Down the Stretch: McGee's 5 Round Mock Draft!

DBTBers –

First, a disclaimer: 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 continue to send all the positive vibes their way!

We are beginning to enter the stretch run of the draft season, as teams from Sweden to Oregon examine their schedules with the playoffs rapidly approaching. The big international tournaments are mostly finished, until we get deep into Spring and we have the U-18s in April before we get to the Combine back in Buffalo in the beginning of June. As such, club teams are focused on their playoff chances and that is where we have to look to see what players are moving up and down the Board. But first, a couple of observations.

The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) is a very interesting case study this season. They were expected to have several players in the Top 20, but going by the consensus of draftniks I’ve had a look at in recent weeks, there are likely only 2, maybe 3, players from the O who are likely Top 20 candidates at this point in the season. Why is that? Well, of all the various junior leagues across the globe, the OHL is the only one I’m aware of who utterly, completely, totally shut down for an entire season due to COVID. It’s not my place to debate the rightness or wrongness of that decision here, so please don’t use the comments to do so. The point is, for most of the kids in that League, that is an entire year of development that largely went out the window as a result of that decision. And that is a prime development year. So I’ve taken to looking at many of the players in the O as if they were a year younger. For example, Quentin Musty is a big, skilled offensive wing who is eligible to be drafted this year. He was also born in July, which means he just misses the cut-off for next year’s Draft by a couple months. In his Draft -2 year, he only played 4 games the entire year! Another player who was expected to be a Top 10 pick and could fall out of the Top 20 is Cal Ritchie. In his Draft -2 year, he did not play a single game. So basically, as a 16 year old, he didn’t participate in a single game. That’s crazy. So I think for a lot of kids who are eligible to be drafted from the OHL this year, there is a little more runway to improve than their peers have. And while that shouldn’t be an overriding factor when making your selection, it should certainly be a factor when making that decision.

Secondly, the leanings of the Adams regime have started to come into focus after 3 years of drafting. And honestly, it’s interesting to a draft nerd like me, even if it doesn’t give a lot of help in forecasting where he’ll go this year. His team – even when you take into account that first year, when he only had 5 picks and didn’t really have his full group of scouts in place – does not seem to lean heavily one direction or another. For example, just in the Canadian junior leagues, he’s selected 3 players each from the Quebec, Ontario and the Western leagues. And in Europe, he’s added 7 players from Sweden, 6 from Russia, 2 from Czechia, a German and a Finn. Most interesting to me, given both Granato and Adams’ backgrounds in hockey, is that they’ve only selected 2 players in 3 years from American leagues: the first, obviously, is Owen Power, who’s Canadian-born but played in the USHL and NCAA before getting chosen #1 overall. And the second is Jake Richard, who’s been great in the USHL so far.

One area that jumps out to me is their decided lack of drafting anyone from the US National Program. This is even more peculiar since Granato has a good relationship with folks at the Program, and coached there for several years. They’ve sent a few dozen players to the NHL over the past 3 seasons, including 14 last season, some extremely talented. The fact the Sabres have avoided the Program’s players during that time sticks out to me a bit. Yes, it may just be the way the Board fell, or some other coincidence, but I have to admit it’s got me curious. There’s a school of thought amongst draft geeks that one of the downsides of joining the Program is that they kind of drain your upside through the constant training and competition…so while you can be a functional NHL player after coming from there, unless you’re absolutely exceptional (like a Zegras, Hughes, etc) and become a star in the League, your ceiling isn’t as high as players from other leagues or organizations. I don’t know if that factors into how the Sabres look at the NTDP when putting together their Big Board, but I’m intrigued by the possibility.

For those of you unfamiliar with the 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, with the Sabres in a playoff position, but it should be relatively close to where things stand when this finally gets published. And most of the trades from the Deadline have been incorporated.

And now, for your reading pleasure…


#1: CHICAGO: Connor Bedard 5’10 C, WHL

#2: VANCOUVER: Adam Fantilli, 6’4 C, NCAA

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

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

#5: SAN JOSE: Zach Benson, 5’10 LW, WHL

#6: ARIZONA: Will Smith, 6’0 C, US NTDP

#7: MONTREAL: Eduard Sale, 6’1 C/LW, CZE

#8: PHILADELPHIA: Samuel Honzek, 6’4 C/W, WHL

#9: ST LOUIS: Colby Barlow, 6’2 LW, OHL

#10: WASHINGTON: Andrew Cristall, 5’9 W, WHL

#11: MONTREAL (FLORIDA): David Reinbacher, 6’2 RHD, SWISS

#12: DETROIT: Oliver Moore, 5’11 C, US NTDP

#13: CALGARY: Quentin Musty, 6’3 LW, OHL

#14: ARIZONA (OTTAWA): Axel Sandlin-Pelikka, 5’11 RHD, SWE

#15: DETROIT (NY ISLANDERS): Matthew Wood, 6’4 C, NCAA

#16: NASHVILLE: Dalibor Dvorsky, 6’1 C, SWE

#17: BUFFALO: Nate Danielson, 6’1 C, WHL

#18: PITTSBURGH: Ryan Leonard, 5’11 RW, US NTDP

#19: WINNIPEG: Daniil But, 6’4 RW, RUS

#20: NASHVILLE (EDMONTON): Dimitri Shimishev, 6’4 LHD, RUS

#21: SEATTLE: Brayden Yager, 6’0 C/RW, WHL

#22: MINNESOTA: Cal Ritchie, 6’2 C, OHL

#23: COLORADO: Gabe Perreault, 5’10 C/W, US NTDP

#24: COLUMBUS (LOS ANGELES): Charlie Stramel, 6’4 C/W, NCAA

#25: ST LOUIS (NY RANGERS): Mikhail Gulyayev, 5’11 LHD, RUS

#26: CHICAGO (TAMPA BAY): Lukas Dragicevic, 6’2 RHD, WHL

#27: ST LOUIS (TORONTO): Gracyn Sawchyn, 5’11 C, WHL

#28: SAN JOSE (NEW JERSEY): Riley Heidt, 6’0 C/LW, WHL

#29: NY RANGERS (DALLAS): Kasper Halttunen, 6’3 RW, FIN

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

#31: VEGAS: Gavin Brindley, 5’10 RW, NCAA



#1: COLUMBUS: Michael Hrabal, 6’6 G, USHL

#2: CHICAGO: Otto Stenberg, 5’11 C/W, SWE

#3: ANAHEIM: Oliver Bonk, 6’2 RHD, OHL

#4: SAN JOSE: Maxim Strbak, 6’2 RHD, USHL

#5: ARIZONA: Carson Bjarnason, 6’3 G, WHL

#6: DETROIT (VANCOUVER): Tom Wallinder, 6’1 RHD, SWE

#7: MONTREAL: Noah Dower-Nilsson, 6’0 C, SWE

#8: BUFFALO (PHILADELPHIA): Koehn Ziemmer, 6’0 RW, WHL

#9: DETROIT (ST LOUIS): Alex Rykov, 5’11 W, RUS

#10: WASHINGTON: Hunter Bruzustewicz, 5’11 RHD, OHL

#11: MONTREAL (FLORIDA): Carson Rehkopf, 6’2 C, OHL

#12: DETROIT: Jakub Dvorak, 6’5 LHD, CZE

#13: CALGARY: Jayden Perron, 5’8 C, USHL

#14: CHICAGO (OTTAWA): Caden Price, 6’1 LHD, WHL

#15: NY ISLANDERS: William Whitelaw, 5’9 C/W, USHL

#16: NASHVILLE: Kalan Lind, 6’1 LW, WHL

#17: BUFFALO: Aram Minnetian, 6’0 RHD, US NTDP

#18: NASHVILLE (PITTSBURGH): Mazden Leslie, 6’1 RHD, WHL

#19: SEATTLE (WINNIPEG): Tanner Molendyk, 5’11 LHD, WHL

#20: EDMONTON: Jesse Kiiskinen, 5’11 W, FIN

#21: SEATTLE: Martin Misiak, 6’2 C, SVK

#22: MINNESOTA: Noel Nordh, 6’3 RW, SWE

#23: ANAHEIM (COLORADO): Oscar FIsker Molgaard, 6’0 C/W, SWE

#24: LOS ANGELES: Tyler Peddle, 6’2 C/LW, QMJHL

#25: NY RANGERS: Theo Lindstein 6’0 LHD, SWE

#26: CHICAGO (TAMPA BAY): David Edstrom, 6’2 C, SWE

#27: SEATTLE (TORONTO): Danny Nelson, 6’3 C, US NTDP

#28: NEW JERSEY: Luca Cagnoni, 5’10 LHD, WHL

#29: DALLAS: Alex Ciernak, 5’10 W, SWE

#30: CAROLINA: Gavin McCarthy, 6’1 RHD, USHL

#31: MINNESOTA (BUFFALO/VEGAS): Andrew Strathmann, 6’0 LHD, USHL

#32: ANAHEIM (BOSTON): Anton Wahlberg, 6’2 C, SWE


#1: COLUMBUS: Cameron Allen, 6’0 RHD, OHL

#2: ANAHEIM: Etienne Morin, 6’0 LHD, QMJHL

#3: CHICAGO: Trey Augustine, 6’2 G, US NTDP

#4: NASHVILLE (SAN JOSE): Mathieu Cataford, 5’10 RW, QMJHL

#5: ARIZONA: Aydar Suniev, 6’2 W, BCHL

#6: VANCOUVER: Artuu Karki, 6’2 LHD, FIN

#7: MONTREAL: Matthew Mania, 6’0 RHD, OHL

#8: CAROLINA (PHILADELPHIA): Luca Pinelli, 5’10 C, OHL

#9: ST LOUIS: Dylan McKinnon, 6’3 RHD, QMJHL

#10: ARIZONA (WASHINGTON): Tristan Bertucci, 6’0 LHD, OHL

#11: PHILADELPHIA (FLORIDA): Tanner Ludtke, 6’0 C, USHL

#12: DETROIT: Brad Nadeau, 5’9 C, BCHL

#13: COLUMBUS (CALGARY): Nico Myatovic, 6’3 RW, WHL

#14: ST LOUIS (TORONTO/OTTAWA): Coulson Pitre, 6’0 C, OHL

#15: ARIZONA (NY ISLANDERS): Jay Lipinski, 6’3 RW, WHL

#16: NASHVILLE: Scott Ratzlaff, 6’1 G, WHL

#17: VEGAS (BUFFALO): Tomas Uronen, 5’11 W, FIN

#18: LOS ANGELES (PITTSBURGH): Brady Cleveland, 6’5 LHD, US NTDP

#19: WINNIPEG: Connor Levis, 6’2 C/W, WHL

#20: ARIZONA (EDMONTON): Carter Sotheran, 6’3 RHD, WHL

#21: SEATTLE: Lenni Hameenaho, 6’0 RW, FIN

#22: ANAHEIM (MINNESOTA): Ethan Miedema, 6’3 RW, OHL

#23: NY RANGERS (COLORADO): Timur Mukhanov, 5’9 C, RUS

#24: BUFFALO (LOS ANGELES): Andrew Gibson, 6’3 RHD, OHL

#25: PHILADELPHIA (NY RANGERS): Quinton Burns, 6’1 LHD, OHL

#26: NASHVILLE (TAMPA BAY): Alex Pharand, 6’2 C, OHL

#27: VANCOUVER (TORONTO): Jesse Nurmi, 5’11 W, FIN

#28: PITTSBURGH (NEW JERSEY): Ondrej Molnar, 5’11 LW, OHL

#29: CHICAGO (DALLAS): Daniil Karpovich, 6’4 LHD, BEL

#30: SAN JOSE (CAROLINA): Rasmus Kumpulainen, 6’2 W, FIN

#31: VEGAS: Emil Pieniniemi, 6’2 LHD, FIN

#32: BOSTON: Brad Gardiner, 6’1 C, OHL


#1: COLUMBUS: Hugo Hell, 6’0 LHD, SWE

#2: ANAHEIM: Casey Terrance, 6’1 C, OHL

#3: CHICAGO: Joey Willis, 5’10 C, OHL

#4: SAN JOSE: Kristian Konstandinski, 6’5 LHD, SWE

#5: ARIZONA: Denver Barkey, 5’8 C, OHL

#6: VANCOUVER: Jordan Tourigny, 5’11 RHD, QMJHL

#7: MONTREAL: Matteo Koci, 5’11 LHD, CZE

#8: PHILADELPHIA: Noah Erlinden, 5’11 G, SWE

#9: ST LOUIS: Jakub Stancl, 6’3 C/LW, CZE

#10: WASHINGTON: Yegor Rimashevsky, 6’2 RW, RUS

#11: FLORIDA: Felix Nilsson, 6’0 C, SWE

#12: VANCOUVER (DETROIT): Zack Sharp, 6’2 LHD, USHL

#13: CALGARY: Tanner Adams, 6’0 C, USHL

#14: OTTAWA: Yegor Zavragin, 6’3 G, RUS

#15: NY ISLANDERS: Ty Higgins, 6’1 RHD, QMJHL

#16: NASHVILLE: Albert Vikman, 6’0 LHD, SWE

#17: BUFFALO: Damien Clara, 6’6 G, SWE

#18: MONTREAL (PITTSBURGH): Owen Outwater, 6’3 C, OHL

#19: COLUMBUS (WINNIPEG): Aiden Fink, 5’9 W, AJHL


#21: SAN JOSE (SEATTLE): Emil Jarventie, 5’11 LW, FIN

#22: DETROIT (MINNESOTA): Kaden Hammell, 6’1 RHD, WHL

#23: SEATTLE (COLORADO): Jacob Fowler, 6’2 G, USHL

#24: LOS ANGELES: AJ Lacroix, 6’0 C/LW, BCHL

#25: VANCOUVER (NY RANGERS): Lukas Hes, 6’3 RW, CZE

#26: NASHVILLE (TAMPA BAY): Roman Kantserov, 5’9 W, RUS

#27: NASHVILLE (TORONTO): Ryan Conmy, 5’11 RW, USHL

#28: NEW JERSEY: Jayson Shaugabay, 5’9 C, USHL

#29: DALLAS: Vojtech Port, 6’2 RHD, WHL

#30: CAROLINA: Dominik Petr, 6’2 C/LW, FIN

#31: MONTREAL (VEGAS): Niko Minkkanen, 6’4 RHD, OHL

#32: BOSTON: Matteo Mann, 6’5 RHD, QMJHL


#1: SAN JOSE (COLUMBUS): Axel Landen, 6’1 RHD, SWE

#2: ANAHEIM: Adam Dybal, 6’1 G, CZE

#3: CHICAGO: Peteris Bulans, 6’0 RHD, QMJHL

#4: SAN JOSE: Kevin Bicker, 6’1 W, GER

#5: ARIZONA: Ivan Anoshko, 5’10 C, RUS

#6: CAROLINA (VANCOUVER): Kalem Parker 6’0 RHD, WHL

#7: MONTREAL: Hunter Anderson, 5’9 W, US HS

#8: PHILADELPHIA: Magomed Sharakanov, 6’0 LHD, RUS

#9: ST LOUIS: James Petrovski, 6’3 LHD, OHL

#10: WASHINGTON: Kalle Kangas, 6’4 LHD, FIN

#11: FLORIDA: Will McDonough, 6’2 C, USHL

#12: DETROIT: Andrei Loshko, 6’1 RW, QMJHL

#13: MONTREAL (CALGARY): Ivan Remezovsky, 6’1 LHD, RUS

#14: OTTAWA: Cam Squires, 5’11 RW, QMJHL

#15: NY ISLANDERS: Jiri Felcman, 6’4 C, SWISS

#16: NASHVILLE: Donovan McCoy, 6’1 RHD, OHL

#17: BUFFALO: Felix Unger Sorum, 5’11 RW, SWE

#18: PITTSBURGH: Drew Fortesque, 6’3 LHD, US NTDP

#19: WINNIPEG: Noa Vali, 6’1 G, FIN

#20: EDMONTON: Easton Cowan, 5’10 C, OHL

#21: SEATTLE: Wyatt Kennedy, 6’3 RHD, OHL

#22: MINNESOTA: Mike DeAngleo, 5’11 LW, USHL

#23: COLORADO: Zach Nehring, 6’3 C, US HS

#24: LOS ANGELES: Alex Weiermaer, 6’1 C, US NTDP

#25: WINNIPEG (NY RANGERS): Lucas St Louis, 5’10 LHD, USHL

#26: NASHVILLE (TAMPA BAY): Matthew Soto, 5’11 RW, OHL

#27: TORONTO: Zeb Forsfjall, 5’9 W, SWE

#28: NEW JERSEY: Michael Chambre, 6’2 G, US NTDP

#29: DALLAS: Teddy Townshend, 5’11 W, US HS

#30: CAROLINA: Nikita Susuyev, 6’0 F, RUS

#31: ARIZONA (VEGAS): Donovan Frias, 6’4 LW, BCHL

#32: COLUMBUS (BOSTON): Kalle Carlsson, 6’0 C, SWE

The Sabres' Haul:

1#17: Nate Danielson, 6’1 C, WHL:

The Sabres have had some recent success drafting from the WHL (Cozens, Savoie to name a couple) and this year’s class may be one of the best ever from that league. So why not go back to the well once more? Here they grab a do-it-all, hyper-efficient centerman with good size (6’1 185#) and great skating to add to the pipeline. The word used to describe Danielson most often is ‘responsible’, followed closely by ‘complete.’ These are essentially code words for a two-way player who is not flashy, but his execution and willingness to do the little things to win is at an elite level, especially among teenagers who oftentimes are more interested in putting up points or flying around the ice. Danielson is a diligent, exceptionally aware defensive centerman who will do whatever his team needs at any time. The best trait he possesses is his execution. Constantly supports the puck in all three zones; rarely turns the puck over anywhere on the ice; always keeps his feet, and the play, moving; these are the things Danielson does perhaps as well as any player in the Draft. Has an explosive burst when changing direction or going from stop to start. His skating is deceptively fast, in the same way Eichel is; that is, his stride is long and powerful, so it looks like he’s not working that hard, but he eats up a ton of ice with each stride. While it might look less than ideal, he can match speed for speed most of the forwards he goes up against on a nightly basis. A persistent and determined back checker, he frequently lifts sticks from behind and turns pucks over.

The one area where his skating does tend to impede him is his lateral movement. Not slow or poor by any means, he can get his legs crossed up and be forced into really wide turns or slow down coming out of turns, which can affect his transition game (in both directions). This can be corrected, however, and his skating is largely a plus. Danielson’s hockey mind is a weapon. Recognizes breakdowns in his own zone and quickly moves to address them. Diagnoses openings in coverage, can take advantage of those openings or fill them when defending, and is remarkably patient with the puck. Makes himself available for outlets, zone exits, or comes deep into his own zone to help out his defensemen. His feel for the D-zone is remarkable. One of the top defensive forwards in the WHL, Danielson routinely plays against the other team’s top centers and acquits himself well most nights. Plays on the top penalty killing unit. His discipline is something you see in much older players. Always conscious of staying in his lanes in transition, or defending the proper lane when facing transition, he doesn’t chase or get out of position very often. In fact, he would likely have much better offensive numbers if he didn’t hang back as much as he does, trying to ensure that his team does not give up odd-man rushes or breakaways.

Seems like he’s always the 3F into the zone and always the first forward out of the zone when the opponent begins to transition. Constantly on the right side of the puck. But there are flashes of high-end offense. Danielson does not shoot the puck nearly enough, and often is more willing to just move the puck into an open corner or along the walls rather than try to make a move and risk turning the puck over high in the O-zone or the Neutral. But during the flow of the game, you will see a play or two that makes you think there’s a lot more beneath the surface and if he played for a deeper, more offensively skilled club, his numbers would be significantly higher. His shot is an effective weapon – he’s got a hard, heavy wrister and a deadly accurate half-clapper. Backhand is deceptive and he can get it up in tight spaces. His playmaking, again something that flashed but you haven’t seen consistently, has been markedly improved. He’s using his smarts to move players around with subtle fakes, dekes, and using his eyes to open up passing lanes and draw defenders out of position. While he’s been successful with this on the PP, he’s now translating it to even strength play, especially in sets or cycles in the O-zone. He’s currently on an 11 game point streak, and has been directly involved in over 25% of Brandon’s chances at evens. On a mediocre-at-best team, that’s remarkable. Danielson even wears the ‘C’ for the Wheat Kings, a pretty impressive feat for an 18-year-old. Put up an impressive 74P in 59 games, but I think there’s more upside there both skating and offensively. There’s some Ryan O’Reilly to his game, and as his confidence in his teammates grows, I think he’ll do bigger and better things. And the Sabres can afford to be patient as he evolves.

2#8: Koehn Ziemmer, 6’0 RW, WHL:

Back to the WHL? Why not? We’ve seen the Sabres under the Adams regime add a lot of shooters (Kulich, Quinn, Rosen, etc) so here they put another log on that fire. Ziemmer (Coe-hen Zee-merr) is a thick, punishing power-winger (6’0 and 200#) who has Charmin-soft hands and a laser of a shot. I’ve seen one observer compare him to a Timo Meier-type of player. And those of you who know, know I’m always up for some Timo. A natural goal scorer, Ziemmer is particularly deadly in transition. He’s got good speed, especially linear, and he’s not explosive nor is he a burner, he gets around the ice well largely because he rarely stops moving his feet. He’s always in motion. But as soon as the puck changes possession, Ziemmer is headed up ice. Very cognizant of maximizing his chances, he protects the puck well going through the NZ and maintains his lane all the way to the net once the puck carrier on the entry is determined. Everything is designed to go to the net.

Doesn’t overhandle the puck, or overskate with the puck. If he gets the puck, it’s going to the net, as a shot, a pass, or simply driving to the crease. And his shot is a major weapon. Very similar to Jack Quinn, in transition he’ll hang it out wide to open up the D-Man, then bring it in tight – almost a curl-and-drag – before using the D-Man as a screen to get off a rocket wrister. And there is never any hesitation. His release is so quick, so well-disguised, he’ll catch a lot of goalies before they get set. His laser beam of a shot is deadly accurate. Every shot seems to hit the net. But make no mistake, he’s not just a shooter. Ziemmer can score in a variety of ways: shots from bad angles, banking it off the goalie, jamming loose pucks in from the top of the crease, tips, deflections, gathering up rebounds and getting the puck up and over the goalie. He’s got all the tricks in his bag. Amazing hands on this kid. And thanks to his excellent balance, he can hang around the net and take some physical abuse while seeking out pucks or looking for tips. Is very creative in getting space. Uses the boards to get around defenders, has a bevy of fakes to open up room for himself to get his shot off. While he’s not a great passer, Ziemmer has a knack for getting the puck to the netfront. In transition if his shot is taken away, he’ll drive the net and then dish into the low slot or across the crease to create a chance. When he tries to get to fancy is when he turns the puck over, but he’s a relentless backchecker and isn’t afraid to drop a shoulder or raise an elbow when he’s trying to separate opponents from the puck, sometimes going over the line to make an impression.

Seems to relish contact. Usually gets a couple of big hits to blow guys up a game. Also doesn’t mind dropping the gloves on occasion – I believe he’s got a couple fights this year already. Defensively, he’s a dangerous forechecker. He’s got a very quick stick that seems to find the puck with regularity and he will lay the body on a puck carrier to disrupt the breakout. And when he manages to turn the puck over, he makes right for the net and opens himself up to receive the puck. In his own zone, he’s a good communicator, pointing out open opponents and always shoulder checking to keep an eye on what’s going on behind him. Sometimes, he will freeze up, indecisive about remaining where he is or pursuing the puck…that can cause him to leave a lot of open ice at times. All in all, he’s a pretty responsible forward and even plays on Prince George’s PK unit. If he could get more explosive coming out of the blocks and get a little more decisive in his own end, you’d have a very effective wing. Ziemmer is certainly productive regardless of the situation. He’s got 75P in 59 games, including 34 goals on a pretty solid Prince George’s team after netting 30 goals as a Draft -1 player last season. If he does fall to this spot, he could very well be another steal for the Sabres.

2#17: Aram Minnetian, 6’0 RHD, US NTDP:

As discussed, the Adams regime doesn’t draft from the National Program…well, ever. But here they break the pattern. Minnetian is an all-around reliable D-Man who can really skate and play a variety of styles. He’s responsible defensively and accomplished in his own end, but has shown a blossoming offensive game as the year has gone on. The first thing you notice about Minnetian is his electric skating. He can really fly and he plays with tremendous pace. It’s an unusual combination of mohawk and traditional skating, not unlike Jeff Skinner, but Minnetian’s straight-up faster than #53. Really smooth stride, he can explode out of stops, change direction easily and without any hitches, and has great top speed to close on forwards who might get loose for a potential breakaway or odd-man rush. That 4-way mobility is exceptional. And that’s where he’s going to make his bones. He’s a puck transporter, who blows through the Neutral Zone with or without the puck. When he decides to join the rush – something that doesn’t happen nearly enough – Minnetian flies down a lane, putting a ton of pressure on the defenders charged with staying in front of him. Controls the puck easily with solid hands, and eats up a lot of ice in a single shift thanks to those wheels of his. Extremely elusive, lower body strength helps him plow through stick checks and absorb contact while retaining possession. Has elite lateral agility. Can dance on the ice, easily sidestep defenders and create shooting or passing lanes simply through his ability to move left or right at top speed.

Defensively, he can gap up with the best of them, using those light feet to stay tight to his check. He’s not big (6’0 170#), so he can be outmuscled by stronger forwards, but positionally he is extremely sound and knows how to take away the middle of the ice even against bigger opponents. Consistency with his stick is spotty, and his reliance on his skating can get him into trouble at times, but generally he’s a strong defender in his own end. Offensively, he constantly attacks open space. Able to be a dynamic playmaker, his consistency on that front is concerning. At times, he can look like the best player on the ice, playing at an extremely high pace and dictating to the opposition. Too often, though, he hangs back, makes the safe play, and lets opportunities go past. He needs to be more assertive with the puck, identify when to pick his spots better. When he is, he puts a lot of pressure on the defense. That lateral movement opens up a lot of ice for him as teams struggle to stay in front, and he has shown the ability to take advantage of that open ice to create chances for himself or others. His head is often up, allowing him to quick turn up loose pucks and trigger odd-man rushes for his team off NZ turnovers. His shot isn’t particularly dangerous, but he gets it through and has a good feel for when to shoot, in order for his teammates to get to the net front or in position to tip pucks. What he excels at is pressuring the defense down the wing, where he’ll carry the puck deep and cut into the middle of the ice once he gets below the circles.

This will be much more difficult as he moves up in levels, but his willingness and ability to get loose and escape his check in these situations suggests he could be invaluable on the Power Play. Some of this comes from Minnetian’s time as a forward, which he played at prep school prior to joining the NTDP. The biggest issue with his game for me is finding a happy medium. Some of that will come with coaching, but he has the potential to be an effective D-Man in his own end, and a very dangerous player coming through the NZ and into the O-zone. I think that’s worth a gamble. Off to Boston College next season, where he’ll join perhaps the best recruiting class in the country. His numbers don’t really tell the story of his game, only notching 25P in 47 games for the NTDP. There’s a lot of upside here…the question is, how to bring it out?

3#24: Andrew Gibson, 6’3 RHD, OHL:

OK, this is a player that applies to my theory about the OHL (see above). Gibson is a big, long, physical blueliner with some definite offensive upside. Just how much is the question that’s tough to answer at the moment. Interestingly, Gibson owns some strong offensive instincts that you see more and more from him as the season goes on. He’s got a bomb of a clapper, but has plenty of shots in his arsenal, and most of those pucks get through consistently. Shooting for both for goals and deflections and tips. He plays a simple game, not a lot of misdirection, no fancy dekes or dangling the puck, nor will be do any weaving through traffic. Just gets the puck, pushes the puck deep down the wall, and has a good feel for getting into space high in the O-Zone and moving defenders to get shots through to the front of the net. Does not leave open ice unused – as soon as he sees it, he drives into that space to force the defense to react. He’s not a great passer, and he rarely attempts a high-danger pass, electing to make the simple pass allowing his team to maintain possession. But with increasing regularity, you’re seeing Gibson make high-level decisions with the puck to create high-danger chances. That’s a good sign.

Defensively, he’s really difficult to deal with in the Neutral Zone. Combine a long reach and an active stick and you disrupt a lot of rushes before they really get going. Tips passes, keeps stick on puck as players coming across the red line and slows down or even turns aside potential odd-man chances with smart positioning. When the opposition enters his zone, Gibson uses his body to his advantage. He’s not a big hitter, but the way he uses his big frame reminds me of Samuelsson. He kills plays along the wall as he bodies the puck carrier and turns the puck over, pins guys in the corners, and just gets in the way around the crease to prevent forwards from getting to the net. Not to say he can’t lower the boom. On occasion you’ll see him blast a guy, but only if it occurs in the flow of the game. I haven’t seen him go outside of the structure to try to blow someone up although he’s capable of it. I think Gibson has the ability to be a very strong shut-down on-puck defender with his mobility, size and stick. Unfortunately, too often he still backs off and allows the play to come to him – sometimes catching him flat-footed, sometimes getting tangled up with a forechecker – which results in him either getting beat or turning the puck over in his own end. And his puck management can be wildly inconsistent – a brilliant stretch pass one play, a blind back-pass into the middle of the slot the next. So there’s still a lot of work to be done to refine his game.

But Gibson continues to improve with every game. He’s got 9P in his last 10 games for a bad Sault St Marie team, and 18P in 38 games total this season as a CHL rookie. There’s a lot to like there, but he’s going to be a bit of a development project, which is something the Sabres are more than willing to take on. They can afford to be patient. I like this pick for the potential upside.

4#17: Damien Clara, 6’6 G, SWE:

Massive Italian goaltender (6’6 210#) playing in Sweden’s U-20 league. Yeah, that’s right, I said ‘Italian’. Not a lot of great Italian goalies in NHL history, so we’re getting in on the ground floor here. And as Erik Portillo decided to try his hand elsewhere, BFLO could use another goaltender in the pipeline to replace the big Swede. With this selection, they go even bigger. Clara has bounced around Europe, looking for a challenge as the Italian leagues did not present enough of one for the big kid. Has played in Switzerland, Czechia, and now plying his trade in one of the top leagues in Sweden. Clara has acquitted himself well while playing well out of his age group in international play (making the Italian World Championship team as a 16-year-old, the World Junior team as a 17-year-old), particular in last year’s World Juniors where he played in the Relegation tier but put up strong numbers with a 1.20 GAA and .942 SV%, then this winter, put up 2.58 GAA and .917 SV%. Has played 32 games in the Swedish U20 league for Farjestad, compiling a very respectable 2.86 GAA and .900 SV% while also getting a couple games at the Allsvenskan (roughly the Swedish AHL) level.

His play reminds me a bit of Linus Ullmark – a popular name these days – as he uses his size to his advantage, aggressively cutting off angles and coming out of his net where his broad shoulders make it very difficult to find good shooting angles. Knows how to use his size to make things difficult on shooters, but he’s not overly athletic, nor does he take a lot of risks. More of a positional goalie in terms of how he approaches shooters, he’s very clinical. While he does get good burst going from post to post, he very rarely gets outside of his posts or overshoots his spot. A saying that applies to Clara’s game is ‘he makes all the saves he should make, but none of the saves he shouldn’t’. I’d say he’s more of a blocker than a guy who saves the puck, which given his size, isn’t a bad thing. It’s similar to UPL that way, where Devon Levi is much more of a player who ‘saves’ the puck. Reads the initial play extremely well. It’s very rare that on the first shot, Clara is out of position. He tracks the puck well in traffic and moves subtly to stay in front of the shooter and remain big in his net. Where he starts to get in trouble are his rebounds. His glove hand is quick, and he’ll bait shooters into trying high glove, but catching the puck can be a challenge for him. Couple that with the difficulties he seems to have locating his rebounds, and he can get himself in trouble if facing a concerted attack or a lot of traffic at the top of his crease. Those are the only times I really see him scrambly.

He also can tend to lean a lot when searching for rebounds, and that makes him considerably smaller in his net on those second or third chances. Can be very assertive when facing breakaways, has a lot of confidence to come out of his net and challenge puck carriers. He’s a bit of a shot in the dark, but with Levi and Leinonen performing well, I think the Sabres can take a chance on this kid. He’ll be a project for sure, but one that has a lot of potential with his size and quickness.

5#17: Felix Unger Sorum, 5’11 F, SWE:

We know Adams likes his Swedes. This kid should go much higher, but at this point, he hasn’t gotten the notoriety yet. He missed the cut-off for next year’s Draft by ONE day, but despite being the youngest player in the entire Draft, he’s managed to dominate Sweden’s U-20 league AND get 7 games at the SHL level! There’s definitely something here. And it’s not just all the Odd Couple references. He’s a dynamic playmaker. Sorum has excellent vision and is incredibly creative with the puck. Brimming with confidence, he’ll try just about anything to beat a defender and get himself, the puck, or both, to the net to get a dangerous chance. You can see the confidence, as he’s one of the few kids who have successfully completed a lacrosse goal during a game. His stickhandling is formidable, and coupling that with his ability to see the entire ice and see plays before they happen makes him an excellent offensive player. Able to create space for himself with quick feet, dangles, and a collection of fakes that keep defenders guessing long enough for Sorum to sauce a cross-ice pass to an open shooter, or slip his check and get into the low slot, where he creates havoc. At his size (5’11 175#), he thrives in tight and around the net.

His most valuable asset is his hockey smarts – Sorum has a natural feel for offense, spacing, and where his teammates will be at any given moment. High-level passer. This is evidenced by his 36A in 41 games, which goes nicely with his 10G for a pretty strong 46P in 41 games. Sorum’s skating is smooth, and he gets around the ice smartly, often by taking unusual routes to his spot. He’s not an explosive skater, nor is he a burner by any means, but his smarts and the ease of his skating, coupled with his stickhandling, allow him to enter the O-Zone frequently with control of the puck. Very dangerous on the rush, he’s committed to getting the puck to the crease, and his sharp edges and excellent lateral movement make him very difficult to cover one-v-one. Now, you might ask, how is this kid’s defensive work? Like a lot of elements of Sorum’s game, when he’s without the puck, he can struggle maintaining focus. He can overpursue the puck at times, leaving his check behind, and allowing the structure to break down. He’s gotten much better in his own end off the puck, particularly helping to close off the middle of the ice, and he’s smart enough that when he’s playing within the defensive system, he can be an effective disruptor. His stint in the SHL – 7 games this season despite being so young – has helped immensely with his defensive play from the beginning of the year until now. But he needs to keep his feet moving, on both ends, to become a reliable player for coaches. Sorum was Sweden’s top scorer at the World Junior A Challenge, with 4P in 6 games while winning a Bronze medal. This was on a team with a number of players who came into the tournament rated much higher. So this selection could very well be a diamond in the rough for the Sabres, who love to find these guys in the middle rounds.

6#17: Hoyt Stanley, 6’2 RHD, BCHL:

Another defenseman? That’s right. We’re going deep on the back-end. Here the Sabres nab another physical, mobile right-shot blueliner. Stanley has a little more offense already established in his game than, say, Gibson does, but he’s also playing in a lower tier league. Stanley is already NHL sized (6’2 205#) and is an excellent skater. Loves to rush the puck and has more than a few end-to-end carries under his belt this year. Has a flair for the dramatic. Stanley has a big shot, which is one of his best weapons, and his willingness to drift into shooting lanes or get deeper into the O-zone forces defenses to account for him and try to neutralize that shot. This can cause a lot of confusion and result in defensive breakdows, which Stanley takes advantage of. It is heavy, hard, and accurate although he has a bit of a long wind-up and quick forwards at the top of the zone can get in front of that shot…if they’re willing. Happy to be the triggerman in transition, Stanley prefers lugging the puck, as his passing can get inaccurate the more resistance he gets as he moves out of his own end, and turnovers will ensue.

In the O-zone, Stanley can do pretty much anything you want him to do – walk the blue line while QB’ing the PP, get deep and exchange with a forward, even take up position in front of the net. His puck skills stand out. Has excellent hands, can receive pucks on back- or forehand easily, dangle a defender, or put pucks on a platter to teammates for one-timers...although his placement can be spotty. Maintains control of the puck as he weaves through the Neutral. Skates very well. Has good linear speed, solid burst. Gets up to top speed easily and can be a dangerous trailer in transition with the big shot, the dangle, or the pass. His transitions are where he needs improvement. There’s a hitch when he goes forward to back, or vice versa, that slows him up and disrupts the flow of play. If coming down in transition and the puck is turned over, Stanley can take a little too much time to get going back in the other direction. Defensively, he’s strong on his skates and seems to enjoy contact.

Not a banger by any means, but Stanley will separate a player from the puck with a well-placed shoulder or rub a guy out against the wall. He’s also physically strong – moves forwards from the netfront without too much trouble, and once he ties up your stick it’s not getting free. But his sense of defending space needs work. When the puck moves around the zone quickly, Stanley can either get caught standing still, or sort of drift out of position, losing his check and leaving an opening in the coverage. Some of that will come with time, and some of it can be coached. His gaps are generally very good when defending on-puck, and has a high panic threshold, which is helped by the fact he can outskate most forecheckers. He’s been hot lately for Victoria, putting up 8P in his last 10 games, with 35P in 47 games for the season from the back-end. Stanley committed to Cornell, where he’ll join a really deep group of defense recruits next season…potentially 3 NHL draft picks in that group if Stanley is selected this coming 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.