As I sit down to write the annual draft recap I can’t help but feel that that was the most fun I’ve had watching a draft in 13 years. From the entertainment at the top of the draft (the Shane Wright stare down!) to the Buffalo Sabres aligning with my drafting philosophy perfectly: it was a lot of fun.
The 2022 draft class is going to go down as one of the weirdest ones I’ve scouted. After the top 5 in my mind (Slakovsky/Nemec/Cooley/Wright/Jiricek) the next 20 or so picks (plus Lambert) could all end up being the sixth best player in this draft. Where normally a draft tiers off around the 9-13 pick; the 2022 draft never had that steep drop off where a team could reach or be criticized too harshly for a player they took. This isn’t a testament to the talent level of the 2022 draft, but rather the lack of consensus “safe but very good” players that were in this draft. The run up to the draft felt like if a player was big and physical and then was tagged with the vaunted “center” tag, they rose up draft boards 10 spots. This, plus the geopolitical problems of what to do with Russian prospects who were currently playing in Russia, led to a pretty unpredictable but fun first round.
Day 2 of the draft is always a bit of a rollercoaster. Where the first round feels pretty scripted (as you’ll see: many people did well guessing who would be first round picks this past year in the Draft Contest), the 2nd-7th round gets a bit silly around the 5th round. I’m not one to make fun of a 17-20 year old, but there were some real head-scratching picks made in day two of the draft by NHL teams and a lot of prospects I thought were late round shoe-ins were left off the board.
This article will tackle three things: Sabres Draft Grade, Mock Draft Contest results, and the annual McGee/Myself/Sabres pick-by-pick analysis.
Sabres Draft Grade
I’ll go pick-by-pick in a minute, but I wanted to first say that Kevyn Adams gets an A rating for his philosophy for drafting skaters. He drafts skill and upside in the draft and doesn’t go and chase bottom-of-the-lineup players. I love this about him. While he and I might have taken different players at different slots: for each of the first 5 skaters that were selected the player Adams took I found myself saying “Oh that’s a great pick as well.” The only skater I didn’t give an A rating to was Komarov, but that’s mainly because I watched him in the beginning of the season where he looked slow with little skill and as one of my scouting friends says “Just ejects pucks from the defensive zone.” Never really came back to him after the initial viewings but he appeared in a few later shift-by-shifts when watching Nathan Gaucher. In the fifth round, however, I’m not going to squabble over a pick unless it’s egregious or someone fell that should’ve been picked.
The minus comes from the value lost of taking a goalie that isn’t a sure-fire to play 25 games a season in the NHL at some point in the future, as well as having UPL/Levi/Portillo in the system to use the draft capital of the 41st pick on a goalie. However, time will tell whether or not this was truly an egregious pick or if it was just one that could’ve had more value to take a different goalie later in the draft. My issue with the pick, personally, was that there were a few really high-end players I had on my board at that time like Gleb Trikozov, Seamus Casey, Calle Odelius, Mattias Havelid, Jack Hughes, David Goyette, Lane Hutson, Adam Sykora, Alexander Perevalov (if he’s coming over), etc. For me, I took Trikozov at 41. The player pool dried up considerably after the third round pick, so I thought about losing a chance at another skater when I liked some of the other goalies just slightly less but for far cheaper draft prices.
2022 Draft Contest Winners (and results)
I just want to give a quick shout out to Psychotic Lucidity and SenecaNation4 for only missing three players total from the first round! The scoring rules, however, reward getting a player right at the right slot so both ended up missing out on winning by 1 point. The winner of a Dylan Cozens signed puck from his draft year is:
1.) Don52: 40 points: He ended up getting 6 draft selections right which carried him to the narrowest of victories!
2.) Psychotic Lucidity/SenecaNation4: 39 points
3.) Tim Horton: 38 points
4.) Bob Boughner/Jedi13: 37 points
5.) BMaster: 36 points
6.) WolfDoctor/TEMSON/BuffaloRepresent: 35 points
7.) madaddy37: 34 points
8.) DrWHo62redux/Sabres of Glory: 33 points
9.) SimmonianWonder14: 32 points
10.) Connor McTyczka/T McGee: 30 points
11.) Ben918: 29 points
2022 Draft Picks
This is the accountability section of this piece. Placing my own and T McGee’s picks into this isn’t meant to be a boisterous exercise. If anything, it’s just holding myself accountable and letting y’all see if I’m doing terrible or doing alright in prospect analysis. I put McGee’s Big Board picks in here because, well, he does really well with them and they’re different than mine and I like to see how we’re doing.
Buffalo Sabres/T McGee’s BB select: Matthew Savoie, C, WHL
From T McGee: 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.
Me: Did anyone else have a flashback to 2020 when Adams said “From the Winnipeg Ice...” and you found yourself hoping/praying it was Savoie? He was the next player after Lambert on my board so I love this pick. I don’t disagree with anything that McGee has said, but the biggest difference for me between Savoie and Lambert was I thought Lambert had the better physical tools but Savoie was the better offensive zone facilitator.
Austin selects: Brad Lambert, C, Liiga
I don’t regret picking Lambert because at the end of the day he was the fourth player on my board, but I do think I panicked a bit picking him at ninth overall. I had it in my head that if he fell to 20th or lower on McKenzie’s pick I would wait until 16th overall to take him, but alas he ended up at 16.
Brad Lambert is simply the most polarizing player in this draft. You either love him or you are hoping your team doesn’t go near him. In a draft where most of the forward picks from 7-30 could be put in a blender and spit out an order that would make some logical sense; it was odd to see Lambert categorized as the one to stay away from. Like Shane Wright he has had the spotlight on him from an early age, and even more so, disappointed in his draft eligible season. Lambert was an enigma the past eleven months. His speed and skill was never in question, but in each situation he played in he looked like a different player. His first team in Liiga Lambert looked poised to break out with more playing opportunity. In the World Juniors and in u20 friendlies he looked utterly dominant, and in the second half of the Liiga season on a new team he looked lost out there on the ice.
The Seattle Thunderbirds made a big move in the import draft to go and snag Lambert’s rights. I find it difficult to believe that Winnipeg would want to send Lambert back to Finland to play after his development looked to take a step back the second half of the season. This is a risky pick, but when you can nab someone who has the physical tools and has showcased the mental processing tools at times to be a top 5 pick in this draft: I had to swing for it.
Buffalo Sabres Select: Noah Ostlund, C, J20 Nationell
I’m first going to quote Mikael Holm who was Smaht Scouting’s Swedish scout this past year and runs a blog on Swedish prospects:
Here’s what I wrote about Noah Östlund in my pre-draft piece #letsgobuffalo #2022NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/vbFD6Mo2PO— Mikael Holm (@carlmikaelholm) July 8, 2022
Mikael was the driving force behind Smaht ranking Ostlund at #10 on our final big board. Despite not having the gaudy numbers in the J20 like Ohgren, or the incredible shot like Lekkerimaki, Ostlund was the engine of the Djurgarden trio. An incredible playmaker and driver of controlled transitions; he’s small and rail thin. Filling out and playing against bigger and more physical competition while keeping up the production is his only question mark.
T McGee’s BB Selects: Danila Yurov, RW, KHL
I couldn’t find a specific scouting profile done by McGee for Yurov, but I do like this pick. I had him ranked a few spots below this on my own personal rankings and I know McGee had him very high. The part of Yurov’s game that I really like is how well he operates off puck in the offensive zone to find spaces to get off his shot, and I like his overall scoring prowess. In the MHL he was utterly dominant this year both production wise and microstat wise. He was heavily involved in transition and was a puck dominant winger. In the KHL and the u20s he took on more of a passenger role, and in the KHL I thought the pace of play put Yurov on his heels and he played much more conservatively as a shooter-only in his offensive game.
I understand people loving Yurov and seeing him as one of the steals of this draft in the same way that I myself view Brad Lambert. They’re different player archetypes, have some flaws, but show flashes that at their potential apex they could far out perform their consensus pre-draft rankings and their current draft selection production expections.
Austin Selects: Liam Ohgren, LW, J20 Nationell
I swung for the fences at #9 so I played it pretty conservatively here at #16 by going with Liam Ohgren. When you watch the Djurgarden trio play it becomes pretty obvious early on in any viewing that Ohgren is the glue that makes the line go. He’s hard on pucks defensively, a utility knife in every zone, and will do the dirty work as the F1 forecheck but also has the skill to be a primary puck handler through the neutral zone in transition. He’s a natural goal scorer who has a decent shot, but thrives on being able to get into spaces and move the puck angle before he shoots to deceive goalies as well as great off puck movement to gather tip-ins and loose pucks around the net.
Projecting conservatively I think that that he fills a middle six role on the wing, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him as a scoring winger in Minnesota’s system behind Matt Boldy.
Buffalo Sabres/T McGee select: Jiri Kulich, C, Czechia
From T McGee: 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.
My thoughts: I don’t disagree with any of McGee’s assessment. I thought his puck skill was very good playing against men but his passing decisions under pressure weren’t ideal. It didn’t shock me that his assist number never materialized. However, I think there’s a lot of skill there watching him that I could see him progressing to an all-around offensive threat. If the worst case scenario is that he takes Olofsson’s spot on the PP then I think you made out well with a late round first.
Austin Selects: Seamus Casey, RHD, USNTDP
I’m just a huge Seamus Casey fan, and Toronto trading back but in front of pick 41 made me take a shot at the defenseman I coveted here at this spot. I wanted to get at least one defensemen in the first four picks. I was hoping for Mateychuk at 16 but that didn’t happen, so it became between Casey and Hutson for the pick here.
I chose Casey because I just fell in love with his game throughout the year. His edge work and puck skill is among the best in the class. He is so good when he pre-scans at moving pucks around the ice. I think he can stand to gain some more muscle weight, but a lot of what I think Casey needs to do is just get that Lane Hutson moxie into his game and take over shifts with the puck on his stick. When he is puck dominant in the offensive zone he is a monster to try to contain. He’s undersized, but I am excited to see him develop in Michigan’s system with Pearson.
Buffalo Sabres Select: Topias Leinonen, G, U20 SM-sarja
The first round could go down as a franchise altering draft class that will be known as the class that put the Sabres into contention. The second round pick could be the round where we look back and shake our head at all the talent we left on the talent to chase our fourth high-end goalie in the system.
Leinonen was the #1 European goalie ranked by Central Scouting and the #2 ranked goalie when I asked Josh Tessler of Smaht Scouting who tracked goalies for us. He’s a big bodied goalies with good athleticism and decent numbers in the Finnish junior league.
T McGee Selects: Alexander Perevalov, LW, MHL
From McGee: A power wing with an awesome scoring touch, it’s entirely possible this kid will not be available in the 2nd round. Not a giant by any means (6’0, 190#) he plays a heavier game with a fearlessness and willingness to play through contact. He also happens to have a pretty full toolbox of attributes. Where Perevalov excels, like many Russian forwards, is in the O-zone. A true goal scorer, he puts the puck in the net in a number of ways: big shots from the top of the circle, one-timers, wristers off transition, rebounds, tips, backdoor plays. Relentless in puck pursuit, he plays with a conviction that if he can get the puck, he will create a great chance, either on the pass or the shot. And oftentimes, he delivers. A heavy shot that he controls with his exceptional hands is tough for most goalies to stop. Playing on his off-wing he loves to cut inside and rip a puck, either 5-hole with a big clapper, or lasers one top shelf over the goalie’s shoulder. Will pick corners, and his accuracy with the shot is high-level.
Thinks the offensive game extremely well. Knows how to get open. As soon as the puck hits his blade, he knows where to go with it. Quick on touch passes, precise with cross-ice set-ups, sees lanes diagonally and knows where his teammates are without having to constantly scan the ice. Always seems to make the right decision when it comes to passing the puck. Has a great play style. Never quits on a puck or a play. Will lose the puck to a defender, outwork him to get it back, lose it again, recover it and then make a pinpoint cross-crease pass for a goal. And has no issue sticking his nose into a crowd to fish out the puck, go into the corner, or engage on the wall. Attacks the net with or without the puck and will try just about any move to get inside a defender and get a good look. Really strong possession player as well, understands how to use his size to protect the puck, especially on the rush.
Seems to enjoy contact and initiates it more often than not. Those great hands make Perevalov a superb stickhandler, although he’s not flashy in the way some of his countrymen are. Uses just enough to keep defenders on their heels, and to keep his stick free. But as soon as an opening presents itself, he can get the puck there, skating it or passing it, and that says something about how soft his hands are. Like many Russian forwards, Perevalov is dynamic when the puck is involved, but can tend to lose interest on the defensive end. He cheats up a bit at the blue line when protecting his own zone, and his off the puck awareness is not great. Will lose his man and get caught chasing the puck far too easily. Something to work on. Likewise, his skating isn’t great. He’s OK, and his strength on his skates is excellent, but he could stand to improve his burst and maintain his speed with the puck on his stick.
He’ll slow down a bit when he’s carrying the puck in and trying to get to the net. Will get blinders on at times, when he commits to a play (to his detriment) without seeing the ice and taking what’s given to him. So he’s not a perfect prospect. But there are a lot of things to like here. And he is abusing the MHL right now, to the tune of 16P in 8 games, including 7 goals. That follows on from a very good Hlinka, where he went for 5P in 5 games despite playing on the 3rd line while winning a gold medal. Given the Sabres’ last draft, they don’t seem afraid of Russians anymore. This kid is a player that other teams will be afraid of in a couple years.
Austin Selects: Gleb Trikozov, RW, MHL
I love Trikozov. One of the flashier players in the MHL; I thought Trikozov was a monster in all facets of his offensive game. He is super involved and highly effective in transition, he has great vision in the offensive zone, and his shot pops off his stick. While not overly physical, I was very impressed with his engagement level as a center and winger in the MHL given that it’s not an overly defensive league.
He can skate very well, great in transition, has great skill, and can fill the back of the net. He’s a high risk, high reward type of player who I think will maturate in Russia for 2-4 years before coming over here. I see top 6 scoring winger in his future as a ceiling, and at pick 41 that’s what I’d want to swing on.
Buffalo Sabres/T McGee select: Viktor Neuchev, LW, MHL
Neuchev is a pick that I’ll be interested to hear more about from McGee in the comment section. From my standpoint: Neuchev has a lot of puck skill and a very good shot as evident with his 40 goals in 61 games in the MHL. From an individualistic standpoint there is a lot to like from his deceptive fakes with is puck handling and passes, to his ability to get to dangerous areas of the ice to shoot, and his ability to beat goalies from distance with his shot.
When I’ve gone back to watch him I question his skating a lot, and he turns the puck over a lot as well which drove my dataset down on him. However, I saw a tweet that the Sabres analytics department loved Neuchev. Perhaps I’m way off here. I like the pick a lot though: bet on skill and upside.
BMaster selects: Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL
Lindgren was a divisive defenseman at Smaht this past year. I was on the positive/upside side of the debate with Lindgren. He’s a fantastic 4-way skater and can skate himself out of pressure situations so well to find open space. He activates from the blue line very well and is creative with his passing decisions within the offensive zone.
However, he can dump out pucks of his zone way too much for my liking and there are times when he doesn’t engage with an offensive player to separate them from the puck. I like the puck skill, skating, offensive upside, and late birthday. With another year I think he could end up right below the Mintyukov/Korchinski/Mateychuk tier of defenseman if he can iron out some of his passing decisions.
Buffalo Sabres Select: Mats Lindgren, LHD, WHL
T McGee Selects: Fabian Wagner, RW, J20 Nationell
From McGee: It’s apparent to me that when Granato gets the roster for it, the Sabres will be a high-pace, quick-counter, attacking North-South team. You can already see it with Tuch’s line, and at times with Cozens’ as well. Wagner fits this profile to a Tee. An electric skater, the 6’0, 175# Wagner is a later birthday, two-way wing with some similarities to former Sabres’ pick Marcus Davidsson. But McGee, you may say, the Sabres refused to sign that bust Davidsson…why would they draft another one of him? Wagner’s impressive skating allows him to do more than Davidsson ever could and do it more efficiently. First off, let’s dig into his skating a bit. I think he’s one of the best skaters in the Draft class. Tremendous burst, but very elusive and razor-sharp edgework make him a real terror in transition. He can be a zone entry machine thanks to his straight-line speed forcing defenders to back off, and his agility lets him get leverage on those same defenders. No hesitation on the back-check either. Wagner can enter the zone, take the puck deep, make a play and then get all the way back to stick-lift a puck carrier and kill a transition chance going the other way, all in the same shift.
Where the similarities are more apparent with Davidsson, and other Swedish wings like Asplund, is his focus on details. Always seems to be on the right side of the puck, keeps opponents outside when defending, doesn’t take a lot of risks. Then controls the puck on offense and always seems to put it in the right place. Stick positioning typically in the right place, stick is active and on the ice most of the time which helps his defensive effectiveness. Can be extremely disruptive defending against rushes or up top on the PK (when they let him). His passes are on time and accurate and plays a very smart short-area game on both ends. Wagner does need to get stronger, and work on his shot. Right now, he scores a lot of his goals thanks to his hands and his skating; his shot is a bit of a pillow and as he moves up, it certainly won’t threaten any pro goalie from beyond the dots. Not unlike Isak Rosen, his lack of strength doesn’t help him defensively in the corners and along the wall, where he can get run over or physically manhandled without a lot of trouble from bigger opponents.
Positionally, he remains sound, so he’s very rarely becomes a liability in his end, but there are areas where he can improve dramatically. Which can be detrimental offensively as well, as Wagner is smart in how he handles situations like the cycle, he rarely comes out of a scrum with the puck, which can make him tentative in puck battles. As mentioned, a very good passer, pucks are hard and on the tape, and often the smart place to go with the puck. However, not very creative, either with his passing or his routes to the net, which likely limits his offensive production at the next level. Don’t get me wrong, Wagner’s ceiling is probably could a very effective middle line winger who is a ferocious forechecker and the defensive conscience of a line. Having that kind of value in the 3rd round is pretty solid. Wagner has 31P in 34 games at the U-20 level in Sweden, but has recently “played” (i.e. gotten limited ice time) at the senior Men’s League level, the SHL. Was also one of the top scorers (4P in 5 games) for Team Sweden’s medal-winning group at the Hlinka last Spring.
Austin Selects: Vladimir Grudinin, LHD, MHL
If you turned on the u20s at all this past winter your first thought when watching the Russian defensive unit was: they’re all pretty bad minus Grudinin. Grudinin stood out as a draft eligible for his Russian national team as his skating mitigated rushes as well as jump started the transition his forwards. He played a mix of professional and junior level competition for CSKA this past year. His skating allowed him to stand out in a defensive role in the VHL while his offensive ability flourished in the MHL. He’s fantastic on the rush both in transition and offensively, and showed flashes of being able to be deceptive on the blue line to move into dangerous areas of the ice.
Originally I was going to pick him no matter what in the third round, but moved all my Russians down a round. If he can get to North America I think he’s going to be turn heads with his game.
Buffalo Sabres Select: Vsevolod Komarov, RHD, QMJHL
I don’t really have much to say about Komarov. I watched him a bit at the beginning of the year given that he was a B rated skater by Central Scouting and he played on the same team as Nathan Gaucher in the QMJHL. He was a low pace skater and I didn’t see much skill. He was also dumping pucks out of the zone with zero scanning or control. By some accounts of people I know he got a bit better as the year went on. In the fifth round he’s got the size and enough tools to bet on.
T McGee selects: Matthew Seminoff, RW, WHL
From my friend Matt Somma at Smaht Scouting:
“Seminoff is the type of player whose relentless drive could push him into a team’s top six on occasion. I don’t believe he’ll stick in that role for an entire season too often, but he has enough skill to compete on that line and not weigh it down. And like I said in the scouting report, it’s entirely possible that Seminoff takes some major strides in his development and turns into a legitimate second line forward. Right now, I see a middle six forward that can see time on a team’s second power play and penalty kill units. It’s entirely possible that Seminoff falls on draft day due to his size. I think it’s a stupid and irresponsible decision to pass on Seminoff for that reason, though. Some team is going to be very happy when they draft Seminoff, and they’ll look smart if they take him later than he was expected to go. If you’re able to, watch one of Kamloops’ upcoming games. I guarantee that he’ll catch your eye as one of the hardest working players out there, even if he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet.”
Austin Selects: Jack Devine, RW, NCAA
I won’t spend too much time on Devine, but I thought he was very good in the NCAA tournament. He has great passing ability and very good puck skill. He plays a bit heavy game despite his size, but his skating definitely limits his upside and he wasn’t very good at getting to dangerous areas for shooting in his freshman year. I think he’s poised for a breakout sophomore year with more ice time this year and hopefully he sticks on a line with Massimo Rizzo and Carter Mazur so he can thrive next year. Also, I agreed with Walt’s assessment last year of Devine on that year’s u18 squab:
Jack Devine has been a lot of fun to watch on the NTDP U18 squad. He's been one of their best forwards so far this season pic.twitter.com/RYYYAZdKKE— Sabremetrix (@Sabremetrix) December 8, 2020
Buffalo Sabres select: Jake Richard, RW, USHL
Richard is a big, power forward who excels at banging in pucks around the net. He committed to the UConn in the winter and will join the Huskies program in the 2023-24 season. He grew a few inches since joining the USHL which allows for his skill to blend with a physical, net-front game.
He excels at putting the puck in the back of the net and really came on for Muskegon as the year went on. His 48 points in 56 games was very impressive considering his mid-August birthdate.
He’s still rail thin, so filling out his frame will be a big thing for him as he develops his game to go to the NCAA.
T McGee selects: Liam Arnsby, C, OHL
From McGee: Spitfire of a centerman who hits everything that moves and does it with a smile on his face. At 5’11 185#, he’s already a sturdy kid who plays a 2-way role and gets a lot hard minutes against the best players on the other club. Wearing the C for North Bay, despite having some more veteran NHL-draftees on the roster. Gritty, fiery player who never quits on a play, and is more than happy to play the body over the puck. Relishes the forecheck, loves to be the first man in and creates a ton of turnovers with his relentless hustle, willingness to play the body and aggressive stickwork. There are some very superficial comparables to a young Mike Peca – not a dynamic forward with the puck on his stick, but defensively his game is quite refined. He’s obviously good on the puck – packs a lot of power in that smaller frame, and his persistent checking makes him very difficult to play against. But there’s his play away from the puck which is high-level as well. Understands how to play in space, has great awareness of the dangerous areas of the ice and constantly makes plays to defend those areas, particularly in the middle of the ice. Those attributes make him a very good defensive centerman. His skating is excellent; feet are very light, and his lateral movement makes him difficult to avoid when he’s defending or forechecking, while making him slippery in the O-Zone.
Short-area skating really strong – he’s very tough to take the puck from along the walls or in the corners, and Arnsby’s very strong on his skates – allowing him to lay out some of the big hits he’s known for. He’s not a burner, no one is going to mistake him for Connor McDavid, but skating is certainly a plus and allows him to cover the entirety of the ice without problem. The big unknown around Arnsby is what his offensive ceiling might be. He struggled a bit in his rookie season, playing predominantly in a 3rd line role, but now a couple years out from that first year, can he be a big-time producer at the OHL level? Because if he can’t, he’s likely going to be a bit of a black hole as he becomes a professional.
Thus far, he’s put up 10P in 11 games on a traditionally defensive team in North Bay. That’s in the Top 5 scorers for draft-eligibles in the OHL. Now, many of those points are in transition, off turnovers, or scrapping for loose pucks in front of the net and not reliant on Arnsby’s creativity with or without the puck, but he’s shown the ability to use his skating to turn pucks over and his work rate on the forecheck is second to none. Coupled with his tendency to drive play in the right direction – toward the other team’s goal – Arnsby might have more offensive chops than previously anticipated, which would make him even more attractive as a prospect. And he’s not afraid to drop the gloves, with about a half-dozen tilts since he joined North Bay. A fierce competitor who plays with plenty of fire, Arnsby has the tools and the mindset to become a valuable bottom six forward and shutdown center. That’s a nice return for a late 3rd rounder.
Austin selects: Cole Knuble, C/RW, USHL
My own biases love the game Knuble plays. He thinks the game so well off the puck, he processes under pressure very well with the puck, and gets to areas of the ice where goals are scored. He is the catalyst of everything good that happens on his line in Fargo. He’s able to jumpstart transitions, thread passes to open teammates, and make a quick small area move to free up a passing lane. Through four games and the ancillary viewing of an NTDP game he’s still the one making everything happen. Despite the skating limitations.
I’ve landed on that he’s a project I’d be willing to bet on. He’ll play in the USHL for another year before going to the NCAA (currently committed to Notre Dame for the 2023-24 season). He’s a July birthday, and a lot of the aspects to his game that he needs to work on are mechanical. I hesitate to label him as a center given his skating issues, but if they improve drastically he could play there in college and in the pros. I’d label him more as a right wing as of now, and ideally I’d like him to be the fourth player coming off my board if I were an NHL team.
Buffalo Sabres select: Gustav Karlsson, C, J20 Nationell
In past years I would use VPNs and streaming services as I tried to learn as much as I could about every prospect in the draft. With my current role at Smaht as a North American crossover scout I really only scouted players our European scouts wanted a second opinion on or that they ranked so I could get an idea of North American comparables.
I’ve watched the next three picks a couple times over the course of the last week since they were drafted and I’m just going to say that in general: all of them are skilled with some flaws who are worth taking this late in the draft and maybe they will pan out. Karlsson has been my favorite to watch and I think he actually might be a legit player for the Sabres. I liked his off puck skill and he thinks the game really well on the PP. If that translated to 5v5 I think he becomes a player. The other two are both skilled and look forward to seeing what they do, especially Sjodin in his DY+2 year in the SHL next year. He could have a Cedarqvist trajectory.
T McGee selects: Spencer Sova, LHD, OHL
I couldn’t find any thoughts on Sova so just adding a brief note here: he wore the ‘A’ on the u18 team for Canada this past year. He’s got good physical tools and he’s great at defensive zone entries and erasing players at the blue line from keeping control. His offense wasn’t there all year but his skating is good and he has some skill, but I didn’t rank Sova because I didn’t see anything more than a fringe bottom pair defenseman.
Austin selects: Zach Bookman**, RHD, AJHL
I love Zach Bookman. He’s my Trey Fix-Wolansky award winner this past year and he was available before the 7th round so I went for it. Having only one RHD pick so far I thought it’d be wise to grab another one here. I love his skating and offensive game. He’s hilariously skilled and he was very good defensively in the AJHL through two seasons that I saw him play. He didn’t get a development camp invite this offseason which was shocking to me, but I look forward to seeing what the undrafted defenseman does at Merrimack and Hockey East next year.
Buffalo Sabres select: Joel Ratkovic Berndtsson, RW, J20 Nationell
T McGee selects: Brennan Ali, C/LW, USHS-Prep
I really liked this pick by McGee. I saw a few games of Ali on the NTDP u18 team this year and I thought he fit in really well. He played limited minutes but he played at a high pace at LW, and was very good at getting dangerous shots off and made a couple really nice passes. I had him in my second round for awhile this year.
I thought he was very good but not eye-popping at Avon Farms this past year. I soured a little on him and moved into this range by the end of the year. I think there’s a bottom six winger in him, and if he can channel a bit more skill I think he could really outperform the selection.
Austin selects: Beau Jelsma, LW, OHL
I love Beau Jelsma. He’s so much fun. An exceptional skater who is everywhere on the screen when you watch him play, I thought there was a lot of skill there to go with his speed. While his defensive game is what is often referenced when talking about Jelsma; I was thoroughly impressed with his passing decisions and his skill as a playmaker. I think he is one of the best options in this draft to fill the role of a third line energy line winger who will also be a fantastic offensive zone facilitator and could put up decent production numbers. I think he has a relatively great floor, and if he can put the tool-kit together next year I see a great upside was wel.
Buffalo Sabres select: Linus Sjodin*, RW, SHL
T McGee selects: Josh Niedermayer, LHD, BCHL
I’ll let McGee explain in detail why he likes the player in the comment section. I think he was very physical last year when I was watching him for a Costantini article, but this year I didn’t see any real offensive progression and he didn’t move the needle much for me.
Austin selects: Marcus Nguyen, RW, WHL
At this point you just have to listen to Smaht Talk’s podcast with Marcus Nguyen. We loved him at Smaht, a fantastic player who should get more opportunties to produce next year, and I loved his game every time I saw him play.
Since 2019: How Our Draft Classes Are Looking