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Before we get into more info about the players selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2022 NHL Draft, here’s a quick look at Neutral Zone’s grading system:
A: Low Risk to Make an NHL Impact; High probability of playing NHL games before 22 years old.
A-: Low to Moderate Risk to make and NHL Impact; High to Moderate probability of playing NHL games before 22 years old.
B+: Moderate Risk to make an NHL Impact; moderate probability of playing NHL games before 22 years old.
B: High Risk to make an NHL impact; moderate to low probability of playing NHL games before 22 years old.
B-: Low probability of playing NHL games before 22 years old; some NHL potential
C+: Low probability of playing NHL games but has some NHL potential
C: NHL Draft consideration but unranked in our final list
Round 1, Pick 9
Center, Winnipeg (WHL)
Ranked 11 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 5.00 star rating,
NHL Grade: A
Why: Dynamic point producer who understands how to be effective with or without the puck. He processes the game quickly and moves to create opportunities for his teammates and is thinking about the next play while he is moving. The quick first step, smooth first touch, and a variety of release points will make him dangerous in professional hockey.
Why not: At 5’9″ and 180 pounds will he be able to defend as a center in the NHL or is he automatically put on the wing? If a team views him as a center he’s going to go around #10. If they think he projects as a winger he will go closer to #20.
Round 1, Pick 16
Center, Djurgarden (SWE)
Ranked 16 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 4.25 star rating
NHL Grade: A
Why: He plays a full 200′ game with a motor and competitiveness. He plays with his eyes up and has the game awareness to catch opponents in bad changes or long shifts. He had 42 points in 32 J20 Nationell games last year, as well as 10 points in his six U18 World Championship games. He has an easy first touch on both his forehand and backhand when he is at top speed & is always ready to make a pass.
Why not: With the way he plays he needs to get stronger and more powerful to have a consistent impact with his style of play. He digs, grinds & jabs, and to do this for an NHL career he will need to add some depth to his frame. I think most people will have him later, but to me he comes over at 21 years old with some meat on him and he is a plug-and-play kid.
Round 1, Pick 28
Center, Karlovy Vary (CZE)
Ranked 59 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 4.00 star rating
NHL Grade: B+
To be: He is a leader who captained Czechia’s Hlinka-Gretzky and U18 World Championship teams finishing with twelve goals and 15 points in those ten games against his age group’s best. He has played 57 games in Czechia’s top men’s league producing nine goals and 14 points in 57 games. Goal scorers are at a premium and he can flat out score. 67% of his shots hit the net and those shots generate rebounds. He does not take himself off the ice by taking penalties. He does however keep his feet moving at all times and draw penalties.
Not to be: He is a perimeter player who relies on his skating to generate quick strike opportunities. Won under 45% of his puck battles in the U18 World Championships.
Round 2, Pick 41
Goalie, JYP (FIN)
Ranked 99 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 3.75 star rating
NHL Grade: B
To be: At 6’5″ and 215 pounds he has the size that NHL teams will be drawn to. Had a .916 SV% while playing in the U20 SM-sarja during 2021-22. He has shown game poise and moves with fluidity. He is a 2004 who has Liiga playing experience.
Not to be: Needs to continue developing solid work habits and core strength. He has an identical .897 SV% in his five U18 WJC as well in his eight other U18 International starts. On 41 shots from the top of the crease he gave up 12 goals. Is this a result of poor rebound control or poor positional play by his defenders?
Round 3, Pick 74
Left Wing, Yekaterinburg (RUS)
Ranked 45 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 4.00 star rating
NHL Grade: A-
Why: He is a late 2003 who has never played on the International stage, yet ripped up the MHL and has played a game in the KHL. To us, this means that he’s hungry and trending upward. He’s strong on the puck, yet only weighs 165 pounds.
(May 2022) Ian Moran’s Thoughts: His team scored 197 goals on the season and Neuchev scored 40 of them. He plays and handles his stick like a goal scorer. His first touch is smooth. All in one motion he prepares his hands to receive the puck and snap it with eyes up looking for the netting… not the goal. The netting behind the goalie. I’m sure we have him higher than most people, but goals are goals and he can score.
Why not: He is still very raw and has a long way to go in terms of playing a team game and playing away from the puck.
Round 4, Pick 106
Defense, Kamloops (WHL)
Ranked 41 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 4.00 star rating
NHL Grade: A-
Why: In the transition game he consistently makes hard flat passes that hit the target in stride and when the player wants it. Has the lower body leg drive to hit and pin in the defensive zone. He shows a good understanding of establishing body positioning early during net-front battles. Undersized defenders need to understand how to match speeds when defending a line rush…he has the feet to do this in professional hockey.
Why not: As an offensive-minded defender he can panic while on the power play when he does not receive a perfect pass. Must continue developing strength and his release while walking the blueline.
Round 5, Pick 134
Defense, Quebec (QMJHL)
Ranked 203 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 3.75 star rating
NHL Grade: C+
C me: He’s a lanky 6’1″ and 175-pound defenseman who won 57% of his puck battles in the QMJHL. He uses a solid skating base to shut down the cycle and then pins his man to the wall to end it. He was +38 on a team with a goal differential of 127. He had three points and was +5 in the QMJHL playoffs.
C me not: He has never been chosen to represent Russia in international competition. He recorded 19 points on a team that scored 302 total goals. He attempted 217 shots and had 62 of them blocked with 44 of those blocks coming from within a few feet of the offensive blueline.
Komarov is an above-average sized right shot defensive defenseman playing in his rookie season in the QMJHL. He has a wide skating base that allows him to be strong through contact and protect the puck when under a heavy forecheck. Komarov is definitely not a dangler, but he does have the puck poise and shows the stick blade manipulation by looking opposing forwards off to create passing lanes in transition. Although we feel he is a physical presence in front of his net and when eliminating the cycle we feel as he continues to mature and train we feel Komarov will need to continue focusing on his first step and explosiveness so that he will be able to compete against larger quicker players in professional hockey.
Round 6, Pick 170
Right Wing, Muskegon (USHL)
Unranked in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 3.75 star rating
NHL Grade: C
(March 2022) Jake is a good sized forward with length. He made a nice play early in the 1st of Game 1 when he slightly delayed at the right blue line and used his long reach to swing a pass behind the defender and into his teammate for an in-tight breakaway. He scored the OT GWG in Game 1 when he stole the puck from the puck carrier in the offensive zone turning it into a 2-on-0 opportunity and eventually finished on a nice pass from his teammate.
(July 2021) Jake is a decent skater with reach and a productive handle. His touches were good and he scored on a one touch off a 2-on-1 pass. Jake is tall and showed he could handle the puck in traffic and come out with possession. His reach helps but he has some wiggle as well. He redirected a bad pass from his outside edge to his stick blade in stride. It was an athletic and clever play. He played an unpredictable game. His chest was up when he skated, affording him balance and vision. He hit the pipe after a great stickhandle and backhand pass. Jake must keep improving his skating. His hands are soft and clever. He can take hits and stay with pucks. Lots to like here.
Round 6, Pick 187
Center, Orebro (SWE)
Ranked 147 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 4.00 star rating
NHL Grade: B-
To be: He is an October 2003 who attempted 172 shots in forty-six J20 Nationell games. He scored 35 goals. He followed that up with four goals in five playoff games. 71% of his shots hit the net. He keeps his feet moving and drew 22 minor penalties.
Not to be: He won 43% of his puck battles. Until the 2021-22 season, he had never represented Sweden internationally.
Joel Ratkovic Berndtsson
Round 7, Pick 202
Right Wing, Frolunda (SWE)
Unranked in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305
Round 7, Pick 211
Center, Rogle BK (SWE)
Ranked 121 in Neutral Zone’s NHL Draft Final Rankings Top 305, 4.00 star rating
NHL Grade: B
Sjodin is late 2002 with 22 games in the SHL after nearly a point per game start to the season in the J20 Nationell. Prior to this season he played in the J20 SuperElit and has steadily improved his game year to year. He’s added some size and some poise which has helped him make the transition to the SHL
Breakdown/Analysis: What stands out most about Sjodin if you look at the totality of his season is that he played top six center role in the J20 Nationell league and then made a seamless transition to the SHL playing wing; not many players can make that jump particularly when changing positions. Not only did his position change but his role as well; in the J20 he was a prominent two-way forward who was counted on to add offense and make plays with the puck; in the SHL he gets infrequent ice time and is a role player giving his team hard shifts and playing almost entirely without the puck. He played both roles very well. He’s a balanced skater with good acceleration, he takes smart pursuit angles and is a dog on loose pucks. He takes hits to make plays, he gets his stick in lanes defensively to cut down the angle and is quick out to his points. He has smooth yet sturdy hands and can make plays in traffic and skate through contact.
Risk/Value: Sjodin is a talented, multi-faceted prospect who is versatile and can play any role which he proved his season. The downside is that he isn’t as dynamic as the other NHL draft prospects in the SHL and he’s not overly big or physical to be a bottom six at the pro level either. He has good value as a later rounder and probably fair value as a mid-rounder but too many question marks about his offensive skill set against top level competition to be an early round pick. He hasn’t played international competition which could mean he’s a hidden gem or that he hasn’t been selected for good reason.