FanPost

McGee's FINAL 2022 NHL Mock Draft!

Marco Kasper

Greetings once more, DBTB!

We are now less than a week away from the 2022 NHL Draft. The first in three years that has been held ‘in person' in the hallowed halls of Montreal, the home of Rocket Richard et al. Should be great.

Without further adieu, I present to you my final full, 7-round Mock Draft - now with over-agers! - for your reading pleasure.

I won't bore you with a bunch of jibber-jabber. All that should be said has been said. I'll save the rest for the comments. The Sabres have 11 selections, and if they come out of this Draft with 4 legit NHL contributors, that's a win. I look forward to welcoming all the new faces, whoever they may be (yes, even Brad Lambert, Brass!) and love to watch kids' dreams come true on Draft Day. I would love for the Sabres to come out of this with a couple centers, a couple right-shot D, and a couple goalies. But if Adams and his crew continue to draft well, regardless of who they choose, I'll be pleased.

Hope all my fellow DBTBers have a great 4th of July weekend, even if you're not in the USA, and good health and happiness to all of the gang here. Appreciate you all continuing to tolerate my little hobby!

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

ROUND ONE:

1. MONTREAL: Shane Wright, C, OHL: I know, I know, this is chalk and where's the fun in that? But Wright is the wire-to-wire top prospect available in the Draft for most observers, and we need to remember that he missed an entire season with the cancelation of the OHL last year and came into this year off an injury he suffered in the summer. So he could get back to that consensus #1 guy with some more coaching and development. The Habs need a center to go with Suzuki, and they can shelter him behind Christian Dvorak for a bit.

2. NEW JERSEY: Simon Nemec, RHD, SVK: Surprise! Let's say Jersey can't find a buyer for the #2 pick. New Jersey is short on the right side (Hamilton on a long-term deal, but Severson's a pending UFA, and that's about it). Here they get a future 2nd pair defender, reliable, smart, and effective both ways. He should also be on a fast-track to be ready for the NHL, which should fit in the Jack Hughes window.

3. ARIZONA: Juraj Slafkvowsky, LW, FIN: The Yotes pretty much need...everything. Including fans. Still, they have some young players -€” Keller, Hayton, Guenther, Chychrun. But they don't have anything like this kid. He immediately becomes a Top 6 threat, and while Arizona could turn him into Pavel Zacha if they don't provide him with enough talent, if they do, he could be a star in the desert. They could also go defense here, but they'll have plenty of picks to do that later in the Draft. Here you go with BPA.

4. SEATTLE: David Jiricek, RHD, CZE: Like Arizona, Seattle could go in any direction. They have a good 2-way center prospect in Matt Beniers, but nothing on the back-end. Jiricek is a risk -€” with his knee injury and his skating issues -€” but when he's on, he's big, mean, fearsome defender with a rocket of a shot. When Ron Francis was in Carolina, he liked to build around the defense. Here's his first piece.

5. PHILADELPHIA: Logan Cooley, C, US NTDP: Kind of a mess right now, Philly doesn't seem to know which way is up. They extended Risto for 5 years, hired Torts, and are talking about trading 2 of their best young players (Konecny and Provorov). So this pick is a godsend. They get a guy who I have as my #1 overall prospect, who can play the sorely needed center spot (Kevin Hayes is a nice player, but a #1 center he ain't, and Couturier, who turns 30 early in the season, is on IR). Having Cooley fall into their lap should work out much better than Nolan Patrick did a few years ago.

6. COLUMBUS (CHICAGO): Cutter Gauthier, C/RW, US NTDP: Last year, they chose Cole Sillinger, who really surprised by being able to stick in the League for the entire year. But here they go with some insurance down the middle. They have Kent Johnson, who might be able to play center, and Jack Roslovic, who can play all over but isn't a Top 6 player. Gauthier almost certainly is. Here they get a kid who could be a great #3 defensive center, and could be a Kadri-like #2 center with some development. With Johnson, Chinakov, Texier, Bjorkstrand, and Foudy, you're starting to put together a pretty good Top 9. If they can keep Laine around, that would be an even bigger boost.

7. OTTAWA: Jonathan Lekkerimaki, C/W, SWE: The Sens have gone big over the past few Drafts, leading to some very bizarre choices. But looking at their pipeline, one thing they're missing is a true game breaker. Stutzle can be that guy, but that's it. There's a lot of talent up front -€” Batherson, Norris, Tkachuk, Pinto -€” but they could use someone to explode up ice and beat goalies clean from the top of the circle. Lekkarimaki can do that. Add him to a potent Top 6 mix.

8. DETROIT: Jimmy Snuggerud, C/W, US NTDP: Yzerman does it again, grabbing a guy a little bit off the board but fills a need and has plenty of upside. Snuggerud could be a Landeskog/Palat-type of player, extremely smart and positionally sound, play in all situations, has a good amount of skill and room to grow. With their defense largely set -€” Seider and Edvinsson with a bunch of second-tier guys -€” and some high-powered offense coming up with Raymond, Vrana and Berggren -€” adding a versatile 2-way forward could be something unexpected that Yzerman would jump at.

9. BUFFALO: Marco Kasper, C, SWE: From what little we can tell from Adams and what he values in his draft picks, Kasper seems to be a great fit. Huge work ethic and leadership. He's got good size, and he only really exploded onto the scene this year. So there's room to grow. They're heavy at wing, he's a center. In short, he's a great, hustling, athletic player who treasures the puck and can win in front of the net...but he could be a lot more. And the Sabres seem to like those high-upside guys that they can coach up and be patient with. This kid is a great fit for that.

10. ANAHEIM: Brad Lambert, RW, FIN: Another surprise, one thing everyone agrees on with Lambert is that he can really skate. The Ducks have some nice talent up front with Zegras, MacTavish, Terry, and Perreault, but they don't have a burner to be a home-run threat. Lambert -€” for his many flaws -€” could be that guy on the wing. The Ducks have some strong veterans in Henrique, Silvferberg, and Fowler and they're going to need to keep Lambert in line, but if he can become even half of what he was supposed to be going into this season, they'll have gotten a steal here.

11. SAN JOSE: Pavel Mintyukov, LHD, OHL: With Ryan Merkley already in-house, they add another gunslinger of an OHL D-Man with Mintyukov. The Sharks GM quit, they fired their coach, and it appears they are on the verge of beginning their own rebuild process. And they have some decent young talent, but most of it is up front. Why not grab a guy who plays defense like he's never seen a hockey game before? Especially when you have the master of that uber-aggressive style, Erik Karlsson. With the rumors of selling off Brett Burns and, if anyone would take their contracts, Karlsson and Vlasic, it's time for a new day on the back-end in the Shark Tank and that's where Mintyukov comes in. A dynamic defender who's more of a rover-type than someone who actually plays a lot in his own end, could really add a lot of pace to a group that plays a lot of dump and chase.

12. COLUMBUS: Matthew Savoie, C/W, WHL: Having grabbed Marco Kasper with their 1st choice, they now move to add some explosion to the forward group. A defenseman might be the obvious choice here, but the Jackets have Werenski locked up for a long time, and both Adam Boqvist and Jake Bean in the fold, so they've got some offensive minded D. They have some really good shooters (Laine, Sillinger, and Bjorkstrand) but will need a triggerman for the PP once Voracek hangs ‘em up. Savoie can be that guy, plus a terror in transition.

13. NY ISLANDERS: Joakim Kemell, RW, FIN: The Islanders are aging out rapidly. 5 of their Top 6 forwards are over 30, and their entire 4th line. An infusion of youth is desperately needed. Matt Barzal can only do so much on his own. Enter this sharp-shooting bowling ball of a player in Kemell. While he's on the small side, he can rip the puck, battles all over the ice, and skates well. If Wahlstrom can develop, they should have no trouble putting the puck in the back of the net.

14. WINNIPEG: Denton Mateychuk, LHD, WHL: Winnipeg has a bunch of big-bodied defenders (Samberg, Stanley, Dillon) but the cupboard is bare when it comes to dynamic game-breakers on the back-end (unless you count Neal Pionk -€” I don't). Mateychuk can play the right side, which he's done for a large part of this season and be that explosive game changer that teams will be looking for in the Cale Makar copycat League. Mateychuk could be a big part of their inevitable transformation, now that Trotz is not coming to the Peg.

15. VANCOUVER: Danila Yurov, W, RUS: I'm not really sure what the Canucks are doing out there, but given their pursuit of Russian FA Andrei Kuzmenko and the drafting of Podkolzin in the Top 10 a couple years ago, they aren't afraid of Russians. Yurov is the best of the bunch, and if the Canucks are going young (hard to tell either way), they need a lot more depth in their pipeline. Yurov would give them a Top 6 forward in waiting to go with Pettersson, Podkolzin and Hoglander. It's a risk for sure, but given how messed up the Canucks appear to be, why not?

16. BUFFALO (LAS VEGAS): Jiri Kulich, C/W, CZE: At this point, I'm looking for a player who has the ability to be a regular NHL player, but also with the upside to be more than that. Enter Kulich. He's a dynamite skater with a laser of a shot but is advanced in how he defends the middle of the ice. The MVP of the U-18s, he's a natural centerman. Plays the straight-line game that Granato likes, could be a shut-down center but could also be Roope Hintz-type of player in the long run.

17. NASHVILLE: Kevin Korchinski, LHD, WHL: The Preds have a surprisingly deep pipeline, which sets them up to go in any direction there. While they are aging at center, they are also aging on the left side of their defense with Josi and Ekholm in their 30s and only one possible replacement in the system (David Farrance). So the Preds add a raw but mobile, high-end skating defender that they can take their time developing.

18. DALLAS: Lian Bischel, LHD, SWISS: The Stars are transitioning away from the Benn, Suter and Seguin (all over 30) group to a younger, flashier crew (Heiskanen, Harley, Hintz, Robertson). But while they are remarkably thin in their pipeline, they are thinnest on defense, where they will likely move on from John Klingberg this off-season. So they grab the massive but mobile Swiss defender who plays a mean game and could become a nice partner for Heiskanen down the road.

19. MINNESOTA (LOS ANGELES): Connor Geekie, C, WHL: For all the little guys the Wild have in their line-up (Spurgeon, Zuccarello, Kaprizov, even Marco Rossi) they do like going big (Greeway, Boldy, Foligno, Middleton, Bjugstad). Here they get a guy who could be their future #2 (sorry Ryan Hartman) behind either Rossi or Eriksson Ek. They have some great players (Kaprizov, Boldy) on the wings, but need some security up the middle. Here they go with a massive, hugely talented centerman who they hope to bring out all of his upside. A risk, sure, that he could wind up a replacement for Freddie Gaudreau...but he could be much more.

TRADE: Washington #20 -> ARIZONA #27, #34

20. ARIZONA (WASHINGTON): Rutger McGroarty, C/LW, US NTDP: The Yotes make a move to add a player that has the right intangibles to help this franchise get back on its feet. McGroarty is a leader, he's a worker and his teammates love him. Plus, he can rip the puck. If he can improve his skating, he's a middle-six forward but more than that, he's a culture-fit and Arizona needs these kinds of players instead of being the place where old contracts come to die.

21. PITTSBURGH: Mattias Havelid, RHD, SWE: It's hard to figure out what they have less of, forwards or defense, in their pipeline. Suffice to say, very little of either. And considering it takes longer for defensemen to develop, and the Pens are staring a major rebuild in the face, they go with a bit of a sleeper pick as the heir apparent to Kris Letang. Havelid was great at the U-18s, and while on the small side, he's got a pro-style game.

22. ANAHEIM (BOSTON): Sam Rinzel, RHD, US HS: With the found money from the Boston deal, the Ducks add a long-term project with a ton of upside in huge high-schooler Rinzel. He's a great skater for his size, mobile, and offensive-minded. With some coaching, Rinzel plugs into a great group of young players coming together in SoCal. Risky, but potentially a lot of reward.

23. MINNESOTA: Owen Pickering, LHD, WHL: Another guy with size, Guerin would be drafting largely for upside, but they don't have a lot behind Jonas Brodin on the left side. A big kid who can fly, Pickering's game is still raw but he projects as a talented 2-way defender who can lug the puck and play a power game in his own end. Has some puck skills that will become more obvious as he improves, and his team does the same. He's got a ton of upside and the Wild like drafting from the WHL.

24. TORONTO: Liam Ohgren, C/W, SWE: The Leafs have had some luck with jack-of-all-trades forwards in recent years -€” Joey Anderson, Rodion Amirov, and Matt Knies have all been positive additions to their pipeline. And with so much money tied up in a handful of players for the next few years, they need to keep bringing in young (cheap) talent. Ohgren does a lot of things right, has a lot of versatility, and is closer to pro-ready than many of his peers. Toronto has the stars. They need to improve in the middle of the line-up. This guy could be one of the answers.

25. ST LOUIS: Frank Nazar, RW, US NTDP: The Blues jump for joy as the perfect prospect falls into their lap at #25. Nazar is all hustle, all the time, and although he's small (5'9) he's very quick and will run through a wall to get the puck. A very nice compliment to the Kyrous, Thomases and Bolducs coming down the pike. Defense was a serious consideration here, but Nazar was too Blue-y to pass up.

26. MONTREAL (CALGARY): Nathan Gaucher, C, QMJHL: Ooo lala! A Franocphone player from Quebec? Well, thank you very much, say the Habs! Gaucher is a big, physical agitator in the Tom Wilson mold -€” minus the high-end offense. If he can become a 2-way power center, they could be set long-term down the middle with Suzuki, Wright and now Gaucher. If they can Caufield to get going, they might have something there.

27. WASHINGTON (ARIZONA/MONTREAL/CAROLINA): Ivan Miroshnichenko, W, RUS: The Caps are looking down the barrel of a full rebuild in the coming years. Nearly all of their major players are in their 30s (Ovie, Kuznetsov, Oshie, Carlson, Orlov, and Eller). Nick Backstrom has a hip injury that might end his career. Their window is closing fast. But they've got some young talent -€” McMichael, Protas, Fehervary, Alexeyev, LaPierre -€” but they need to add. Here's a wild card choice that could pay off or will only hasten the inevitable rebuild. Put aside the lymphoma scare, Mirosh has looked fairly pedestrian in most of the games I've seen him play. But when he's on, he's a very dangerous offensive player. The Caps have had a little bit of luck with Russian players. They make potentially the gutsiest choice of the 1st round.

28. BUFFALO (FLORIDA): Lane Hutson, LHD, US NTDP: Of the three 1sts, this is the big swing. Here they grab a dynamic playmaker and skater on the back-end who measures in at only 5'8. But the belief is he should reach between 5'10-6'0 when all is said and done. If that happens, the Sabres could have their very own Cale Makar. If it doesn't...well, it was only the 28th pick. A risk, but one worth taking.

29. EDMONTON: Tomas Hamara, LHD, FIN: Edmonton is surprisingly well stocked up front, and when you can go McDavid -€” Draisaitl -€” Nugent-Hopkins down the middle, that kind of takes care of the need for centers. On the back-end, it's a bit different story. So Ken Holland decides to go with a bit of a surprise choice here. Hamara is a really smart, high-end skater and puck transporter who is great in transition -€” a style the Oil like to play. Could be an eventual partner for Evan Bouchard.

30. WINNIPEG (NY RANGERS): Ryan Chesley, RHD, US NTDP: The Jets drafted Logan Stanley, Dylan Samberg, and Kristian Veselainen while adding guys like Dubois, Sanford, Barron through other moves. They are, however, thin on the right-side of their defense. Chesley is a better-skating Jake McCabe at this point, and that's a good value here. We know the Jets like to go with US college kids.

31. TAMPA BAY: Gleb Trikozov, C/RW, RUS: The Lightning take the long view with their selections, and this is another one that could pan out better than most folks will give them credit for during the Draft. Trikozov is a creative, highwire offensive player who could be an eventual replacement for guys like Palat, Killorn or Perry. Big shot, positionally clever, he's got some areas to work on, but the Lightning are known for overcooking their prospects.

32. ARIZONA (COLORADO): Seamus Casey, RHD, US NTDP: Now, having chosen a couple of forwards, the Coyotes move to the back-end. And one thing they're in need of is a creator and PP QB on the back-end. Casey is probably more of a 2nd pair guy, but they are adding depth to the blueline and throughout the pipeline. He's a dynamic offensive player with some slick skating. Pairing him up with current Yotes prospect Victor Soderstrom could make for a nice 2nd pair, or you could use him like a Tyson Barrie, but you can never have too many smart young defenders.

ROUND TWO:

1. MONTREAL: Filip Mesar, W, SVK

2. WASHINGTON (ARIZONA): Filip Bystedt, C, SWE

3. SEATTLE: Calle Odelius, LHD, SWE

4. ARIZONA (PHILADELPHIA): Tristan Luneau, RHD, QMJHL

5. NEW JERSEY: Jagger Firkus, W, WHL

6. CHICAGO: David Goyette, C, OHL

7. OTTAWA: Julian Lutz, RW, GER

8. DETROIT: Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, OHL

9. BUFFALO: Noah Warren, RHD, QMJHL: I wanted to come out of this with 2F and 2D for the BFLO in their first 4 picks. But this is why I'm advocating for trading down from this spot -€” there are still a lot of good prospects still on the Board here. Enter Warren, a monster at 6'5 with a ton of upside and a mean streak a mile wide. Still extremely raw, Warren may never become an NHL player. But he may become a big, shut-down defender like an Erik Cernak.

10. ANAHEIM: Alexander Perevalov, RW, RUS

11. ARIZONA (SAN JOSE): Owen Beck, C, OHL

12. COLUMBUS: Artyom Duda, LHD, RUS

13. ARIZONA (NY ISLANDERS): Elias Salmonsson, RHD, SWE

14. WASHINGTON (WINNIPEG): Gavin Hayes, RW, OHL

15. MINNESOTA (ARIZONA/VANCOUVER): Noah Ostlund, C, SWE

16. LAS VEGAS: Ike Howard, RW, US NTDP

17. SEATTLE (NASHVILLE): Jani Nyman, LW, FIN

18. DALLAS: Matyas Sapovaliv, C/LW, OHL

19. WINNIPEG (LOS ANGELES): Danny Zhilkin, C, OHL

20. DETROIT (WASHINGTON): Dimitri Buchelnikov, LW, RUS**

21. ANAHEIM (PITTSBURGH): Adam Sykora, C/W, SVK

22. BOSTON: Devin Kaplan, RW, US NTDP

23. CHICAGO (MINNESOTA): Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL

24. SEATTLE (TORONTO): Regier Lorenz, C, AJHL

25. WINNIPEG (NY RANGERS/ST LOUIS): Kasper Kulonummi, RHD, FIN

26. NY RANGERS: Jack Hughes, C/W, NCAA

27. CALGARY: Dylan James, W, USHL

28. SEATTLE (CALGARY/FLORIDA): Cameron Lund, C, USHL

29. EDMONTON: Paul Ludwinski, C, OHL

30. CAROLINA: Viktor Neuchev, W, RUS

31. OTTAWA (TAMPA BAY): Maveric Lameroux, RHD, QMJHL

32. NY ISLANDERS (COLORADO): Reid Schaefer, RW, WHL

ROUND THREE:

1. MONTREAL: Ryan Healey, RHD, US HS

2. ARIZONA: Adam Ingram, C, USHL

3. SEATTLE: Isaiah George, LHD, OHL

4. PHILADELPHIA: Ty Nelson, RHD, OHL

5. NEW JERSEY: Simon Forsmark, LHD, SWE

6. CAROLINA (CHICAGO): Jordan Dumais, RW, QMJHL

7. OTTAWA: Ryan Greene, C, USHL

8. DETROIT: Mike Fisher, RHD, US HS

9. BUFFALO: Alexander Suzdalev, LW, SWE: Dynamic offensive player who's flown under the radar a lot of the year, this Russian/Swedish hybrid has size and speed and room to grow. Adding a LW is nice too. Keep stacking talent on talent and see where it takes you.

10. MONTREAL (ANAHEIM): Tyler Brennan, G, WHL

11. SAN JOSE: Fraser Minten, RW, WHL

12. WINNIPEG (COLUMBUS): Nicolas Moldenhauer, C/RW, USHL

13. NY ISLANDERS: Mike Buchinger, LHD, OHL

14. TORONTO (WINNIPEG): Christian Kyrou, RHD, OHL

15. VANCOUVER: Otto Salin, RHD, FIN

16. CHICAGO (LAS VEGAS): Topias Leinonen, G, FIN

17. NASHVILLE: Ludwig Persson, C/W, SWE

18. DALLAS: Otto Hokkanen, C, FIN

19. NASHVILLE (LOS ANGELES): Aleksanteri Kaskimaki, C, FIN

20. WASHINGTON: Spencer Sova, LHD, OHL

21. LOS ANGELES (PITTSBURGH): Jordan Gustafson, C, WHL

22. OTTAWA (BOSTON): Filip Nordberg, LHD, SWE

23. MINNESOTA: Topi Ronni, C, FIN

24. CHICAGO (TORONTO): Jack Devine, RW, NCAA

25. ST LOUIS: Arseni Koromyslov, LHD, RUS

26. BOSTON (CALGARY): Ivan Zhigalov, G, QMJHL **

27. LAS VEGAS (NY RANGERS): Matthew Poitras, C, OHL

28. FLORIDA: Fabian Wagner, RW, SWE

29. EDMONTON: Vladimir Grudinen, LHD, RUS

30. MONTREAL (CAROLINA): Grayden Siepmann, RHD, WHL

31. COLUMBUS (TAMPA BAY): Miko Mattikaa, RW, FIN

32. COLORADO: Quinn Finley, C, USHL

ROUND FOUR:

1. MONTREAL: Niklas Kokko, G, FIN

2. WINNIPEG (ARIZONA): Mike Mastrodomenico, RHD, USHL

3. SEATTLE: Garrett Brown, RHD, USHL

4. PHILADELPHIA: Josh Filmon, LW, WHL

5. NEW JERSEY: Matthew Seminoff, RW, WHL

6. TAMPA BAY (CHICAGO): Josh Niedermeyer, LHD, BCHL

7. OTTAWA: Brennan Ali, C, US HS

8. DETROIT: Servac Petrovsky, C, OHL

9. BUFFALO: Maxim Arefyev, G, RUS: The Sabres add a goaltender to their prospect pool to develop behind Levi and Portillo. Always good to deepen your pool of future netminders, and selecting the Russian kids and letting them develop (Shesterkin and Sorokin) seems to be all the rage these days.

10. ANAHEIM: Jake Livanavage, LHD, USHL

11. SAN JOSE: Logan Morrison, C, OHL **

12. COLUMBUS: Joel Jonsson, RW, SWE

13. NEW JERSEY (NY ISLANDERS): Jace Weir, RHD, WHL

14. NY RANGERS (WINNIPEG): Jorian Donovan, LHD, OHL

15. VANCOUVER: David Spacek, RHD, QMJHL**

16. DETROIT (LAS VEGAS): Adam Engstrom, LHD, SWE

17. NASHVILLE: Cole Spicer, W, US NTDP

18. DALLAS: Ludvig Jansson, RHD, SWE

19. LOS ANGELES: Jake Karabela, C, OHL

20. SEATTLE (WASHINGTON): Cruz Lucius, RW, US NTDP

21. PITTSBURGH: Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, OHL

22. BOSTON: Cole Knuble, RW, USHL

23. MINNESOTA: Charlie Leddy, RHD, US NTDP

24. COLUMBUS (TORONTO): Angus Booth, LHD, QMJHL

25. ST LOUIS: Ian Blomqvist, G, SWE **

26. SEATTLE (CALGARY): Kiril Dolzhenkov, W, RUS

27. MONTREAL (NY RANGERS): Vincenze Rohrer, C/RW, OHL

28. FLORIDA: Tyler Dunbar, LHD, USHL

29. NEW JERSEY (EDMONTON): Oskar Pettersson, RW, SWE

30. CAROLINA: Luke Mittelstadt, LHD, NCAA **

31. MONTREAL (TAMPA BAY): Ilya Kvochko, C, RUS

32. DETROIT (COLORADO): Liam Arnsby, C, OHL

ROUND FIVE:

1. MONTREAL: Marek Alscher, LHD, WHL

2. ARIZONA: Owen Mehlenbacher, RW, USHL

3. SEATTLE: Jere Lassila, C, FIN

4. PHILADELPHIA: Danill Ivanov, LHD, RUS

5. BUFFALO (NEW JERSEY): Ayrtom Barabosha, RHD, RUS: Big, aggressive defender, you say? Who can skate, you say? And a right-shot, you say? Keep adding that depth to the pipeline. He's under contract for 2 more years in Russia, but that should get him some time to get some games in the senior leagues and refine his transition game.

6. LAS VEGAS (CHICAGO): Jackson Edward, RHD, OHL

7. OTTAWA: Cameron Whitehead, G, USHL **

8. DETROIT: Dylan Silverstein, G, US NTDP

9. SAN JOSE (VEGAS/BUFFALO): Jozef Kmec, RHD, WHL

10. ANAHEIM: Hannes Hellberg, W, SWE

11. SAN JOSE: Brandon Lisowsky, LW, WHL

12. NEW JERSEY (COLUMBUS): Hunter Haight, C, OHL

13. NY ISLANDERS: Leo Gruba, RHD, US HS

14. OTTAWA (WINNIPEG): Cedrick Guindon, C, OHL

15. VANCOUVER: Hudson Thornton, LHD, WHL

16. LAS VEGAS: Ben King, C/W, WHL **

17. NASHVILLE: Adam Cardona, RHD, USHL

18. DALLAS: Ruslan Gazizov, W, OHL

19. LOS ANGELES: Tyler Duke, LHD, US NTDP

20. WASHINGTON: Vsevolod Komarov, RHD, QMJHL

21. PITTSBURGH: Niks Fenenko, LHD, QMJHL

22. OTTAWA (BOSTON): Liam Steele, RHD, CCHL

23. MINNESOTA: Tyler Muszelik, G, US NTDP

24. ANAHEIM (TORONTO): Jacob Guevin, RHD, USHL**

25. ST LOUIS: Jack Harvey, W, USHL **

26. CALGARY: Theo Wallberg, LHD, USHL

27. NY RANGERS: Alex Bump, C/LW, USHL

28. FLORIDA: Jake Furlong, LHD, QMJHL

29. EDMONTON: Lucas Edmonds, RW, OHL **

30. CAROLINA: Issac Menard, LHD, QMJHL

31. TAMPA BAY: Slava Sapunov, RHD, RUS

32. COLORADO: Georges Fegaras, RHD, OJHL

ROUND SIX:

1. MONTREAL: Theo Keilin, C/LW, SWE

2. ARIZONA: Jakub Hujer, W, QMJHL

3. SEATTLE: Luca Di Pasquo, G, NAHL

4. PHILADELPHIA: Kent Anderson, RHD, USHL

5. NEW JERSEY: Tyson Jugnauth, LHD, BCHL

6. CHICAGO: Sandis Vilmanis, LW, SWE

7. OTTAWA: Jack Sparkes, RHD, OJHL

8. TAMPA BAY (DETROIT): Santeri Sulku, C/LW, FIN

9. BUFFALO: Nolan Collins, RHD, OHL: A guy they've seen a lot of on a poor Sudbury team, should be a Top 4 guy as they start to get really good in Sudbury next season. Great size and mobility. Could become a nice 2-way defender not unlike Fitzgerald, but bigger. Will take some time though. In the 6th round, that's OK.

10. CAROLINA (ANAHEIM): Jan Spunar, G, CZE

11. SAN JOSE: David Gucciardi, LHD, NCAA **

12. CHICAGO (COLUMBUS): Jackson Dorrington, LHD, USHL

13. NY ISLANDERS: Gustav Karlsson, C, SWE

14. WINNIPEG: Tristan Sarsland, RHD, US HS

15. VANCOUVER: Tyson Dyck, W, BCHL

16. LAS VEGAS: Colton Smith, RW, OHL

17. ANAHEIM (NASHVILLE): Marcus Vidicek, C, QMJHL

18. DALLAS: Petr Hauser, RW, CZE

19. LOS ANGELES: Ryan Hopkins, RHD, BCHL

20. WASHINGTON: Elias Pettersson, LHD, SWE

21. PITTSBURGH: Rastislav Elias, G, SVK

22. BOSTON: Connor Kurth, RW, USHL **

23. MINNESOTA: Ben Hemmerling, W, WHL

24. FLORIDA (TORONTO): Kocha Delic, C/W, OHL

25. ST LOUIS: Beau Jelsma, RW, OHL

26. BUFFALO (CALGARY): Alex Sotek, RW, SVK: A McGee favorite, I think Sotek can be that kind of slow-burning prospect that becomes like an Olofsson. Ton of offensive upside. If they can turn him into something, this Draft will look brilliant in a few years. depth to the goalie pipeline.

27. NY RANGERS: Vinny Borgesi, RHD, USHL

28. FLORIDA: Alexis Gendron, C, QMJHL

29. EDMONTON: Quinn Hutson, W, USHL**

30. CAROLINA: Kasper Lundell, C/W, FIN

31. TAMPA BAY: Evan Konyen, RW, OHL

32. COLORADO: Reid Dyck, G, WHL

ROUND SEVEN:

1. MONTREAL: Eli Barnett, RHD, BCHL

2. SAN JOSE (ARIZONA): Mikey Milne, LW, WHL **

3. SEATTLE: Jake Martin, RHD, NCAA **

4. PHILADELPHIA: Michael Del Starza, W, USHL

5. NEW JERSEY: Ben MacDonald, C, US HS

6. CHICAGO: Jacob Oster, G, OHL

7. BOSTON (OTTAWA): Kirill Kundryatsev, LHD, OHL

8. DETROIT: Maddox Fleming, RW, USHL

9. BUFFALO: Ty Young, G, AJHL: Kid who bounced between the AJHL and WHL this year, he's got great size and athleticism. Will battle against acclaimed Tyler Brennan (the top-rated goalie in this Draft by many) for the starting gig on a very good Prince George's team. A depth pick, a long-term project, but adds

10. COLUMBUS (ANAHEIM): Nick Malik, G, FIN **

11. SAN JOSE: Martin Johnsen, C, SWE

12. CAROLINA (COLUMBUS): Jake Sloan, RW, WHL

13. OTTAWA (NY ISLANDERS): Josh Davies, RW, WHL

14. WINNIPEG: Colin Kessler, C, US HS

15. VANCOUVER: Rodwin Dionicio, LHD, OHL

16. LAS VEGAS: Maros Jedlicka, W, CZE **

17. NASHVILLE: Axel Mangbo, G, USHL

18. BUFFALO (DALLAS): Bennett Zmolek, RHD, NCAA **: A big defender who can move, but is still a bit raw, Zmolek comes from a winning program where he was on the All-Freshman team in their conference (much like Matteo Constantini). Could be on the top pair next season for a MN State team that has made the Frozen Four twice in a row.

19. DETROIT (LOS ANGELES): Lukas Gustafsson, LHD, USHL **

20. WASHINGTON: Ilya Rogovsky, W, RUS

21. PITTSBURGH: Oskar Pantzere, LHD, SWE

22. BOSTON: Brady Stonehouse, RW, OHL

23. SAN JOSE (MINNESOTA): Kaz Sobieski, RHD, US HS

24. TORONTO: Marek Hejduk, RW, US NTDP

25. MONTREAL (ARIZONA/ST LOUIS): Raul Yakupov, W, RUS

26. CALGARY: Dominik Rymon, C, CZE

27. TAMPA BAY (NY RANGERS): Jeremy Langlois, LHD, QMJHL

28. FLORIDA: Marcel Marcel, LW, CZE

29. EDMONTON: Graham Sward, LHD, WHL **

30. CAROLINA: Mason Beaupit, G, WHL

31. TAMPA BAY: Pasha Bocharov, RHD, WHL

32. COLORADO: Grayson Badger, RW, US HS

-------------------------------------------------

Sabres' Haul:

1#9: Marco Kasper, C, SWE: Smart, mature, intense two-way Austrian centerman playing over in Sweden. Played nearly the entire season in the SHL as a 17-year old (a rare feat), including an exceptional playoff. And he wasn't getting 2-3 minutes of ice time a game, he was getting regular, legit minutes. Also looked good in the World Championships for an outmatched Austrian team, so he's stood out despite his youth on some big stages. Good size (6'2 190#), tremendous skating, a nonstop motor and tenacious play make Kasper a 1st rounder. But his hand-eye, work rate and his skill make him a top-10 type of player. Kasper is a fantastic skater, first and foremost. Powerful strides coupled with slipperiness make him tough to corral, and he's not scared of high-traffic areas. In fact, he seems to embrace them. Has great burst, his edges are sharp and tight and he can dance with the puck on his stick. Leverage is always a part of his skating, and he can get inside a defender with a quick pivot and keep that player on his back throughout the play.

Will go around you or through you, whatever gets him to the puck faster. The proverbial ‘dog on a bone' when it comes to puck pursuit. Plays bigger than he is. Always seems to find or make room and takes the direct route to the net or into the corners -€” knocking defenders aside on the way. Plays a very linear game, which Granato seems to want to play. A tough check in tight, he has a great nose for the puck in traffic and around the crease. The puck seems to find him. That skating helps him to be a possession monster. Kasper can be a zone entry machine, using clever stickhandling and big strides to gain the blue line with control, with the threat of his speed -€” even with the puck on his stick -€” to either set up in the O-zone or attack the net. Doesn't dally or make an extra move unless he has to, great economy of movement. Excellent patience, he'll hang on to the puck for an eternity to get a good passing lane. Will use the Swedish curl-back if nothing opens up, all the while maintaining control of the puck while looking for the right play. Isn't careless with the puck -€” he won't make a dangerous pass into a high-danger area just to get it into the middle of the ice -€” he would rather hang on to the puck or put it in a spot where the likelihood of a teammate getting it is higher.

Really dangerous off the cycle. Uses his frame and his superb balance to hold off defenders, maintain control against the walls or in the corners, and bring his excellent vision to bear. He is a precise passer coming out of the corners, springing transition, or distributing the puck around the net where he seems to always be able to get free just enough to locate and get the puck to a teammate. Kasper's passing and awareness are his best offensive traits, and what make him a high-end center prospect. While he's a clever and accurate passer in transition, where his vision really shines is in tight spaces in the O-zone, where he can create opportunities for his teammates despite carrying defenders on his back, pinballing around the crease or controlling pucks in traffic. Equally good on fore- or backhand, he's got a soft touch and his passes are easy to handle, even in tight. You don't see him shoot the puck much outside of ten feet, which raises concerns about just how effective his shot can be from a distance, or if it can be a threat, so that's something to keep an eye on. Defensively responsible, Kasper is not a classic shutdown center but still possesses many of those qualities. His strong, powerful skating and exceptional balance, along with a good (but inconsistent) stick make him a very tough on-puck defender. Hard to escape from once he gets locked on. But it is the off-the-puck work and recognition that make him a complete defensive center. Recognizes breakdowns and moves to counter them, operates well in space for his age, and has a knack for disrupting plays by making the right decision on coverages. Also has no compunction about laying a guy out with a big hit in open ice if that gets his side the puck.

Maybe the most intelligent player in the Draft. Highly athletic, he showed extremely well at the Combine, especially in the cardio categories. Not flashy, he's not going to get you jumping out of your seat every night, but he can do it all. Needs to improve his shot and be willing to use his creativity more often, but these are things that will come with confidence and practice. Put up only 11P in 46 games for Rogle in the SHL but was more than a PPG player in his limited time in the U-20 league. Also chipped in 2P in 7 games at the Worlds. Reminds me some of Ryan Kesler. We all know how Sabres fans really want an Austrian center...ahem, Marco Rossi...well, now you've got a second chance!

1#16: Jiri Kulich, C/W, CZE: MVP of the U-18s a few weeks back, as well as leading goal scorer in the tournament, Kulich is a fast-riser from fringe 1st rounder to legit Top 20 candidate. The Sabres elect to jump on this multi-talented forward. A kid who didn't get a lot of ice time playing the majority of his season in the Extraliga, the senior Men's league in Czechia, he only managed to put up 14P in 49 games for Energie Karlovy, but the international stage is where he really made a splash. At the U-18 level, Kulich scored more than a goal per game (17G in 16 games) across all tournaments the Czechs played in, and really made a name for himself with 9G in 6 games at the World U-18s, where he was named MVP. But Kulich is more than a shooter of the puck. A dynamic skater, he not only has great explosion when coming out of a stop or a change of direction, but superb top speed where he can blow by defenders as if they're standing still. Technically sound stride, powerful burst, and his agility is excellent. He can evade checks, dip under or around defenders, and get inside to the middle of the ice.

Oddly enough, unlike a lot of players in this Draft, where Kulich struggles is controlling the puck at speed. When he's making a move in the Neutral Zone or entering the O-zone, he often downshifts to maintain puck control and scan the ice. This goes back to the fact he's not a natural playmaker. As a shoot-first center, he's typically going to find open lanes to fire the puck on net, and only if those opportunities are closed to him will he look to make plays with the puck, a skill that he's not totally comfortable with. The high-end skating is a huge asset for another part of his game -€” his advanced defensive work. Kulich is a tremendously smart defender. He is relentless on the backcheck, he always seems to be in the right place down the middle of the ice and is a fiend supporting the puck. In his own end, always seems to be beneath the puck, and on-puck defense...well, he couldn't go any better if he glued himself to the puck carrier. Must be just exhausting to play against. He has a sense of when to come off his check, deflecting passes to the high-danger areas or intercepting them to turn back up ice.

The one area where he struggles is on-puck against stronger, bigger forwards. That harassment doesn't stop, but those larger, stronger forwards -€” remember, he played in a senior Men's league -€” can simply hold off the lighter Kulich to get chances if they can gain leverage. Now, the best attribute Kulich possesses is his shot. While probably a tier below Jack Quinn's laser, it is still deadly. He has the entire arsenal, and his release, while not quite a hair-trigger, is still incredibly quick and extremely deceptive. A killer one-timer, and his ability to fire off a nasty, accurate shot while on the move makes him a terror for opposing goalies. And it comes hard, even though Kulich is slight, he generates a ton of torque when he drops his shoulder and leans into the shot. Such a move makes it even more deceptive. He couples this shot with his ability to sink into open spots in coverage, especially in the slot, where goals are scored! I love that about this kid. He'll take the puck to the low slot, or he'll give it up, meander his way through the O-zone, and then wind up in the high slot somehow uncovered. Also deadly in the bumper spot on the PP.

And he doesn't just score goals on snipes. Kulich will battle to get to loose pucks, rebounds, and deflections and has a wicked backhander to go with the rest of his bag of tricks. What I really like is the versatility. He could be a Top 6 wing, Top 6 center, or bottom 6 shut-down centerman, depending on how his development goes and what role you need to fill. If he can get physically stronger, I think you're looking at a really effective middle 6 2-way wing. It's easy to use guys from Cup Final, but someone like a Palat or a Lehkonen are what I'm thinking.

1#28: Noah Warren, RHD, QMJHL: A player that, back in the day, I would refer to as a ‘thumper', Warren is a massive man (6'5 215#) who has flashed elite talent at times this year. That said, this is probably a reach at #28, but I wanted to secure a big right-shot defender and he was the best I had still on my Board. For those of us here at DBTB that want someone ‘hard to play against', i.e. someone that plays old-time hockey, Warren is your guy. He's huge, he can skate, and he's got a mean streak a mile wide and a fathom deep. The thing that jumps out to you as watch Warren is his skating. For a player his size, for the style of game he plays, he's tremendous on his skates. Great top speed, surprisingly good lateral movement, and as the season wore on, increased confidence had him carrying the puck and using his speed to break the puck out of the zone. That skating makes him a feared player that has to be accounted for when on the ice. He covers so much space in his own end, he can get to a puck carrier in a blink and swallow up a rush before it can generate any kind of chance.

He prefers to direct players into the wall or the corners, away from the middle of the ice, where he can then plaster them to the boards as he rides them out of the play. But he can also transition quickly to backwards skating, get to the top of the crease, and block shots or assess the situation and eliminate the best options if need be. Warren is also extremely smart in his own end. Has good spatial awareness, recognizes dangerous plays before they take shape, and looks to disrupt them before they come together. Really a slick operator in his own end, and his skating is a huge part of that. His physicality makes him really tough to escape when the opposition is trying to enter the zone. Feared along the wall, his size and skating package help him cover practically half of the blue-line, forcing a lot of dump and chase attempts rather than attempts to slip past him that usually end in turnovers. It also allows him to gap up, staying surprisingly tight to opposing forwards that he simply eliminates from the play.

That said, he's still raw and developing his game. He can get caught napping, puck watching or looking for a big hit, and if under heavy pressure, bad decisions often follow. But those issues have progressively improved over the course of the season, and another year in the Q could really see Warren shine as a 2-way defender. Offensively, he's still a work in progress. At times, he can be invisible for long stretches (hard to do when you're that big!), but when he's on Warren's capable of leading the rush and making a dynamic pass to the slot or cross-ice to create a great chance. Perhaps because of his defensive instincts, he tends to defer to the defensive side if there's any question about joining the rush, but he became more assertive and more confident in his ability to recover as the year went on. In the O-zone, when he decides to pinch is sometimes very smart, other times really head-scratching. But that's likely caused by his inconsistency in the O-Zone, as well as his growing willingness to get more involved in that end. He's not going to pick apart a coverage, and when pressured will either dump it or just fire a shot toward the net rather than try to create space for himself with his reach and skating. Hopefully that will come with more confidence, because he's got the tools to do it.

Still, he put up 24P in 62 games, tripling his output from the previous (COVID-shortened) season. At the end of the day, Warren's a bit of a project, who will likely play a couple more years in the Q and then the same in Rochester, but at the end of it all -€” he's a very late birthday on top of all this, so he might have even more upside! -€” he could turn out to be a better, more complete version of an Erik Cernak. A lot things will have to go right, but he's on the right track!

2#9: Lane Hutson, LHD, US NTDP: Here's the home-run swing, kids! Hutson is a 5'8 defenseman (I can hear the screaming already!) who is, granted, quite small but has a big-time game from the back-end. The ultimate boom or bust selection. Why, you may ask, would anyone draft a 5'8 D-Man in the first place? Well, have you seen the dude play? Hutson is an elite skater who was more than a PPG player from the back-end on the NTDP (63P in 60 games). The #2 defenseman scorer in the U-18s with 8P in 6 games, he actually was a PPG player at the U-18s LAST YEAR (5P in 5 games). So his point production is not a flash in the pan. High-end vision, smarts, and an uncanny ability to read the play and see things before they happen allow him to put pucks into space where his teammates will not only retrieve them but get good scoring chances from them.

His mind is a steel-trap. What he sees on the ice he processes extremely fast and can make a play before most others can. Let's talk about what he can do first. Hutson's game revolves around his brain and his hands. Identifying coverages, locating where players are on the ice relative to each other and then making a determination on what to do with the puck is Hutson's strong suit. Sometimes its just a smart dump-in on a line-change; other times its feathering a stretch pass through a crowd to a streaking forward to get a breakaway. And the latter play is where those hands come into play. Softer than butter left out overnight, he can put any and every pass flat right on the tape of a teammate. Stickhandling isn't a problem for him, and he can create time and space for himself just by using his dangles and a little combination of fakes and feints -€” time and space he can then use to make a play. There's no hesitation there -€” when he sees a lane, he uses it. Sometimes that can get him in trouble, but for Hutson, it's attack attack attack. Pressure the opposing defense. And that is reflected in his skating. Hutson's lateral movement is stellar. He can dance with the puck, he can pivot and change directions instantly, smoothly, without hiccups or delay. This helps him defensively as well, as he can jump into passing lanes or get in the way of oncoming forwards with surprising quickness.

Where his skating could use some work is generating power and explosion on his straight-ahead skating. Maybe his stride is a little short (because his legs are!), or maybe its more of a mechanical issue, but Hutson needs to be faster to survive at his size. Given his lack of reach, being faster helps him cover the ice that bigger defenders would naturally be able to handle. So that's imperative. However, his size helps as his low center of gravity makes it hard to knock him off the puck, and helps him in puck battles where players have to be careful of how they fight for the puck unless they take a bad penalty. He's shockingly effective in winning puck battles in the corners or on the walls. The other area he could benefit from some improvement is his shot. He's accurate, for sure, but there's not a lot of velocity behind it. As he moves up in quality of competition, if his shot isn't a threat Hutson's a lot easier to defend. Now, the elephant in the room. Yes, Hutson's 5'8 and weighs in at a robust 160#. Bigger forwards can absolutely bowl him over around the net, and although he can hold his own for a while against bigger players thanks to his balance, the longer the puck is in the zone, the harder it is for Hutson to defend the slot/crease area.

More concerning is when bigger forwards get a step on him, he's easy to put on your hip and take the puck to the net. That's where he needs that extra gear. However, the word from the Combine was that Hutson could top out at 5'11 (his brother Quinn, a player I think should be drafted this season is 5'11, as is his other brother, so it's not out of the question). If he can even get to 5'10 180#, I think he's a viable NHL defender who can change the game with his passing, a la Adam Fox. Next year he'll be off to Boston University, where they have a defender who entered the program at 5'7 (now 5'9) who was drafted by Carolina. This is a risky pick, but boy, if it pans out, the Sabres will have a dynamite playmaker on the back-end to go with Dahlin and Power. And you look at Colorado -€” Makar, Byram, Girard, and Toews. Could BFLO replicate something like that?

3#9: Alexander Suzdalev, LW, SWE: A Swedish - Russian hybrid, this kid has good size (6'2 180#) and is dynamic with the puck on his stick. A player with a ton of skill, Suzdalev has some flaws in his game -€” particularly with his play defensively and away from the puck -€” but boy can he dazzle with the puck on his stick. A superb creator, his head is always up when the puck is on his stick. He sees the ice well and has excellent feel for where players will be, where the lanes open up, and puts the puck into dangerous areas. Very clever passer, who can thread pucks between legs or sticks to find his teammates. Add to that his passing accuracy -€” he can put it on the tape through a crowd of sticks and legs -€” and you've got a potential great playmaker.

The puck does not stay on his stick for long, and although he can be incredibly patient, he rarely lets plays die on his stick. Puck skills are legit, and he has tremendous hands. Will dangle all day long, then make you look bad with a couple of quick moves before going around a defender and attacking the net. Hands allow him to make those passes on the tape and easy to receive, but they also can be used to make plays in tight spots, including around the net, where he can get pucks up and over prone goalies and defenders without breaking stride. Shot is good, not great, but Suzdalev can disguise it well and uses opponents as screens to hide his release point, especially coming off the wall into the middle of the ice. Skating is, again, good but not great. He's agile, has nice lateral movement and edgework, and can slip checks or use his footwork to get inside defenders.

He's good carrying the puck in transition. Doesn't have to slow down to make a play or change direction. But where his skating needs work is his burst. He's not slow. However, his transitions are not smooth, almost like he's got a hitch when he shifts from backwards to forwards or comes out of going left-to-right to try and go north-south. That slows him down and getting out of the blocks can be difficult for him, leaving him behind in transition because of his lack of explosion. For a wing, this is concerning, as so much of their game is predicated on going up and down the ice and being available as an outlet up the ice. Fortunately, its not as if he's just a terrible skater. Some of his issues stem from mechanics and technique, which can be mitigated by a good skating coach. The area that is most concerning is Suzdalev's play off the puck. Wildly inconsistent, it matches his engagement level, which can also be all over the place. One shift, he's hard on the puck, forcing turnovers and maintaining structure, the next he's just kind of floating in his own zone, puck watching.

Needs to gap up better and use his stick more often to disturb or disrupt puck carriers. He is the classic big-bodied, super-talented offensive player who lacks focus when the puck isn't on his stick. If he can become more of a two-way player, and fix some of his skating mechanics, he could be a very dangerous forward. This is where the Sabres' development team comes in to play. He had a very good year -€”started in the U-18 league, was quickly promoted to Swedish juniors (U20) where he put up 51P in 45 games, 2nd in points for draft eligibles -€” for a decent HV71 club. Had a solid playoff for them as well, with 3G in 4 games. Also got a few games in Allsvenskan, roughly the Swedish equivalent of the AHL. There's a good deal of risk here, but with his obvious offensive ability, size and high skill level, I think he's worth taking a shot with in the 3rd round.

4#9: Maxim Arefyev, G, RUS **: Everyone loves Russian goalies these days! With Sheshterkin and Sorokin, it's all the rage to look for mid-round Russians to become your future goaltending savior a few years down the road. The Sabres jump on this bandwagon by selecting the top Russian goaltending prospect IMO. The over-age Arefyev has great size (6'4, 185#) and excellent quickness from post-to-post and from the top of the crease to deep in his net. His numbers aren't flashy (3.27 GAA and .916 SV%) but he managed 4 shut-outs while manning the net for one of the worst teams in the MHL. Despite just getting bombarded most nights, he proved to be remarkably consistent in his performance from game to game. What sets Arefyev apart is his rebound control -€” he just seems to devour pucks, like a black hole in net -€” which would typically result in better numbers if he didn't face so many shots every night. Sometimes like he's made of Velcro.

Stick work is very good as well. Has great timing with the stick, using it to poke check would be breakaways or deflect shots or passes out the high-danger area. Is a bit unorthodox in how he approaches the game, getting a good ways out of his net (sometimes past the top of his crease!) at times, while playing a bit of a butterfly/stand-up style not unlike Mike Smith of the Oilers. His game will get refined while playing for Bars Kazan next season, a much better and more talented squad. He'll need a lot of time, but with UPL, Levi, and Portillo in the fold, he should get to use all of his development curve. Might be a bit of a reach, but the kid has plenty of talent and given how much of a toss-up this year's goaltender class is, why not grab your guy when you get the chance? Arefyev makes the Sabres deeper in net, and that's a good thing especially with how things have been going over the past few years in net.

5#5: Artyom Barabosha, RHD, RUS: Big, physical blueliner with a mean streak and a heavy shot from the point. Standing at 6'2 and 195#, Barabosha prowls the blue line looking for someone to knock into next week. His game is primarily as a defensive D-Man, but he isn't totally without offensive juice when he gets the opportunity to jump into the play. The first thing you notice about Barabosha is his willingness to lay the body on opponents. He can blow guys up on open ice, as you can see HERE when he drops presumptive #1 overall (and big boy) Juraj Slafkowsky -€” but he is a terror in the crease, clearing the front of the net, and working guys over in the corners. If he gets his hands on you, forget it. The kid will target the body when defending the rush, and just separate puck carriers from the puck rather than even pay attention to the puck.

Powerful, will use his strength to move opponents, but doesn't neglect the details, as he's really good tying up or lifting sticks when protecting the slot or against rebounds. Not just a banger, though. He defends open space pretty well, and rarely chases the puck or gets caught puck watching. Gaps up in transition, and always seems to be around the front of the net. Positionally, he's steady although not perfect. Won't spring a lot of transition or lug the puck out of trouble in his own zone but can definitely clear space for a teammate or partner to do so. Can he skate? Yes. He's not a great skater, but he's smooth, particularly his linear skating. Mechanics are fine. Big stride eats up a lot of ice. Lateral movement isn't great, however. He can get caught when the puck changes sides, and sometimes struggles to recover when the puck goes around the boards. Quicker forwards who can stickhandle can get him going in the wrong direction at times. A lot of his escapability against the forecheck involves outthinking the other team, rather than pure skating.

His edges and side-to-side movement will need to improve if he's going to see North America. Offensively, where he excels is off the cycle. He sets up high and has the hands to receive passes off the boards and get the puck on net. Also likes to move along the blueline to find an open shooting lane. And when he finds one? Look out. He's got a bomb from the point. Didn't get a lot of opportunities to use it, as he doesn't typically play on the Power Play, but he can rip it. Otherwise, he's not a big threat in the O-zone. His passing is normally smart, as he rarely turns it over, but he's not particularly accurate or creative with the puck. Simple is most effective for his game. You can see that in his numbers. Put up 11P in 45 games in the MHL. Barabosha played on the top pair for the gold-medal winning Russian team at the Hlinka, where he chipped in 2P in 4 games, and played in the top 4 for MHL runner-up Krasnaya Armiya (where he played a few games with Sabre prospect Prokhor Poltapov). They added a big, mobile defender from Russia last year in Nikita Novikov. This year, they could add a big, physical defender to the pipeline.

6#9: Nolan Collins, RHD, OHL: Another big, mobile right-shot defender? Sign me up. Collins is a bit of a latecomer to the ranks. He had a steady, solid year for Sudbury as a 4/5/6 defender but made enough of an impression late in the year that he was added to the undermanned Canadian U-18 team a couple months ago. That's where he made me take notice. Standing at 6'3 200#, Collins really came on in the last quarter of the season. Putting up a modest 18P in 65 games, he didn't see much in the way of special teams time that can inflate your stats. But he scored all 4 of his goals in the last 20 games, and 13 of his 18 points. Collins is highly competitive, and he appears to be a quiet leader on any team he suits up for. The kind of player that a late-round choice will have to be to make the League.

We've already discussed his size, but he's also a very good skater. In fact, Collins can transition the puck very well for a defensive-minded player, picking the puck up and lugging it into the Neutral Zone to defuse a heavy forecheck or trigger a counter from his club. Good burst right out of the blocks. His feet are light, and he can get up and down the ice with surprising speed. Not a burner by any means, but his four-way directional skating is good, and although his transitions can be clunky and slow, he doesn't often put himself in position to endanger his team by getting too far up the ice or out of position generally. Gaps up well, uses his skating to just swallow up puck carriers and then separate them from the puck to turn them over. He is a physical force in his own end, using that skating to win races to loose pucks or staple opponents to the boards to turn the puck over. And he doesn't hesitate to drop the gloves as well, having thrown some big haymakers while defending his teammates. There are some similarities to Mattias Samuelsson in his game, which is a good thing.

Collins isn't without offense though. He's got a big shot that he's surprisingly accurate with, without the big wind-up he can frequently get pucks low and to the net. A good breakout passer, that's where he is at his best, a couple big strides and the puck is off his stick and onto the tape of an exiting forward. Two issues with Collins -€” despite all the above, he's still raw, and needs some refinement on many of the little details like stick lifts, stick positioning, and the like. I think this is an area where that year he missed set him back, and thus, there's some extra upside to his game because the OHL did not play last year due to COVID. Second, his panic threshold is a bit low. When he doesn't have a clear outlet and the forecheck is coming down on him, he tends to throw the puck up the wall or rim it blindly, often leading to turnovers. Developing some more patience with the puck on his stick will give him an extra moment to survey the ice and find the open man, or start carrying the puck up ice, which would be a huge benefit. Next year Sudbury will be very good, and right now Collins is a real possibility of playing on the top pair with Jacob Holmes, a Dallas draftee. Could be another Josh Bloom-type of story.

6#26: Ales Sotek, 6'0 RW, SVK: This kid has been on my radar all season, but I might be one of the only ones who likes him. Sotek is an average-sized forward who can skate and really rip the puck. Slippery, fast, and innately knows how to get open and what to do with it when the puck comes to him. Tough to keep track of considering how often he's bounced around the Slovak leagues, he's put up huge numbers against his peers -€” 65P in 35 games in the U-20 league, where he is the highest producer on a per-game basis of any draft eligible. He's also played a bunch of games in the 2nd tier Slovak Men's League, and 41 games in the senior Men's league, suiting up for a grand total of 8 different teams this season. Also put up 2P in 4 games for the silver-medalist Slovak team at the Hlinka tournament last Spring despite getting 3rd and 4th line minutes.

Sotek is pure offense. He's smart, skilled, and can skate. But he rarely picks the puck up in his own end and just heads straight up ice unless he's chasing the play. Shifty might be the best way to describe him. Not an elite skater, rather just extremely elusive, either moving laterally to escape stick checks or bodies, or small changes of direction that lets him keep a half-step ahead of pursuit. Has great anticipation and burst in his skating. Good balance, he's happy to carry the puck weaving through a crowd and the Neutral Zone, or he can trail the play and clean up a rebound or stuff a deflection in. His bread and butter is transition hockey, where he excels. The puck seems magnetized to his blade. Head always up, always looking to find a way to make a play however difficult it may be -€” going through two defenders, putting pucks through legs or sticks, drawing opponents to him, even using the boards to escape defenders and create space. Great at tracking pucks, he can jump from a standstill to get to loose pucks and turn a nothing play into a scoring chance.

There's no play he won't try, a bit like a Slovak Trevor Zegras. Of course, this didn't help him get more minutes in the senior Men's League (it might have actually cost him minutes), but the creativity and skill is plain when you watch him. He's a playmaker. Not a great shooter, nor a great passer, but equally very good at both. Makes things happen. Very deceptive with both the pass and shot -€” will use defenders as screens and shoot through them, or use them to hide the puck until he's ready to make a play -€” and likes to shift gears when skating to keep opponents on their heels. Will take a hit to, again, make a play and he's sturdy enough to use that balance and strength on his skates to fend off checks or hits in order to advance the puck to scoring areas. As you might expect, Sotek is not a great, or even good, defender unless he's pursuing the puck. Intense puck hound, could be a very dangerous forechecker in the right system. Defending space is poor, and he can get caught up puck-watching and trying to fly the zone rather than staying and playing structured hockey.

Picking your spots better can be coached, of course, so that's correctable. Will also need to improve his battle for 50/50 pucks -€” he likes to stand outside the scrum and hope the puck pops free, instead of getting in there and fighting for loose pucks on the walls, an important component of what Granato's system wants the wings to do. But for raw ability, I think you could do a lot worse than Sotek here. He's a longer-term project, and will probably require moving to a tougher League before its all said and done (Liiga, SHL?) but I think he's worth the gamble.

7#9: Ty Young, G, AJHL: A bit of a sleeper candidate, Young started the year in the Alberta Junior league, found his way to Prince George of the WHL, at one point took over as the starter ahead of much acclaimed Tyler Brennan, helped take PG to the playoffs, then lost his starting gig before the post-season started. Quite a season for the steady, smart, technically sound goaltender. Young had the #2 save percentage backstopping a bad team in the AJHL (.918%) before moving on to the WHL, where he put up an average .899 SV% and a 3.5 GAA. Young's game is reminiscent of Ryan Miller's -€” simple, positionally smart, not flashy nor highlight-reel most of the time. Highly reliable, consistent and never seems to get rattled, which really stabilized a young PG team. Takes good angles, reads the play quickly and accurately, doesn't ever seem to get too far out or too deep in his net. Innately knows where his posts are. Just shows up where he's supposed to be and stops pucks.

Stays upright when in the butterfly, so he appears bigger than he is when in the pipes. Good glove, but not great, same with his legs. He can take away most of the net, but he's not quite long enough to completely shut the bottom of the net off even in the butterfly. If he gets beat, the puck's likely going in...he's not the kind of goalie that makes many "impossible" saves. But he's technically proficient enough and positionally sound to rarely get beat clean. Clearly works hard in the preparation stage and makes adjustments to his game throughout the year to improve. If he can get behind a better defense, his numbers will look flashier, although he seems to play better the more rubber he faces. Has had some clutch starts down the stretch for PG, so the moment is never too big for him. Remains pretty unflappable. Likely tops out as a back-up goaltender at the pro level -€” maybe Tokarski-level -€” but you never know when things will click with a goalie and he exceeds your expectations. Remember, goalies are voodoo.

7#18: Bennett Zmolek, RHD, NCAA **: Speaking of big, physical defenders, here's a kid who made a mark as a freshman for the NCAA runner-up Minnesota State Mavericks. An over-ager, Zmolek stands 6'3 and comes in at 190#. A smooth operator who seems like he's hardly working, Zmolek started the year on the bench as a newcomer to an established team...but once he got into the line-up, he never came out. And he continued to get better. Put up 7P in 28 games for the defensively sound Mavericks but suffered an injury right before the conference playoffs and missed the Frozen Four. So, he might slide under the radar. But this year he'll likely be one of their top players as a number of their leaders will be moving on.

Zmolek's skating is one of his biggest assets. He's got an easy stride that covers a ton of ice and can burst from a glide to full speed in a couple strides. Footwork is nimble enough that his lateral movement is also strong, allowing him to mirror opponents as they come down on the rush or try to go high-to-low in the O-zone. He can get twisted up and beaten outside by players with a lot of speed, so his angles will need to get better. Combining his skating with his size and willingness to throw a shoulder or forearm into a player or body them up, and he becomes difficult to beat in the D-zone. And he doesn't back down either, as he's dropped the gloves more than once during his time in the USHL. Defensively, he relies on his smooth skating and size to close off opponents, but he's also a good enough skater to outrace forecheckers and get up ice to start a breakout or lead a rush. Sometimes seems a bit overconfident in his abilities, leading to some turnovers or miscues in his own end when he tries to step up to meet a really quick forward who slips past him and gets to the net.

When he's focused, Zmolek can be a shut-down player in his own end, using a good stick and his reach/skating combination to disrupt plays intended for the middle of the ice. He's quick enough to recover pucks and move them out of trouble before the opposition can recover. Offensively, the puck does not normally stay on his stick for long. Don't get me wrong, he's capable of leading the rush and getting a shot on goal or creating an odd-man with his wheels, but he likes to get the puck up ice quickly via the pass or bouncing a puck off the wall to a streaking forward. Doesn't own a great shot, but it's effective and his mobility lets him shift defenses as he moves along the blue-line. Something he'll need to work on more this year, as a number of MN State's PP will be graduating -€” he didn't play much if at all on the PP last year. I think with Zmolek -€” son of former NHL'er Doug -€” he's just going to need reps. And this year (as well as next year, probably) he'll get those. The Mavericks won't be as good without their Hobey winner in net and some of their older stars moving on, but that's only going to give Zmolek more opportunities to play.

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.