McGee's 1st Mock Draft of 2023 (4 rounds!)


Welcome to 2023. While we are all rightly upset and frustrated by the Vox decisions around maintaining DBTB (and other, not quite as cool sites), I have all the faith in the world that Melissa, Calvin and their crack team of elves will find us another, better home, right quick. So send all the positive vibes their way!

While we've been generously donating and spreading the word to our fellow hockey fans to do the same, the draft season continues on unabated. Over Christmas, we saw an exciting World Junior Championship. While we watched guys like Noah Ostlund, Isak Rosen and Jiri Kulich perform, this year, 3 of the widely-agreed upon Top 4 hit the ice. And lo and behold, it turned out to be the Connor Bedard Show! The superstar prospect made it abundantly clear who deserves to be the #1 overall choice in the 2023 Draft. If there was any debate, it's over now. He nearly lapped the field (23P in 7 games) despite being at least a year younger than most of the star players in the tournament. Among the other draft eligibles, Swedish center Leo Carlsson acquitted himself well, with 6P in 7 games while driving a lot of the play for the Swedes, meanwhile Eduard Sale notched the same number of points for the Czechs. Adam Fantilli, playing on the same Canadian team led by Bedard, managed a respectable 5P in 7 games on his way to a Gold Medal. But there was no doubt that Bedard looked a cut or two above most of the players in the tournament...certainly more than his fellow draft eligibles. He was simply dominant for long stretches and shattered the record for most points by a U-18 at the tournament, a record once held by the mulleted Jaromir Jagr.

There were some other players who stood out in more limited spotlight: Axel Sandin-Pellikka started out slowly, but by the end of the tournament, the Swedish defender was the #1 guy on his team and controlling play; David Reinbacher did his best for an overpowered Austrian team, and actually looked pretty good doing it; Maxim Strbak was confident and calm on the back-end for the Slovaks; and Gavin Brindley flashed some creativity and dangerous skill for the USA. Last but not least, the Czechs rode goalie Tomas Suchanek to the Gold Medal game, an undrafted goaltender who attended the Sabres' rookie camp this past summer. Flashing a 1.52 GAA and .934 SV%, Suchanek certainly put himself on the radar of draftniks everywhere and likely on the Boards of more than a few NHL teams for this coming Draft. Maybe, given their familiarity, they will find a spot in their Draft for the super-quick tendy.

But that's not all the prospect-watching spectacles that went on since our last posting. Just a week or so ago, the CHL Top Prospects Game rolled into Langley, British Columbia where it showcased many of the top draft-eligible players in the CHL this season. Despite all the high-end talent on the ice (including Connor Bedard), this one became a battle of the goaltenders. Team White won the game 4-2 over Team Red, led by Kitchener forward Carson Rehkopf who walked away with MVP honors. But it was the goalies who wowed. Scott Ratzlaff, who had a dominant Hlinka this summer, stopped Bedard a handful of times and allowed only 1 goal on 25 shots; on the other side of the ice, Carson Bjarnason also gave up a measly 1 goal on 15 shots. Was a blast to watch, with players like Calum Ritchie (2P) and Colby Barlow flashing for Team White, and Riley Heidt taking home player of the game for Team Red. Bedard, for those of you keeping score at home, did not register a point (!) in the game. Nick Lardis, a slick, speedy wing from Peterborough in the OHL, posted the highest composite score in the on-ice testing the day before the game.

Just prior to that, in Plymouth Michigan, the Biosteel All-American game featuring the top draft-eligibles from the USHL (including the US Development Program team). Not surprisingly, Will Smith of the US NTDP received the MVP for a 2-1-3 night for the winning Team Blue, who prevailed 6-3. Some other standouts for Team Blue were Aram Minnetian, a US NTDP defender who seems to be rising at the right time, and D-Man Zack Sharp from Sioux Falls. For Team White, I liked wing Tanner Adams the best of the lot, playing a real pro-style game and nearly burying a couple from around the crease. Oliver Moore's crazy speed -€” both raw skating speed and play speed -€” continued to dazzle, and goalie Jacob Fowler seemed the best of the netminders in this ‘All-Star game'.

One thing that has thrown me off this year is, as we get later in the season, the possibility of the Sabres drafting outside of the Lotto becomes a real, distinct possibility. While you hope that once this dam breaks and they do draft outside of the bottom 16 (i.e., make the playoffs!), that it's a recurring thing that progressively gets later in the Draft until they finally select at #32, it certainly makes my task harder! There are so many more permutations when you select at, say, #20 than there is at #8. So while I know it's a good thing to finally be drafting higher (or lower, I guess it depends on your perspective), bear with me as I adjust to this new reality.

One last'll see a couple defensemen selected in the Top 10, and others in the 1st round that many draft watchers might not believe to be ‘1st round quality' per se, but with the scarcity of defensemen, teams will overdraft them, even in a Draft with SO many high-end forwards (like this one). I think if you look at anyone's Board, most of them will be made up entirely of forwards for the first 10-15 spots. But in a Mock Draft, I think defenders go higher because there is such a premium on the position these days. So as you think about who the Sabres should choose with their 1st round pick, it is a perfect spot to debate the old Best Available vs Drafting For Need positions. I, as you can see below, favor the former in this particular Draft.

For those of you unfamiliar with this ordering exercise, I use to run a Lottery and determine the order relative to the day I fill this out. So it's probably dated a few days, but it should be relatively close to where things stand when this finally gets published.

And now, for your reading pleasure...


#1: VANCOUVER: Connor Bedard 5'10 C, WHL

#2: CHICAGO: Adam Fantilli, 6'4 C, NCAA

#3: COLUMBUS: Leo Carlsson, 6'3 C, SWE

#4: ANAHEIM: Matvei Michkov, 5'10 RW, RUS

#5: ARIZONA: Will Smith, 6'0 C, US NTDP

#6: SAN JOSE: Brayden Yager, 6'0 C/RW, WHL

#7: MONTREAL: David Reinbacher, 6'2 RHD, SWISS

#8: OTTAWA: Zach Benson, 5'10 LW, WHL

#9: PHILADELPHIA: Axel Sandlin-Pelikka, 5'11 RHD, SWE

#10: ST LOUIS: Colby Barlow, 6'2 LW, OHL

#11: MONTREAL (FLORIDA): Eduard Sale, 6'1 C/LW, CZE

#12: NY ISLANDERS: Dalibor Dvorsky, 6'1 C, SWE

#13: DETROIT: Cal Ritchie, 6'1 C, OHL

#14: NASHVILLE: Oliver Bonk, 6'2 RHD, OHL

#15: WASHINGTON: Daniil But, 6'4 RW, RUS

#16: CALGARY: Quentin Musty, 6'3 LW, OHL

#17: BUFFALO: Samuel Honzek, 6'4 C/W, WHL

#18: MINNESOTA: Andrew Cristall, 5'9 W, WHL

#19: EDMONTON: Mikhail Gulyayev, 5'11 LHD, RUS

#20: PITTSBURGH: Gabe Perreault, 5'10 C/W, US NTDP

#21: COLORADO: Charlie Stramel, 6'4 C/W, NCAA

#22: LOS ANGELES: Oliver Moore, 5'11 C, US NTDP

#23: VEGAS: Nate Danielson, 6'1 C, WHL

#24: NY RANGERS: Ryan Leonard, 5'11 RW, US NTDP

#25: WINNIPEG: Matthew Wood, 6'4 C, NCAA

#26: CHICAGO (TAMPA BAY): Dimitri Shimishev, 6'4 LHD, RUS

#27: TORONTO: Lukas Dragicevic, 6'2 RHD, WHL

#28: NEW JERSEY: Carson Rehkopf, 6'2 C, OHL

#29: SEATTLE: Riley Heidt, 6'0 C/LW, WHL

#30: CAROLINA: Ethan Gauthier, 5'11 RW, QMJHL

#31: NY RANGERS (DALLAS): Maxim Strbak, 6'2 RHD, USHL

#32: BOSTON: Michael Hrabal, 6'6 G, USHL


#1: COLUMBUS: Carson Bjarnason, 6'3 G, WHL

#2: ANAHEIM: Koehn Ziemmer, 6'0 RW, WHL

#3: CHICAGO: Jayden Perron, 5'8 C, USHL

#4: ARIZONA: Tom Wallinder, 6'1 RHD, SWE

#5: SAN JOSE: Gracyn Sawchyn, 5'11 C, WHL

#6: VANCOUVER: Aram Minnetian, 6'0 RHD, US NTDP

#7: MONTREAL: Beau Akey, 6'0 RHD, OHL

#8: OTTAWA: Noel Nordh, 6'3 RW, SWE


#10: DETROIT (ST LOUIS): Alex Rykov, 5'11 W, RUS

#11: MONTREAL (FLORIDA): Kasper Halttunen, 6'3 RW, FIN

#12: NY ISLANDERS: Otto Stenberg, 5'11 C/W, SWE

#13: DETROIT: Hunter Bruzustewicz, 5'11 RHD, OHL

#14: NASHVILLE: Noah Dower-Nilsson, 6'0 C, SWE

#15: WASHINGTON: Gavin Brindley, 5'10 RW, NCAA

#16: CALGARY: Damian Clara, 6'6 G, SWE

#17: BUFFALO: Gavin McCarthy, 6'1 RHD, USHL

#18: MINNESOTA: Caden Price, 6'1 LHD, WHL

#19: EDMONTON: Danny Nelson, 6'3 C, US NTDP

#20: PITTSBURGH: Jakub Dvorak, 6'5 LHD, CZE

#21: ANAHEIM (COLORADO): Nico Myatovic, 6'3 RW, WHL

#22: LOS ANGELES: Martin Misiak, 6'2 C, SVK

#23: BUFFALO (VEGAS): Dylan McKinnon, 6'3 RHD, QMJHL

#24: NY RANGERS: Tanner Ludtke, 6'0 C, USHL

#25: SEATTLE (WINNIPEG): Luca Cagnoni, 5'10 LHD, WHL

#26: CHICAGO (TAMPA BAY): Trey Augustine, 6'2 G, US NTDP

#27: SEATTLE (TORONTO): Brad Nadeau, 5'9 C, BCHL

#28: NEW JERSEY: Etienne Morin, 6'0 LHD, QMJHL

#29: SEATTLE: Andrew Gibson, 6'3 RHD, OHL

#30: CAROLINA: Lenni Hameenaho, 6'0 RW, FIN

#31: DALLAS: Alex Ciernak, 5'10 W, SWE

#32: ANAHEIM (BOSTON): Artuu Karki, 6'2 LHD, FIN


#1: COLUMBUS: Jesse Kiiskinen, 5'11 W, FIN

#2: ANAHEIM: Mazden Leslie, 6'1 RHD, WHL

#3: CHICAGO: Tanner Molendyk, 5'11 LHD, WHL

#4: ARIZONA: Aydar Suniev, 6'2 W, BCHL

#5: NASHVILLE (SAN JOSE): Theo Lindstein 6'0 LHD, SWE

#6: VANCOUVER: Ethan Miedema, 6'3 RW, OHL

#7: MONTREAL: Mathieu Cataford, 5'10 RW, QMJHL

#8: TORONTO (OTTAWA): Jay Lipinski, 6'3 RW, WHL

#9: PHILADELPHIA: Nick Lardis, 5'10 RW, OHL

#10: ST LOUIS: Scott Ratzlaff, 6'1 G, WHL

#11: PHILADELPHIA (FLORIDA): Andrew Strathmann, 6'0 LHD, USHL

#12: NY ISLANDERS: Carter Sotheran, 6'3 RHD, WHL

#13: DETROIT: Alex Pharand, 6'2 C, OHL

#14: NASHVILLE: Ondrej Molnar, 5'11 LW, OHL

#15: ARIZONA (WASHINGTON): Hoyt Stanley, 6'2 RHD, BCHL

#16: COLUMBUS (CALGARY): Cameron Allen, 6'0 RHD, OHL

#17: VEGAS (BUFFALO): Rasmus Kumpulainen, 6'2 W, FIN

#18: ANAHEIM (MINNESOTA): William Whitelaw, 5'9 C/W, USHL

#19: EDMONTON: Noah Erlinden, 5'11 G, SWE

#20: LOS ANGELES (PITTSBURGH): Daniil Karpovich, 6'4 LHD, BEL

#21: NY RANGERS (COLORADO): Tomas Uronen, 5'11 W, FIN

#22: LOS ANGELES: Connor Levis, 6'2 C, WHL

#23: VEGAS: Luca Pinelli, 5'10 C, OHL

#24: PHILADELPHIA (NY RANGERS): Quinton Burns, 6'1 LHD, OHL

#25: WINNIPEG: Tanner Adams, 6'0 C, USHL

#26: TAMPA BAY: Coulson Pitre, 6'0 C, OHL

#27: TORONTO: Noa Vali, 6'1 G, FIN

#28: PITTSBURGH (NEW JERSEY): Tyler Peddle, 6'2 C/LW, QMJHL

#29: SEATTLE: Aiden Fink, 5'9 W, AJHL

#30: CAROLINA: Emil Pieniniemi, 6'2 LHD, FIN

#31: CHICAGO (DALLAS): Anton Wahlberg, 6'2 C, SWE

#32: BOSTON: Owen Outwater, 6'3 C, OHL


#1: COLUMBUS: Jordan Tourigny, 5'11 RHD, QMJHL

#2: ANAHEIM: Matthew Mania, 6'0 RHD, OHL

#3: CHICAGO: Jakub Stancl, 6'3 C/LW, CZE

#4: ARIZONA: Jesse Nurmi, 5'11 W, FIN

#5: SAN JOSE: Ty Higgins, 6'1 RHD, QMJHL

#6: VANCOUVER: Hugo Hell, 6'0 LHD, SWE

#7: MONTREAL: Felix Nilsson, 6'0 C, SWE

#8: OTTAWA: Brady Cleveland, 6'5 LHD, US NTDP

#9: PHILADELPHIA: Casey Terrance, 6'1 C, OHL

#10: ST LOUIS: Kristian Konstandinski, 6'5 LHD, SWE

#11: FLORIDA: Joey Willis, 5'10 C, OHL

#12: NY ISLANDERS: Donovan McCoy, 6'1 RHD, OHL

#13: DETROIT: Zack Sharp, 6'2 LHD, USHL

#14: NASHVILLE: Brad Gardiner, 6'1 C, OHL

#15: WASHINGTON: Magomed Sharakanov, 6'0 LHD, RUS

#16: CALGARY: Jacob Fowler, 6'2 G, USHL

#17: BUFFALO: Yegor Zavragin, 6'3 G, RUS

#18: MINNESOTA: Oscar Molgaard, 6'0 W, SWE

#19: PHILADELPHIA (EDMONTON): Matteo Koci, 5'11 LHD, CZE

#20: MONTREAL (PITTSBURGH): Kevin Bicker, 6'1 W, GER

#21: SEATTLE (COLORADO): Denver Barkey, 5'8 C, OHL

#22: LOS ANGELES: Kaden Hammell, 6'1 RHD, WHL

#23: MONTREAL (VEGAS): Will McDonough, 6'2 C, USHL

#24: VANCOUVER (NY RANGERS): Jan Sprynar, 6'1 RW, QMJHL

#25: COLUMBUS (WINNIPEG): Timur Mukhanov, 5'9 C, RUS

#26: TAMPA BAY: Jayson Shaugabay, 5'9 C, USHL

#27: NASHVILLE (TORONTO): Vojtech Port, 6'2 RHD, WHL

#28: NEW JERSEY: Adam Dybal, 6'1 G, CZE

#29: SEATTLE: Albert Vikman, 6'0 LHD, SWE

#30: CAROLINA: Yegor Rimashevsky, 6'2 RW, RUS

#31: DALLAS: AJ Lacroix, 6'0 C/LW, BCHL

#32: BOSTON: Roman Kantserov, 5'9 W, RUS

Sabres' Haul:

Rd1 #17: Samuel Honzek, 6'4 C/W, WHL: What's that? Another monster forward (6'4 190#) who can skate and make plays? Why, thanks, I don't mind if I do. While I have Honzek much higher on my Board - inside the Top 10 - there are so many variables in the Top 20 I don't think it's crazy to see him available here. And what a find this Slovak kid would be for the Sabres. In his first year in North America, he's absolutely killed it in an extremely competitive WHL, notching an impressive 43P in 31 games for the Vancouver Giants before he got cut by a skate blade playing for Slovakia at the World Juniors. And that's without playing on the top line for most of the season. He's been out of action for about a month and will likely remain so for another couple weeks. The first thing that stands out with Honzek is his size. He's a long 6'4, and his reach is Tage Thompson-esque. Understands the value of his frame, and how to use it to shield the puck from defenders in traffic or along the walls. That size and wingspan also makes him a terrifying forechecker and a tremendous penalty killer at the top of a diamond. Honzek reaches pucks others can't get and when he gets his blade on the puck, he already knows what he's doing with it. His skating, for a player his size, is surprisingly smooth and explosive. Particularly his linear skating. Has a great burst when getting up ice or pursuing the puck. Powerful, long strides make him look slower than he is. Once he gets into open ice, look out. He just eats it up.

A demon in transition. His size, reach, and speed make him extremely tough to stay in front of. If he can improve his lateral movement, which can be very clunky, particularly in a crowd or trying to change directions on a dime, he would be an absolute nightmare. So he's got some work to do on his skating, especially his edges, but it's hardly a negative. In fact, his skating is not dissimilar to Alex Tuch. Another area where he reminds me of #89 is his use of speed to amplify his playmaking. Make no mistake, Honzek is a natural playmaker and his passing precision and awareness is top of the chart. But where he is most effective is powering through the middle of the ice or racing down the wing, curling back or peeling off defenders and finding trailing players uncovered. Those passes are on the tape and on time, and lead to prime scoring chances. But he can take a hit, maintain control of the puck, and maneuver off the wall to find teammates or power to the post. Has a phenomenal backhand, whether using it for pass or shot. Has great offensive instincts. Knows where the puck is going before it gets there and has the reach and skating to beat defenders there and control possession. Vision is excellent. Recognizes spacing, uses it to his advantage to lure defenders and pass the puck or drive them off and shoot it.

Speaking of which, his shot isn't bad, but it's not a dangerous weapon...yet. Honzek needs to get stronger and pack on some more muscle to really use that frame to the best effect. He'll be able to put a ton of torque behind a wrist shot. Being stronger on his stick and able to win puck battles with sheer strength will make him more effective coming off the wall. It will increase the power of his shot, as well. While his defensive game 5v5 could stand some work, as his intensity level can wane at times, particularly when the other team controls the puck for long shifts in Vancouver's end. But he's a remarkably strong penalty killer, playing on the top unit for the Giants and being extremely disruptive. At the end of the day, Honzek could be an Alex Tuch type of player, but better offensively. Or he could be a dominant 2-way center in the Sasha Barkov mode if he continues to improve at the current rate. And adding him to that already insanely deep prospect pool would be a no-brainer for the Sabres.

Rd2 #9: Kalan Lind, 6'1 C/LW, WHL: Here we go from something the Sabres have in abundance -€” big, super-skilled forwards -€” to something they don't have anywhere in their system. Lind is perhaps the biggest agitator in this entire draft class. He's a supreme troublemaker -€” he attacks the game, loves to hit anything and everything, finishes every hit, pokes every bear, finds himself in every netfront scrum. And as the Sabres advance in the playoffs (hopefully), they will need players like this. There's no mistaking Lind on the ice. His skating is excellent, although not elite. More than capable of playing at a high pace, getting up and down the ice with a short but explosive stride. Most effective playing a linear game -€” Lind isn't a guy who's going to dangle you all over the ice or dance around defenders -€” where he can either blow up the ice or downshift and throw defenders off stride. Since his feet always seem to be moving, he may appear faster than he is, but does have exceptionally light feet. His ability to generate burst is one element that helps him deliver so many heavy hits despite having a relatively small frame (6'1 170#). A perpetual motion machine. That skating feeds into what he's best known for...blowing guys up. Lind lives on the fine line between legal and illegal, much in the same way Michael Peca used to do.

Will make contact in open ice but seems to prefer along the walls. Rattles the glass at least once a game in the times I've seen him. But his willingness to engage physically isn't limited to just throwing hits. He's a terror on the top of the crease. Completely fearless in front, regardless of who or how many are leaning on him, Lind excels at taking away the eyes of the goaltender and finding loose pucks in a crowd. He's also smart playing that spot -€” collecting pucks and distributing them to teammates around the crease or coming down the slot to get better quality scoring chances. Lind has some solid puck skills, but he's not going to get you out of your seats with his hands or his dangles. So while he has the speed to pull away from backchecking defenders in transition, he's playing a pretty simple, straight-ahead game. Get the puck into the O-Zone, get it toward the net, and crash the crease. His routes to the goal are pretty basic. He's a smart passer, and has high-level vision to make a play, but doesn't always have the hands to make the pass happen. Can get off a nice wrist shot with a good release, but he's not going to scare too many people with the velocity or the heaviness of his shot. That said, he's a goal scorer in the same way Jeff Skinner is.

Constantly moving, with a great nose for the puck, he scores a lot of goals around the crease or in the low slot, tracking pucks and putting them in the back of the net before the opposition even knows where the puck is. As evidence, he's currently on a 5-game goal streak. Has a dangerous backhand in tight. Lastly, Lind is a very good defensive forward. Not only is he a relentless forechecker who would rather force a turnover by crushing defenders into the glass that just stealing a puck, but he's an excellent on-puck defender who understands how to protect the middle of the ice even in space. Has a quick stick and the smarts to shut down forwards in his own end with good gaps and some physical play. Where he can tend to get in trouble is his discipline...Lind can take some bad penalties and can step over the line, drawing more attention than he should and endangering his team's chances of winning just to throw one more big hit. Picking his spots is a flaw. That needs to improve, which I'm sure it can. Has went for 41P in 38 games so far this season for Sabre prospect Mats Lindgren's Red Deer Rebels, and was a standout on Team Canada's gold-medal winning Hlinka team despite only scoring once. He would be a nice addition to the Sabres' prospect pool, and his older brother Kole is on the verge of making it full-time with the Canucks, so he's got the bloodlines as well.

Rd2 #17: Gavin McCarthy, 6'2 RHD, USHL: Local boy makes good! McCarthy was a guy I targeted even before I knew he was from Clarence. But he's the kind of smooth, smart, versatile player that thrives playing in a #4/#5 role at the NHL level. The biggest plus to me is his adaptability. McCarthy can play any style you want: high-paced puck moving transition game, check; physical, dump-in-in bang and crash, for sure; smart, controlled puck possession, no problem. He can do it all and do it well. At 6'2, 185#, McCarthy is a sturdy blueliner who moves the puck quickly and accurately, both to get it out of trouble and to trigger transition and counters. While it needs some refinement, his skating is a positive. He's not blazing fast, but he's smooth, with a powerful, long stride that doesn't win any beauty pageants but gives him plenty of burst as well as superb pivots that allow him to transition from front to back and change directions easily. His lateral movement isn't great, and his balance in particular could stand some improvement as he can get knocked around and off his line, but it has all the building blocks of a strong, efficient style.

Can walk the line on the PP, even quarterback it competently, but that doesn't project as his game as he moves up. Does have a physical component to his game that dovetails with his solid skating. When he's gapping up opponents, his four-way skating allows him to keep fairly tight gaps even against speedy forwards on the outside, but when he finds himself on the short-end of a matchup, he's not above putting an elbow or a hip into his check to disrupt their attack. Will ride opposing forwards into the boards to disrupt a rush and can blast forwards at the blueline trying to enter the zone with their heads down. And has been known to drop the gloves on occasion. Where he really shows off his game, though, is his ability to move the puck. Remarkably calm with the puck on his stick, he can wait out forecheckers or shake them, and his first pass is crisp and on target nearly every time. Accuracy is the name of his game. Puts pucks on tape all over the ice. Head always up, assessing the ice, and has excellent vision and sense of timing to spring forwards on long stretch passes. Makes great reads when going from D-zone to Neutral Zone. Really good feel for transition hockey which fits nicely with the way the Sabres want to play. Deceptive when carrying the puck -€” he has surprisingly soft hands -€” can make an opponent miss when entering the zone with control, corrals bad passes easily, even capable of dangling you when possessing the puck.

He's not flashy, however. Moves the puck swiftly and on-time when handling it in the O-zone and can create opportunities even in close quarters with his smarts and puck handling. Has a good, hard shot although not a lot of variety in his selection or his arsenal. Defensively, he's a solid on-puck defender who has the strength to tie up sticks, but when off the puck, he can get caught chasing the puck and wandering away from his position...which leads to breakdowns. Not a finished product by any means but is getting more and more recognition. Played for the US team at the Hlinka. Unfortunately, he got injured during the first game of the World Junior A Challenge and has been out since, missing the All-American Prospect Game during that time. But prior to the injury, was the #2 scorer for D-men in the entire USHL with 18P in 20 games. Scheduled to return in early February. Father Joe is a Navy SEAL, so toughness runs in the family. On the younger side for this Draft class as well, so he may still get bigger.

Rd2 #23: Dylan MacKinnon, 6'3 RHD, QMJHL: The first player I've selected twice in my Mock Drafts. A big, physical defender who plays in the old school vein, MacKinnon possesses excellent mobility on the back end and the requisite size to make his physical play effective. Has the attributes to play for a long time in the NHL, but how good can he be? Most importantly, in today's NHL, dude can skate. An electric skater, MacKinnon was the fastest straight-ahead skater at the CHL Top Prospects game testing and finished 2nd in backwards skating speed. His pivots are strong and smooth, transitions well in all directions, and big strides eat up a lot of ice. He isn't choppy but doesn't explode out of the box either. Proper mechanics and a strong lower body but light feet allow him to stay in front of forwards who dare enter his part of the ice and shut down puck carriers and rushes equally. Reportedly a huge fan of Shea Weber, MacKinnon strives to lay the body on opposing forwards like his idol. Loves to protect the crease, get into the corners, and work guys over. Tracks the puck well. Has a great mindset -€” regardless of the player or their size, MacKinnon owns the lower part of his own end.

Never any hesitation to mix it up or recover pucks. Sometimes, this eagerness to engage physically can draw MacKinnon out of position, so he needs to be more disciplined, but his instincts and awareness are typically very good. Is a precise passer, using his feet to find open ice where he can hit streaking forwards on the tape with long stretch passes or make the smart clear to defuse pressure. His short-area passing is solid, but could stand to make decisions a bit quicker. Good reads, his gaps are strong but not airtight just yet, although I think he has the ability, length and footwork to gap up with the best of them. Just needs a little more confidence in his skating. One area where he lacks are his puck skills. MacKinnon won't be mistaken for a PP QB, he doesn't have great feel for the puck and isn't going to over-handle it. Doesn't treat it like a grenade -€” he's actually fine carrying up ice in an odd-man rush situation -€” but won't really do much in terms of dekes, changes of direction or stickhandling in any situation. Would rather dump it into the corner than risk turning it over at the opposing blueline. So you're not going to see him weave thru defenders on an end-to-end rush.

Normally plays it safe, even when joining the rush, but will take advantage when situations present themselves -€” for example, recently scored after a couple of moves on a breakaway after coming out of the penalty box. Shot is hard, but not heavy, although he's fairly accurate in terms of getting pucks on net. Plays a smart, responsible game that allows him to punish opponents. A lot of projectable skills. If he can do a little more as the trigger man in transition, and gap up a little bit tighter, MacKinnon should be a surefire 2nd round talent. Played for the gold-medal winning Canadian Hlinka team as one of their defensive anchors. If he starts putting up points for Halifax, look out. He's been very effective in recent weeks and has notched 17P in in 38 games for the Mooseheads; this is a huge jump from last season, when he only managed 2P in 52 games. So his offensive game is growing. A wise investment to make for the Sabres as they reestablish their defensive depth.

Rd4 #17: Yegor Zavragin, 6'3 G, RUS: Haven't you heard? Russian goalies are all the rage these days. Sorokin, Shestyorkin, Samsonov...why not get on the train now? Zavragin is a tough guy to get a read on, as there's not a ton of accessibility to Russian junior games these days, but from what I have seen there's a lot to like. Zavragin plays a style vaguely reminiscent of Craig Anderson. He's not a true butterfly goalie, but instead he kind of plays some upright, and drops into the butterfly later than most goalies. Rather than a pure technician, he's more athletic in how he covers the net. Long legs let him cover the bottom of the net quickly when he does drop into the butterfly, and he's very conscious of remaining straight up instead of leaning, so he continues to take away as much of the top of the net as possible even while down. Of course, to play this way it helps to be 6'3 and 190#.

Plays an aggressive style. Always out of the net, on top of the blue paint, sometimes even a little beyond that, to cut off angles and take away options from shooters. Has a very good glove, quick reflexes to use it, and will kill a lot of players just by snatching the puck. Zavragin plays a very patient game as a goalie and is more likely to freeze a puck than play it. I don't know if this tendency causes him to avoid handling the puck, but he doesn't do much of it and he rarely does it well. But that patience helps him when facing down breakaways as he rarely is the first to move which makes it tough on the puck carrier. Seems to struggle a bit when the puck reverses behind his net; he can cheat to the side he expects the puck to come out, so a smart player can put on the brakes and stuff it in the short-side before Zavragin has time to get back. While he has good rebound control on low shots, he struggles at times fighting off high shots. That's an area he's going to have to clean up.

Has excellent awareness of what's going on around him; he tracks the play very well and responds to one-timers and other quick passes around the net like a cat. Has some of that Sorokin in his game where even when there's a scramble in front, he never moves, just stays as big as he can and tries to front the puck. Has been really good of late, with a 2.00 GAA and a .928 SV% in his last 5 games for a middling team -€” Mamonty Yugry -€” who give up quite a few Grade A chances. Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to see any of the Russian team in international play, so it's possible that this kid flies under the radar a bit and the Sabres can snatch him up in the middle rounds...perhaps even later than this. Zavragin is one of the youngest prospects in the class, missing the cut-off for next year's Draft by only 3 weeks, so he'll have a long development window before he makes a run at joining the Sabres.

Rd5 #17: Matthew Soto, 5'11 RW, OHL: Speaking of young for this class, Soto is a fast, creative, attacking forward who plays with high pace all over the ice. One of the youngest players in the Draft class, missing the cut-off by a couple weeks, Soto is dynamic forward who continues to improve game over game. Resembles Peyton Krebs a bit with his ceaseless motor and relentless attacking style. Plays a fierce, high-energy game going primarily North-South up and down the ice. Feet never stop moving. A bulldog in puck pursuit, Soto can forecheck with the best of them. He never lets up. Even when the opponent shakes him on the first pass, Soto does not quit or even slow down, backchecking with equal intensity until he forces the puck carrier to turn it over or give it up. He's a slippery skater with excellent lateral movement, and his hands and feet work in sync. Straight-line speed is still coming, although its markedly improved since last year. Overall, he needs to get stronger in his lower body and his explosiveness will increase as well, so there's some work to be done, but he's not a negative skater. In fact, quite the opposite.

One thing that helps him is his smarts -€” Soto processes the game quickly. He sees lanes to the right spots on the ice and doesn't hesitate. Has the hands and the quick feet to get him there. Doesn't overhandle the puck, but he can be a killer stickhandler. When he identifies an open man, he immediately works to get that teammate the puck (again, like Krebs). Owns a pair of nice hands, can dangle through traffic or send some backhand sauce through the slot to an open guy. Those really come in handy in transition, where Soto can be murder. The ability to process at speed really stands out here and he can draw defenders and dish, dangle around or through a D-Man, or take it to the net and beat the goalie with a variety of moves. Recognizes lanes and stays in them, allowing for the rush to maximize its opportunities. And Soto is a very persistent on-puck defender. The top scorer for Kingston, Soto has put up 35P in 44 games, a huge improvement from last year's 25P in 54 games. And the Frontenacs are not a good team, so he's doing it on a team that's been decimated by trades of their top guys, giving him more and more opportunities to play bigger roles. This is a player that I believe could have a monster Draft +1 season and teams will wonder how he fell so far in the Draft.

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.