3-Round Mock Draft: The Sabres Post-Eichel Edition

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
DBTBers -

Welcome back, my DBTB friends!

Well, I suppose some of you are aware of this minor trade the Buffalo Sabres made earlier this week. Some guy who used to be the team Captain got dumped off to a hockey team in a desert of all places! Good luck with that, right? And his neck is all messed up like that character from He-Man back in the day? I don’t know what kind of effect the dry heat will have on a new neck. But the most important part of this for our purposes revolves around the fact the Sabres likely receive another 1st round selection in exchange for this guy. Now, as with all things in life, you must read the fine print. Looks like the Sabres only get a 1st rounder from the team in Las Vegas if they finish outside the bottom ten in the NHL. People tell me that the playoffs are very likely given their array of high-priced talent. So high-priced, in fact, that they are like $15M over the Salary Cap! Well, I’m sure the accountants can fix that. It IS Vegas, after all. Accountants are in high demand there.

Anyways, in this current scenario I’m presenting, Vegas remains in the bottom ten, so they do not turn their choice over to the Sabres. Yet. Which is good for me, because I’d already done typed part, so I don’t have to go back and change everything around. I’ll save that for the December Big Board. By the way, for the curious, I used the order of the standings at the time I typed up the Mock Draft, with a little help from…so that explains any discrepancies you might find in the sequencing.

While I understand the trade of this former Captain is big news around the League, the big news in prospect circles is the surprisingly underwhelming starts for two of the very best pre-season prospects: Shane Wright, the consensus #1 going into the season, and Brad Lambert, not quite a consensus as a #2 overall, but certainly a consensus Top 3 candidate. Hold on, I said to all the Chicken Littles, it’s still early. We don’t need to completely flip our Draft on its head just yet. But why all the concern?

Wright is barely over a PPG in Kingston and isn’t even a Top 3 scorer on his own team! Granted, he hasn’t played other than in a couple of short tournaments for Team Canada in over a year and a half, so maybe he needs time to get reacclimated. And he hasn’t played poorly at all. But it is surprising at this early point in the season that he’s not putting up crazy numbers. For Lambert, even more puzzling. He shifted over to center this year, and he has a mere 3P in 14 games for JYP in Liiga, Finland’s senior Men’s League. That is staggeringly low, especially compared to his teammate Joakim Kemell (we’ll get to him in a minute). And this week, he was not invited to Finland’s U-20 team for the Four Nations tournament, a shocking turn of events given he played for the Finns’ World Junior team last season, as a 16-year old! Plus he got suspended for flipping JYP’s opponent bench the bird. Seems the expectations might be getting to him!

As those two guys start to cause concern with their play, others are rising up to challenge them. Foremost among them is Lambert’s teammate, Kemell. Joakim Kemell goes by another name: scoring machine. The kid is leading not only his team – JYP – in scoring as a draft-eligible in Finland’s senior Men’s League, Liiga, but he’s the top scorer…in the entire league!!! With 18P in 16 games, including 12G, he’s a wrecking crew in the offensive zone and a lethal scorer. It’s muted now, but if this continues, you could see Kemell make an unprecedented run for the #1 spot, or at worst, #2…a lot like Patrik Laine did a few years back when he came from a mid-to-late 1st round candidate to a challenger for the #1 position.
Then you have a handful of guys who are inching upwards, or at worst keeping pace. Matthew Savoie (17P in 13 games) is right now the leader in the clubhouse for the #2 spot. He’s playing on a stacked Winnipeg Ice team in the WHL, alongside another candidate for #2, Connor Geekie (15P in 14 games). Both have been excellent thus far, but Savoie has been more consistently impactful IMO. Then you’ve got Logan Cooley, who’s the leading scorer (13P in 11 games) on a very good NTDP team even though he’s missed a couple games with an upper-body injury at season’s start. On the back-end, David Jiricek continues to impress playing in a Men’s League in the Czech Republic. He’s got 9P in 18 games and is playing 20 minutes or more a night as a 17-year-old. He’s my top defender at this point and may take a run at the top spot if he plays well internationally for the Czechs and others fail to seize the #1 slot. So, there’s still a lot to like in this class and assuming Wright and Lambert shake out of their funks while the others continue to progress, this is going to be an incredibly strong Top 10. And if so, it will start to push talent down the Board, deepening the Draft pool…which is good for teams with selections in the 20’s or 30’s (like the Sabres!). See what I did there?

As mentioned earlier, this Draft Order reflects the standings the day I started this. Then I ran them through Tankathon. So that explains a) the high placement of the Sabres, and b) the addition of the Vegas 1st rounder. Hoping they add a couple more picks in the months to come…maybe a 2nd and a 3rd or more? Anyways, I think this is the midpoint Draft. Last year, they had double-digit selections. This coming Draft, they will once more. And in 2023, I expect them to have at least ten. That’s how you build an asset pool, just as teams like the Kings have done. If you draft and develop well – and thus far, early signs are good under this regime – you have a strong group of assets to not only build your roster, but use as a means to add high-level, NHL-established talent. Like that former Captain…what’s his name again, Chuck Erkel? Robert Reichel? Whatever…

And now…enjoy!

1. ARIZONA: Shane Wright, C, OHL
2. CHICAGO: Matthew Savoie, C/W, WHL
3. OTTAWA: Joakim Kemell, RW, FIN
4. LOS ANGELES: David Jiricek, RHD, CZE
5. MONTREAL: Connor Geekie, C, WHL
6. ANAHEIM: Juraj Slafkvowsky, LW, FIN
7. ARIZONA (COLORADO): Elias Salmonsson, RHD, SWE
8. LAS VEGAS: Logan Cooley, C, US NTDP
9. NASHVILLE: Danila Yurov, LW, RUS
10. VANCOUVER: Simon Nemec, RHD, SVK
11. TORONTO: Ryan Chesley, RHD, US NTDP *
12. BOSTON: Rutger McGroarty, C/LW, US NTDP *
13. TAMPA BAY: Ivan Miroshnichenko, W, RUS
14. PITTSBURGH: Jonathan Lekkeriamaki, C/W, SWE
15. NY ISLANDERS: Frank Nazar, RW, US NTDP
16. NEW JERSEY: Jani Nyman, LW, FIN
17. SEATTLE: Seamus Casey, RHD, US NTDP
18. DALLAS: Brad Lambert, RW, FIN *
19. SAN JOSE: Marco Kasper, C, SWE
20. DETROIT: Filip Mesar, W, SVK
21. NY RANGERS: Denton Mateychuk, LHD, WHL
22. WINNIPEG: Tristan Luneau, RHD, QMJHL
23. COLUMBUS: Ike Howard, RW, US NTDP
24. MINNESOTA: Simon Forsmark, LHD, SWE
25. BUFFALO: Noah Ostlund, C, SWE
26. PHILADELPHIA: Liam Ohgren, C/W, SWE
27. WASHINGTON: Alexander Perevalov, RW, RUS
28. CALGARY: Miko Mattikaa, RW, FIN
29. EDMONTON: Cutter Gauthier, RW, US NTDP
30. BUFFALO (FLORIDA): Nathan Gaucher, C, QMJHL
31. ST LOUIS: Jiri Kulich, C/W, CZE
32. MONTREAL (CAROLINA): Kasper Kulonummi, RHD, FIN

1. ARIZONA: Filip Bystedt, C, SWE
2. CHICAGO: Jimmy Snuggerud, C/W, US NTDP
3. LOS ANGELES: Artyom Duda, LHD, RUS
4. MONTREAL: Alexander Suzdalev, RW, SWE
5. OTTAWA: Maveric Lameroux, RHD, QMJHL
6. ANAHEIM: Noah Warren, RHD, QMJHL
8. LAS VEGAS: Hannes Hellberg, W, SWE
9. NASHVILLE: Jack Hughes, C/W, NCAA
11. TORONTO: David Goyette, C, OHL
12. BOSTON: Ryan Greene, C, USHL
13. OTTAWA (TAMPA BAY): Devin Kaplan, RW, US NTDP
15. ARIZONA (NY ISLANDERS): Rastislav Elias, G, SVK
16. NEW JERSEY: Kasper Lundell, C/W, FIN
17. SEATTLE: Ludwig Persson, C/W, SWE
18. DALLAS: Ludvig Jansson, RHD, SWE
19. ARIZONA (SAN JOSE): Danny Zhilkin, C, OHL
20. DETROIT: Gleb Trikozov, C/W, RUS
21. NY RANGERS: Tyler Dunbar, LHD, USHL
22. WASHINGTON (WINNIPEG): Topias Leinonen, G, FIN
23. COLUMBUS: Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL
24. MINNESOTA: Fraser Minten, RW, WHL
25. BUFFALO: Jace Weir, RHD, WHL
28. CALGARY: Maddox Fleming, RW, US NTDP
29. EDMONTON: Pamo Fimis, C, OHL
30. CALGARY (FLORIDA): Spencer Sova, LHD, OHL
31. NY RANGERS (ST LOUIS): Ilya Kvochko, C, RUS
32. CAROLINA: Lane Hutson, LHD, US NTDP

1. ARIZONA: Antoine Verreault, LW, QMJHL
3. NASHVILLE (LOS ANGELES): Kevin Korchinski, RHD, WHL
4. MONTREAL: Helmer Styf, C, SWE
5. OTTAWA: Jackson Dorrington, LHD, USHL
6. MONTREAL (ANAHEIM): Tyler Brennan, G, WHL
7. COLORADO: Quinn Finley, C, USHL
8. CHICAGO (LAS VEGAS): Slava Sapunov, RHD, RUS
9. NASHVILLE: Julian Lutz, RW, GER
11. CHICAGO (TORONTO): Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, OHL
12. OTTAWA (BOSTON): Regier Lorenz, C, AJHL
13. COLUMBUS (TAMPA BAY): Ruslan Gazizov, W, OHL
14. LOS ANGELES (PITTSBURGH): Paul Ludwinski, C, OHL
15. NY ISLANDERS: Noah Grueter, RW, SWISS
16. NEW JERSEY: Calle Odelius, LHD, SWE
17. SEATTLE: Cameron Lund, C, USHL
18. DALLAS: Adam Ingram, C, USHL
19. SAN JOSE: Pavel Mintyukov, LHD, OHL
20. DETROIT: Jake Livanavage, LHD, USHL
21. VEGAS (NY RANGERS): Victor Neuchev, W, RUS
23. COLUMBUS: Fabian Wagner, RW, SWE
24. MINNESOTA: Servac Petrovsky, C, OHL
25. BUFFALO: Liam Arnsby, C, OHL
26. PHILADELPHIA: Georges Fegaras, RHD, OJHL
27. WASHINGTON: Keaton Dowhaniuk, LHD, WHL
28. BOSTON (CALGARY): Jagger Firkus, W, WHL
29. EDMONTON: Elmeri Laakso, LHD, FIN
30. FLORIDA: Marcus Vidicek, C, QMJHL
31. ST LOUIS: Charlie Leddy, RHD, US NTDP
32. MONTREAL (CAROLINA): Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C, FIN

Sabres' Haul:

1#25: Noah Ostlund, C, SWE: Ultra-dynamic playmaker on the small side (5’10 165#) but has the skills to be a Top 6 pivot in the Henrik Zetterberg mold. Ostlund is an elusive, shifty, extremely quick pass-first center who would meet the Sabres’ major need for a pure playmaker up front. And his play style is almost a perfect fit for the system Don Granato has installed in Buffalo. Already getting ice time at the SHL level – Sweden’s senior Men’s League – Ostlund isn’t just a set-up man. He plays a complete game at both ends of the ice. Extraordinarily smart. Plays at a high pace, and remains in constant motion on seemingly every shift, determined to make his mark whenever he gets on the ice. Plays in all situations. Skating is perhaps his biggest and best attribute. Not only does Ostlund have really good burst, shooting out of the blocks, but he has really good linear speed and can get up and down the ice in a flash. On top of that, his lateral movement and light feet let him dance on the ice, causing defenders to really struggle to get, and stay, in front of him or even line him up for a check. Excellent explosion in all four directions. Unlike some players who have high-end skating talent, this kid also sees the ice well at high speed and can make plays without downshifting. He has that rare ability to get up to top speed, make a move or two, and put a pass on the tape without ever taking his foot off the gas. Combine those wheels with his dogged defensive play and Ostlund can make a difference on both ends. A ferocious backchecker, he will track down his man anywhere on the ice and turn the puck over…then lead a counterattack. Despite his size, he willingly heads into high-traffic areas and engages in puck battles on the walls or in the corners, and with his burst he typically beats most opponents to loose pucks. Surprisingly effective possession player. A very good defender, he’s got a strong stick and his relentlessness on the puck makes him so disruptive in the Neutral Zone and high in the D-zone. You can count on him being in the right place at the right time, as he operates very well in space for a player his age. Really, a sound, complete player in all three zones. A dynamite passer. Puts pucks on tape from anywhere on the ice and can pass into space to lead teammates into scoring chances…the best part being, he knows the right time for either type of pass. Willing to try a variety of things while he carries the puck – backhand sauce, blind diagonal passes, utilizing the boards to evade defenders, one-touch cross-ice passes – he’s deceptive, creative and clever in moving the puck to the scoring areas. The puck does not stay on his blade for very long, as his awareness of the ice allows him to know where he’s going before the puck finds him. Ostlund is what I like to call ‘casually efficient’ – he seems to always distribute the puck to the right player, and he doesn’t even look like he’s trying but gets to nearly every loose or deflected puck. Absolutely needs to get stronger (he’s willing to go into the corners and muck it up, but he rarely comes away with a puck) which will come with maturity. Also could stand to shoot the puck a LOT more…he’s got a really quick release on his wrister, and a pretty hard one-timer, but I don’t see him use his shot as a major weapon in his arsenal. Pass-first to a fault. Ostlund put up 15P in 10 games at the U-20 level, including 13A, and has managed 3 games at the SHL level already this season (getting more ice by the game). He did not flash internationally yet – had 2P in 5 games for both the U-18 team and the same for the Hlinka team – but Djurgartens has developed a lot of NHL talent over the past several years, and this kid just so happens to play for that club. I don’t know if he’ll be a superstar caliber player, but he can be very good. Could be selected anywhere from 10-25 in the first round.

1#30 Nathan Gaucher, C, QMJHL: Big boy (6’3 210#) who controls the game down the middle of the ice. Not going to wow you with some sick mitts or filthy dangles on most shifts, Gaucher is a power center and pure competitor who will go around or through you to make a play. Had a great Draft -1 season with 31P in 30 games as one of Quebec’s youngest players and has followed that up this season with 11P in 11 games thus far while wearing a letter. Has a full toolbox – pass, shoot it, play big around the net, defend, win puck battles, and skate quite well for his size. Not dynamic in any area, he’s a sturdy, steady presence who can beat you a variety of different ways and will do whatever it takes to win. And the Sabres will see plenty of him, as he’s the 2C for the team ranked highest in the entire CHL – the same team recent draft pick Viljami Marjala plays for, the Remparts of Quebec. Gaucher’s best attribute is his complete game. He’s a tough on-puck defender, with great off-puck recognition and ability to play in space…a significant attribute for a center. Understands how to use his size to body opponents off their line, disrupting rushes, and his tremendous reach to strip puck carriers or disrupt cycles by keeping stick-on-puck. A fiend in the corners, Gaucher comes out of battles with the puck more often than not. Happy to take a hit to make a play and will take on 2-3 opponents to recover the puck. Truly, ‘hard to play against’. Very disruptive in the Neutral Zone, his skating holds him back from being an elite shutdown center. That’s not to say his skating is poor by any means. He’s remarkably smooth, and once in motion he generates plenty of speed. Gaucher also possesses great balance and strength on his skates – he can maintain possession with guys hanging on him, and rarely loses his footing even when he taking, or giving, a big hit. Where he could use improvement is his change-of-direction and his burst. Adding more short-area quickness would make him a true menace defensively. On the offensive end, he makes his bones with a puck possession game and around the crease, where his balance and strength make him impossible to move. While he doesn’t have superstar hands, his puck skills are plenty good enough to be dangerous with either the shot or the pass in tight. Not only is his spatial awareness exceptional on the defensive end, but in the O-Zone Gaucher really knows how to combine that with his strength and reach combo, to control the puck. And that applies not only down low or on the walls, but also in transition and entering the O-Zone. A tremendous challenge trying to take the puck away from this kid. And he can shoot it. Hard and heavy clapper, quick hands in tight to get the puck up fast. With his balance and power, he can hold off opponents while collecting pucks and bury loose ones in and around the crease. The player that jumps to mind when I watch Gaucher is David Backes. Happy to play a grinding, physical style but still has the skill level and hands to create offense even against high-level competition. Also seems to be a big chirper and frustrates his opponents with his chatter. I think he could be a great 2-way 3C for the Sabres, and potentially more.

2#25: Jace Weir, RHD, WHL: Hard-nosed, defense-first blueliner with great size (6’2 200#) and a mature, risk-free game. The Sabres are thin on the right-side beyond Henri Jokiharju and Oskari Laaksonen. They could use a couple picks to reestablish some depth on that side, as their defensive prospects are predominantly lefties. Weir could be a great compliment to some of the mobile, attacking defenders the Sabres have (Dahlin, Power, Bryson) in the near future. Responsible, efficient, and not afraid to use his size and strength, this kid is a consummate defenseman. Packing a lot of smarts into his game, he innately seems to know the importance of leverage and getting inside his check. Persistent, once he locks down an opponent, he doesn’t give them an inch. Uses his strength and leverage to tie up sticks or hands, stays between his net and the opponent, and won’t let up until the puck is safely possessed by his team. Defends transition well, directing opposing forwards away from the middle of the ice into the corners or other low-danger areas. Doesn’t blow up guys regularly, but when he puts a hit on someone, he hurts them. Weir executes similarly on the walls, where he uses that strength and power to pin forwards and always seems to take the body first, so his teammates can recover the puck. Very active stick, deflects passes and pucks, strips forwards, and pushes pucks out of trouble areas even if one hand is occupied. Keeps the pressure up on opponents with stick and physicality. A sixth sense for knowing when his teammates are in trouble lets him leave his check at the right time to break up a scoring chance. Weir’s calmness is constant, and panic threshold very high. Rarely rattled in his own end, Weir knows how much time he has and where to go with the puck before he gets it. Just not a lot of wasted motion, extra moves, or flair. A sturdy, reliable player who possesses excellent 4-way mobility, Weir gets around the ice smoothly and like the rest of his game, without much wasted effort. Transitions have a small hitch, with some further development of burst and explosiveness from stops-starts, but mostly, his stride looks easy and his pivots from front to backwards are effortless. Really strong on his feet, rarely gets moved once he gets set and again, identifies how to use leverage to keep the net clear. Not going to burn up the ice or overhandle the puck, he rarely gets deep in the O-Zone even on the rush. Conscientious defender. Has a solid first pass out of his own end, and has good enough hands and vision to be a PP QB at the WHL level, but I doubt that carries over into his professional career as he has some limitations on the speed of his decision-making and his risk-averse nature. It will be his intelligence and defense that will put him in the NHL. Reminds me a bit of Brayden Schneider, although a better skater and a bit more offense, as he’s already put up 7P in 10 games for Red Deer. I would have said he doesn’t have quite the mean streak that Schneider has either, but Weir just got handed a 4-game suspension for a brutal cross-check against Brandon. So maybe he only lets that snarl out on select occasions.

3#25: Liam Arnsby, C, OHL: Spitfire of a centerman who hits everything that moves and does it with a smile on his face. At 5’11 185#, he’s already a sturdy kid who plays a 2-way role and gets a lot hard minutes against the best players on the other club. Wearing the C for North Bay, despite having some more veteran NHL-draftees on the roster. Gritty, fiery player who never quits on a play, and is more than happy to play the body over the puck. Relishes the forecheck, loves to be the first man in and creates a ton of turnovers with his relentless hustle, willingness to play the body and aggressive stickwork. There are some very superficial comparables to a young Mike Peca – not a dynamic forward with the puck on his stick, but defensively his game is quite refined. He’s obviously good on the puck – packs a lot of power in that smaller frame, and his persistent checking makes him very difficult to play against. But there’s his play away from the puck which is high-level as well. Understands how to play in space, has great awareness of the dangerous areas of the ice and constantly makes plays to defend those areas, particularly in the middle of the ice. Those attributes make him a very good defensive centerman. His skating is excellent; feet are very light, and his lateral movement makes him difficult to avoid when he's defending or forechecking, while making him slippery in the O-Zone. Short-area skating really strong – he’s very tough to take the puck from along the walls or in the corners, and Arnsby’s very strong on his skates – allowing him to lay out some of the big hits he’s known for. He’s not a burner, no one is going to mistake him for Connor McDavid, but skating is certainly a plus and allows him to cover the entirety of the ice without problem. The big unknown around Arnsby is what his offensive ceiling might be. He struggled a bit in his rookie season, playing predominantly in a 3rd line role, but now a couple years out from that first year, can he be a big-time producer at the OHL level? Because if he can’t, he’s likely going to be a bit of a black hole as he becomes a professional. Thus far, he’s put up 10P in 11 games on a traditionally defensive team in North Bay. That’s in the Top 5 scorers for draft-eligibles in the OHL. Now, many of those points are in transition, off turnovers, or scrapping for loose pucks in front of the net and not reliant on Arnsby’s creativity with or without the puck, but he’s shown the ability to use his skating to turn pucks over and his work rate on the forecheck is second to none. Coupled with his tendency to drive play in the right direction – toward the other team’s goal – Arnsby might have more offensive chops than previously anticipated, which would make him even more attractive as a prospect. And he’s not afraid to drop the gloves, with about a half-dozen tilts since he joined North Bay. A fierce competitor who plays with plenty of fire, Arnsby has the tools and the mindset to become a valuable bottom six forward and shutdown center. That’s a nice return for a late 3rd rounder.

4#25: Niklas Kokko, G, FIN: Adding depth to the Sabres’ organization goaltending tree seems to be a priority this season after not choosing one last year (although trading for Devon Levi has proven to be a prescient move thus far). Enter Kokko. Not only is the name great, but he fits the modern goalie archetype at 6’3 190# with room to grow. But he will require time. Kokko’s game is based largely on athleticism. He’s very quick, and his nimble footwork in the crease impresses. A tough goalie to beat even when you get him moving, given his agility and reflexes. A long goaltender, Kokko can get both his arms and legs post-to-post to take away chances, augmenting his net coverage along with his quick feet. His size and speed help to make him seem bigger in the net, and he doesn’t have a lot of holes in his butterfly, which closes off almost the entire lower part of the net with those long legs. But when he sets up, he can tend to look smaller because he gets so tight to his body. Needs some work on his angles and depth in net. Tracks the play well, using his skating to move quickly to get into position as the puck moves across the D-zone. Even has a knack for following his rebounds, allowing him to make 2nd and 3rd saves on the same sequence of plays on multiple occasions rather than getting beat off a rebound. Kokko has had some success in Finland, putting up really strong numbers at the U-18 level last year (.925 SV%) and then this year in the U-20 league where he notched the 2nd best numbers of a draft-eligible goalie (2.33 GAA, .897 SV%). He’s even gotten called up to Liiga for Karpat, although he hasn’t gotten a look there…yet. Where Kokko can struggle is getting in and out of his butterfly, which stems from his play recognition…not always the fastest. That, and he needs to get stronger in his lower body, as teams can get pucks against his pads and push him into the net, along with the puck. That said, Kokko is still pretty young and still growing, and is a long-term project. Given the impressive performances of both Erik Portillo and Devon Levi, the Sabres do not need a young goalie ready for the NHL tomorrow. They can afford to be patient. If nothing else, Kokko is a depth piece…but in a Draft without any real standout goaltenders, he’s got a shot to be more than that over the next 3-4-5 years.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.