Greetings once more, DBTB!
As the playoffs dwindle down to the Final Four, and the Amerks wonderful season is tragically over, thoughts turn to the Stanley Cup, winning ‘major awards’, and of course, the Draft.
Without further adieu, I present to you my first full, 7-round Mock Draft for your reading pleasure.
Speaking of Mock Drafts, there are a couple links (Brass posted one as well, but if you didn’t catch it, here it is again!) that allow you to conduct your own. Now, the rankings are, to me at least, a bit wonky, but you all can be the judges of that. First is FC Hockey (nhlentrydraft.com). This is the Future Considerations Mock Draft generator, so you can create your own Mocks whenever its convenient. They do a pretty good job with it, so check it out. Next, the folks at Draft Prospects have put a nice simulator as well. You can catch that here: Draft Simulator (draftprospectshockey.com).
Let’s dig in a little, from the Sabres perspective, on what the Board might look like come Draft Day in beau Montreal. As we know, BFLO has the 9th, 16th, and 28th overall selections on Day One, and then seven more come Day Two. In my mind, I am supremely confident the following six players will be off the Board by the time BFLO hears their name called: Wright, Cooley, Slafkowsky, Nemec, Geekie and Jiricek. I don’t know in what order, or if they will be the first five names called, but those players will be all selected by the time BFLO is on the clock. That leaves selections 7 and 8 before the Sabres select.
This is where things get interesting.
Any of the following 12 players should go between 8 and 16 (when the Sabres make their second selection): the two favorites Savoie and Gauthier; the four D-Men Pickering, Mintyukov, Korchinski, and Mateychuk; the two Euro goal scorers Lekkeriamaki and Kemmel; and the four wild cards Nazar, Kasper, Lambert, and Yurov. There are players who could sneak into the mix here, in particular Czech center Jiri Kulich (a rapid riser who should wind up in the Top 15) and US forward Jimmy Snuggerud, but the Sabres could be getting 2 players from that aforementioned group of 12 if they so choose. As for their last choice in the 1st round, that’s anybody’s guess. I’m not opposed to pairing up their #28 pick and their 2nd rounder to move up 6-7-8 spots if the right player is there.
I do think there is a lot of value as far back as the early/mid 3rd round, so I’m also not opposed to moving back (as I did in this Mock) to add another 2nd or early 3rd if another team wants to jump up for a player they covet.
We saw a few weeks ago the always entertaining U-18 World Championships go down, where inexplicably the US went down to a spirited Swedish squad in the Gold Medal game. Of course, we saw the Russian team prevented from participating, as were the Belorussians, due to the Ukraine – Russia conflict and the actions of the IIHF. But that didn’t stop it from being high-quality hockey. Perhaps the biggest riser coming out of this tournament was the previously mentioned (and McGee favorite) Jiri Kulich, a shoot-first centerman who Captained the Czech team to a medal by scoring 9 goals in 6 games. The Swedish Three – Jonathan Lekkeriamaki, Liam Ohgren, and Noah Ostlund – dominated along with PP QB Mattias Havelid. In my opinion, Ostlund (another McGee favorite) was the best player of the bunch throughout the tournament. Someone who, if I were the Sabres, would take a long look at with pick #16. Other noteworthy performances included Cutter Gauthier (9P in 6 games), Joakim Kemmel (6G in 5 games), Topi Ronni (4P in 6 games for the Finns), and Julian Lutz (4P in 4 games for the Germans). It goes without saying that Connor Bedard was incredible, 7P in 4 games for an undermanned Canadian team. But for our purposes here, we don’t have to talk about him until next Draft Season.
I still believe a number of Russians will either fall or will not get drafted at all due to the Ukraine-Russia Conflict. Why? A couple reasons. First off, some of the end-of-year big prospect events won’t include the Russian team. For players like a Danila Yurov (yet another McGee favorite!) – good enough to be in the KHL, but too young to get any kind of meaningful minutes – taking away a spotlight event really detracts from their ability to showcase their game against peers rather than serving as the 12th forward on a KHL team, so that GMs and head scouts who haven’t had the luxury of watching some of these kids won’t get a chance to see them. And that can lead to guys falling down the Board…or being removed altogether. Secondly, the KHL-NHL relationship could be fractured for some time. This could take away the ability for NHL teams to buy out KHL contracts, as well as creating a number of other logistical challenges for KHL players who want to come over to the NHL. So there’s a chance – however slim – that a kid you draft this year might not see the NHL for years…or in some cases, more years than they normally would. If they ever come over at all. We all know about the so-called ‘Russian Bias’ amongst NHL GMs, and it exists for sure, but we could see a Russian Bias on steroids. Thirdly, if a Curtain, Iron or otherwise, falls on Russian again, most NHL teams will not have a clear window, much less a hand in, the development of their drafted player. For teams who really have a structured development program, this could be a huge turnoff. We’ve already seen teams trying to get ahead of this by signing young players as soon as their KHL contracts expire (see Alexander Kisakov, Sabres’ prospect, recently signed to his ELC). Lastly, the Russian government seems pretty intent on stopping people of any notoriety if they want to leave the country. So if, say, a Russian kid’s KHL contract expires, and everyone knows he’s leaving to play in North America, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Russian government would not let him go…or at least create enough entanglements to dramatically slow his travels overseas. Maybe none of these things happen, maybe everything gets resolved and we never have to worry about any of this (except the Russian Bias). But there can be no denying there is risk there, and most NHL GMs are heavily risk-averse.
As an addendum to that, Russian wing and goal-scoring prospect Ivan Miroschnichenko was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I don’t know the situation beyond that, although I’ve seen people suggest his treatment is going well, but to add that terrible health news (my heart goes out to the kid) to the above concerns around Russians makes it really tough for me to even rank him. Let’s hope that he’s healed up and back on the ice in no time, but he was already slipping for me before the news came out, so he was going to be in that 20+ range regardless. Now I’ve got him in Round 2. But let me be clear, I wish him nothing but the best.
Leave your thoughts, as I know you will. And now…enjoy!
2. NEW JERSEY: Juraj Slafkvowsky, LW, FIN
3. ARIZONA: Simon Nemec, RHD, SVK
4. SEATTLE: David Jiricek, RHD, CZE *
5. PHILADELPHIA: Logan Cooley, C, US NTDP
6. COLUMBUS (CHICAGO): Cutter Gauthier, RW, US NTDP
7. OTTAWA: Connor Geekie, C, WHL
8. DETROIT: Marco Kasper, C, SWE
9. BUFFALO: Matthew Savoie, C/W, WHL
10. ANAHEIM: Pavel Mintyukov, LHD, OHL
11. SAN JOSE: Joakim Kemell, RW, FIN
12. COLUMBUS: Owen Pickering, LHD, WHL
13. NY ISLANDERS: Frank Nazar, RW, US NTDP
14. WINNIPEG: Jonathan Lekkerimaki, C/W, SWE
15. VANCOUVER: Danila Yurov, W, RUS
16. BUFFALO (LAS VEGAS): Denton Mateychuk, LHD, WHL
17. NASHVILLE: Jimmy Snuggerud, C/W, US NTDP
18. DALLAS: Kevin Korchinski, LHD, WHL
19. LOS ANGELES: Jiri Kulich, C/W, CZE
20. WASHINGTON: Noah Ostlund, C, SWE
21. PITTSBURGH: Brad Lambert, RW, FIN
22. ANAHEIM (BOSTON): Jagger Firkus, W, WHL
23. MINNESOTA: Liam Ohgren, C/W, SWE
24. TORONTO: Ike Howard, RW, US NTDP
25. ST LOUIS: Filip Mesar, W, SVK
26. MONTREAL (CALGARY): Tristan Luneau, RHD, QMJHL
27. NY RANGERS: Filip Bystedt, C, SWE
28. BUFFALO (FLORIDA): Ryan Chesley, RHD, US NTDP *
29. EDMONTON: Lian Bischel, LHD, SWISS
30. ARIZONA (MONTREAL/CAROLINA): Rutger McGroarty, C/LW, US NTDP *
31. TAMPA BAY: Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, OHL
32. ARIZONA (COLORADO): Sam Rinzel, RHD, US HS
1. MONTREAL: Ivan Miroshnichenko, W, RUS
2. ARIZONA: David Goyette, C, OHL
3. SEATTLE: Calle Odelius, LHD, SWE
4. ARIZONA (PHILADELPHIA): Noah Warren, RHD, QMJHL
5. NEW JERSEY: Seamus Casey, RHD, US NTDP
6. CHICAGO: Jani Nyman, LW, FIN
7. OTTAWA: Maveric Lameroux, RHD, QMJHL
8. DETROIT: Gleb Trikozov, C/W, RUS
TRADE: BUFFALO 2#9 -> NYR 2#26, 2#27
9. NY RANGERS (BUFFALO): Nathan Gaucher, C, QMJHL
10. ANAHEIM: Elias Salmonsson, RHD, SWE
11. ARIZONA (SAN JOSE): Lane Hutson, LHD, US NTDP
12. COLUMBUS: Regier Lorenz, C, AJHL
13. ARIZONA (NY ISLANDERS): Jack Hughes, C/W, NCAA
14. WASHINGTON (WINNIPEG): Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL
15. MINNESOTA (ARIZONA/VANCOUVER): Mattias Havelid, RHD, SWE
16. LAS VEGAS: Owen Beck, C, OHL
17. SEATTLE (NASHVILLE): Jordan Dumais, RW, QMJHL
18. DALLAS: Adam Ingram, C, USHL
19. LOS ANGELES: Tomas Hamara, LHD, FIN
20. DETROIT (WASHINGTON): Matyas Sapovaliv, LW, OHL
21. ANAHEIM (PITTSBURGH): Alexander Perevalov, RW, RUS
22. BOSTON: Devin Kaplan, RW, US NTDP
23. CHICAGO (MINNESOTA): Tyler Brennan, G, WHL
24. SEATTLE (TORONTO): Danny Zhilkin, C, OHL
25. BUFFALO (NY RANGERS/ST LOUIS): Artyom Duda, LHD, RUS
26. BUFFALO (NY RANGERS): Cameron Lund, C, USHL
27. CALGARY: Fraser Minten, RW, WHL
28. SEATTLE (CALGARY/FLORIDA): Ryan Greene, C, USHL
29. EDMONTON: Viktor Neuchev, W, RUS
30. CAROLINA: Julian Lutz, RW, GER
31. OTTAWA (TAMPA BAY): Paul Ludwinski, C, OHL
32. NY ISLANDERS (COLORADO): Topi Ronni, C, FIN
2. ARIZONA: Christian Kyrou, RHD, OHL
3. SEATTLE: Adam Sykora, C/W, SVK
4. PHILADELPHIA: Gavin Hayes, RW, OHL
5. NEW JERSEY: Simon Forsmark, LHD, SWE
6. CAROLINA (CHICAGO): Kasper Kulonummi, RHD, FIN
7. OTTAWA: Miko Mattikaa, RW, FIN
8. DETROIT: Matthew Poitras, C, OHL
9. BUFFALO: Garrett Brown, RHD, USHL
10. MONTREAL (ANAHEIM): Topias Leinonen, G, FIN
11. SAN JOSE: Charlie Leddy, RHD, US NTDP
12. WINNIPEG (COLUMBUS): Alexander Suzdalev, RW, SWE
13. NY ISLANDERS: Dylan James, W, USHL
14. TORONTO (WINNIPEG): Vladimir Grudinen, LHD, RUS
15. VANCOUVER: Ty Nelson, RHD, OHL
16. CHICAGO (LAS VEGAS): Filip Nordberg, LHD, SWE
17. NASHVILLE: Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C, FIN
18. DALLAS: Nicolas Moldenhauer, C/RW, USHL
19. NASHVILLE (LOS ANGELES): Josh Niedermeyer, LHD, BCHL
20. WASHINGTON: Angus Booth, LHD, QMJHL
21. LOS ANGELES (PITTSBURGH): Jack Devine, RW, NCAA
22. OTTAWA (BOSTON): Jace Weir, RHD, WHL
23. MINNESOTA: Jordan Gustafson, C, WHL
24. CHICAGO (TORONTO): Servac Petrovsky, C, OHL
25. ST LOUIS: Jake Livanavage, LHD, USHL
26. BOSTON (CALGARY): Jake Furlong, LHD, QMJHL
27. LAS VEGAS (NY RANGERS): Spencer Sova, LHD, OHL
28. FLORIDA: Ludwig Persson, C/W, SWE
29. EDMONTON: Matthew Seminoff, RW, WHL
30. MONTREAL (CAROLINA): Vincenze Rohrer, C/RW, OHL
31. COLUMBUS (TAMPA BAY): Dominik Rymon, C, CZE
32. COLORADO: Reid Schaefer, RW, WHL
1. MONTREAL: Mike Fisher, RHD, US HS
2. WINNIPEG (ARIZONA): Cedrick Guindon, C, OHL
3. SEATTLE: Mike Buchinger, LHD, OHL
4. PHILADELPHIA: Otto Hokkanen, C, FIN
5. NEW JERSEY: Josh Filmon, LW, WHL
6. TAMPA BAY (CHICAGO): Alexander Pelevin, LHD, RUS
7. OTTAWA: Niklas Kokko, G, FIN
8. DETROIT: Niks Fenenko, LHD, QMJHL
9. BUFFALO: Oskar Pettersson, RW, SWE
10. ANAHEIM: Joel Jonsson, RW, SWE
11. SAN JOSE: Arseni Koromyslov, LHD, RUS
12. COLUMBUS: Ryan Healey, RHD, US HS
13. NEW JERSEY (NY ISLANDERS): Ivan Zhigalov, G, QMJHL
14. NY RANGERS (WINNIPEG): Otto Salin, RHD, FIN
15. VANCOUVER: Kasper Lundell, C/W, FIN
16. DETROIT (LAS VEGAS): Adam Cardona, RHD, USHL
17. NASHVILLE: Cole Spicer, W, US NTDP
18. DALLAS: Ludvig Jansson, RHD, SWE
19. LOS ANGELES: Jake Karabela, C, OHL
20. SEATTLE (WASHINGTON): Mike Mastrodomenico, RHD, USHL
21. PITTSBURGH: Jorian Donovan, LHD, OHL
22. BOSTON: Parker Bell, RW, WHL
23. MINNESOTA: Slava Sapunov, RHD, RUS
24. COLUMBUS (TORONTO): Fabian Wagner, RW, SWE
25. ST LOUIS: Ruslan Gazizov, W, OHL
26. SEATTLE (CALGARY): Kiril Dolzhenkov, W, RUS
27. MONTREAL (NY RANGERS): Adam Engstrom, LHD, SWE
28. FLORIDA: Tyler Dunbar, LHD, USHL
29. NEW JERSEY (EDMONTON): Brennan Ali, C, US HS
30. CAROLINA: Quinn Finley, C, USHL
31. MONTREAL (TAMPA BAY): Hannes Hellberg, W, SWE
32. DETROIT (COLORADO): Brandon Lisowsky, LW, WHL
1. MONTREAL: Vsevolod Komarov, RHD, QMJHL
2. ARIZONA: Ty Young, G, AJHL
3. SEATTLE: Owen Mehlenbacher, RW, USHL
4. PHILADELPHIA: Danill Ivanov, LHD, RUS
5. BUFFALO (NEW JERSEY): Tyler Muszelik, G, US NTDP
6. LAS VEGAS (CHICAGO): Hudson Thornton, LHD, WHL
7. OTTAWA: Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, OHL
8. DETROIT: Rastislav Elias, G, SVK
9. SAN JOSE (VEGAS/BUFFALO): Jozef Kmec, RHD, WHL
10. ANAHEIM: Tyson Dyck, W, BCHL
11. SAN JOSE: Tyson Jugnauth, LHD, BCHL
12. NEW JERSEY (COLUMBUS): Rodwin Dionicio, LHD, OHL
13. NY ISLANDERS: Tyler Duke, LHD, US NTDP
14. OTTAWA (WINNIPEG): Cruz Lucius, RW, US NTDP
15. VANCOUVER: Dylan Silverstein, G, US NTDP
16. LAS VEGAS: Ryan Hopkins, RHD, BCHL
17. NASHVILLE: Tristan Sarsland, RHD, US HS
18. DALLAS: Maddox Fleming, RW, USHL
19. LOS ANGELES: Jackson Dorrington, LHD, USHL
20. WASHINGTON: Mason Beaupit, G, WHL
21. PITTSBURGH: Liam Steele, RHD, CCHL
22. OTTAWA (BOSTON): Eli Barnett, RHD, BCHL
23. MINNESOTA: Santeri Sulku, C/LW, FIN
24. ANAHEIM (TORONTO): Issac Menard, LHD, QMJHL
25. ST LOUIS: Kocha Delic, C/W, OHL
26. CALGARY: Sergei Litvinov, G, QMJHL
27. NY RANGERS: Kirill Kundryatsev, LHD, OHL
28. FLORIDA: Ilya Kvochko, C, RUS
29. EDMONTON: Jan Spunar, G, CZE
30. CAROLINA: Jere Lassila, C, FIN
31. TAMPA BAY: Hunter Height, C, OHL
32. COLORADO: Gustav Karlsson, C, SWE
1. MONTREAL: Colton Smith, RW, OHL
2. ARIZONA: Jakub Hujer, W, QMJHL
3. SEATTLE: Vinny Borgesi, RHD, USHL
4. PHILADELPHIA: Daniil Davydov, C, RUS
5. NEW JERSEY: David Moravec, RHD, CZE
6. CHICAGO: Georges Fegaras, RHD, OJHL
7. OTTAWA: Jack Sparkes, RHD, OJHL
8. TAMPA BAY (DETROIT): Elias Pettersson, LHD, SWE
9. BUFFALO: Brady Stonehouse, RW, OHL
10. CAROLINA (ANAHEIM): Cameron Korpi, G, NAHL
11. SAN JOSE: Marcus Vidicek, C, QMJHL
12. CHICAGO (COLUMBUS): Jack Harvey, W, USHL
13. NY ISLANDERS: Marcel Marcel, LW, CZE
14. WINNIPEG: Keaton Dowhaniuk, LHD, WHL
15. VANCOUVER: Alex Bump, LW, USHL
16. LAS VEGAS: Jake Sloan, RW, WHL
17. ANAHEIM (NASHVILLE): Kaz Sobieski, RHD, US HS
18. DALLAS: Sergei Ivanov, G, RUS
19. LOS ANGELES: Andrei Malyavin, LHD, OHL
20. WASHINGTON: Luka Hauf, C, GER
21. PITTSBURGH: Axel Mangbo, G, USHL
22. BOSTON: Michael Del Starza, W, USHL
23. MINNESOTA: Liam Arnsby, C, OHL
24. FLORIDA (TORONTO): Rasmus Rudslatt, RW, SWE
25. ST LOUIS: Reid Dyck, G, WHL
26. BUFFALO (CALGARY): Pasha Bocharov, RHD, WHL
27. NY RANGERS: Tim Almgren, C/RW, SWE
28. FLORIDA: Oskar Pantzere, LHD, SWE
29. EDMONTON: Rayan Bettahar, LHD, WHL
30. CAROLINA: Beau Jelsma, RW, OHL
31. TAMPA BAY: Yegor Sidorov, W, WHL
32. COLORADO: Marek Hejduk, RW, US NTDP
1. MONTREAL: Simon Slavicek, W, CZE
2. SAN JOSE (ARIZONA): Ilya Rogovsky, W, RUS
3. SEATTLE: Grayson Badger, RW, US HS
4. PHILADELPHIA: Leo Hafenrichter, RHD, OHL
5. NEW JERSEY: Alex Sotek, RW, SVK
6. CHICAGO: Grant Babcock, LHD, US HS
7. BOSTON (OTTAWA): Helmer Styf, C, SWE
8. DETROIT: Oskar Asplund, LHD, SWE
9. BUFFALO: Simon Wolf, G, SWISS
10. COLUMBUS (ANAHEIM): Petr Hauser, RW, CZE
11. SAN JOSE: Martin Johnsen, C, SWE
12. CAROLINA (COLUMBUS): Roman Makarov, RW, RUS
13. OTTAWA (NY ISLANDERS): Jeremy Langlois, LHD, QMJHL
14. WINNIPEG: Colin Kessler, C, US HS
15. VANCOUVER: Kent Anderson, RHD, USHL
16. LAS VEGAS: Kyle Downey, G, OHL
17. NASHVILLE: Matt Ward, W, WHL
18. DALLAS: Emanuelson Charboneau, RHD, BCHL
19. DETROIT (LOS ANGELES): Raul Yakupov, W, RUS
20. WASHINGTON: Noah Grueter, RW, SWISS
21. PITTSBURGH: Linus Hemstrom, RW, SWE
22. BOSTON: Ben Hemmerling, W, WHL
23. SAN JOSE (MINNESOTA): Jacob Oster, G, OHL
24. TORONTO: Pamo Fimis, C, OHL
25. MONTREAL (ARIZONA/ST LOUIS): Zam Plante, C, USHL
26. CALGARY: Cole Knuble, RW, USHL
27. TAMPA BAY (NY RANGERS): Marcus Limpar Lantz, C, SWE
28. FLORIDA: Brayden Schuurman, RW, WHL
29. EDMONTON: Samu Bau, LW, FIN
30. CAROLINA: Alexander Smolin, G, RUS
31. TAMPA BAY: Ilya Morozov, C, BLR
32. COLORADO: Tnias Mathurin, LHD, OHL
1#9: Matthew Savoie, 5’10 C/W, WHL: Born on New Year’s Day, Savoie (pronounced Sah-voy) is an elite offensive talent wherever you play him, be it in the middle or on either wing, although I suspect he’ll wind up on the wing in the NHL. Hardly a giant, but very sturdy (5’10 185#), Savoie primarily plays a speed game. He’s murder in transition. It’s fair to call him a gamebreaker. There are a couple times a game where he gets control of the puck and just explodes through a defense and generates a quality chance. I don’t think the Sabres have a player like that, maybe Peterka, in their organization. An excellent skater, Savoie possesses tremendous burst, and can rocket out of a dead stop to full speed in just a couple strides. Loves to take the puck wide and attack defenders who’ve just transitioned to backwards skating, blowing past them before cutting inside and either getting a high-quality chance himself or drawing more defenders and saucing the puck to an open teammate.
Solid lateral movement, his feet are so good, he looks like he’s dancing with the puck out there. That said, he can take some awful wide turns and his cuts aren’t always sharp, which can limit his effectiveness with the puck at times. Slips checks due to his speed and lower-body strength, or can just make you miss with his shiftiness. This skating can make him a stifling on-puck defender and a forechecking terror, although sometimes his intensity wavers. Once he sets his sights on a puck carrier, it’s tough to get away from him. Extremely persistent in puck pressure. Combined with an active stick and exceptional instincts, he strips or deflects a lot of pucks and makes it generally miserable for defenders trying to exit their own end with the puck. But he’s not all speed, which makes sense when you see that high-end shot. Savoie disguises it well and can get off a laser when it appears he’s only flicking the puck at the net. But make no mistake. He can rip it and it doesn’t require a lot of extra motion. Heavy wrister, lethal one-timer, and a dangerous snapshot gives him an arsenal that becomes even harder to stop because he gets them off his stick so quickly, usually while moving at speed. Loves to use defenders to hide his release, and his hands are so good, you have to play him for a deke or a dangle, which often leads to surprised goalies as the puck whistles off his blade before they can get set.
The only criticism you can make is that he doesn’t shoot it enough and passes up a lot of good chances to try to make a highlight-reel play. In fact, that can be one of his biggest criticisms – he can turn down the smart play to attempt the amazing play and loses the puck as a result. Head always up, looking for the best route to get the puck to the net. Extremely smart player especially in the Neutral Zone or the O-zone. Understands how to manipulate defenders, draws them to open up passing lanes or moves them with subtle shoulder fakes and look-aways to create shooting lanes. Really sees the entire ice, all the time. Motor always running. Feet keep moving, which makes him tough to defend, as you can’t take your eye off him for a moment, or he will dart into open spaces or attack the net with the puck. Hands are superb. Very patient with the puck and keeps it on a string when necessary. Tough to take off the puck. He’s not afraid of the physical game and can handle being bodied up while controlling the puck. In fact, I’ve seen him stand up more than a couple guys despite his smaller stature, and he’s often digging in scrums in front of the net or engaging in puck battles on the walls. But he has that O’Reilly ability to hustle for the corner, then turn away at the last second to avoid taking a big hit but still coming up with the puck.
His defensive positioning is solid but can get caught at times in his own end chasing the puck. That said, you’re not drafting him for his defensive game. Yes, he’s got some blemishes. He’s on the small side, and generates a lot of his points on the PP. This is a kid that has so many tools, you could reasonably project him as a 70-80 point player in the NHL once he hits his prime, and at his ceiling, a 90-100 point guy. Reminds me a bit of Danny Briere although I’m not sure I’ve yet seen that true grit out of him that Danny had. One thing that gets lost sometimes is the fact Savoie plays on maybe the best, deepest team in the entire CHL. They will probably have 10-12 NHL draftees in their line-up, which is great for team success, but there’s only one puck to go around. On a lesser team, he would likely have more eye-popping numbers (think Sam Reinhart). Was over a PPG in his Draft -1 year in the USHL, with 38P in 34 games. This is a pretty remarkable achievement, being his first year in the USHL where he went to play when the WHL shut down. Savoie had the highest PPG average of any 2022 draft-eligible in the league other than a couple of guys who played for the US Development Program team. Is an elite prospect, and would give the Sabres the kind of A+ offensive ability they do not presently have in the system. The unanswered question is, how difficult will it be to manage his lack of size at the NHL level?
1#16: Denton Mateychuk, 5’11 LHD, WHL: BFLO goes back to the Western League for their 2nd selection, and it’s a bit of a surprise! The Sabres go defense, selecting extremely mobile 2-way defender who can do it all. Now, you may say McGee, the Sabres are loaded with young defenders! Dahlin, Samuelsson, Joker, Power, Bryson…all true. But with the graduation of those players to the NHL level (esp Sammy and Power), the cupboards on defense are remarkably bare, and if Ryan Johnson elects to go the free agency route, even thinner! So it’s time to restock. You never know what can happen, after all. Like every modern defender, you have to look first at skating. And Mateychuk is a mind-blowing skater. He is smooth, explosive, and agile. For pure get-up, he might be among the best skaters in the entire Draft class. Everything about his game stems from his high-end skating. He’s an excellent defender thanks to his skating, he’s a dominant puck carrier thanks to his skating, he’s a transition machine due to his skating. While an invaluable asset, it also reflects one of the weak points of his game – Mateychuk’s transitions can be clunky and put him in a bad position when he goes from forward to backward or vice versa. Still, with or without the puck, he can absolutely jet.
Defensively, he gets to loose pucks first. His gap control is tight because he can mirror offensive players and risk getting beat, since his recovery speed is so good. A gunslinger, jumping up at the blue-line or in the NZ to disrupt zone entries or transition plays is second nature to him, and he kills a lot of odd-man rushes before they actually get off the ground. Yes, this can increase the odds of getting beat in these situations, but he ends more rushes than he allows. Strong on his skates, he can use his closing speed to angle opponents to the boards and separate them from the puck. And once the puck is turned over, things really get fun. He seems to invite the forecheck. Mateychuk sometimes seems to think he’s the new Paul Coffey. He collects the puck and just goes. Weaves through crowds in the NZ, carries the puck into the O-zone, all the way to the net if they let him. Again, with that skating and his push the pace at all costs attitude, he can beat most players up ice even with the puck on his stick. No one-trick pony, Mateychuk can really rip the puck. He’s got a heavy, accurate wrister that he smartly varies his placement and velocity, so he understands how to shoot for rebounds, tips, and deflections when a good lane isn’t there. He doesn’t have a boomer in his arsenal, however, and he’s not a real danger with a one-timer.
Also a dangerous passer, he sometimes overhandles the puck rather than make the smart, easy pass up ice, instead choosing to lug the puck through all 3 zones. Yet, you can almost forgive him when you see how well he understands lanes and passes the puck into space to create prime scoring chances for his teammates as he expertly distributes the puck in transition. The one drawback is that he doesn’t always know when to take something off the puck to make it easier to handle. His almost single-minded desire to push the pace can cause him to fire off passes that are impossible to handle, and lead to bad turnovers. An accurate passer who sees the ice so well from the back-end. Great transition ‘feel’. For those who question drafting another leftie, Mateychuk has played the right-side for much of this past season, and it hasn’t hampered his game much if at all. Remarkably productive, this kid put up 64P in 65 games in the regular season, and 10 in 10 in the playoffs. The ignition switch for the entire Moose Jaw offense, he played an incredible amount of minutes and had enormous pressure on him all year, and still showed up every game and played hard and effectively.
I think if he can fine-tune some elements of his game – more change of pace; making the smart, simple play more often; picking his spots better – he could be an absolute weapon on both ends. Which isn’t out of the question – he’s a pretty late birthday for this class, so there’s still lots of runway left with him. It’s hard to compare him to NHL players, but I think with a couple years of development and then some time in the NHL, he could be a Duncan Keith-type of player: not a big guy but productive offensively, strong in his own end, and seemingly capable of playing all 60 minutes without losing a step. There’s some risk here, but the upside is tremendous.
1#29: Ryan Chesley, 6’0 RHD, US NTDP: The Sabres are thin on right-shot defender prospects after Oskari Laaksonen. This Draft has a lot of talented righties, and one of them would be a smart add for the Sabres, especially with three 1st round selections. While I would be delighted if he were still on the Board at this selection, they add a guy who I believe would be a counterpart for either Dahlin or Power long-term. Chesley is average-sized (6’0 195#) but sturdy and extremely strong, a rock-solid two-way defender who loves to lower the boom on opposing forwards. He specializes in making quick decisions with or without the puck and getting it out of his own end as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s not always pretty, and doesn’t always generate quick counters, but he does what he's supposed to: defend his own goal. Chesley has a ton of attributes that make him a desirable addition to the pipeline. He’s an excellent 4-way skater, with good burst straight out of directional changes, smooth transitions from front to back and vice versa, and tremendous edge work that provides great lateral movement. This high-end mobility coupled with a tenacious attitude makes him a top-tier defender on the puck.
He can gap up a forward with or without the puck, attaching himself to an opponent, disrupting the rush and driving them out of high-danger areas. And it’s there he does some of his best work. Really powerful lower body lets him pin bigger players against the boards after angling them away from the middle of the ice, allowing his teammates to take the puck and head the other way. Typically leverages inside position on opposing forwards, protecting the middle of the ice from all comers. Stick is always on puck. Balance is so good, so strong on his stick, he can snuff out plays before they ever get started. Where Sabres fans will really like Chesley is his ability to blow a guy up. He likes to drop players with big shoulder checks, and always seems to finish his checks along the wall or in the corners. The good thing is, he doesn’t go hunting for big hits. They often are employed strategically, to disrupt skaters or turn pucks over. Chesley is very judicious in leaving his man but when he does, that guy will feel it.
Still, he is highly disciplined positionally and rarely wanders off from his spot, electing to be patient and remain within the structure. Decision-making is high-end as well. He knows where to go with the puck before it comes to him, and he doesn’t delay in moving it off his stick and up ice. Superb awareness. High panic threshold. Skating lets him evade forecheckers and confidence lets him lug the puck up ice as often as he puts a clean 1st pass on the tape of a teammate leaving the D-zone. He can enter the O-zone with control, and occasionally will take the puck to the net himself. Chesley has some offense to his game, particularly playing the shooter on the PP. He’s got a heavy, hot clapper from the point that is fairly accurate. Not especially creative with the puck, particularly in the O-zone, he does more damage with smart dump-ins, short-area passing in secondary transition and blasting shots on net as a trailer. Clever in getting pucks to the crease, either with that big hammer of a shot or just flipping a wrister to the net front. But he’s not a great PP QB, and thus is often paired with that kind of player…which leads me to think he would be a useful future partner for one of the Sabres’ more offensive-minded blueliners if they ever decided to go 3F, 2D instead of 4F on the PP. Chesley has not had a super-productive year thus far for the Program (which is why he might be available this late in the 1st round – a miscalculation I hope the Sabres do not make).
Putting up a meager 29P in 59 games is more of a testament to the role he’s been playing rather than any issue with his defensive game. That offensive upside is more evident in his time with the U17 team last year, where he went for nearly a PPG – 34P in 37 games. It also showed up in the U-18s, where Chesley added 5P in 6 games while wearing a letter for Team USA silver-medal winning squad. Bound for the U of Minnesota next season, where he just might replace Sabre prospect Ryan Johnson for the Gophers.
2#25: Cameron Lund, 6’2 C, USHL: Big, still-raw centerman who can play wing, Lund is a smooth two-way forward with plenty of upside. Can be wildly inconsistent, but has flashed some real high-end skill and production throughout the year. Starting with last Spring’s Hlinka, where Lund put up 4G in 4 games, he exceeded expectations throughout the year, piling up 25G and 50P in 62 games for a terrible Green Bay team. He finished 5th among draft eligibles in goals and points in the USHL and was even elevated to the US NTDP for a cup of coffee this year. Add to that his strong finish – a PPG player for the final 11 games – and there’s something worth looking into. The first thing you notice with Lund is his skating. For a big kid, he’s remarkably smooth and fluid. He’s not a burner, but his stride and his lateral movement are very good, has a solid burst, and when moving he can embarrass defenders.
Balance is exceptional, making it really tough to separate him from the puck. This helps him in the cycle down low, where he does some of his best work. The strong skating base will only improve as he moves up and receives more work with skating coaches and the like, so any deficiencies he does have – not many – will be corrected and eliminated without a lot of trouble. Like a lot of bigger players, he doesn’t look like he’s fast – almost like Alex Tuch – until he blows by a defender. A solid scorer, he’s actually a pass-first player, and has some skill as a playmaker. Nice touch, he can be a deadly passer out of the cycle. Winning a puck battle with his balance and size, he immediately turns his attention to the slot area and can put a pass between a maze of sticks and legs to create a great chance. Also excellent in transition, where his skating can draw defenders and open up passing lanes that Lund routinely exploits. He’s creative and accurate with his passes, has an innate sense of transition lanes and knows where to go with the puck and how to get it there without having to downshift or curl back.
Good awareness, especially in the O-zone. Will take the puck to the net front and can use his size/reach combo to get there even when defenders try to cut him off. Where Lund needs to improve is his game-to-game consistency. He had some great streaks this season – 10G in 12 games in the middle of the season, then as a PPG player at the conclusion of the season – but also had some pretty significant droughts that he’d like to forget. His confidence seems to take a hit when things start to go badly, and he stops making the same high-end plays that generate offense. The best thing you can say is that his motor doesn’t stop running. Lund is going full-steam even when mired in a drought, and his defensive effort does not wane. I would expect Lund to wind up growing a couple of inches before he hits the NHL, and getting some development time to improve physically (stronger, faster) and get his mindset right so he can more easily power through those slumps that will inevitably come could make him a very effective player down the road. If you develop him right, I think you could get a lot of what you would be looking for from Conor Geekie at a much lower selection in Cameron Lund. He’s off to play for Northeastern next year, where he’ll be trying to make life a little easier for Devon Levi.
2#27: Artyom Duda, 6’1 LHD, RUS: A Russian, you say? Scandalous! Yes, true, but I do think that there is value there, especially if players start to slide down the Board. And by the time this kid is ready to come over, I suspect that some kind of arrangement will be in place between the KHL and NHL that would allow him to come over. So why are we going defense…again? Restocking the cupboards, my friends! And to me, this kid is a 1st-round quality prospect. First off, and perhaps most impressively, Duda came into his draft year with a reputation as a purely defensive blueliner. The kind of typical Russian defender: positionally solid, smart in his own end, but not much for attacking up ice or even joining the rush very often. And he is just that – good in the D-zone. But this season Duda racked up 41P in 52 games, including 14G…only to post 17P in 18 games in the MHL playoffs! Clearly, there is more to like here. And it starts with Duda’s poise.
He is highly disciplined and detail-oriented. Gaps are tight, strong on his stick, and changes direction to disrupt potential odd-man rushes before they become threats. Isn’t much wasted motion defensively. He’s always in the right spot. Extremely smart, cuts off passing angles, gets in shooting lanes, and crowds shooters to force them to give up the puck, all the while remaining exactly where he’s supposed to be to maintain structure. Identifies a point to attack the puck carrier, patiently waits for it, then pounces. Not only that, but the kid played an entire season in the MHL without taking a single penalty! Now, I know there are those among us who feel that is a negative – he doesn’t put a body on opponents very often, and certainly not with enough violence to move someone against their will (and possibly draw a penalty!). That can, at times, make him less than ideal defending the front of the net or battling below the goal line, because he over-relies on his positioning, so he can be overpowered by bigger forwards. But he’s not weak, and he can hold off opponents with an arm as he carries the puck up ice. Maybe there’s more physicality in there! And once he gets up ice, things start to get interesting.
Duda went from being a safe, reliable 5/6 D-Man to a very realistic Top 4 candidate. And that comes from his sudden emergence of offensive firepower. First among his tools is a cannon of a shot. Duda fires a heavy, hard shot from anywhere and everywhere. Clapper is a missile, he’s got a whale of a one-timer, and his wrister is surprisingly heavy. Not only can he rip it, but he’s slick when it comes to finding shooting lanes and keeping pucks low to get to the net from wherever he launches. And his is where his edgework really pays off. Incredibly shifty, especially in the O-zone, Duda uses a whole arsenal of fakes and feints to pretzel defenders. Once he has a player where he wants them, he’ll slip by to create an even better scoring chance, taking any open ice to get closer to the slot or to the net itself. Not a great stickhandler, he’s so confident that he’ll try to dangle a guy and more than not succeeds, leaving players in his wake as his dances in from the top of the circles down to the blue paint. Whether that translates to the NHL is up for debate, but you can’t question how assertive he is with the puck and nothing is too dangerous or difficult to attempt. Instinct is shoot first, but he’s not a poor passer.
In his own end, he moves the puck smartly and accurately to the right spot to defuse pressure and get transition started. In the NZ, Duda prefers to get the puck up ice with the pass and then follow the play, winding up for a one-timer as the trailer. Like his play in the D-zone, he typically makes the right play and his passes are on target and on-time. The Sabres should have quite a bit of familiarity with him, as Duda played with last year’s pick Prokhor Poltapov on Krasnaya Armiya in the MHL this past year. In fact, Poltapov was the only player on the team to outscore Duda on their run to the Finals! Obviously, there are risks to selecting Russians this particular year, of which I am well aware. But I think this is a smart use of a resource to add a player I consider a 1st round talent at the end of the 2nd round. Time will tell. I think long-term, you’re looking at a player like Cam Fowler as a model for what Duda could be.
3#9: Garrett Brown, 6’3 RHD, USHL: More defense? Seriously? Yes! And don’t let me forget the Sabres connection, as Brown is the son of former Sabre legend Curtis Brown. This kid has been steadily rising all year for me. And unlike some of the previous selections, Brown is more of a traditional defender. Great size (6’3 185#), reach, and attitude. Plays a physical, shut-down style reminiscent of years past. Doesn’t blow you up with any regularity in the same way that Chesley does, but gets a hand in your chest, gets leverage on your stick, and once he takes you into the boards, you stay there. Never will be mistaken for a big offensive contributor – put up 16P in 62 games for Sioux City, then added 1P in 10 playoff games – but is growing into a sturdy, reliable blueliner who can be counted on as the last line of defense against an opposing rush. Still growing into his body – he’s grown 6 inches and gained 40# in the last 18 months! – skating improved leaps and bounds over the course of a season.
While he’s now a bit faster in his burst, where you can really see massive improvement are in his transitions from back-to-front and vice versa, and his lateral movement, which helps him mirror opposing forwards. Improved mobility has allowed him to become tougher to beat on the defensive end, where positioning has always been one of his best attributes. Now couple that consistently sound positioning with an elongated reach and upgraded skating, and you have the potential for a top-tier shut-down player. Closes out on his man when defending transition, stickwork is remarkable when controlling his opponent’s stick, and he seems to find his way to inside leverage on almost every rush he defends against. Doesn’t chase pucks or guys looking for big hits. And all this while getting 2nd pair minutes after starting the year with 3rd pair minutes. I think there is a lot more there for Brownie. Offensively, he's a work in progress if you’re feeling generous. Understands the basics – shoot into traffic, mind the blue line – but while he occasionally flashes more upside, Brown hasn’t really gotten the chance this year to develop that side of his game playing behind older players that command PP time and the like.
His shot is fairly average, and he doesn’t get much time to QB the offense or run the PP, which likely contributes to his lackluster numbers. Held up well during the USHL playoffs, helping to lead Sioux Falls to the USHL title this year. Committed to the NCAA champion University of Denver for next season, he’ll play behind a few NHL draftees, so it will likely take him 2-3 years of college before we see him sign a pro deal. That said, I like this as an upside choice, and the Sabres can afford to be patient with him given the newfound depth on the back-end. Maybe a bit of a reach, but I suspect he won’t be there when the fourth round comes by.
4#9: Oskar Pettersson, 6’2 RW, SWE: Finally, a forward. But a hard-shooting Swede wing? Don’t we already have one of those?!? Well, they won’t have Olofsson forever, and you can never have too many goal scorers. Where Victor and Pettersson differ is their play styles. The latter is much more of a power forward (6’2, 200#) in terms of attacking the net with abandon; he can play the catch-and-receive game too but is more effective powering to the net. And Sabres scouts know him well – he played a little bit with McGee-favorite Marco Kasper on Rogle in the Swedish U-20 league, where he served as their #2 scorer with 36P (including 25G) in 46 games. In fact, he finished 6th in the entire league in goals. A shoot-first wing, he possesses a number of useful attributes, but his shot might be his biggest weapon. Super-quick release, it’s a laser beam that comes hard. He can get it off in all manner of ways – on the move, setting up for a one-timer, catch and shoot, in tight, from the top of the circle – and he’s got a variety. Wrister, clapper, snapshot all with the ability to change the release angle. He’s not super-deceptive with it, but at that level, he doesn’t have to be. Can just blow it past most goaltenders. Loves to set up in Ovie’s Office but is equally good receiving a pass on the move and roofing a puck in transition as he is at finding space, setting up and ripping a puck off the pass.
Will drive the puck to the net, lowering his shoulder to gain leverage before cutting into the middle. Can score around the crease. Has a good nose for loose pucks and has the presence of mind to find a puck in a scrum and get it up over the goalie in the same motion. Also more than capable of getting in front of the net and tipping pucks, but it seems like a waste when you think of how effective his shot can be. Pettersson has some high-end physical traits as well. A powerful player, he’s got a lot of upper-body strength which allows him to muscle inside to the low slot or the top of the crease. Can also hold his position thanks to his good lower-body strength, even with guys draped over his back or trying to shove him out. He’s also a very good skater. Really solid top speed and linear skating, he’s shifty enough and his lateral movement sufficient to make him a threat carrying the puck in on zone entries as well as through the NZ. His feet also keep moving all over the ice – he plays with a higher pace and likes to play a North-South game that BFLO seems to want to play.
A bit of a late bloomer, he's grown roughly 4 inches and added 20# in the past year. But Pettersson put up 36P in 46 games, with those 25G, plus 4P in 6 games in the U-20 playoffs…and chipped in 5P in 6 games at the U-18 Championship. I can see this kid being in the mold of a Rickard Rakell-type, if they can develop him properly. A worthy roll of the dice.
5#5: Tyler Muszelik, 6’3 G, US NTDP: Adams plucks his first-ever netminder from the Draft. With the uncertainty around both Portillo and Levi, the Sabres need to bolster their goaltending pipeline. Honestly, I’m not especially worried about either of the two young netminder prospects, but there is a chance they do not sign with BFLO…so now is the time to dip your toes in the goalie pool. And they start by snatching up this young American netminder. Muszelik backstopped the US team to a silver medal at the U-18s, and has rotated in as the top goalie for the National Team throughout the season. For a tender, he’s a bit on the stockier side at 6’3 195#, but he’s twitchy and has really good athleticism and sharp reflexes. It’s his technical aspects that need more work, and that’s coachable. At times, he can overcommit to a shot, leaving a lot of exposed angles and small openings. While he makes himself big in the net, coupling that size with his consistent ability to ‘get big’ in his crease – straightening his back up, doesn’t slouch – he appears huge but can sometimes misjudge his depth in goal and gets beat that way. But his athleticism and size make him really tough to beat on breakaways and in shootouts, so the ability is certainly there.
Also seems to have excellent composure. Nothing seems to rattle him, and even from play-to-play, he’s patient and doesn’t rush even when under fire in the crease. Could be more explosive getting from post to post, and his puck handling is not a strength, but some of that simply requires putting the time in to improve your game. Rebound control is inconsistent, some nights he is absolutely on it and vacuuming up pucks and other nights its like shooting at a trampoline. So that’s at the top of the homework list. Muszelik is off to New Hampshire next year to play in Hockey East and face some of the NCAA’s toughest scorers. Stopped all the shots he saw in the All-American Prospects Game, then posted a 2.5GAA and .910SV% at the Hlinka. The bulk of the regular season saw him with a .900 SV% and a 2.91 GAA. He’s also a later birthday, so I think he’ll get plenty of time to develop in college before making his way to the pros.
Maybe not a top-flight prospect at the moment, but we’ve seen later round goaltenders become excellent NHL starters, Darcy Kuemper coming to mind. Patience will be needed, but if they can get Levi and/or Portillo in the fold, they should have plenty of time to be patient with Muszelik.
6#9: Brady Stonehouse, 5’9 RW, OHL: One of the younger players in the class, this kid has been described a lot of different ways, but the one that stands out to me is ‘fiery." Despite his size, or lack thereof, Stonehouse plays a warrior-style of game: constantly going to the front of the net, finishing checks all over the ice, agitating and getting in the face of bigger players. While he is not playing top-line minutes on the Ottawa 67’s (much like our pal Jack Quinn), he has gotten middle-six minutes since the calendar turned and made the most of them, finishing 5th on the 67s in scoring. First off, Stonehouse (great name, by the way) can really skate. Both fast and quick, Stonehouse can get up the ice in a flash. Excellent burst, can transition from a puck battle on the wall to an aggressive forecheck instantly with just a couple strides. Superb linear speed, but also lateral quickness, which makes him a big hitter. Loves to engage physically, particularly on the forecheck, where he consistently disrupts breakouts and turns pucks over thanks to his rough-and-tumble style. But his motor never stops running.
Stonehouse hustles on the backcheck and will kill himself to get back into the play and upset odd-man rushes before they can create a chance against his team. Constantly in motion. Stickwork is inconsistent, but can be excellent, deflecting pucks and blocking off passing lanes when he’s on his game. Creates a ton of turnovers. And also plays on the penalty kill. The classic definition of doing all ‘the little things.’ In the O-Zone, he enters the zone, makes a beeline for the crease, and does his best to stay there. Nothing, not even the whistle, dissuades him from pursuing loose pucks in the O-Zone, driving goalies crazy is routine for him. The question about this kid is what kind of offensive upside does he have, and can he get any bigger? I think the answer to the latter is probably – he’s an August birthday and is only 17 for the rest of the summer…I think he could add an inch or two before he is considering going pro. The former is trickier.
He owns a solid shot, but it’s not scaring any goalies or defenders. Most of his scoring is done around the net. His hands are pretty good, especially when he’s in a scrum he can do more with the puck than just chip it out, but he’s not dangling most defenders even at the CHL level. And he’s not particularly creative with the puck on his stick – he flashes occasionally, but not enough to consider him a true offensive threat – so I wouldn’t call him a playmaker. Yet. Despite this, he still profiles as the type of player the Sabres haven’t added to the pipeline in a while, probably since Matej Pekar: a guy whose compete is always through the roof, and has the hustle to back it up. Stonehouse, who put up 35P in 68 games, has a lot of Brendan Gallagher in his game. But faster. If he can continue to evolve his game, I think you might have a valuable 4th line player in him.
6#28: Pasha Bocharov, 6’0 RHD, WHL: Despite the name, Bocharov is an American kid playing in the Western League. Highly active, Bocharov spends most games getting his nose dirty all over the ice, despite being stuck on the WHL’s worst team. Bocharov managed to notch 7P in 39 games for the Medicine Hat Tigers (former club of Sabre legend Tyler Ennis!) after coming over in a trade, all the while playing on a team that won only 11 games this year. But there’s some raw material to work with when it comes to this kid. First off, he’s got light feet. His movement is smooth and quick. Excellent 4-way skating, transitions are smooth and easy, no hiccups going from front-to-back or vice-versa. Lateral movement and change-of-direction both great. Technique is very good, and his speed isn’t elite, but is on the high-end. Thanks to the quality of his skating, he gaps up very well.
Very few forwards are able to escape him on the rush, defending which is his best attribute. Lateral movement and quick transitions enable him to cover more ice than you would normally see from a player this size, and add to that the long stick he uses, and he can chew up a lot of space. Plays with good pace relative to his system. His technique still needs some work and putting the pieces together to be a great defender don’t always appear at the same time (skating, intensity, stickwork, physicality, puck management) but all the components are there. Just needs to improve consistency and get more repetitions, I think, since he played forward up until a few years ago. He’s also seemingly involved across the ice surface. Not dropping the gloves with any semblance of regularity (although he will, and has), but seems like he’s always pushing, shoving, bumping after the whistle. Offensively, he’s still a work in progress. More of a shooter than a passer, he understands where to go with the puck on his first pass, although his accuracy is spotty and he can struggle to put pucks into space.
In the NZ, he seems more comfortable dumping it in than either carrying the puck or making an on-time, on-target pass to one of his teammates for a zone entry. A smart shooter, he recognizes game situations and can shoot to score, or to try and generate tips or rebounds. His shot, while reasonably accurate, is neither hard nor heavy. Most of his effectiveness from the point or on top of the circles comes from wristers that he gets through traffic – something he is very skilled at doing. So a lot of work still to do, but Pocharov put up 3P in 4 games at the Hlinka for Team USA, all the while wearing the C. That’s where he first jumped out to me. So maybe this is a gamble, but I’m taking the chance on this kid late in the Draft.
7#9: Simon Wolf, 6’2 G, CZE: BFLO had so much luck with JJ Peterka, why not dip into the German prospect pool once more? And another insurance goaltender? Sign me up. Wolf is a big kid (6’2 190#) who doesn’t have quite ideal size, but is awfully close and has a pretty late birthday, so there could be some more growth there that would put him in that ideal category. He’s had a very successful season playing in the Czech U-20 league with a 3.14 GAA and a .916 SV%, and although his numbers aren’t nearly the same quality for Team Germany, he did mind the nets for them in both the U-18s (where he won top player for the German team) and the Hlinka. One of the past goalies he’s been compared to coming out of the German system is Philip Grubauer, so he’s among good company there.
Unlike the previous goalie the Sabres selected, Wolf is a classic ‘blocking’ style goaltender. He’s technically sound, his movement is economical, and he seems to track the play well and anticipate where the shot will come from. This allows him to beat the shooter to the spot and turn aside most initial shots. And his rebound control, for a goalie of this age, impresses. He’s also got a dam good glove, having made several impressive glove saves in international competition. Where Wolf struggles are in areas where Tyler Muszelik excels: Wolf isn’t great against breakaways or shootouts, and he can struggle when the puck moves too quickly to be ready for…typically on cross-ice passes or diagonals that move from high-to-low. In short, he hasn’t shown high-end athleticism on the times I’ve seen him play. That being said, it doesn’t mean the doesn’t have that element in his bag – just that I haven’t seen it. And he does have pretty sound technical aspects to his game that will make him a solid goalie prospect even if he doesn’t have that spectacular side of goaltending. A solid pick that closes things out.