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2021 NHL Draft: 2nd Round Primer for the Buffalo Sabres

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Five players the Sabres should be looking at for the first pick of the second round

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championships - Final Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I am disappointed with the National Hockey League tonight. At a time when Logan Mailloux renounced his draft candidacy and when the Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of a very serious sexual misconduct case: to end the first round of the NHL draft in the fashion that they did was appalling.

For the Montreal Canadiens to select Mailloux and for the Blackhawks to try to switch the narrative to women in hockey after their sexually related accusations with Stan Bowman leading the charge was disgusting. The fact that there has been zero paid administrative leaves for the Blackhawks while the investigation is conducted is a basic antithesis of how anything in a normal business world is conducted. Yet, here I am, about to tell you who is available for the Sabres in the second round while a general disgust is left in the taste left of the mouths of anyone who cares about the league.

I know that this has negated what was one of the most exciting days in the NHL offseason in recent history. However, it’s about damn time the NHL starts doing the right thing. There is no excuse for Montreal picking Mailloux, and until the investigation is done of the Blackhawks 2010 season those who are still around during that time shouldn’t be put on a pedestal to promote the league. It’s that simple.

Second Round Targets for the Buffalo Sabres

1.) 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 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. He’s not a plug-and-play prospect anymore, but patience Raty could yield fruitful results in a middle six center role.

2.) 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. Stankoven is 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 since he fell 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.

3.) 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 the slim possibility that the Swedish winger falls to the early second round has happened. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Sabres sprint to the podium to take Robertsson to begin day two.

4.) 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 and gap control in high school prep are a bit concerning: 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.

5.) 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 Benier, 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.

Who are you looking at at the beginning of the second round for the Sabres to select?