to have as a defensemen in his draft eligible year playing college hockey. The skating is worrisome for me, and why I don’t see the Victor Hedman comparisons at all.

However, at the end of the day there is no denying his offensive and transition game (when he’s given space) and that with another year in college could do wonders in his development. I struggle mightily to say that his offensive potential is of the caliber of Hughes and Clarke. His power play ability is more from aggression and his shot, not from attacking soft spots in the zone. His vision is good, but he’s not creative like Clarke. His transition and puck-carrying ability is good, but not on the level of Hughes.

His World Championship performance and hype makes him all but a lock for the Sabres at #1. I thought Gallant did a masterful job at putting Power in a position to succeed. At the beginning of the tournament Power was asked to defend the blue line aggressively and he was getting beat wide, even when he did abandoned his backward skating and surfed everyone coming into the zone. As the tournament went on Gallant allowed Power to play at the top of the circle like he did at Michigan, and gave him a forward at the blue line to drive play along the boards where Power could mitigate pressure to the corner. Power was allowed to join any rush he wanted, and was constantly jumping up in the play, Most of all: Troy Stecher was an amazing partner for Power. He was in constant support defensively for him, and put Power in positions to utilize his strengths offensively.

If we let Power keep developing at Michigan next year I think he could warrant the number one pick. I worry about rushing him to the NHL when I don’t think it’s necessarily the right move for him yet.

7.) Dylan Guenther, W, WHL (4/10/03)

6’1, 181lbs

12gp, 12g, 24pts

The sample size is small, and his stock slid after failing to blow the AJHL roof off in his four game stint to start the year, but there is no ignoring the absolutely scorching pace Guenther had in his abbreviated WHL season. He’s failed to score less than two points in a game just once, and has scored two goals in four of his first six games to start the season.

He’s more of a passenger in transition with good top end speed but lacks high end three-step agility. He’s a great playmaker with the puck on his stick and possesses a very, very good slap shot as well. He’s been an elite level point producer the past few years in all levels of hockey he’s played.

An exceptional playmaker with a deadly shot with size, very good top end speed, and playing in the CHL? It would shock me if Guenther isn’t a top 5 pick in the NHL draft.

If his transition game was a bit stronger and I felt like he’d be able to drive a line in transition like the three forwards I have ranked above him then I think we’re talking about a potential second or third ranked player on my board.

Tier IV: High Ceilings: Lower Floors

8.) Aatu Raty, C, Liiga (11/14/02)

6’1, 181 lbs

35gp, 3g, 6pts

Raty was once considered the frontrunner for the number one pick in the 2021 draft and has seen his stock slip mightily since the start of the year. He plays a very strong defensive game, and is an explosive skater with boatloads of puck skill to go with it. The question is: why doesn’t it translate?

Scouch does a great explanation of Raty in the link on his name, and to add to his analysis Raty has always been a “man without a plan” when he has the puck. He has the ability to go evade the layers of a defense but oftentimes does it in a way that leads him into areas where he’s backed into a corner without any real options.

He can be extremely frustrating in the offensive zone because he’s just not moving the puck to areas of the ice that would dramatically improve his production. However, after being snubbed from the u20 team for Finland he did come out playing much better than before the tournament. He’s a project, his defensive game is there for a center, and he has the skills. I’d rather someone else take him than the Sabres in the top 3, but patience with him could yield fruitful results from the young Finnish forward.

9.) Simon Edvinsson, LHD, HockeyAllsvenskan (2/5/03)

6’5, 203lbs

14gp, 0g, 5pts

First, I’d encourage you to read Sam Happi’s breakdown on Edvinsson because it’s the premier comprehensive breakdown of Edvinsson and I largely agree with everything Happi says. Edvinsson is a big, extremely mobile defender who excels at shutting plays down at the defensive blue line with his size and mobility.

He excels with the puck on his stick when exiting the zone. His puck skill, size, and mobility make him a fun watch when he’s on his game at generating rushes. When he activates off the blue line he can be a dynamic offensive defensemen as well.

However, Edvinsson reminds me of a more athletic and less nasty version of Ristolainen. His biggest weakness, and it’s a glaring weakness, is his inability to be able to generate transition under pressure and through his passes. His passing is erratic and oftentimes fails to be able to generate simple breakout plays. When under duress he lacks the ability to find teammates. For me, that is one the most important traits for a defensemen to have in the draft process. Not having it means, despite shutting play down in defensively, he just gives it back for the opposing team to regroup and come right back at them. Furthermore, it keeps the forwards playing in their own end much longer than needed and hinders offensive leaning forwards from being able to use their own strengths.

While there are some raw tools here that are certainly attractive (size, skating, defensive zone entry defense, offense when moving up off the blue line or transitioning with the puck on his stick) the lack of passing transition ability puts Edvinsson as a back end of the top 10 pick for me.

10.)  Kent Johnson, LW, NCAA (10/18/02

6’1, 165 lbs

26gp, 9g, 27pts

Kent Johnson is a wizard. He is a human highlight reel. His puck skills are out of this world good. Give him some space and he’s going to make you look silly.

His straight line speed has been a bit of a concern for me this year, though. He doesn’t separate very well and I’d say he’s an average straight line skater. His edges are top end though, and once he gets the puck on his stick he is extremely slippery weaving through the defense. His shot is fine, but he prefers to be a playmaker when he’s on the ice.

I had Johnson at #2 when I started the year because his skill is other-worldly. He’s just got to either get better at separating to give himself the space he needs to pick apart a defense, or he’s going to have to simplify his play a bit to make up for his lack of speed. His skill is tops in this class, but his decision making can leave you shaking your head screaming at the computer screen to just make the simple play.  Too often he holds onto pucks trying to use his insane hands to make the impossible play only to turn it over.

He’s the most fun player to watch in this draft, there’s no doubt about that, but so much of what makes you drool over him also makes you question whether or not some/most of what he tries to do will translate to the NHL.

11.) Jesper Wallstedt, G, SHL (11/14/02)

6’3, 214lbs

22gp, 2.23 GAA, .908 SV%, 2 shutouts

I am breaking my own rules and putting a goalie as a potential lottery selection. For a team that has struggled to get any sort of competent and consistent goaltending the past two years...this one makes too much sense. Wallstedt plays a very technical and fluid game. He isn’t as athletic as 2019 elite goaltending prospect Yaroslav Askarov in the net, but you don’t watch him and see the glaring technical mistakes either.

He’s big, agile, and doesn’t seem to have any sort of weakness when looking to beat him. Getting a Vezina caliber prospect and one of the surest bets to be at least a very good NHL talent in this draft class when there’s so much uncertainty of ceiling after Beniers (to me at least) makes the most sense if Beniers isn’t available. Wallstedt looked to be the better goalie in the World Juniors for Sweden despite playing the backup role, and has the potential to put up a .930 save percentage in the SHL as soon as next year. He’s not very far off from being an NHL goalie.

I will take time to address the counter arguments of drafting Wallstedt. First, I know we have Portillo and UPL in the pipeline. However, neither show the promise or development that Wallstedt does. Having assets to move for other pieces is never a bad thing. Second, there are a few good goalie prospects in this draft that could be had with mid-round picks or even some Russian goalies I’m a big fan of that I imagine will be available in the late rounds. Lastly, goalies are enigmas. There are few scouts doing quality public scouting of goalies, there isn’t much data (outside of Josh Tessler at Smaht Scouting) about goalies to base decisions on, and the rise and fall of goalies are quick and unexpected. To further this point: at one time Wallstedt was hovering at a .930 goalie in the SHL as a draft eligible (never been done before) and had some clunkers to end the year...especially the last two games where he gave up four goals on fifteen shots and five goals on twenty four shots.

In a draft where I see glaring holes in many of the other prospects...Wallstedt stands with Beniers/Eklund as the only prospects I feel confident about. Rules are meant to be broken, and I wouldn’t mind the Sabres breaking one of my own cardinal rules of drafting and taking Wallstedt with the number one pick.

12.) Fyodor Svechkov, C/LW, VHL (4/5/03)

6’0, 179 lbs

38gp, 5g, 15pts

Svechkov is an exceptional transition player and an excellent defensive player as well. Oftentimes playing center he was a driving force in trying to generate transition and an excellent puck supporter in offensive and defensive situations.

I encourage you to watch Scouch’s video breakdown of Svechkov in the link above because it’s imperative to note that his VHL team is really bad. You’ll read that he’s just a “defensive player” but that just isn’t the case when you watch him play. He does A LOT of positive things in transition and the offensive end but his team is so bad it’s hard to really know where his true offensive potential lies at that VHL level.

I love his transition game, he’s got very good speed and pace, and he’s rock sold in his own end. I see the tools for a dynamic offensive talent and possible top six upside.

In the u18s it really drove home the point that there is more to Svechkov’s offensive ability than what counting stats in the VHL would suggest. He was their most dynamic forward on both ends of the ice and ended the tournament with 4 goals, 10 points in 7 games played.

13.) Mason McTavish, C, SL (1/30/03)

6’1, 172 lbs

13gp, 9g, 11pts

I’ve done a 180 on Mason McTavish since the pre-u18 Draft Guide. I had plenty of notes from his DY-1 which I thought McTavish was more in the vein of a JJ Peterka type of player (still valuable!) where he was a bit of a passenger in transition, looked for his shot, and used his frame to physically separate players from pucks.  Still, he was going to be dependent on linemates to facilitate play in transition and the offensive zone. The u18s showed just how wrong I was.

The u18s showed a player that had improved tremendously since I last saw him play. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his game that improved was his small area skill and vision. He was able to manipulate the puck in all areas of the ice and find teammates in the offensive zone, which is an aspect of his game that was not there last year. His shot is still very good, and his skating jumped up from a weakness in his game to NHL level average.

He protects the puck extremely well in the offensive zone, he battles hard in the defensive zone, and has shown he’s developed a well-rounded offensive game that projects to the NHL level.

Not afraid to say that I was wrong labelling him a “grip-it-and-rip-it” prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see McTavish end up in the top 10 to say the least.

14.) Logan Stankoven, F, WHL (2/26/03)

5’8, 170 lbs

6gp, 7g, 10pts

Every year I fall in love with at least one undersized forward: this year it’s Logan Stankoven. Stankoven has been hilariously good since the WHL resumed. He’s dominating games to the tune that I can’t believe he’s not a three point a game player in those six games he’s played. He’s deceptively quick with a high-end motor that mitigates not being an elite skater, an amazing facilitator and a driver of transition and possesses one of the five best shots in this class.

It should be a no-brainer for the Sabres’ brass to run to the podium to take Stankoven if he falls into the second round as there really hasn’t been a weakness to his game that I’ve seen over his stint in the WHL or the u18s. He’s a small player and that will hurt his draft stock, but there isn’t an area to his game that his size really is a detriment to him producing or projecting to the NHL.

If there is an area of weakness it’s his end-to-end puck rush ability. He can be caught from behind more than you’d like to see in transition, but his brain is elite. He should have no problem with utilizing his vision, hands, and small area playmaking skill to continue to drive play in higher levels of play.

15.) Mackie Samoskevich, RW/C, USHL (11/15/02)

5’11, 190 lbs

35gp, 13g, 37pts

The link attached on Samoskevich’s name is a must-read by Mitch Brown (seriously if you’re not paying EPRinkside I can’t recommend them enough) and should be the start and end of this write-up. Stankoven and Samoskevich are two prospects that I will be pounding the drum for if they end up available for the Sabres at the start of the second round.

If you watched any of the Biosteel All American game your first thought leaving that game should’ve been that Samoskevich is better than any player that was on the ice during that game. His puck handling is, in my opinion, the second best in this class after Kent Johnson. However, add in his speed and just how easy he makes complicated plays and he’s my favorite player in this draft. His numbers don’t hold a candle to Coronato in the counting stats, but Samoskevich is just so dangerous whenever he’s on the ice as on offensive threat that he can facilitate an entire sequence of dangerous chances by himself.

More than I count on two hands he’s made me gasp, stand up out of a chair, or just shake my head and wonder how he can do the things he does. He’s fantastic in transition, makes amazing reads in the offensive end, and drives his line. If the Sabres broke one of my rules about trading up in the draft...I’d be secretly hoping it would be to take Samoskevich.

16.) Simon Robertsson, RW, SHL (2/5/03)

6’0, 183 lbs

22gp, 1g, 2pts

His lack of opportunity in the SHL should see him slide down the draft board longer than I’d expect him to based on his skill and how he actually plays. He’s a speedy, energy RW with enough skill to do things with the puck on his own stick and possesses a nasty shot to beat goalies clean from distance. He’s similar to Peterka in that he’s a utility prospect: someone who possesses the skill set that can translate into a top-6 scoring role while also having the same physical engagement and defensive responsibility to excel in the bottom 6.

When Robertsson is on the ice the puck is going to move into the dangerous parts of the ice. He moves himself into the high-medium dangers of the ice to take his shot and he is constantly looking to move the puck to a teammate in prime scoring areas as well.

The depth of the Sabres prospect pool is lacking on the right wing, and it’s a (slim) possibility that the Swedish winger falls to the early second round. If it happens: sprint to the podium to take Robertsson.

17.)  Matthew Coronato, LW, USHL (11/14/02)

5’10, 181 lbs

49gp, 46g, 82pts

I’m a big Coronato fan. One of the reasons why is just the way he’s able to operate around the ice and maximize the skillset he has to have the production and success he has had with the Chicago Steel. He is a very smart player with his limitations, oftentimes using the middle of the ice to enter the offensive zone to push his way into medium-high danger areas to maximize the success of his shot. He’s a great playmaker, and he lives off a really high compete level and never afraid to take a shot.

He shoots A LOT from low danger areas of the ice, and while he attempts a lot of zone entries...he’s not very creative at making anything happen if gains the zone and his rush lane is taken away. He’s not the fastest paced player in this draft, and these reasons listed are why I’m more bullish on Samoskevich than Coronato.

However, I see a really good, smart player who knows how to produce and maximize his strengths. He always finds a way to produce no matter the situation.

18.)  Chaz Lucius, W, USNTDP (5/2/03)

6’0, 172 lbs

13gp, 13g, 20pts

Lucius missed a majority of the NTDP season, but came back looking like his old self as he wasted no time starting to light the lamp for US when returned. A prolific goal scorer whose ability to set up his own shot in the offensive zone is unparralled in this draft class. While the assists haven’t materialized for him; he’s shown great vision at trying to find teammates in the dangerous areas of the ice. He has enough puck skill to manipulate through layers in the offensive zone and isn’t dependent on a linemate to find him to get off his shot.

However, his lack of explosiveness hurts his 200 foot game and he isn’t great as a puck facilitator up the ice oftentimes deferring to his line mates to exit/enter the zone. Heading to the University of Minnesota in the fall he’ll have ample opportunity to get big minutes as a lot of their forward class have graduated or moved on to signing their NHL contracts.

Tier V: Mid-Late First Round Picks

19.) Scott Morrow, RHD, USHS-Prep (11/1/02)

6’2, 192 lbs

24gp, 6g, 33pts

Rarely does someone tweet a highlight video that makes me drop everything I’m doing and go research a player or find film on a player. Will Scouch tweeted a video last year of Morrow and I ran to my computer to put on HockeyTV. Continue that to this year and it’s almost an irrational love for Scott Morrow.

I’ll start with the risk: he’s playing high school hockey and it’s impossible to project what he’s doing against good 18U AAA players to the NHL. However, the skill on Morrow is what is jaw dropping.

He’s a fantastic puck handler, is so creative in his playmaking, and is an extremely mobile offensive defensemen. While his defensive positioning can be labeled as a question mark: I think a lot of that is due to the fact that he’s able to make up for any mistakes at this level with his talent. In the USHL playoffs I found that his defensive concerns weren’t as glaring as they were in high school, and he went from minimal ice time in his first game to cementing his place in the top 4 in the championship series against the Chicago Steel.

I would argue that he has one of the highest, if not the highest, offensive ceiling for the defensemen in this class. His skill pops off the screen regardless of competition. However, you can’t ignore the risk taking a player that so clearly should’ve been playing at a higher level of competition during his draft year. Going to UMass next year...let’s take a shot at one of the most exciting players in the draft.

20.) Isak Rosen, W, SHL (3/15/03)

5’10, 154 lbs

22gp, 0g, 1pt

Isak Rosen does four things very well:

1.) Gets to the high-medium danger areas of the ice to take his shot or to make his pass. He understands where the puck should go, and gets the puck there to shoot it or for his teammates to shoot it.

2.) He is able to control a game with the puck on his stick. A team can definitely run their offense through Rosen.

3.) Very good off the puck, which has helped him find space to get his shot and allowed for him to make quick decisions once receiving the pass.

4.) He’s a blur on the screen. His skating is high-end and as the NHL becomes more and more about pace of play and being able to make plays at a top-end speed his strengths are going to fit the modern NHL.

His faults almost all lie with him being too weak physically to really compete in board battles and when defenders lean on him. He’s a project, but he does all the little things right.

21.) Cole Sillinger, LW, USHL (5/16/03)

6’0, 187 lbs

31gp, 24g, 46pts

The other premier goal scorer in this class with Lucius and Stankoven: Sillinger can beat a goalie with any of his arsenal of shots. He is a very good manipulator of space and can manage his way around the offensive zone in the USHL with ease. Similar to Lucius as well: his lack of straight line speed hurts him in his transition game and rush lanes he currently uses in the USHL will be taken away without an improvement in speed. However, it’s certainly not from lack of effort as Sillinger will make you work to keep him from getting the puck on the forecheck and he’s certainly not afraid to throw a hit. He’s dropped in my rankings mostly because I find him to be a bit too reliant on a “shoot first, shoot second” type of offensive zone game. I’d like to see him use his skill to create better chances rather than to just default to ripping low danger shots.

Take Sillinger with the idea that he’s going to sit on your left wing and rip goals while giving you a consistent effort in all areas of the ice.

22.) Oskar Olausson, W, SHL (11/10/02)

6’2, 181 lbs

16gp, 3g, 4pts

Olausson was a mid-round pick for me coming into the year but exploded in the J20 league in Sweden and earned a call-up to the SHL club and now has earned a discussion about being a mid-first round selection. He plays a pretty simple game that is based on his speed and his above average shot. He’s very good with the puck on his stick at gaining the zone as well as a very good rush shot generator. His passing vision can be a bit too simplistic and he can be late making reads as well as sometimes struggles at making plays under pressure and not turning the puck over.

However, even if he plays a simple N/S game with his motor and shot he is still a very projectable forward and worth a mid-1st round grade. There’s no denying his speed, puck skill, and his carry-in transition game. If he becomes more consistent manipulating the layers of the defense in the offensive zone and can expand his passing skill he could be a steal in the making.

If a team doesn’t want to overthink a mid-late first round pick I’d tell that team to take Olausson: you know what you’re getting and he’s pretty darn good at it already.

23.)  Zachary L’Heureux, LW, QMJHL (5/13/03)

5’11, 196 lbs

33gp, 19g, 39pts

Oh boy what to say about Mr. L’Heureux? He was suspended four times in the QMJHL for his questionable antics, his effort can be downright pathetic at times, but when he’s on his game he’s a deft playmaker who throws his weight around and creates chaos.

The good of L’Heureux: a skilled playmaker who can puck handle really well (albeit inconsistently), will battle in the medium-high danger areas of the ice, a good shot below the circles, and who (when he decided to) can really move around the ice as well. He’s an agitator who will be the sandpaper for a team in their middle six and also have the skill to be not be a negative impact on the ice.

The bad: consistency in effort, breakdowns in his forward stride mechanics, and he’s a hot head who crosses the line FAR too often.

On his best days I thought about him as a top 15 pick (like the mid-season ranks). But recently I just don’t know if he’ll ever put it all together to make the leap. As Will Scouch often says: bet on the player at their best in the NHL draft. But L’Heureux has a lot of red flags coming with him.

24.) Dylan Duke, C, USNTDP (3/4/03)

5’10, 181 lbs

50gp, 29g, 49pts

When I’ve tracked the USNTDP this year Dylan Duke is a player that I find is always in the mix of plays that I’m bookmarking that I like. Whether it’s engagement in a puck battle, a zone transition, or creating/finishing a play set up by someone on the Pastujov/Wilmer line....He’s. Always. Doing. Something. Positive.

He’s a player in the same archetype of Beniers: he’s always around the puck in support, he’s got skill to transition the puck, and he’s making plays that often go unnoticed but end up piling on the scoresheet at the end of the night. He doesn’t have nearly the puck skill, vision, or offensive ability of Beniers....but I definitely see a middle six player who will be a positive impact on the ice regardless if it’s at center or the wing. Heading to the University of Michigan in 2022-23 he’ll most likely spend another year at the USHL level where I expect him to put up tremendous numbers.

25.)  Brennan Othmann, LW, SL (1/5/03)

5’11, 165 lbs

34gp, 7g, 16pts

Othmann is someone I watched play in the u18s and my old-man brain instantly said “Oh he’s a grip-it-and-rip-it, sandpaper middle-six player that always seems to go in the mid-late first round.” He doesn’t have the puck skill or vision to project to driving a line, but rather is would fit really well in that complimentary role in the middle six where he defers to his other linemates to transport the puck up the ice, and he’ll either rip it if it’s a controlled entry or go try to put someone through the glass on the forecheck.

He plays with a lot of pace to his game and looks to be a good middle-six energy role type of player that could excel in the bottom six of an NHL club

26.)  Nikita Chibrikov, C/W, VHL

5’10, 161 lbs

20gm, 3g, 8pts

If you click on the link of Josh Tessler’s scouting report you’ll find two scouts saying the same thing about Chibrikov and it’s an opinion that I share as well: if you like Amirov from last year’s draft you should be clamoring for Chibrikov in 2021.

He’s at his best when he’s utilizing his speed and his puck handling ability to drive play. He’s a hound for the net and you can find him parked there more often than not. He does go missing for large stretches of the game though, and that is why he’s not ranked nearly as high as I had Amirov last year. However, a smart, good in transition playmaking wing is something that all teams should be attractive for all NHL teams. If the Russian factor has him slip into the early second round he’d be a fantastic pick-up for the Sabres.

27.)  Carson Lambos, LHD, u20 SM-Sarja/WHL (1/14/03)

6’1, 201 lbs

13gp, 2g, 11 pts

Lambos is a big bodied, agile defender who is very good in his own zone and in transition as well. He is a very mobile player and can move the puck up the ice with both his feet and with a pass. He falls down my list because I think his offensive upside isn’t ever going to materialize as he develops to warrant anything more than a good second pairing defenseman 5v5. He doesn’t have much puck skill and isn’t creative when activating off the blue line. When he’s able to blow by an oncoming forward in the offensive zone he’s able to release a nice shot or dish a nice pass to make something happen.

However, there is not much creativity to get around pressure in the offensive zone. If he becomes an elite shutdown defender or if he can move through the layers of the offensive zone better then I think he could move into the conversation of becoming a lottery selection, but my own draft philosophy values extreme offensive upside over strong defensive defensemen as I think I can find a similar player in his archetype post round one.

Tier VI: Late First/Early Second Round Picks

28.) Sebastian Cossa, G, WHL (6’6, 11/21/02)

6’6, 212 lbs

19gp, .941 SV%, 1.57 GAA

Cossa has most likely played himself into the first round of this year’s draft with his statistical profile and track record of elite goaltending numbers in the WHL. I’m not one who knows much about the technical skills of goalies, but unless we’re willing to trade up from 33 to land him I can’t see him being a realistic option for the Sabres. If he falls to the second round, Ullmark isn’t signed and we passed on Wallstedt...I think he’s the clear #2 goalie in this draft and it would be a great pick.

29.) Stanislav Svozil, LHD, Czech (1/17/03)

6’1, 172 lbs

30gp, 1g, 3pts

Svozil is a very good defensive-defenseman playing well and holding his own playing against men in the Czech. His mobility and defensive smarts are very attractive and he is rarely caught out of position in the d-zone. He makes quick decisions exiting the zone and uses his very good passing ability to generate his transition game. He can rush his decision making which leads to safe clears or off-the-glass exits when a little patience would’ve yielded a controlled exit.

In my viewings during the u18s and u20s he didn’t show much that says there’s any high-end offensive ability in his game. However, there are moments when he gets aggressive activating from the blue line that made me make the note that if there is’s going to be less about skill and more about the willingness to jump into the attack. You draft Svozil with the plan being that he’s going to slot into a strong 5v5 defender, and any offense that is able to be developed from him is an added bonus.

30.) Xavier Bourgault, RW, QMJHL (10/22/02)

6’0, 172 lbs

29gp, 20g, 40pts

I just like watching Bourgault play. He plays with pace, has been really impressive the last two years playing with Mavrik Bourque, and has a knack for putting the puck in the back of the net. He can go missing for stretches in a game, but he oozes potential and is an exciting player to watch.

One of the things many scouts in the Scouching Discord have said is that he is someone who almost needs a Mavrik Bourque on his line to have value, but as one scout said “Bourgault is one of the best complimentary players in the draft. He is playing the exact role I’d want him playing at the next level.”

31.) Ville Koivunen, F, U20 SM-sarja (6/13/03)

6’0, 165 lbs

38gp, 23g, 49pts

The just crowned Rookie of the Year in the Finnish Junior league not only put up points but also was the runaway king of the xGF/xGA Finnish draft eligibles as well:

Koivunen is an extremely smart player who is constantly getting pucks to the dangerous parts of the ice. He is a very good playmaker with a good shot as well and is extremely creative in his rush lanes. He’s able to transition the puck well and can be a driver of a line at the U20 level in Finland. He’s currently ranks 91st in Bob McKenzie’s rankings and is one of the frontrunners for me for the Sabres to take at the Boston pick.

Tier VII: Early Second Round Picks

33.)  Sasha Pastujov, LW, USNTDP (7/15/03)

6’0, 174

41gp, 30g, 65pts

I have soured on Mr. Pastujov as the season as worn on, and that’s still with him winning the MVP of the Biosteel All American game. Let’s start with Pastujov’s strengths: he’s very good in the offensive zone at being able to move the puck around to teammates and will look often to the dangerous areas of the ice to find a teammate. He’s got a very good shot and will play in the dirty areas of the ice to score goals as well.

There are three troubling things with Pastujov’s game though that I can’t get over:

1.) His mobility isn’t very good even at the USHL level. He prefers to play the game at a slow pace and struggles to beat defenders wide on the rush.

2.) He shoots too much from low danger areas of the ice. While his goal total is high; he is not very efficient with his shot selection and struggles to get to the dangerous areas of the ice by himself.

3.) He’s just not that good in transition. His slower pace makes it hard for him to have controlled entries with the puck on his stick and he is oft to make poor passing decisions that lead to turnovers in both entries and exits in transition.

If he’s able to play at a higher pace and move to dangerous areas of the ice he moves up into the Lucius/Sillinger tier of a player who is deadly in the offensive zone but not a driver of the bus on a line. However, he’s had a healthy sample size over the course of this year and I just don’t see that type of upside from him currently.  If a team realizes his weaknesses I think he could slot in the middle six as the primary scoring option for a good team.

34.) Brent Johnson, RHD, USHL (3/20/03)

5’11, 165 lbs

47gp, 11g, 32pts

He’s a smooth skating, defensive machine who defends the blue line better than most defenders I’ve tracked this year in the 2021 draft. While he has a gaudy point and goal total for the USHL: he has really excelled in the defensive game and activating from the blue line to move into the zone and then pass to teammates in the dangerous areas of the offensive zone.

I like him a lot in transition when he makes the first pass, and has shown skill to be a carry-in/out type of transition player as well. He will sometimes skate himself into trouble when he’s puck carrying a transition though and turn the puck over more than I’d like.

If you’re going to chase a defensive-defenseman who has some offensive potential: he’s the perfect reason to pass on a Carson Lambos or a Daniil Chayka and scoop up Johnson in the late second/third round and get the same archetype with less draft capital.

35.) Jack Peart, LHD, USHL (5/15/04)

5’11, 185 lbs

22gp, 1g, 14 pts

2021’s Mr. Hockey in Minnesota: Peart has done nothing but impress during his draft eligible year. One of the more creative passers from the back-end in this class; Peart excels as a puck mover at getting the puck up the ice and has amazing vision from the blue line to hit teammates in scoring areas of the ice to generate offense as well.

He’s a mobile skater with good gap control defensively. He’s not afraid to take a little contact to retrieve a puck and makes very good, smart decision with the puck once it’s on his stick to move the puck up the ice. A bit undersized as a defensemen; he uses his positioning and stick well to defend against larger opponents but will have to bulk up as he moves to the NCAA to deal with the more physical play.

I value transition and he is one of the best at it in this part of the draft. His USHL playoff run he showed that he was the best defender on the ice in the USHL, and topped it off with 2 goals and 7 points in 9 playoff games.

Heading to St. Cloud State next year he’s going to really thrive from the backend if he’s able to translate his vision and transition skills to the NCAA level.

36.)  Sean Tschigerl, LW, WHL (4/11/03)

6’0, 181 lbs

21gp, 13g, 21pts

This is just going to end up being a fact: Sean Tschigerl will be drafted by me in this draft for the Sabres. That I am 100% certain. I know I’m on a bit of an island with Tschigerl compared to most ranking sites and the NHLCSS. Let me explain.

Tschigerl came into the WHL as the #4 pick in 2018 and really struggled to find a role for himself.  In the 2019-20 season if you watched Tschigerl you’d see a powerful skating, physical LW who played a 200ft game who flashed skill but really didn’t find a way to translate his skill into meaningful production or transition ability.

After a slow start this year: Tschigerl began to put it all together and took off. He was one of the highest involved players in offensive zone transitions that I tracked. He put a ton of pucks into dangerous areas with his passes. He was relentless in his scoring efforts and was rewarded with 13 goals in 21 games. Combine that with the 200ft game that he put together for himself last year and he has started to really round out into a complete player. There are still things to improve on. He can be a bit of a “man-without-a-plan” when he gains the zone and find himself not manipulating the defense but rather running into trouble and trying to bail himself out with a low danger shot or an errant pass to a high-danger area. He has bobbled more than his fair share of pucks.

Alas, one of the biggest growth areas for me this year as I dig into prospect hockey is to look more at development and what a player can be as opposed to just what they are at the moment. Jack Han talks about it in his four aspects of scouting. Ryan Hardy tweeted about it after the 2020 draft. When I look at Tschigerl I’m not drafting him for the player he is right now, but rather looking at the development curve, seeing his pedigree really coming into form, and knowing there are tools that he possesses that he’s still scratching the surface with (his skill+pace, shooting ability, connecting more on his dangerous pass attempts).

As a potential 3rd-4th round pick it’s a pretty low-risk gamble regardless, but he’s a player that I’d be shocked if he didn’t severely outperform his current draft stock.

37.)  Ryder Korczak, C, WHL (9/23/02)

5’10, 159 lbs

11gp, 3g, 13pts

An undersized, thin playmaker who was the engine of his line in Moosejaw the past two years and was a great supporter of the puck in the defensive zone. He’s super slippery and has been one of his team’s best players since his DY-1 year.  I think he’s going under appreciated in the public sphere and should be a borderline first round pick as he exhibits the ability to manipulate layers in the offensive zone, has tremendous passing vision, and plays with a nice pace to his game that should translate to the next level.

38.)  Francesco Pinelli, C, AlpsHL (4/11/03)

6’0, 176 lbs

13gp, 5g, 11pts

Pinelli is a deft playmaker who uses the ice exceptionally well to create space and his off-the-puck game is pretty high end as well as he’s able to put himself into spaces that make him available for teammates to find for scoring chances and outlets.

I thought he played well in the u18s (7gp, 4g, 11pts) and it was the first time I was able to see him play this year. He continues to play at a lower pace than I wanted him to play at, and Canada was utterly dominant in the tournament to really gauge him against his peers, but he’s intriguing enough that if he were to be the Sabres pick early in the second round there’d be reason for optimism.

39.)  Samu Tuomaala, W, U20 SM-sarja (1/8/03)

5’10, 165 lbs

30gp, 15g, 31pts

Tuomaala is a player that I normally fall in love with. Smaller, boatloads of skill, and just an absolute rocket on the ice. While the skill and speed are something that should have Tuomaala being talked about as a first round pick: I am going to be conservative with his projection.

For one his defensive game is nearly non-existent. Secondly though...he takes a lot of bad shots. Tuomaala has predicated his entire game around just peppering the U20 league’s goalies with as many shots as possible, and most of them are from low danger areas of the ice. Can this be developed and taught? Sure! Tuomaala in the late second round or later would be exciting for me, but I’d stay away from our first two picks.

40.) Corson Ceulemans, RHD, AJHL (5/5/03)

6’2, 196 lbs

8gp, 4g, 11pts

Ceulemans is one of this draft’s biggest enigmas for me. I am on both ends of the spectrum with Ceulemans. On one hand: he’s a great skater, defended the blue line well in the AJHL (not so much in the u18s), and has an offensive acumen to his game that could propel him to the mid-first round. He’s also not afraid to throw a big open ice hit. There’s a lot to like.

On the other hand: it’s the AJHL and he makes some real bonehead plays, it’s the AJHL and it’s non-stop power plays, and he’s really only put up a few goals and some secondary assists since the AJHL restarted despite Brooks Bandit scoring no fewer than 5 goals in a game the entire time.

I end here because he doesn’t show too much creativity as a carry-in/out defender and defers to passing for transition, and besides his great shot when he activates from the blue line I’m not sure his offensive translates to the NHL.

41.) William Stromgren, LW, HockeyAllsvenskan (6/7/03)

6’2, 161 lbs

27gp, 3g, 9pts

Stromgren’s range of outcomes as a prospect are among the widest in the entire draft. He has the upside to be a top-six LW who can be an engine in the offensive zone and a positive player in transition, or he could never find a motor to get going and fizzle out in the SHL and never see North American hockey. He has dazzling puck skill, can make ridiculous passes, and when he’s motivated, can show a fine ability to get up and down the ice. The problem is that there are times he shows no effort in the defensive zone, needs the big ice to make a play, and plays with no pace.

If you’re a strikeout or homerun type of drafter then Stromgren fits your bill. There could be a legit top 15 player from this draft in his skillset. When he was on in the u18s I thought he looked like Sweden’s best player at times, but it’s not nearly consistent enough throughout this season to bet entirely on him at his best.

42.) Olen Zellweger, LHD, WHL (9/10/03)

5’10, 174 lbs

11gp, 2g, 13pts

Zellweger was one of the biggest bright spots and the largest riser for me from the u18s. I thought he played an outstanding u18s for Canada and was one of their best defenders in the tournament. Josh Mallory does a fantastic breakdown of his game in the link above.

As one of the youngest draft eligible skaters in the entire draft as well it should come with no surprise that Zellweger should be one of the targets for the Sabres in the second round. He’s oft listed at either 5’9/5’10 and doesn’t play a real physical brand of defense, but his skating/gap-control/offensive ability/transition ability all scream to be a potential steal.

43.)  Daniil Chayka, LHD, KHL (10/22/02)

6’3, 185 lbs

11gp, 1g, 2pts

I’m really hoping that if we pick Chayka it’s in the third round, because Daniil Chayka falls into the same line of thinking when we took Ryan Johnson and Mattias Samuelsson. He’s a very good defensive-defenseman who uses his size, reach and mobility to break up plays once they enter the defensive blue line and who looks to make simple break out passes to get pucks out into transition. There’s at least a modicum of offensive upside with Lambos, but with Chayka you’re going to get a very good, stay-at-home defender who you can project to playing in your bottom four in the NHL.

While it’s not a sexy pick if it happens: it is a safe bet. If the Sabres were to use the second round pick on him then I would hope they would be looking to swing for the fences with the remaining picks in the top 96.

Tier VIII: Late Second/Third Round Picks

44.) Artyom Grushnikov, LHD, OHL (3/20/03)

6’2, 174 lbs

0gp, 0g, 0pts

This is going back to last season to really get a handle on what Grushnikov can really be. An ‘A’ rated player by Central Scouting: at his best he was one of the better DY-1 defensive defensemen that I made notes for for the 2021 draft and he’s very rarely talked about in the top 64 of this year’s draft. It’s nearly impossible to really say where he is developmentally, but from a pure “I really liked him as a possible second round defensive defensemen” standpoint...I’m willing to gamble that that part of his game is still high-end and that he can round out the offensive transition game.

45.) Tyler Boucher, F, USNTDP (1/16/03)

6’1, 201 lbs

12gp, 6g, 11pts

He’s been playing on the wing in the USNTDP in a net-front, grinder type of role in the top 9. His speed jumps off the screen when you watch him play, and he’s one who will create chaos in the forecheck with his physicality and motor.

While his skill isn’t high-end he does have enough puck skill to make things happen and his wrist shot is pretty good in the medium/high danger areas of the ice. I think his speed and motor could make him a very good complimentary piece in a bottom six role. Heading to BU next year, it’ll be fun to track his progression in the NCAA.

46.) Aleksi Heimosalmi, RHD, U20 SM-sarja

5’11, 154 lbs

35gp, 4g, 21pts

Shout out to Josh Tessler for putting this player on my radar who then went on to have an outstanding u18s. He’s a strong defender in his own zone and moves the puck extremely well in defensive zone exits. I love how mobile he is and how he creates space to make sure he is able to find outlets instead of panic passing off the boards and out. I don’t see much in terms of projecting to the power play, but he does have the mobility to activate off the blue line 5v5.  His end-to-end rushes in the u18s were highlight reel worthy.

47.) Shai Buium, LHD, USHL (3/26/03)

6’4, 214 lbs

50gp, 4g, 26pts

Buium jumped off the screen during the Biosteel All American game, couple that with his size and his skating ability he could be a player that sky rockets up draft boards in the upcoming month before the draft.

The first thing that really pops at you when watching Buium is his mobility for such a big player. He keeps a good gap but can give up too much space that will need to be corrected when he goes to the University of Denver next year. He’s often able to mitigate any controlled entry with his mobility and reach though. He has an above average grade from me with puck skill and when given space he is dangerous in transition. His data set is inconsistent though. If his passing completion percentage was higher in the three games I tracked and if he was able to generate a few more controlled exits I think he’d be moving into the late second/early third round tier for me. But there are serious flashes of skill, so if we were to take him as early as the Boston pick I’d 100% be game for it.

48.) Zach Dean, C, QMJHL (1/4/03)

6’0, 176 lbs

23gp, 10g, 20pts

From an offensive skill level standpoint there’s a lot to like about Zach Dean. He’s a very smart and creative puck mover who is able to create rush lanes and improvise in areas that a lot of prospects aren’t. He’s got good puck skill, vision, and his shot isn’t elite but it’s passable. He works hard, but a lot of what I’m hesitant with him on is that he’s not a small area player AND he is not a very good skater.

When he’s able to get going on a rush there’s definite potential, but in the small areas of the ice he can’t escape pressure with his feet, doesn’t create even enough space for himself to find support or create at a high level in either zone, and panics too much for my liking. He’s not offering much in the defensive zone or transition game either, so for an offensive leaning forward...I won’t be hopping on the Zach Dean hype train.

49.) Tristan Broz, F, USHL (10/10/02)

6’0, 179 lbs

52gp, 19g, 51pts

In my viewings early in the year I thought Broz was a fine USHL player but didn’t really see how his offensive game was going to translate to the NHL. A group of scouts recently have really been sharing highlights of Broz so I went back to watch a game and I feel like this ranking doesn’t do him justice. This is a prospect I think I’ve gotten wrong at the moment, but alas, I’ll keep him here.

Very good transporter of the puck who was constantly throwing the puck to the dangerous parts of the ice in the last game I watched. His mobility is good but he’s not a blazer. He’s fluid on his edges and can manipulate around defenders in tight areas. Above all...Mitch Brown of EP’s tracking data made me gasp it was so good:

I wasnt’ too impressed with him watching the USHL playoffs and especially in the championship series against Chicago. While the skill definitely pops off the screen: he played too much on the perimeter and was a non-factor for much of the series.

50.) Jake Martin, RHD, USNTDP (3/18/03)

6’0, 190 lbs

39gp, 4g, 14pts

As Mitch Brown says in his EP article: Jake Martin is this year’s USNTDP unheralded prospect. He is a fantastic defensive-defensemen and is really good in transition as well. He defends both blues lines exceptionally well, is really good in transition, and breaks up cycles about as well as any other defensemen in this class.

There’s not much offensively to Martin, but if you’re looking to get a bottom four RHD at a great value....Martin is the guy. Scouch does an excellent video breakdown of his game in the link attached to Jake Martin’s name.

51.) Kalle Ervasti, RHD, U20 SM-sarja (3/7/03)

6’0, 181 lbs

35gp, 3, 18pts

I really like the creativity that Ervasti has in his ability to move the puck up the ice and when he activates from the blue line. He’s fantastic in defending the defensive blue line and stonewalls defenders with his fantastic gap control. If a forward puts the puck anywhere near Ervasti you can be rest assured it’s about to be poked away.

He’s a very mobile, intelligent puke mover. I definitely think he could be available in the last three rounds of this draft and would run to the podium to take him.

Tier IX: Third Round Picks

52.)  Samu Salminen, C/LW, U20 SM-sarja (4/9/03)

6’3, 190 lbs

17gp, 10g, 26pts

Salminen tore up the Finnish junior league this year with 10 goals in seventeen games. He’s a crafty center who uses his above average shot and size to position himself well to be able to score goals and find teammates to create chances in the offensive zone including 7 goals in 7 games in the u18s for Finland.

However, he plays at a slow pace which is mainly due to his skating. His skating also impacts his defensive ability and probably projects to the wing for that reason. There’s enough in the toolbox to warrant a mid-round pick, but I’m very worried that he may just be a 2-3 year AHL player before being a dominant player in the Liiga for the rest of his career. Tools are there, but the skating has to improve by a considerable margin. He goes to the University of Denver next year, so playing in the NCAA it will be interesting to see how he does on that powerhouse of a hockey program.

53.) Colton Dach, C/LW, WHL (1/4/03)

6’4, 205 lbs

20gp, 11g, 20pts

The younger brother of Kirby Dach has some similar traits to his brother while playing a much more simplistic game. For a bigger forward he does have surprisingly good hands and vision especially when making quick touch passes around the ice. He was definitely a passenger in the transition game this year as he played with 2020 standout Tristan Robins and talented overager Kyle Crnkovic a lot this season.

He’s not afraid to use his size to protect the puck and in the defensive zone. If the Sabres are looking for good third line winger with projectable upside in the third round I could see Dach being an ideal selection.

54.)  Lorenzo Canonica, C/LW, QMJHL (9/3/03)

5’11, 163 lbs

24gp, 6g, 16pts

Canonica is a player that isn’t going to pop off the screen when you watch him play, nor is he going to put up gaudy numbers as a draft eligible player. However, when you dig into the positive sequences of plays that happen when he’s on the ice he’s often the catalyst behind it. Coming into the year the biggest question mark often referenced was his skating and lack of pace. While still not an above average skater; I find that he’s able to control the play on the ice with his ability to drive position and win small-area battles to keep plays alive.

His defensive game is outstanding, and if I’m chasing a bottom 6 center I think he fits the bill as one of the best available in the mid-rounds.

55.) Prokhor Poltapov, RW, MHL (2/1/03)

5’11, 174 lbs

61gp, 25g, 52pts

He can go missing in the MHL, but he does play a very North American game but it’s very, very simple: go to the net and bang home anything that comes there. His skill is fine but I don’t think he’s going to be anything more than a passenger on an energy line who plays in the high danger areas of the ice looking to capitalize on what his teammates can generate for him. I thought his u18 performance was very good, though. I vaulted him up about 20 spots from April because of it, but still the vast majority of the season keeps his rankings as a mid-round pick for me.

56.) Sean Behrens, LHD, USNTDP (3/31/03)

5’9, 174 lbs

39gp, 6g, 31pts

My goodness do I want Sean Behrens to be a thing. When the puck is on his stick or when he’s in the offensive zone I LOVE me some Sean Behrens. He’s so smart and so quick to make good decisions that I really think he could run a power play at the NHL Level. He activates so well off the blue line and I thought he came to play in the national spotlight in the Biosteel All American game.

I am really struggling getting over his defensive zone game though. He is smart and knows his size is a detriment so he is very aggressive defending the defensive blue line. However, he can be powered through or he can be ineffective which leaves his partner out to dry on an odd-man rush. He struggles in puck retrievals, and can be caught puck watching way too often in the defensive zone.

If he were a bit taller or if his skating (not bad but not great) were better I’d have him in my first round and say we can develop that. But there’s no teaching size and it’s a huge barrier unless he’s able to make a leap with his skating.

57.) Matthew Knies, F, USHL (10/17/02)

6’3, 205 lbs

44gp, 17g, 42pts

Talk about an up and down season. He was barely at .5 point a game at the midway point and then went on a scorcher the last couple months to get him to almost a point per game. The thing that sticks out with Knies is his puck skill, mobility, and playmaking ability. There are tools that are there to work with. However, similar to Stromgren, stringing them all to put a complete 200 foot game together has been few and far between. He’s got the offensive took kit to say he has middle six upside, but the University of Minnesota commit is going to have to put it all together in college for him to really hit his ceiling.

58.) Dmitri Katelevsky, F, MHL (1/17/03)

6’0, 174 lbs

43gp, 7g, 16pts

Katelevsky is an energetic, physical power forward who tries to create chaos whenever he’s on the ice that Dylan Griffing put on my radar this year. He’s ideal as a hard-hitting F1 in the forecheck who parks in front of the net and has enough skill in the offensive zone with his vision and his around-the-net finishing ability.

If you want to chase the Tyler Boucher archetype of player but miss in the first couple rounds: Katelevsky would be a nice pick-up in the mid-rounds.

59.) Liam Dower Nilsson, C, J20 Nationell (4/14/03)

6’0, 176 lbs

16gp, 5g, 17pts

Reminds me of his fellow countryman Theodor Niederbach from last year: good hands and great vision (especially on the power play). I often think about if I were drafting a super team of prospects where would I put each of them? In this area of the draft I’d want him on the half wall running my PP1 with his ability to control where the puck goes and thread it around all over the zone. I don’t know if his offensive game translates to 5v5 at a higher level because a lot of what I’ve made notes about were when he had time/space to make something happen. However, he’s a very intriguing project who if he slips even into the third round I could talk myself being into really optimistic with his projection.

60.)  Brett Harrison, C, U20 SM-sarja (6/7/03)

6’1, 172 lbs

7gp, 4g, 9pts

Brett Harrison is a great playmaker when it comes to finding teammates in the offensive zone, plays hard ever shift, and plays a very responsible defensive game despite the transition to Finland. The big question is will his motor make up for his lackluster skating ability? I really like his skill, I really like his compete level and the effort he puts into each shift, and that he’s working on both ends of the ice. He’s solid in transition but will not drive a line at the NHL level.

In the third round he’d be worth a pick based on his skill and hope you can correct some of the obvious skating mechanic issues that he has.

61.) Chase Stillman, RW, Denmark U20 (3/19/03)

5’11, 170 lbs

8gp, 9g, 16pts

Stillman is a player that I always liked in his DY-1 year because of his tool kit and his gritty game he played on the ice. His skating looked much better in his DY-1 year from his DY-2 year, he has puck skill, a good shot, and a high motor with a physical edge to which he plays the game.

I haven’t seen him play in Denmark this year, but the u18s will be the first time I’ve seen him in over a year. If he continues to look like the player I saw last year (and hopefully his skating looks even better from what I thought was passable last year) then I think he could move up in the rankings.

62.) Kirill Kirsanov, LHD, KHL (9/19/02)

6’1, 198 lbs

29gp, 0g, 3pts

Kirsanov’s write up can be brief: he’s going to be a fine bet for a bottom four defensemen. He’s playing in the KHL and looked good in the u20s, he’s not the most mobile defender but he’s good at defending the blue line, and he uses his size well to break up defensive cycles. There’s not going to be much of anything that comes from an offensive perspective. I think he ends up in the second round and I wouldn’t really take a shot at him until the late third/fourth round. Even then...there are more exciting stay-at-home options in the players that are ranked before him.

63.) Jack Bar, RHD, USHL (10/24/02)

6’2, 194 lbs

34gp, 5g, 15pts

Between watching Bar with Costantini in the BCHL and now in the USHL: he’s always consistently impressed me with his game in the offensive and defensive zone. On Penticton he was a fixture on the power play and would sometimes even run the power play on the right half wall. He has a cannon of a shot, is extremely mobile, physical in his board battles, and creative with his passing from the blue line.

He can have struggles under pressure making defensive zone exits, and he prefers to give up possession on offensive zone entries by hammering the puck into the zone the second he gets across the red line. However, there is a lot of untapped potential here with Bar. If you’re a fan of Ceulemans and want to get a tier-down version of the type of player: Jack Bar would be for you.

Tier X: Fourth/Fifth Round Picks

64.) Ethan Cardwell*, C, HockeyEttan (8/30/02)

5’11, 181 lbs

18gp, 9g, 27pts

Back in the 2020 draft rankings/guides I wrote in the comment section that my nominee for the Nick Robertson Award (late birthday that goes bonkers in their DY+1) would be Ethan Cardwell. He hasn’t disappointed as he’s been one of the most dominant players against men in Sweden’s third division this past year. Still possessing the same great toolkit: I’d like to swing on the over-ager this year as early as the fourth round and have him move quickly to the AHL after another year in the CHL.

65.) Jackson Blake, F, USHL (8/3/03)

5’10, 148 lbs

25gp, 7g, 17pts

If Jake Martin is the unheralded player from the USNTDP then I would say that Jackson Blake (Jason Blake’s son) would be the most unheralded player from the Chicago Steel. He’s got a really nice playmaking ability, is shifty in the neutral zone, and has great vision in the offensive zone. He flashes high-end potential though he doesn’t always get the ice time nor power play time to put up the numbers that Samoskevich and Coronato have. He’s going to be a longer term project as he’s not slated to head to North Dakota to play his college hockey until 2022-23, but another year in the USHL with the Steel being a first line player could do wonders for his development. I don’t know if he lasts this long but he’d be a nice pick-up in the mid-rounds.

66.) Cole Huckins, C, QMJHL (5/3/03)

6’3, 201 lbs

33gp, 14g, 31pts

A big guy whose motor never stops: Huckins makes plays happen with his high compete level and his surprisingly good puck skill and vision to find teammates in the offensive zone. He does a great job in both defensive and offensive transitions and in my viewings is really the driver of his line in getting them to produce positive results. He’s a bit off the radar of a lot of scouting sites right now, but with his size, playing in the CHL, and motor I’d be surprised if he fell down to the fourth round. He most likely would have to be a late second-third round selection if the Sabres were going to get him.

67.) Dmitri Kuzmin, LHD, Belarus (4/23/03)

5’10, 176 lbs

46gp, 3g, 12pts

I didn’t rank Kuzmin in the the April edition because I had yet to see him play, but he sure lived up to the hype in the u18s. He’s a super-skilled offensive leaning defensemen who has tremendous puck skill and who is very aggressive in the offensive zone.

He shows great vision and when moving North/South and with the puck on the stick he’s a dangerous skater. However, he has a lot of work to do in his own end but if you’re looking to chase a Sean Behrens archetype player a round or two later: Kuzmin fits the bill.

68.) Liam Gilmartin, LW, USNTDP (1/7/03)

6’2, 190 lbs

50gp, 13g, 35pts

I just love watching Gilmartin play hockey, and this ranking may be a bit aggressive, but he’s definitely a player that if he ends up in rounds four or five I’d be jumping up and down for us to take. He is similar to Dylan Duke in that he’s a great driver of possession and plays a really sound 200 foot game. I think there’s more to his offense than the point totals dictate. He is oftentimes the player when watching the NTDP that I’m rewinding to be like “Who made that play?” and it ends up being Gilmartin. Heading to play for the London Knights next year it’ll be interesting to see where his offence goes in the NCAA.

69.) Pavel Tyutnev*, C, MHL (7/25/02)

5’10, 185 lbs

25gp, 8g, 19pts

Last year when I was picking for the Sabres in my article I seriously debated with that last pick between taking Tyutnev or Mancini, ultimately going with Mancini because up until that point I had only taken forwards. While I don’t regret the decision for the last pick in the 7th round; Tyutnev has continued to just wow me this year in his DY+1. His skill is popping more with more ice time, he’s moved up to play in higher levels in Russian hockey and looks to be doing well, and I’d be shocked if he went another year without getting drafted.

70.) Marcus Almquist, C/RW, J20 Nationell (9/13/03)

5’7, 168 lbs

19gp, 10g, 28pts

The youngest player in my rankings, Almquist plays with amazing speed, puck skill, vision, and transition ability. Can put the puck in the back of the net. Why is he at 70? One is value: he’s barely going to be ranked going into the 2021 NHL draft. He’s super small, he plays wing, and he’s playing in a European league. However, Wilmer and Almquist are two small players I’d like to take a chance on later on in the draft.

71.) Cameron Berg*, C, USHL (1/29/02)

6’0, 192 lbs

50gp, 27g, 58pts

I had Berg ranked at 112 last year. He was a player that was traded mid-season in the USHL and really looked like a different player when he went from Omaha to Muskegon.  I love his skating, his skill level looks to have gotten even better, and he is seemingly everywhere on the ice when he’s out for his shift. Heading to the Nebraska-Omaha next year with Victor Mancini I’m really interested to see where his offensive game takes off. I feel like he’s a player who within two years of the NCAA will be looking to make an NHL roster.

72.) Elias Stenman, C, HockeyEttan (12/23/02)

5’10, 165 lbs

12gp, 5g, 12pts

To quote Scouch: if you like Koivunen then Stenman is just the Swedish version. Will Scouch put Stenman on my radar and he hit it right on the head. He’s a play driving centerman who facilitates transition and moves pucks to dangerous areas of the ice. Just a smart, smart center in HockeyEttan who will be a positive player in the bottom nine if he’s able to maximize his potential.

73.) David Gucciardi, LHD, USHL (10/9/02)

5’11, 161 lbs

33gp, 7g, 20pts

One of the best gap control defenders in the USHL this year; Gucciardi excels at stopping rushes before they even start using his mobility and active stick to break up plays at the blue line and becoming an eraser of opposing teams controlled entries and exits. He does very well using his mobility for carry-in/out transitions as well. He hits the first read in transition, and while I’m not sure if he’ll ever be an offensive threat in the NHL, he’ll have ample time at Michigan State to develop his creativity in the offensive zone.

74.) Samuel Helenius, C, Liiga (11/26/02)

6’6, 201 lbs

57gp, 7g, 14pts

I think there’s an NHL player in Helenius, but I don’t see an offensive upside that really says he’s going to be able to be more than a middle-six center whose role on the line is to play great defense and get the puck to players who will be able to control entries and exits. I think he plays a very smart game, I think he’s shown how to play a defensively responsible game in the Liiga and that should be counted as a great attribute for him as a prospect. I just struggle to really see how he’d be able to drive a line, or be a passenger in the offensive zone to more skilled teammates.

75.) Trevor Wong, C, WHL (5/3/03)

5’8, 154 lbs

16gp, 6g, 16pts

Small player who skates like the wind and has the skill to go with it? Sign me up! Sam McGilligan’s hype of Wong peaked my interest and I haven’t been disappointed in my two viewings of him. While I love his quick pace, skill, and smart/fast decision making I didn’t see him win many board battles and his size really came into play when teams got physical with him in zone exits to limit his success in zone breakouts. However, it’s a very small sample size I’m working with and could be limited to the 1.5 game viewing I had of him. I love the skill and think it will translate. He’s a player I could see the Sabres swinging on as early as the 4th round, but given some of the players I like before Wong and given the short window Wong has in the WHL to earn a professional contract...I’d prefer if the Sabres waited until the 5th round+ to take him.

76.) Ben Gaudreau, G, OHL (1/11/03)

6’2, 165 lbs

5gp, 2.20 GAA, .919 SV% (U18s)

I’ll keep this short: I liked his stat profile last year in the OHL, he impressed in a few times I saw him, and if he put together a competent u18s for Canada. I like him as a goalie option for the Sabres if the mid-rounds.

77.) Kirill Gerasimyuk, G, MHL (8/22/03)

6’2, 173 lbs

27gp, .931 SV%, 2.59 GAA

When I was sorting through Russian goalies that may be interesting two months ago I came across Kirill Gerasimyuk’s stat profile and it was absolutely hysterical. Gerasimyuk was facing north of 40 shots a game in the MHL and stopping almost 94% of them at the time. Here was the first five games of the season shot totals he faced: 71(!!!), 44, 54, 31, and 28. Nine of the first seventeen games he played he saw north of 40 shots with three times seeing over fifty shots in a game.

In five games in the VHL he has a .913 SV% and continues his upward trajectory in the Russian hockey leagues. As one of the youngest goalies in this class as well it would be reasonable to expect him to be drafted in this year’s class. I fully expect him to end up on the u18 Russian team, and if he plays well there I can see him moving up into the mid-rounds.

Tier XI: 6th/7th Round Picks

78.)  Jeremy Wilmer, LW, USNTDP (8/13/03)

5’7, 141 lbs

37gp, 11g, 36pts

I think Wilmer screams the forward with the most runway going forward on the USNTDP. He’s a late August birthday, and what he can do with the puck and in transition are very impressive, and yet, I don’t think he’s getting the praise he rightly deserves. He consistently is the catalyst for making the pass that springs a teammate for a breakaway or a high danger shot. He’s super quick and processes the game at a high level. He’s had moments as the year has gone on where he’s disappeared from the game, but when he’s on he’s an eye-popping talent.

79.) Noah Meier, LHD, SL (9/24/02)

5’11, 170 lbs

35gp, 1g, 20pts

I’m a bit on an island for Meier, but he’s been a really solid, mobile defender in the SL and I thought played well in the u20s this year as well. He’s not going to put up much in the offensive end but he showed quick decision making, good gap control, and the ability to exit the zone with control more often than not in my viewings of him. He’s not a sexy pick, but I think if you’re shooting for a possible bottom four defender in the mid rounds he’s a very good bet to make.

80.)  Ethan Del Mastro, LHD, OHL (1/15/03)

6’4, 205 lbs

7gp, 0g, 2pts (u18s)

A big, physical defender who does a good job separating players from the puck in the defensive zone and has some offensive talent as well. He’s going to have to improve his play under pressure and he’s also going to have to improve his outlets in transition if he’s going to hit a ceiling other than a possible bottom pairing defensemen who might excel in breaking up cycles.

81.) Cameron Whynot, LHD, QMJHL (5/5/03)

6’1, 181 lbs

34gp, 6g, 23pts

Whynot is another mobile, defensive-defenseman that could help fill a role in the bottom four in the future. He is a very mobile defender who is able to break up cycles in the defensive zone and make simple breakout passes to get his team out in transition. His offense is predicated upon staying home at the blue line and trying to wrist shots to the net or hit forwards at the high slot area.

He’s a safe pick who you hope will develop into a strong 5v5 and penalty kill defender. His passing under pressure will need to develop to a more consistent level if he’s going to reach NHL potential.

82.)  Matvei Petrov, LW, MHL (3/12/03)

6’2, 181 lbs

58gp, 22g, 42pts

He’s got a cannon of a shot that he will use often (sometimes too often from low-danger areas but, hey, it’s the MHL!) and he’s got some really good puck skill. He gives you absolutely nothing in the defensive side of the game. Usually, I’d shy away from these type of players but in the 4th/5th round I’d be willing to gamble on his offensive talent as I don’t think anyone ranked after this at forward has the ceiling or potential that Petrov does, but my goodness, he’s the definition of a homerun swing because if he doesn’t turn around this off the puck game he won’t have any chance of playing in the NHL.

83.) Aku Koskenvuo, G, U20 SM-sarja (2/26/03)

6’4, 176 lbs

13gp, 2.92 GAA, .893 SV%

If you watched Koskenvuo in the u18s for Finland you saw him put on a show in multiple games where he saved Finland from being run off the ice in total blowouts. He’s big, athletic, and has the ability to make difficult saves. He’s heading to Harvard in 2022-23 so he can take the Portillo route of another year of junior hockey before making the move to the NCAA where he’ll play for a high-quality program.

85.) Ty Gallagher, RHD, USNTDP (3/6/03)

6’0, 190 lbs

48gp, 14g, 27pts

I think what I enjoy most about Gallagher is his high IQ in the defensive zone and his ability to make simple but productive plays in the offensive zone. He didn’t get a lot of run on the PP with the NTDP nor do I see a player with that potential. However, his quick decision passes and his defensive zone game would be an intriguing late round pick to see if he could turn into a quality bottom pair defensemen.

86.) Justin Robidas, C, QMJHL (3/13/03)

5’7, 172 lbs

35gp, 19g, 36pts

Robidas is the son of former NHLer Stephane Robidas, and is a very undersized center standing at 5’7. He’s started off on a really nice pace with 20 points in his first 15 games in the Q, and for as little as he is he’s actually really strong on his skates. He gets his teammates involved, supports the puck, and has a sneaky good shot. I don’t think he’s a top 96 pick, but you could talk me into him being a 4th round selection for the Sabres based on his skill, skating, and production rate.

87.) Ryan Ufko, RHD, USHL (5/7/03)

5’10, 181 lbs

53gp, 10g, 39pts

Despite the gaudy point totals I think Ufko is more of a project than a top four round prospect. I’m not impressed with his mobility as a smaller defensemen and I don’t think he’s an elite puck mover or puck carrier to mitigate not having the size/speed to make up for it. However, I think there is something there with him in the offensive zone and that his defensive game with a few tweaks (specifically being more spatially aware in the defensive zone and more aggressive on the defensive blue line) that he could end up being an offense leaning NHL defenseman. His shot is his bread-and-butter right now as he has a cannon from the point.  Going to UMass in 2022-23 I think there’s a realistic projection that in four years he could round out to be a very projectable NHL player.

88.) Ty Voit, C/LW, OHL (6/7/03)

5’9, 150 lbs

0gp, 0g, 0pts

I thought he played well in the OHL showcase tournament the last two weeks and there’s enough there to warrant a late round swing. Last year I really liked his skill and thought he was really good as he put up 8 goals, 20 assists in 49 games in the OHL. I didn’t track him as DY-1 but he was on my list of very interesting players from the OHL. I’d take a shot in the late rounds on him.

89.) Hugo Gabrielsson, LHD, HockeyEttan (10/24/02)

6’1, 172 lbs

24gp, 3g, 7pts

He started the year looking like he was going to be a top 64 pick for me but as the year went on Gabrielsson’s ability to handle pressure in the HockeyEttan began to worry me as he was flinging pucks all over the place. However, in the J20 and at least one of the games I caught in the HockeyEttan, he was a very good pace setting defensive-defenseman who was able to move the puck up the ice effectively and could hit players from the blue line in the offensive zone to put them in positions to make plays. He was erratic in his first game I watched when he moved up, but I still do see NHL upside.

90.) Danila Klimovich, C, Belarus Vyssshaya (1/9/03)

6’1, 187 lbs

37gp, 28g, 52pts

Klimovich had his coming out party for the Belarus team in the u18s where he managed to score six goals in his five games. Playing in a very obscure league it was the first time I was able to see him play, but I thought there was a nice player who played with decent pace who had a really effective wrist shot. The transition game was hit and miss, but a player with his size, motor, and ability to put the puck in the net is definitely NHL draft worthy. The sample size scares me, but if you’re willing to swing in the mid-rounds I could get behind the selection.

91.) Josh Doan*, F, USHL (2/1/02)

6’2, 176 lbs

53gp, 31g, 70pts

You definitely see hints of his father in the way that Josh Doan plays the game. He plays at a fast pace and gets involved in all three zones on the ice. Blends a nice power-forward game with speed and skill. As an over-ager he was definitely not driving a line in the USHL, but he could be a nice piece to add if you’re looking to swing on a possible bottom six, utility player with size, grit, and skill.

Tier XII: Fun Swings to Make But I Don’t Think My Draft Board Will Get To Them

92.) Alexander Kisakov, F, MHL (11/1/02)

5’10, 141 lbs

61gp, 36g, 72pts

His point totals and his CSS rating don’t line up with the player I’ve watched in the MHL. He has skill, and definitely can find space off the puck, but he lacks overall pace to his game and isn’t driving anything while he’s on the ice. However, when he does flash his skill and his motor is running I can see a long term project that you keep in Russia for 3-5 years before trying to move him over to see how his game translated to NA. I wouldn’t touch him as high as Bob McKenzie has him (30s) nor in the first four rounds of the draft. In the fifth round though...I kind of like the idea of a pick-and-stash with Kisakov.

93.) Robert Orr, C, QMJHL (9/1/03)

5’11, 176 lbs

41gp, 15g, 32pts

Orr is the type of player that I can see people being a lot higher on than I am. He’s got a fair bit of skill, can play a 200ft game, and moves the puck around the iced decently well. However, there’s just nothing that really pops off the screen when you watch him play. He’s a fine playmaker, plays with a decent pace, and transition the puck at about an average level. If we were to take him higher it wouldn’t be a bad pick because I can’t say anything glaringly awful about him, but I don’t see much upside either to say that he may just end up being a decent professional player at a level lower than the NHL.

94.) Hunter Strand, C, USHL (11/13/02)

5’11, 183 lbs

51gp, 20g, 49pts

I’ve been on the Hunter Strand train for awhile now. He is not flashy. He is not going to pop if you go on HockeyTV and watch him play. If you watched the BioSteel game...he may have flashed but you probably didn’t notice him. I love the little things this kid does on the ice. He is a tiered down version of Dylan Duke or Lorenzo Canonica for me. He plays a very gritty, small area ice, control the puck type of game. I’d love to take him the 6th/7th round and project him to an ideal bottom six role. Going to the University of Notre Dame next year I’m really interested to see where he shakes out in the lineup there over the next few years as they really have some good incoming classes coming through starting in 2022.

95.) Red Savage, C/LW, USNTDP (5/13/03)

5’11, 174 lbs

46gp, 18g, 42pts

I think he’s similar to Hunter Strand in that you’re taking him as a bottom six NHL player who flashes some skill. I don’t think Savage has the upside of Strand, but I do think that he’s shown that he can play as a passenger on a top line in the USNTDP and also then play in a checking role as well. Going to the University of Miami of Ohio he’ll have plenty of opportunity and playing time as the program won’t see many kids with his pedigree coming through as recruits.

96.) Peter Reynolds, C, QMJHL (1/20/03)

5’10, 168 lbs

33gp, 15g, 31pts

Reynolds is someone whose analytics and eye test just don’t match for me. Analytically, he could be a potential steal for a team whose willing to use a third/fourth round pick on him.

However, watching him play multiple times this year there wasn’t anything really there when I saw him play that showed why he was driving the results that Mitch Brown and others have  tracked for him. I don’t find him particularly involved in transition though he is efficient when he is, I don’t think he has NHL-level puck skill to do much in the offensive zone, and while he is active in the defensive zone: it’s not to a point where I’d put him a defensive role in a higher level.

I could be very wrong about Reynolds, and there is data out there that says as much.

97.) Riley Kidney, C, QMJHL

5’11, 168 lbs

33gp, 13g, 39pts

98.) Francesco Arcuri, C, AlpsNHL

6’2, 192 lbs

18gp, 9g, 15pts

99.) Justin Janicke, F, USNTDP (6/30/03)

6’0, 181 lbs

43gp, 12g, 28pts

Janicke projects as bottom six forward who plays with pace, competes well in the forecheck and is defensively responsible, and has enough skill and speed to make an impact on the offensive zone in a limited capacity at a higher level. Heading to Notre Dame like Hunter Strand and joining for NTDP member Landon Slaggert: it’s starting to look like Notre Dame has valued recruiting gritty, two-way players who will battle in the offensive zone to create offense through the forecheck and effort.

100.) Quinn Hutson*, F, USHL (1/2/02)

5’10, 161 lbs

45gp, 16g, 42pts

Here’s where I start to go really off the board and with my personal favorites from this year. Hutson played with Costantini at the beginning of the year and was the engine of the best line in the BCHL. He continued to dominate when moved to the USHL where he used his excellent transition ability and his high hockey IQ to constantly move himself into the dangerous areas of the ice to make plays. He was an unknown last year as he played AAA hockey and not in any junior league, but since his arrival into the BCHL/USHL has looked like a prospect worth a pick. Heading to Boston University next year it’ll give him plenty of time to develop in a high end program.

101.) Kyle Kukkonen, F, USHS-MN (11/13/02)

5’10, 165 lbs

23gp, 31pts, 71pts

Saw a couple games of his in high school and a game in the NAHL and I see a dark horse for the late rounds. I like his puck skill and pace. He has a knack for scoring goals and creates the scoring opportunities for himself and is a high end HS/NAHL player at doing it. He’s going severely unnoticed and don’t know if he’ll be drafted at all, but given from what I saw and his 13 points in 12 games in the NAHL....I’d take the Michigan Tech commit and let him develop the full four years to see if we could end up with a potential steal.

102.) Connor Lockhart, C, OHL (1/21/03)

5’9, 161 lbs

103.) Ethan Burroughs, RW, OHL (6/19/03)

5’10, 165 lbs

I’m lumping these two together because I had them listed as “Interesting but a lot has to break right” for my OHL notes last year.

104.) Jacob Guevin, RHD, USHL (1/17/03)

5’11, 181 lbs

53gp, 7g, 45 points

I’ll keep Guevin short: he’s the Corson Ceulemans in the USHL for me. His point totals don’t line up with the talent I’ve scouted, and his transition defense is hit and miss. Perhaps I scouted the wrong 3 game sample size? I think there’s some tools to work with and the Nebraska-Omaha commit is going with some great prospects there next year. I’d say he’s more of an offensive leaning dart throw than a mid round steal.

105.)  Charles-Alexis Legault, RHD, USHL (9/5/03)

6’3, 190 lbs

23gp, 3g, 5pts

Legault was an eraser for Penticton’s top line in the BCHL as he used his size and great cycle-breaking skills to never let the Costantini line ever get settled in. He is a bit awkward skater, but as the season went on I thought his skating improved. He is raw, but there’s a lot to work with including some puck skill and pretty good passing ability. A long term project, but the Boston University commit is one of the youngest players in this draft and will have a few years to really settle into refining his game.

106.) Zach Bookman*, RHD, AJHL (3/29/02)

5’10, 176 lbs

13gp, 1g, 7pts

I close these rankings with a player no one is going to rank, I’d bet has no chance of being drafted, but he gets my Trey Fix-Wolanski award of my favorite prospect that I watched that I’m ranking just because I think he’s so much fun. Just ridiculous puck skill and mobility, activates from the blue line and can be a 4th forward in the zone, uses his gap control to nullify transitions, and honestly if not for Corson Ceulemans playing ahead of him on the PP....I think he’d be a lot more mainstream.

I don’t think he gets drafted as he’s an overager, came from Prep/USHS last year, he’s not going to a big conference school (Merrimack), and he’s not going to college until 2022. He’s most definitely a player that screams NCAA free agent signing if he ever makes the AHL/NHL. However, I’d definitely give him a development camp invite and if nothing else I hope this puts the Syracuse native on the radar for Sabres fans.