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McGee's 1st Mock Draft of 2022 (4 rounds!)!

DBTB –

Welcome back, my DBTB friends!

We’ve moved fully into 2022. And unfortunately for all of us, it’s been remarkably similar to the year that preceded it. Omnicron, aka Optimus Prime, returned people to their homes in droves, caused another run on testing kits, and left us all pining for warmer weather and the ability to revel in human contact once more (not our families – we’ve seen enough of them!).

To top of this giant pothole in the road of existence, the World Juniors – which some of us, including myself, were looking forward to – became the victim of woeful mismanagement, an inability to successful prepare for another wave of COVID-related illness, until eventually being cancelled after a game or two for each club. Players who have trained for this for much of their hockey life, traveled across the globe, gone into quarantine early and basically elected to skip the Holidays this year, found themselves sent home without even a parting gift (except for COVID, in some cases). The IIHF and Hockey Canada did not endear themselves to the junior hockey community for the way this all went down. And in a year where the draft-eligibles were set to play a huge role for some teams! Much bigger than in some past years, for sure.

This brings us to today. We have now gotten into the meat of the Draft season, assuming there isn’t a return to mass cancellations. We’ll get the CHL (in early February) and the USA (on Monday!) Top Prospects games, league playoff games, a few smaller international tournaments and a steady diet of regular season games in the various leagues in Europe, Russia, Canada and the US. That’s where a lot of the various Boards and rankings will solidify, only to be transformed by the U-18s and the Combine (if they have one) just prior to the NHL Draft, which takes place in scenic Montreal on July 7-8th.

In terms of players, this is the most unsettled my Top 15 has been in a long time. I feel like a real explosion by a player over the course of a couple weeks could vault them up 6-8-10 spots. Or it could remain static until the summer. I don’t know. But what I do know is that formerly unanimous #1 Shane Wright is now better known as ‘consensus #1 Shane Wright’. His support is waning slightly, opening the door for a few other players to try and wedge themselves into the #1 slot. Among the contenders vying for that crack in the door are Logan Cooley (US NTDP), Matt Savoie and Connor Geekie (WHL), Juraj Slafkowsky (SVK), and Joakim Kemell and Brad Lambert (FIN), the latter of whom seems to have righted his ship after a couple of solid games in the World Juniors before the cancellation. Which reminds me of the other tragedy of the World Juniors – David Jiricek, my former top defender in this Draft, blew out his knee and required surgery. He’s out for a good 3 months, I believe. Tough to lose that for a tournament that wound up getting cancelled anyway.

You also have some very hot risers moving up the Board. Guys like Cutter Gauthier – who slotted in a 1C for the US NTDP when Cooley went to play for the World Junior team – and Pavel Minyukov, who has started to get acclimated to the North American game is has been flying all over the ice making plays, are two guys moving way up. Another guy to keep an eye on for those folks who a) want a Right-shot Defender, and b) want size, is monstrous Maveric Lameroux, a 6’7 D-Man in the Quebec league. He’s surprisingly mobile for a guy that big and has a little bit of an edge…but maybe not as much as the Bobs want to add.

Leave your thoughts, as I know you will. And now…enjoy!

ROUND ONE:

1. OTTAWA: Logan Cooley, C, US NTDP

2. DETROIT: Connor Geekie, C, WHL

3. MONTREAL: Shane Wright, C, OHL

4. ARIZONA: Matthew Savoie, C/W, WHL

5. SEATTLE: Juraj Slafkvowsky, LW, FIN

6. BUFFALO: Danila Yurov, W, RUS

7. COLUMBUS (CHICAGO): Joakim Kemell, RW, FIN

8. NY ISLANDERS: Simon Nemec, RHD, SVK

9. PHILADELPHIA: Cutter Gauthier, RW, US NTDP

10. NEW JERSEY: Brad Lambert, RW, FIN

11. COLUMBUS: Pavel Mintyukov, LHD, OHL

12. VANCOUVER: Frank Nazar, RW, US NTDP

13. SAN JOSE: Filip Mesar, W, SVK

14. LOS ANGELES: Artyom Duda, LHD, RUS

15. EDMONTON: Jani Nyman, LW, FIN

16. WINNIPEG: Ike Howard, RW, US NTDP

17. DALLAS: Jonathan Lekkeriamaki, C/W, SWE

18. ANAHEIM: Jack Hughes, C/W, NCAA

19. BOSTON: Ryan Chesley, RHD, US NTDP *

20. CALGARY: David Jiricek, RHD, CZE *

21. ST LOUIS: Jiri Kulich, C/W, CZE

22. MINNESOTA: Maveric Lameroux, RHD, QMJHL

23. NASHVILLE: Marco Kasper, C, SWE

24. PITTSBURGH: Ivan Miroshnichenko, W, RUS

25. WASHINGTON: Alexander Perevalov, RW, RUS

26. NY RANGERS: Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL

27. TAMPA BAY: Seamus Casey, RHD, US NTDP

28. TORONTO: Denton Mateychuk, LHD, WHL

29. BUFFALO (LAS VEGAS): Jimmy Snuggerud, C/W, US NTDP

30. BUFFALO (FLORIDA): Elias Salmonsson, RHD, SWE

31. ARIZONA (COLORADO): Nathan Gaucher, C, QMJHL

32. ARIZONA (MONTREAL/CAROLINA): Tristan Luneau, RHD, QMJHL

ROUND TWO:

1. MONTREAL: Owen Pickering, LHD, WHL

2. ARIZONA: Lane Hutson, LHD, US NTDP

3. OTTAWA: Lian Bischel, LHD, SWISS

4. SEATTLE: Kevin Korchinski, LHD, WHL

5. BUFFALO: Adam Ingram, C, USHL

6. CHICAGO: Rutger McGroarty, C/LW, US NTDP *

7. ARIZONA (PHILADELPHIA): Noah Ostlund, C, SWE

8. ARIZONA (NY ISLANDERS): Tyler Brennan, G, WHL

9. NEW JERSEY: Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, OHL

10. COLUMBUS: Liam Ohgren, C/W, SWE

11. DETROIT: Calle Odelius, LHD, SWE

12. ARIZONA (VANCOUVER): Simon Forsmark, LHD, SWE

13. ARIZONA (SAN JOSE): Matyas Sapovaliv, LW, OHL

14. LOS ANGELES: Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C, FIN

15. EDMONTON: Danny Zhilkin, C, OHL

16. WASHINGTON (WINNIPEG): Ty Nelson, RHD, OHL

17. DALLAS: Filip Bystedt, C, SWE

18. ANAHEIM: Topias Leinonen, G, FIN

19. BOSTON: Owen Beck, C, OHL

20. CALGARY: Gleb Trikozov, C/W, RUS

21. NY RANGERS (ST LOUIS): Paul Ludwinski, C, OHL

22. MINNESOTA: Alexander Suzdalev, RW, SWE

23. NASHVILLE: Noah Warren, RHD, QMJHL

24. PITTSBURGH: Tomas Hamara, LHD, FIN

25. DETROIT (WASHINGTON): Victor Neuchev, W, RUS

26. NY RANGERS: Alexander Pelevin, LHD, RUS

27. OTTAWA (TAMPA BAY): Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, OHL

28. TORONTO: Servac Petrovsky, C, OHL

29. LAS VEGAS: Regier Lorenz, C, AJHL

30. CALGARY (FLORIDA): Jack Devine, RW, NCAA

31. NY ISLANDERS (COLORADO): Miko Mattikaa, RW, FIN

32. CAROLINA: Jordan Dumais, RW, QMJHL

ROUND THREE:

1. MONTREAL: Cole Spicer, W, US NTDP

2. ARIZONA: Ruslan Gazizov, W, OHL

3. OTTAWA: Jordan Gustafson, C, WHL

4. SEATTLE: Cameron Lund, C, USHL

5. BUFFALO: Sam Rinzel, RHD, US HS

6. CAROLINA (CHICAGO): Kasper Kulonummi, RHD, FIN

7. NY ISLANDERS: Tyler Dunbar, LHD, USHL

8. PHILADELPHIA: Filip Nordberg, LHD, SWE

9. NEW JERSEY: Jace Weir, RHD, WHL

10. COLUMBUS: Fabian Wagner, RW, SWE

11. DETROIT: Vincenze Rohrer, C/RW, OHL

12. OTTAWA (VANCOUVER): Jagger Firkus, W, WHL

13. SAN JOSE: Otto Salin, RHD, FIN

14. NASHVILLE (LOS ANGELES): Jake Livanavage, LHD, USHL

15. EDMONTON: Ryan Healey, RHD, US HS

16. VANCOUVER (WINNIPEG): Julian Lutz, RW, GER

17. DALLAS: Rastislav Elias, G, SVK

18. MONTREAL (ANAHEIM): Mattias Havelid, RHD, SWE

19. OTTAWA (BOSTON): Mike Mastrodomenico, RHD, USHL

20. BOSTON (CALGARY): Devin Kaplan, RW, US NTDP

21. ST LOUIS: Matthew Seminoff, RW, WHL

22. MINNESOTA: Matthew Poitras, C, OHL

23. NASHVILLE: Spencer Sova, LHD, OHL

24. LOS ANGELES (PITTSBURGH): Fraser Minten, RW, WHL

25. WASHINGTON: Cole Knuble, RW, USHL

26. LAS VEGAS (NY RANGERS): Kasper Lundell, C/W, FIN

27. COLUMBUS (TAMPA BAY): Slava Sapunov, RHD, RUS

28. CHICAGO (TORONTO): Ludwig Persson, C/W, SWE

29. CHICAGO (LAS VEGAS): Niks Fenenko, LHD, QMJHL

30. FLORIDA: Cruz Lucius, RW, US NTDP

31. COLORADO: Ryan Greene, C, USHL

32. MONTREAL (CAROLINA): Antoine Verreault, LW, QMJHL

ROUND FOUR:

1. MONTREAL: Otto Hokkanen, C, FIN

2. ARIZONA: Garrett Brown, RHD, USHL

3. OTTAWA: Parker Bell, RW, WHL

4. SEATTLE: Topi Ronni, C, FIN

5. BUFFALO: Quinn Finley, C, USHL

6. CHICAGO: Niklas Kokko, G, FIN

7. PHILADELPHIA: David Goyette, C, OHL

8. NEW JERSEY (NY ISLANDERS): Josh Neidermayer, LHD, BCHL

9. NEW JERSEY: Maddox Fleming, RW, USHL

10. COLUMBUS: Hunter Height, C, OHL

11. DETROIT: Jorian Donovan, LHD, OHL

12. VANCOUVER: Ludvig Jansson, RHD, SWE

13. SAN JOSE: Hannes Hellberg, W, SWE

14. LOS ANGELES: Jake Furlong, LHD, QMJHL

15. NEW JERSEY (EDMONTON): Dominik Rymon, C, CZE

16. NY RANGERS (WINNIPEG): Nicolas Moldenhauer, C/RW, USHL

17. DALLAS: Kirill Kundryatsev, LHD, OHL

18. ANAHEIM: Mike Buchinger, LHD, OHL

19. BOSTON: Liam Arnsby, C, OHL

20. SEATTLE (CALGARY): Brandon Lisowsky, LW, WHL

21. ST LOUIS: Georges Fegaras, RHD, OJHL

22. MINNESOTA: Pamo Fimis, C, OHL

23. NASHVILLE: Tim Almgren, C, SWE

24. PITTSBURGH: Gustav Karlsson, C, SWE

25. WASHINGTON: Jakub Hujer, W, QMJHL

26. NY RANGERS: Sergei Murashov, G, RUS

27. MONTREAL (TAMPA BAY): Ryan Hopkins, RHD, BCHL

28. COLUMBUS (TORONTO): Kiril Dolzhenkov, W, RUS

29. DETROIT (VEGAS): Petr Hauser, RW, CZE

30. FLORIDA: Charlie Leddy, RHD, US NTDP

31. DETROIT (COLORADO): Jozef Kmec, RHD, WHL

32. CAROLINA: Ilya Kvochko, C, RUS

Sabres’ Haul:

1#6: Danila Yurov, C/W, RUS: Given the Sabres’ newfound interest in scouting players from Russia, they don’t think twice about taking the best player remaining on the Board with the 6’1 180# Russian forward Yurov. A gifted two-way talent, Yurov is only scratching the surface of his formidable capabilities on both ends of the ice. He has the potential to be the best player from this Draft class. You might look at his numbers and be underwhelmed. That’s OK. I get it. He’s spent most of the season in the KHL, a rarity for a player this young, and thus his ice-time has suffered (which is not at all unsurprising when it comes to the KHL). But when matched up against players in his own age bracket, he’s dominated to the tune of 12P in 6 games. Only Matvei Michkov, a serious contender for #1 overall in the 2023 Draft, put up a better PPG number than Yurov in the entire MHL = essentially, Russian juniors. He also crushed it at the U-18s, where he put up 11P in 7 games to finish 3rd in scoring for the potent Russian team, despite, again, being one of their youngest players. Unfortunately, due to the handling of the World Juniors, we missed the chance to see Yurov on the big stage, where he could help lead the Russians in pursuit of another gold medal despite being the 2nd youngest player on the squad (again, Michkov). Maybe the most nuanced, but most effective attribute of the many Yurov possesses, is his ability to control tempo and pace. He displays a very mature recognition of knowing when to pick his spots. A smart player who puts a premium on controlling the puck, can play a really strong puck possession game, able to keep the puck away from the opposition through good play on the walls, superior short-area passes, and using open space to manipulate defenders. But don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a simple, safe player. He can lull you to sleep while taking care of the puck. When he sees an opening, he’s extremely dangerous. Exceptional hands, stickhandling, shooting or passing. Loves to create in the high-danger areas, equally clever and accurate on fore- or backhand with his passing, and he’s lethal with cross-ice set ups. Very deceptive with the puck on his stick. Making him even more difficult to contain, he owns a deadly shot that he uses liberally…maybe too often, as he fires off low-percentage shots from high in the zone or from bad angles a bit too much for my taste. But when he gets loose in the slot, Yurov can beat a goalie clean to either side with a heavy, hard shot off a hair-trigger release. This dual-threat ability is a nightmare to defend against. Will hold on to the puck to get to a better shooting area, which can lead to turnovers, and I would like to see him develop a broader arsenal of shots that he can disguise better. But still, he’s a very dangerous shooter. On the other end, for a player his age, he’s remarkably efficient positionally. Understands how to play off the puck, knows inherently where to go, and cuts off a lot of attempted cross-ice or back-door attempts simply by being in the right place. Like his offensive game, he knows when to pick his spots as well, recognizing when to pressure a puck carrier or leave them in a low-danger spot to protect the slot or the net front. Can get caught cheating up ice or blowing the zone on occasion, but often that is done against lesser competition where he thinks he can get away with it. It’s not habitual. Yurov is a machine in transition. His skating is very good, maybe great. When he wants to play fast, which he often does, opponents struggle to keep up with his combination of stickhandling, skating and smarts. He can downshift and step around defenders, he can get leverage inside and go to the crease with a burst of speed, or he can dance with the puck while waiting for a teammate to come open. All of these things can be done at top speed. Because he has so many tools, he’s a zone exit and zone entry animal. Yurov’s edgework and hands make even savvy defenders miss at the blue-lines, where his feel for the game and his creativity threatens an odd-man rush every time he enters the zone. And once he finds space anywhere on the ice, it leads to him bulling his way into the middle of the ice and maximizing whatever opportunities present themselves. His versatility is another hallmark – he can play a power game, or a pure skill game, or even a speed game. And he can do all at a high level. He could use another gear to make him even more dangerous in transition, and he needs to get stronger to better fend off D-Men who are willing to put a forearm in his chest instead of being dazzled by his dangles. Playing in tight quarters or high-traffic areas can give him trouble at times; a lot of that has to do with adding strength to be stronger on his stick. And he doesn’t have one particular skill that he can lean on when things get tough – he’s great at almost everything, but not really elite at anything. Not yet, at least. His Russian contract is up in 2023, and he’s complained this season about his lack of playing time (having received more than 10 minutes of ice time in 2 of 21 games) so you could see him come over to North America sooner than later if he remains dissatisfied. That could line-up pretty nicely with the Sabres’ window opening. If you’re looking for a comparable, one guy that jumped out to me was Marian Hossa. A do-it-all forward who can score you plenty of goals and relied on to shut down the other team at the same time. Whether he gets there or not, we’ll see, and a little smaller than Hoss, but he’s the kind of player whose game improves with age.

1#29: Jimmy Snuggerud, C/W, US NTDP: Son of Sabre legend Dave Snuggerud, Jimmy has become a key player and a fast riser playing for the Program. Already bigger than his old man at 6’2 190#, Snuggie is a versatile, hyper-competitive forward who can play just about any role you need of him. And he’s stealthy about it. You can watch the game and not see him dazzle you for 60 minutes, then check the box score and discover he had 3P and was +4. Piling up the points, he leads the US NTDP in scoring with 37P in 31 games, including 15 goals, despite moving all over the line-up as the team has been beset with injuries and absences (Logan Cooley playing for the US World Junior team, for example). He’s even played a little center but has been particularly effective on the right wing. And each line Snuggerud is moved to seems to play better with him as part of it, which speaks to his ‘jack-of-all-trades’ kind of ability. Setting aside his versatility, Snuggie is a shooter first. He’s got a laser of a shot, particularly his wrister, which is hard and accurate. Couple that with a shortened, no-wind-up one-timer that he can get off with a ton of velocity and precision from almost anywhere and he becomes dangerous with or without the puck. But he’s also got some slick hands to sling the puck around the O-zone. In fact, they’re plenty good enough to handle bouncing pucks and bad passes that catch him in tight or in his skates without slowing down or pausing. This sort of skill is very translatable to the pro game, where passes are rarely received on a platter or in space. Head is always up, and he can thread cross-ice sauce coming off the wall, out of the cycle, or in transition equally well. But at his core, Snuggerud doesn’t play a pure skill game. Really a power forward, he attacks the puck on the forecheck, wins more battles than he loses, and makes a variety of plays off the cycle. Once he collects the puck, it is tough to take it away from him. His skating, like his entire game, has improved significantly from last season. He’s much quicker in small spaces, his transitions and pivots particularly on the forecheck and his excellent balance reinforce that heavy-game style that he plays so effectively along the walls and down low. While nowhere near a burner, he’s got good top-end linear speed once he gets going and his burst is definitely upgraded. He’ll need to continue to better his skating if he’s going to follow this development arc. But while his offensive game has progressed by leaps and bounds, his defensive game is his calling card. Like his old man, a hustler at heart, Snuggerud owns great instincts in his own end and a competitive fire that won’t let him quit on a shift. He’s physical in the corners, taking the body first while allowing his teammates to recover the puck. Excellent reads in the D-zone, Snuggie also uses his strength to tie up sticks, lift sticks at opportune times, and keep stick-on-puck when defending a puck carrier. No hesitation on laying a big hit to separate the puck from the man or blocking point shots. And rotates seamlessly with his defenders, suggesting very good communication skills on the ice as well. Also plays well in space, using frequent shoulder checks and knowing how to defend the high-danger areas when his check does not have the puck. Lots to like about his intangibles as well. His floor is fairly high – at least an effective fourth-line energy forward – but if he can continue to improve his skating and his puck skills, there’s potential as a Top 6 forward. Off to the University of Minnesota next season, which the Sabres’ brass already has relationships with (thanks to Ryan Johnson and Aaron Huglen), there’s plenty to like with this kid.

1#30: Elias Salomonsson, RHD, SWE: This smooth, 6’2 170# Swedish puck-mover has had a bit of a down year given expectations coming in but considering his tools and his youth – one of the youngest players in the entire Draft class, having missed the cut-off for the 2023 Draft by a couple of weeks – suggests to me there is a lot to build on. And given the need for young, talented right-shot blueliners in the system, Salomonsson might be the best of the lot still on the Board at this spot. A true 2-way defender, Salomonsson can drive offense by carrying the puck up ice or using Dahlin-esque outlet passes to trigger transition. He can also defend the rush well, has the mobility to cover up his teammates’ mistakes, and knows what to do with the puck when it winds up on his stick. He’s put up 17P in 23 games playing for Skelleftea in Sweden’s U-20 league but has also gotten a sniff of the SHL (1 game) and played briefly in the Champions’ League as well. He has all the tools you could want in a modern NHL D-Man. Skating is smooth, easy, and precise. Highly mobile. Moves well in all directions, transitions in a blink from forward to backwards and vice versa, generates some burst when needed, and rarely seems to be standing still. His powerful stride makes it seem as if he isn’t skating hard when he’s actually eating up a lot of ice. Lateral movement is sharp, turning radius is tight, and he can gallop to one side or another without pausing. Offensively, he can do it all. A big shot that he can rip from the point or dangle a defender and get inside the circles before going shelf, it is a weapon both on the PP and at evens. Having that club in his bag, plus his skating, forces opponents to choose how to defend him, opening up time and space to create with the puck. And he can be a true creator and distributor in the Neutral Zone or the O-Zone. Instincts with the puck are excellent; Salomonsson employs a variety of shifty fakes, jukes, or look-aways to open up passing lanes or fool defenders. His light feet help him here, as well, letting him slip checks or mesmerize defenders with the puck before stepping around them and creating odd-man opportunities. Defensively, things start to get dicey. A strong on-puck defender, Salomsonsson uses his reach and his skating to neutralize opponents coming down on the rush, pick-pocketing them or directing them into less dangerous areas. He’s a willing physical player, despite his slight frame, and will put a shoulder or a forearm into a player during puck battles. That said, he’s not effective against bigger, stronger players which may be a big factor in the fact he’s not been promoted full-time to the SHL just yet. But his off-puck reads are where things sour. He can get easily turned around when playing off the puck, and makes the wrong read as often as not, taking him out of position and creating openings for high-danger opportunities against. But those issues can be fixed or at least mitigated. This year, he’s reluctant to engage, resulting in slower decision-making, so even when he makes the correct one, he’s too late to get there. This has led to his fall down Draft Boards. He’s become very conservative, which has not been his play style to this point, often making the safe play or just attempting to stay out of trouble spots…especially on the blue-line, where he gives up on a play too easily and retreats to the net front, even in the U-20 league that he has, and should continue to, dominate. Whether he’s trying to fine-tune other parts of his game, or is responding to his coaches’ wishes, or something else, it’s very puzzling. Never a gunslinger like a Cale Makar, he still played with a ton of confidence before this season and seeing him play an almost completely opposite style makes you wonder what’s going on. I’m comfortable right now saying that this is a one-year fluke, and given how young he is, it’s possible we see a return to a more freewheeling style that still projects as a smart, modern 2nd pair D-Man in the NHL…especially if he can add strength and some bulk. Not a bad addition at the end of the 1st round.

2#5: Adam Ingram, C, USHL: Big, strong, unheralded shoot-first center moving up Draft boards with his outstanding performance thus far. Has dominated for Youngstown in the USHL, putting up 35P in only 26 games, including 16G. And he’s been on the upswing, scoring 17P in the last 10 games. This eclipses any of his teammates – he’s the leading scorer on his team by more than 10P compared to the next player. The Sabres should have some familiarity with him, as prospect Stiven Sardaryan also plays for Youngstown. Will be off to play for St. Cloud State – alma mater of Sabre legend Will Borgen – next season. The first thing that jumps off the screen when you watch Ingram is the howitzer of a shot he’s packing. He can fire missiles from all over the ice and still beat goalies clean from above the circles. Lightning-quick release still generates a ton of torque and his accuracy is precise which makes his shot even more of a weapon. To top it off, he can be deceptive with his shot as well, giving goalies nightmares. Ingram may have one of the best shots in the entire class. Even with that elite attribute, Ingram’s not without other redeeming qualities. First, for a big kid at 6’3 175#, he moves extremely well. Linear speed is very good, and he can get behind defenders with just a couple cross-overs and get in alone on the goalie. Solid burst out of the blocks, he’s not a burner but is plenty quick enough to get around and his skating will improve as his lower body gets stronger. His footwork and balance when setting up for his shot is excellent, and he can be evasive with his movement in the O-zone, avoiding defenders and finding open space. I don’t think he’s got a very efficient stride, and certainly could use some work on his transitions and turns which seem clunky. Strong stickhandler, as you can tell by his shot, you can tell his hands are plenty soft. He receives bouncing pucks and off-target passes easily while remaining in position to shoot or pass. An unspectacular passer, distributing the puck can often be an afterthought for Ingram as he looks to get the puck on net. But like his entire game, his passing has improved game-over-game this season. Never to be confused with Trevor Zegras, he’s on his way to being a serviceable passer. But he’s got plenty of dangles and can twist a defender into a pretzel with a fake or make a goalie look bad with a couple moves. Defensively, Ingram needs work. They play a pretty safe game, relying on a lot of counterpunches, and that masks some deficiencies in his own end. Despite his rangy build, Ingram could stand to gap up better on his check and doesn’t get especially physical on the walls. That said, he’ll occasionally be undisciplined, going after hits and getting out of position as a result. Sometimes plays a little chippy. But fundamentals are a work in progress: his stick needs to be on the ice more, stick on puck, positioning all need work, while his play away from the puck leaves a lot to be desired – often gets caught jumping the zone or chasing the puck instead of remaining within the structure. In short, there’s a rawness to his game, but he does have an elite skill, he’s got a lot of offensive chops, and all the pieces are present. Needs to develop his game more – St. Cloud will teach him how to be a better defender for sure – so he’ll take some time to reach the pros but could be a really good middle 6 center when all is said and done. That’s not bad value at this spot.

3#5: Sam Rinzel, RHD, US HS: Monstrous 6’4 190# high-schooler (!), a highly mobile 2-way defender who sees the ice well on both ends and has flashed high-end offense now and again. Ton of upside. In his limited time playing in the USHL (before the Minnesota high school season started), Rinzel was a PPG player on a pretty good Waterloo team. At Chaska High, he’s put up 16P in 12 games...fairly pedestrian, sure, although he’s leading his team. Setting aside his immense size, Rinzel is remarkably mobile and confident. Has an almost Dahlin-esque willingness to lure defenders in tight, then beat them with stickhandling and some nifty footwork before leaving them behind as the player heads up ice. Rinzel – at a much lower level – has that same escapability and fearlessness…almost recklessness. High panic threshold. Will dangle guys, sidestep forecheckers, fake passes or shuffle to get opponents out of position before he shoots up the ice or puts a stretch pass on the tape. Exceedingly calm with the puck in his own end when his head is up. Powerful stride allows him to burst up ice, pull away from forecheckers in the Neutral Zone, and take advantage of open lanes when they present themselves in the O-zone. Sometimes he’ll get so far up ice he’ll leave his partner to fend for themselves against odd-man rushes, which can be a problem. Wicked shot, not heavy but hard and can get most shots through from the point. Takes any and all open ice if it’s given to him, pressuring his opponents and getting better looks for himself. For a player his size, his feet are very light, and his mobility in all directions makes him formidable with and without the puck. Capable shut-down defender, he can close out rushes with his reach and footwork, although he’ll get on the wrong side of the slot a bit too frequently for my liking. Active stick, again coupled with his skating, makes him an excellent penalty killer as he takes away the cross-ice pass, but can still retrieve the puck in the corner or challenge players on the wall. Gaps are hit-and-miss…sometimes he’s a python and just squeezes the life out of a transition play, other times he takes big risks – trying to steal a pass or pick a pocket – and loses. Want him to play safer when defending transition. Likewise, he can be a risk-taker on offense. Has excellent puck skills, hands are soft and shows really good puck control on the PP. Will use sidesteps and shifty shoulder fakes to get defenders leaning, then dart through the gap and create chances. But he doesn’t always allow for teammates to cover the openings he leaves behind. Uses that same aggressive style that Dahlin employs, not afraid to carry it end-to-end, or go 1-on-2, although against this level of competition, he often succeeds in getting a good chance. As he moves up, can his game change and can he learn to pick his spots more judiciously? Hard to know. With how good his tools are, this is more than a worthy selection. And he’s a pretty late birthday in this class, so that suggests he could have even more development time than many of his peers. BFLO can afford to be patient with him. Off to the U of Minnesota next season, he could be Sabre prospect Ryan Johnson’s replacement on the back-end.

4#5: Quinn Finley, C, USHL: A nifty, smallish (5’11 170#) puck wizard with a ton of skill. Finley can play all over the ice – any of the three forward spots – with impressive effectiveness. And he’s one of the youngest players in the Draft Class, with an early August birthday. Being one of the top offensive performers on the US Hlinka team last summer, with 3P in 4 games, hinted he was ready for a breakout. Then he put up 10P in 14 games on a pretty high-powered Madison club before suffering a long-term injury that has kept him out for two months. He’s hoping to return for the All-American Prospects game this weekend. Right out of the box, Finley is a high-octane offensive player. He can shoot the puck, he can pass it, he scores and can be extremely creative with the puck on his stick. Owns a variety of shots, all of which come at you hard and accurately, particularly his wrister, which is a weapon in transition or out of sets. Understands how to shoot for rebounds, and uses that shot to draw defenders to him in order to create space to make a pass…which is clearly his first instinct. Sees the ice very well and has that flair for the dramatic pass that other great playmakers share, along with the daring to try it. Will put pucks between defenders’ legs, bank passes off the walls, behind-the-back sauce coming out of a turn…those sorts of plays are commonplace with Finley. Sometimes his showmanship results in turnovers, giveaways, or defuses dangerous plays, but that’s part of the deal with this kind of player. As you can imagine, has a pair of dynamite hands. Release on his shot is short, quick, yet still creates some power. But his passing and stickhandling is where they shine. Hard or soft, his passes are easy to handle and typically end up on the tape, can thread those passes thru crowds or knots of sticks and legs, and does well passing into space. Will dangle you to death, his dekes coupled with his footwork making him so tough to stay in front of as a defender. Can pick up bad passes or stray pucks, collect them and immediately distribute the puck without breaking stride. In short, he’s got all the tools to be a big scorer. While very slight, Finley is a dynamic skater. Can really take off out of a dead stop, has superb lateral movement, absolutely dances with the puck, and his compact style offers him surprisingly good balance for his size. His speed lets him slip checks and get down the walls without taking hits. Good on the forecheck as a result and always seems to be going in the right direction – toward the other team’s net. Where Finley needs work revolves largely around his play style and his size. More strength is a must for him; if he can’t escape from defenders, he’s easily held up and separated from the puck. And in his own end, he tends to play on the perimeter too much, trying to deflect pucks or intercept passes high in the D-Zone. But down low he can get rag-dolled by bigger forwards or just pushed out of position which can result in odd-man situations around the net and goals against. He needs to be better defensively, and while some of that can be addressed by simply adding mass and strength, he also needs to be more mindful of play down low as well as more attentive to the value of the puck. He likes to fly the zone and create offense, so Finley will need to improve his commitment to playing below the circles – particularly if he’s going to play center at the next level. But these things are likely already known to the Sabres, as Finley is set to play at U of Wisconsin next season – the Badgers are coached by Tony Granato, Donny Meatballs’ brother.

5#9: Jan Spunar, G, CZE: As we have discussed in earlier Mock Drafts, adding depth to the Sabres’ organizational goaltending tree seems to be a priority this season after not choosing one last year (although trading for Devon Levi has proven a remarkably prescient move thus far). With Luukkonen, Levi and Portillo all in essentially the same development window, they could use another guy who’s a few years behind them to begin to groom. Spunar is that guy. Not only is the name great, but he fits the modern goalie archetype at 6’3 190# with room to grow. Positionally sound, he’s got some Ryan Miller to his game. Likes to beat the puck to the spot. Game is based on reading and/or tracking the play and recognizing the correct angles, because he’s not a great athlete – at least, not in the net – and doesn’t make a lot of sprawling saves or sudden changes of direction to counter cross-ice passes. Where he is strong is with his glove and stick. Super-quick glove hand he uses to bait shooters before snapping pucks out of the air. Combined with his reads, it makes it a challenge to go high to that side. Having a good glove really helps because his butterfly is so consistently solid. Gets down smoothly, great control of his legs, really technically sound when it comes to sealing off the bottom of the net. Add in the glove, and you’re reducing the areas to shoot at for opposing forwards. And his aggression with his stick is surprising. He’s not a pure puck handler, and actually struggles some with controlling the puck and moving it smartly or accurately. This would lead you to think he doesn’t use his stick much; actually, he’s a very confident poke-checker that can disrupt rushing forwards and really rush opponents around the net, taking away a lot of time if not a lot of space. Unshakable calm is another Miller trait he seems to possess. Doesn’t seem to get rattled, even after giving up a bad goal or two, able to reset instantly as soon as the play starts up again. This easiness to his game seems to settle his teammates and is a significant positive factor when his club is under siege. Where Spunar can get in trouble is the challenges he has recovering to make the athletic saves on broken or unexpected plays, and in that same vein, he can tend to overextend himself when he attempts those acrobatic saves and takes himself out of plays. He’s still relatively young as far as this draft class goes, with a summer birthday, but has acquitted himself fairly well in the Czech U-20 league with a 3.01 GAA and a .903 SV% for a pretty average team in Oloumoc. Spunar also backstopped the overmatched Czechs between the pipes in the Hlinka tournament last Spring, with a solid 3.27 GAA and .891 SV%. 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. Which is a good place to be. At worst, Spunar 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.