Buffalo Sabres Draft Guide: Final Edition
Five players For Every Sabres 2021 NHL Draft Pick
The NHL draft rankings article I do every year is my own Sabres draft board that I like to put out to the community so that when a player is drafted you have something on DBTB to go to reference a player (provided I thought they were worth drafting). It also provides a list that you can cross off players to see who I’d take at each tier as the draft goes on if you’re a newbie to the NHL draft or just a casual fan who wants to know what I’d do.
The Brassmasters article is an article geared at looking at what the consensus rankings are and then identifying players that I believe I value a lot higher than the rest of the public scouting industry. If you’re looking at who I think are homerun types of swings in the draft that’s a great place to start.
This article is meant for me to do two things:
- Using the industry rankings (and at this point...Bob McKenzie’s mid-term rankings) I am going to hypothesize which players may be available at each draft spot and
- Providing the community with two players I would take, two players I think the Sabres may take, and a wildcard player that may surprise us by jumping up into the fray as a possible selection
If you’d like a more in-depth analysis of each prospect I encourage you to go to the rankings article. This article has been written before any rumored trade and before Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings. As new developments happen I’ll update the article to reflect any additional draft picks we acquire, and will write a separate article after McKenzie’s article comes out about where value may lie.
Trading any player on the roster will not impact the players I’d select in this article.
Dream Scenario: Player I would take
Realistic Scenario: Using consensus rankings and McKenzie’s mid-season list this pick is who I think makes sense given the Sabres’ previous draft philosophy and who I think will be available.
Wildcard Scenario: Player I could see us reaching for based on where I think they’ll go
Run To The Podium (RTTP): Players I don’t think will fall to that spot but, if they do, we should scoop them up. JJ Peterka is an example of a player that fits this category last year.
Round 1, Pick #1
Dream Scenario #1: Matthew Beniers, C, NCAA
6’1, 174 lbs
24gp, 10g, 24pts
Dream Scenario #2: William Eklund, LW, SHL
5’10, 172 lbs
40gp, 11g, 23pts
I’ve written so much about these two in the past few months that I will lump them together and give some basic reasoning why I think either of them warrants the number one pick.
For Beniers, he’s a player that I think has a floor of Yanni Gourde and a ceiling of peak Chris Drury. Even if he settles in somewhere in-between I think you’re talking about a player that positively impacts the game at the center position in all areas of the ice, and facilitates the puck in the offensive zone with above-average small area puck skill and great vision.
I think Eklund is a player in the same vein as Beniers in that he’s a 200-foot player but he plays on the wing. He’s a slick playmaker, a bit more developed skating mechanics and speed, and transitions the puck very well. Beniers gets the nod because of the positional value of centers, but I think these two are the safest bets to be good-to-very good NHL players in the 2021 draft.
Realistic Scenario #1: Owen Power, LHD, NCAA
6’5, 214 lbs
26gp, 3g, 16pts
Power is a big, offensive-leaning defenseman who put up impressive offensive numbers in his freshman year at Michigan. His strengths are in the offensive end of the ice combined with his ability to carry the puck in transition and make great outlet passes in space. He has very good puck skills for his size and facilitates very well in the offensive zone. Concerns almost all lie with his poor puck retrieval skills, poor lateral ability when defending and getting too dependent on his reach when defending defensive zone entries, and not using his size effectively.
For me, I like to view player development through the lens of mechanical and cerebral strengths and weaknesses. Mechanical development for a player is skill that can be taught through fixing technique and/or gaining strength. This includes skating, shot velocity, and shot mechanics for example. Then there’s the cerebral part of the game: how does a player make decisions and how quickly can they execute them. Puck retrieval, small area skill, identifying rush lanes, and rush patterns are some examples. For me, mechanical development can be expected and depending on the gap of development (the difference between gaining 10-15 pounds of muscle for speed to an overhaul of your skating stride) should be accounted for and, a lot of the time, in a positive manner. The cerebral aspect can be worked on, but it’s not always going to come along. Maturity and repetition may help, as well as specific training to help speed up reaction time or twitch skills. Sometimes development may be just mitigating the deficiency. It’s the cerebral processing part of Power’s game that concerns me the most.
Will Scouch will have a video out on Power to the public most likely by the time this article is published. It’s a must-watch.
Wildcard Scenario: Dylan Guenther, LW, WHL
6’1, 181 lbs
12gp, 12g, 24pts
I doubt this would be the selection for the Sabres, but he’s the only other player outside of the three listed above that has the pedigree to leap into the number one consideration. He put up nearly two points a game (albeit in an abbreviated season), played well in the u18s, has the physical frame, and comes from the CHL. Add in the fact that it’s a weaker top end of the draft and it would seem, without context, he would be a sure-fire top 2 pick in the draft.
However, Guenther was on a loaded WHL team in a weak conference (they went 20-2-1 and outscored opponents 104-41), and didn’t really drive his line in the u18s. He’s got a great shot and is a good playmaker, however, he might be best having a strong center to facilitate the puck down the ice for him. I think he ends up falling into the 3-7 range this year, but if the Sabres were looking for one of the few players in this draft that has a 65+ point ceiling with his offensive zone skill then I could see the swing making sense.
Round 1, Pick 13!!!!!!
Dream Scenario #1: Fabian Lysell, W, SHL
The best player in the draft at combining a high paced, highly skilled rush game: Lysell sits at #5 on my board and I would have a hard time passing on him if I were sitting in Kevyn Adams’ chair. Of all the forwards in the draft he has the highest potential ceiling in terms of projectable offensive production with his combination of great transition game and healthy blend of playmaking and getting to dangerous areas of the ice to take his shot.
He is an enigma off the ice, and his constant ranking and mock drafts of him sitting in the 20s has me a little worried there’s something off the ice I don’t know about. However, off purely what he does on the ice, getting him at 13 would be a steal in my eyes.
Dream Scenario #2: Take the best available center: Aatu Raty or Fyodor Svechkov
I diverge from the mainstream rankings usually around this range of the draft and that’s mostly due to my continued belief that Aatu Raty isn’t washed. He drove possession in the Liiga this year, and after being snubbed from the World Championships I thought he began to find his confidence again on the ice. He’s a good skater but without an elite top-end separation gear, very good puck skill, and a fantastic two-way center. Give him a couple years and lower the immediate expectations and I think we have a very good second line center.
Svechkov had an outstanding draft eligible season despite playing on a very poor VHL team. He’s one of the most crafty centers at transitioning the puck in this draft, and his defensive game was very good in the VHL. His offensive game shined in the u18s when he was able to play against peers and with competent linemates. It’s been eons since the Sabres have drafted a Russian, but Svechkov makes a lot of sense at 13.
Realistic Scenario #1: Who’s left between Chaz Lucius and Cole Sillinger
Two of the premier goal scorers in the draft; I don’t think either of them really project down the middle going forward despite playing center during the draft eligible season. Sillinger has more pace and a heavier shot than Lucius, while Lucius plays a smarter game than Sillinger in the offensive zone. Neither impressed me with their transition games, and Sillinger seemed to do a 180 from last year where he was a playmaker to becoming a player who never saw a shot he didn’t like or take. I’d prefer to put both on the LW and let them rip shots all day, but if either could round out their 200ft game they’d be fantastic scoring centers.
Realstic Scenario #2: Matthew Coronato, C, USHL
Coronato is a bulldog on the ice. He outworks everyone around him to make up for any skating deficiancies (he’s not a bad 4 way skater but his speed is generated by effort), he’s always involved in the play and facilitates so much of what made the Chicago Steel go, and is great at finding ways to put the puck in the back of the net.
If he’s able to stick down the middle in the NHL I think he’s a steal in the making.
Wildcard Scenario: Jesper Wallstedt/Sebastian Cossa (the goalies)
At least one of those two goalies should be available for the Sabres to select, and if Ullmark isn’t in the plans for the future then I think the Sabres could look at what an elite level goalie can do for you in the playoffs, as well as go on a run in the regular season to make the playoffs. I like Portillo and UPL, but neither have the pedigree that these two would bring.
Round 2, Pick #32 (RTTP: Aatu Raty, Fabian Lysell, Fyodor Svechkov)
Dream Scenario #1: Logan Stankoven, C/RW, WHL
5’8, 170 lbs
6gp, 7g, 10pts
It’s a shame Stankoven didn’t get a 20 game sample size plus the u18s this year because had he kept up the way he was playing in his first six games I think he would’ve played himself into the top 20 of this draft. Just an all-around great player, with a wicked wrist shot and amazing small area skill and vision. Deceptive in the way he attacks defenders and uses space so well off the puck. He’s 5’8 and not a blazer, which has seen him slide down most ranking sites from the end of the first round to the mid-second round.
I have him at 14 and would be ecstatic to take him with the first pick in the second round. I’d say he’s going to be a RW more than his traditional position of center that he played in the WHL.
Dream Scenario #2: Mackie Samoskevich, RW, USHL
5’11, 190 lbs
36gp, 13g, 37pts
I’m beginning to think that Samoskevich has kicked someone’s dog because he’s been sliding down the ranking sites the past few weeks from the 25-35 range to the 40-50 range. I don’t understand why. He is probably the most skilled player outside the lottery, is a four-way skater, and looked dominant in the USHL playoffs and the Biosteel All-American game. He isn’t nearly as involved as Coronato in transition but he’s got a lot more tools in the arsenal that he is more effective. While his counting stats never regressed in a positive way; his underlying metrics according to Scouch and Mitch Brown all are there.
He also fills a massive need on the RW where only Jack Quinn sits as a potential NHL player at the moment.
Realistic Scenario #1: Simon Robertsson, RW, SHL
6’0, 190 lbs
22gp, 1g, 2pts
He’s a player that could go in the backend of the first round, but given the lackluster u18s performance will probably slide down to the beginning of the second. When I watch him play he reminds me of a player in the same archetype of JJ Peterka: a good north-south skater who doesn’t possess enough puck skill to really ever drive a line but has the intangibles to be a very good middle-six player. Robertsson isn’t physical like Peterka is and his puck skill isn’t as refined as Peterka’s was during his draft year, but his shot is definitely at NHL caliber right now.
Given more ice time in the SHL next year and some more puck involvement I think he could end up being a great find for the Sabres in the early second round.
Realistic Scenario #2: Zach Dean, C, QMJHL
6’0, 176 lbs
23gp, 10g, 20pts
Dean had an underwhelming year production-wise but was dealing with a wrist injury to start the year that could’ve lingered throughout. He’s ranked right at the end of the first round to the early second round by most major media outlets and McKenzie had him at 32 at the midterms. He’s got decent speed and does have some silky mitts, but his pace isn’t NHL-level dangerous and his overall upside is very dependent on fixing some skating mechanics to get him to the next level so that his rush offense can take off. He is a good perimeter playmaker and needs to get into the middle of the ice more often to really become a dual-threat.
However, if the Sabres go Power at #1 (and we don’t have a second 1st round pick) I can see the Sabres reaching for a center to start the second round, and if consensus rankings were to be believed that would most likely be between Dean, Wyatt Johnston, and Brett Harrison. Of those three: I’d take a swing on Dean with Johnston being the more likely player that NHL scouts will favor given his u18 performance.
Wildcard Scenario: Scott Morrow, RW, USHS-Prep
6’2, 192 lbs
30gp, 8g, 48pts
He’s perhaps the most polarizing prospect in the second round. His puck skill rivals Brandt Clarke in this year’s draft, but his tape in high school in the defensive zone could leave a lot of teams putting him on the DND. I thought his USHL tape was very good, and that his defensive game came out with him having to play against the much harder competition.
Most likely a player I will be screaming for us to take with the Boston pick: Morrow has one of the highest offensive ceilings of all defenders left (Zellweger would probably be the other) that if we were to take Eklund at number one it would make sense to swing for the fences with Morrow.
Round 2, Pick #53 (RTTP: Scott Morrow, Dylan Duke, Olen Zellweger)
Dream Scenario #1: Ville Koivunen, F, U20 SM-sarja
6’0, 165 lbs
38gp, 23g, 49pts
The just crowned Rookie of the Year in the Finnish Junior league not only put up points but also was the runaway king of the xGF/xGA Finnish draft eligibles as well.
Koivunen is an extremely smart player who is constantly getting pucks to the dangerous parts of the ice. He is a very good playmaker with a good shot as well and is extremely creative in his rush lanes. He’s able to transition the puck well and can be a driver of a line at the U20 level in Finland. I’m shocked he’s not ranked near the top end of the second round, but his three-year contract extension in Finland could hurt his stock come draft day.
Dream Scenario #2: Brent Johnson, RHD, USHL
5’11, 165 lbs
47gp, 11g, 32pts
He’s a smooth-skating defender with good puck retrieval and transition ability who defends the blue line better than most defenders I’ve seen this year. While he has a gaudy point and goal total for the USHL: he has really excelled in the defensive game and activating from the blue line to move into the zone and then pass to teammates in the dangerous areas of the offensive zone.
He came from prep school hockey this year and hit the ground running. With the lack of depth on the right side of the defense in the pipeline, he would project a stable presence in the backend with offensive upside.
Realistic Scenario #1: Ryder Korczak, C, WHL
5’10, 159 lbs
17gp, 3g, 16pts
An undersized, thin playmaker who was the engine of his line in Moosejaw the past two years and was a great supporter of the puck in the defensive zone. He’s super slippery and has been one of his team’s best players since his DY-1 year. I think he’s going underappreciated in the public sphere and should be a borderline first-round pick as he exhibits the ability to manipulate layers in the offensive zone, has tremendous passing vision, and plays with a nice pace to his game that should translate to the next level.
Consensus rankings have him a mid-late second-round pick, with his skill and under-developed frame there is some developmental growth to be had in his projection even if he’s one of the older players in the draft. Could play center in the NHL, but I think he would probably end up on the wing.
Realistic Scenario #2: Colton Dach, C/LW, WHL
6’4, 205 lbs
20gp, 11g, 20pts
The younger brother of Kirby Dach has some similar traits to his brother while playing a much more simplistic game. For a bigger forward he does have surprisingly good hands and vision, especially when making quick touch passes around the ice. He was definitely a passenger in the transition game this year as he played with 2020 standout Tristan Robins and talented overager Kyle Crnkovic a lot this season.
While I’ve seen him mocked anywhere from the late first to the early third round: I would classify Dach as the utility player you’d put in your middle six who has enough skill to hold his own in the offensive end while doing a lot of the little things around the ice.
Wildcard Scenario: Ben Gaudreau, G, OHL
6’2, 174 lbs
5gp, .919 SV%, 2.20 GAA (u18s)
Canada’s starting goalie in the u18s; Gaudreau could be a target for the Sabres if Ullmark were to leave them in free agency. While he didn’t get to play this season with the OHL never returning to action; Gaudreau played well for Canada en route to their gold medal. With Portillo and UPL in the pipeline it would give the Sabres another netminder to compete for a job 3-4 years down the road.
Round 3, Pick #88 (RTTP: Jack Peart, Artyom Grushnikov, Tyler Boucher, Shai Buium)
Dream Scenario #1: Sean Tschigerl, LW, WHL
6’0, 181 lbs
21gp, 13g, 21pts
Sean Tschigerl is one of the players (with Samoskevich) that I am pumping up hard before the draft. He grew a few inches since last year, put together an impressive WHL season where he was very involved in the transition game and put together an offensive game to complement his dogged approach to forechecking. I see a lot of runway left for Tschigerl to get even better and could end up being one of the steals of the mid-rounds if he can keep improving his powerful skating stride and connect more on his high/medium danger passes.
Dream Scenario #2: Aleksi Heimosalmi, RHD, U20 SM-sarja
5’11, 168 lbs
35gp, 4g, 21pts
Going into the u18s I thought he was a player that would end up in the 4th/5th round that had a lot of upside, but then Heimosalmi broke out and has ended up seeing his draft stock soar. He’s a mobile RHD who is very creative with the puck on his stick in transition. I don’t think there’s a NHL level power play quarterback in Heimosalmi’s future, but he could be a very good 5v5 offensive leaning defender.
Realistic Scenario #1: Josh Doan*, F, USHL
6’2, 176 lbs
53gp, 31g, 70pts
The overager broke out this year on the Chicago Steel as he put up 70 points in 53 games. He plays a fast pace and blends a nice power forward game with his skill. He could project to the middle-six but I see more of a bottom six player whose grit and skill will be useful in all facets of the game.
Realistic Scenario #2: Tristan Broz, F, USHL
6’0, 179 lbs
54gp, 19g, 51pts
Very much in the Zach Dean archetype of player: plays with good pace and skill, likes to create on the perimeter and quarterbacked the Fargo Force power play this year. He’s got to be a bit more involved in the transition game and his rush lanes need to become a bit more dynamic so that he’s able to control the puck on zone entries more, however the skill can’t be denied and a lengthy development at the University of Minnesota will help him hopefully attack the middle of the ice more as well see him refine some skating mechanics woes.
Wildcard Scenario: Oscar Plandowski, RHD, QMJHL
6’0, 190 lbs
39gp, 5g, 17pts
Extremely mobile RHD who has a bit of flair to his game as well; Plandowski is a solid player in his own zone. The point production never materialized, he can be overly aggressive and put himself way out of position, and his defensive zone game is still raw, but there are a lot of tools to work with and his skating is very, very good. At this point at the draft the development project would be worth the risk.
Round 3, Pick #95 (RTTP: Tristan Broz)
Dream Scenario #1: Jake Martin, RHD, USNTDP
6’0, 190 lbs
39gp, 4g, 14pts
As Mitch Brown says in his EP article: Jake Martin is this year’s USNTDP unheralded prospect. He is a fantastic defensive-defenseman and is really good in transition as well. He defends both blues lines exceptionally well, is really good in transition, and breaks up cycles about as well as any other defensemen in this class. A nice choice the mid-rounds for a bottom four defender.
Dream Scenario #2: Kalle Ervasti, RHD, U20 SM-sarja
6’0, 181 lbs
35gp, 3g, 18pts
I really like the creativity that Ervasti has in his ability to move the puck up the ice and when he activates from the blue line. He’s fantastic in defending the defensive blue line and stonewalls defenders with his fantastic gap control. If a forward puts the puck anywhere near Ervasti you can be rest assured it’s about to be poked away.
Realistic Scenario #1: Ryan Ufko, RHD, USHL
5’10, 181 lbs
53gp, 10g, 39pts
I’m not impressed with his mobility as a smaller defensemen and I don’t think he’s an elite puck mover or puck carrier to mitigate not having the size/speed to make up for it. However, I think there is something there with him in the offensive zone and with his defensive game with a few tweaks (specifically being more spatially aware in the defensive zone and more aggressive on the defensive blue line) that he could end up being an offense leaning NHL defenseman. His shot is his bread-and-butter right now as he has a cannon from the point. Going to UMass in 2022-23 I think there’s a realistic projection that in four years he could round out to be a very projectable NHL player.
Realistic Scenario #2: Peter Reynolds, C, QMJHL
5’10, 168 lbs
33gp, 15g, 31pts
Reynolds is someone whose analytics and eye test just don’t match for me. Analytically, he could be a potential steal for a team who is willing to use a third/fourth round pick on him.
However, watching him play multiple times this year there wasn’t anything really there when I saw him play that showed why he was driving the results that Mitch Brown and others have tracked for him. I don’t find him particularly involved in transition though he is efficient when he is, I don’t think he has NHL-level puck skill to do much in the offensive zone, and while he is active in the defensive zone: it’s not to a point where I’d put him a defensive role in a higher level.
Wildcard Scenario: Jack Matier, RHD, OHL
6’4, 205 lbs
7gp, 0g, 1pt (u18s)
Played a very defensive-defenseman role in the u18s, he has good off puck positioning to defend against potential rushes, and with time can move the puck effectively up the ice. He’s static in the offensive zone and prefers to go d-to-d or take low percentage shots in the offensive zone, but I liked his mental awareness in how he defended against the rush and with some refinement to skating technique the big defender could match up well as a bottom pair defenseman.
Round 4, Pick #97 (RTTP: Samu Salminen, Colton Dach)
Dream Scenario #1: Lorenzo Canonica, C, QMJHL
5’11, 179 lbs
24gp, 6g, 16pts
Canonica is a player that isn’t going to pop off the screen when you watch him play, nor is he going to put up gaudy numbers as a junior level player. However, when you dig into the positive sequences of plays that happen when he’s on the ice he’s often the catalyst behind it. Coming into the year the biggest question mark often referenced was his skating and lack of pace. While still not an above average skater; I find that he’s able to control the play on the ice with his ability to drive position and win small-area battles to keep plays alive.
His defensive game is outstanding, and if I’m chasing a bottom 6 center I think he fits the bill as one of the best available in the mid-rounds. Given that he is also one of the youngest players in the draft I do expect his offensive game to have more of a runway than if he were born in the first half of the months in the draft eligible process.
Dream Scenario #2: Dmitri Katelevsky, F, VHL
6’0, 174 lbs
43gp, 7g, 16pts
Dylan Griffing put Katelevsky my radar this year, and while scouting him it became apparent that Katelevsky is an energetic, physical power forward who tries to create chaos whenever he’s on the ice. He’s ideal as a hard-hitting F1 in the forecheck who parks in front of the net and has enough skill in the offensive zone with his vision and his around-the-net finishing ability.
Realistic Scenario #1: Ethan Del Mastro, LHD, OHL
6’4, 205 lbs
7gp, 0g, 2pts (u18s)
A big, physical defender who does a good job separating players from the puck in the defensive zone and has some offensive talent as well. He’s going to have to improve his play under pressure and he’s also going to have to improve his outlets in transition if he’s going to hit a ceiling other than a possible bottom pairing defensemen who might excel in breaking up cycles.
Realistic Scenario #2: Jackson Blake, F, USHL
5’10, 148 lbs
25gp, 7g, 17pts
He’s got a really nice playmaking ability, is shifty in the neutral zone, and has great vision in the offensive zone. He flashes high-end potential though he doesn’t always get the ice time nor power play time to put up the numbers that Samoskevich and Coronato have. He’s going to be a longer term project as he’s not slated to head to North Dakota to play his college hockey until 2022-23, but another year in the USHL with the Steel being a first line player could do wonders for his development.
Wildcard Scenario: Cole Jordan, RHD, WHL
6’2, 205 lbs
23gp, 3g, 10pts
One of EP Rinkside’s favorites: Cole Jordan is a fantastic skater who has a lot in the toolkit to hit a pretty high ceiling. He’s going to have to improve facets of the game that are pretty poor (puck retrieval for me is his biggest flaw) and he’s going to have to figure out how to take a very raw toolkit and turn it into production. However, if you want to bet on what a player could be if they figure it out: Cole Jordan is one of the premier players in this draft when it comes to homerun swings.
Round 5, Pick #159 (RTTP: Prokhor Poltapov, Liam Dower Nilsson, Brett Harrison, Chase Stillman, Kirill Kirasanov, Jack Bar)
Dream Scenario #1: Ethan Cardwell*, C, HockeyEttan
5’11, 181 lbs
18gp, 9g, 27pts
Back in the 2020 draft rankings/guides, I wrote in the comment section that my nominee for the Nick Robertson Award (late birthday that goes bonkers in their DY+1) would be Ethan Cardwell. He hasn’t disappointed as he’s been one of the most dominant players against men in Sweden’s third division this past year. Still possessing the same great toolkit: I’d like to swing on the over-ager this year as early as the fourth round and have him move quickly to the AHL after another year in the CHL.
Dream Scenario #2: Dmitri Kuzmin, LHD, Belarus
5’10, 176 lbs
46gp, 3g, 12pts
He’s a super-skilled offensive leaning defensemen who has tremendous puck skill and who is very aggressive in the offensive zone. He shows great vision and when moving North/South and with the puck on the stick he’s a dangerous skater. However, he has a lot of work to do in his own end but if you’re looking to chase a Sean Behrens archetype player a round or two later: Kuzmin fits the bill.
Realistic Scenario #1: Zack Ostapchuk, LW, WHL
6’3, 198 lbs
22gp, 7g, 16pts
A power forward with speed and skill: he’s been getting more and more recognition by the scouting community lately as someone worth drafting in the mid-rounds. He’s not overly involved in neutral zone play but he is effective when he is, and his blend of of size and skill after watching this year’s playoffs will be attractive for NHL teams to chase in the mid-rounds.
Realistic Scenario #2: Luke Mittelstadt, LHD, USHS-MN
5’11, 174 lbs
24gp, 9g, 35pts
Another Mittelstadt you say? The younger Mittelstadt’s skating is what is going to have to improve if he’s ever going to be a legitimate NHL prospect. His passing and creativity are the hallmarks to his game, with the ability to make quick decisions and find outlets his biggest strength. Rarely did the puck not move quickly and precisely where Mittelstadt wanted the puck to go in high school. His USHL film is filled with raw potential, and definitely the pace of play impacted his strengths, but going right to the NCAA next year will help give him ample time to gain confidence as well as improve his skating mechanics.
Wildcard Scenario: Kyle Kukkonen, F, USHS-MN
5’10, 165 lbs
23gp, 31g, 74pts
I like his puck skill and pace. He has a knack for scoring goals and creates the scoring opportunities for himself and is a high end HS/NAHL player at doing it. He’s going severely unnoticed and don’t know if he’ll be drafted at all, but given from what I saw and his 13 points in 12 games in the NAHL....I’d take the Michigan Tech commit and let him develop the full four years to see if we could end up with a potential steal.
Round 6, Pick #161
Dream Scenario #1: Kirill Gerasimyuk, G, MHL
6’2, 173 lbs
27gp, .931 SV%, 2.59 GAA
Dream Scenario #2: Aku Koskenvuo, G, U20 SM-sarja
6’4, 176 lbs
13gp, .893 SV%, 2.92 GAA
Lumping the two goalies I’d pick at the top of the sixth round together. Gerasimyuk has the statistical profile I like in a goalie: stopping an insane number of shots over a long period of time, a save percentage above .930 in the MHL and then above .910 in the VHL in a limited sample size, and is one of the younger players in the draft with an August birthday. He played poorly in the preliminary game he saw action for with Russia in the u18s and never saw the net again, but I see him as a a long term project in net and I like the value in the sixth round.
Kosekenvuo is the opposite: I really like his athleticism for his size and his battling against constant pressure in the u18s, that he’s slated to go to Harvard in 2022-23 giving him a long term development plan in North America, and that with more technical refinement the save percentage could come a long way.
Realistic Scenario #1: Noah Meier, LHD, SL
5’11, 170 lbs
35gp, 1g, 20pts
I’m a bit on an island for Meier, but he’s been a really solid, mobile defender in the SL and I thought played well in the u20s this year as well. He’s not going to put up many points in the offensive end but he showed quick decision making, good gap control, and the ability to exit the zone with control more often than not in my viewings of him. He’s not a sexy pick, but I think if you’re shooting for a possible bottom four defender in the mid rounds he’s a very good bet to make.
Realistic Scenario #2: Ty Voit, C/LW, OHL
5’9, 150 lbs
0gp, 0g, 0pts
I thought he played well in the OHL showcase tournament the last two weeks and there’s enough there to warrant a late round swing. Last year I really liked his skill and thought he was really good as he put up 8 goals, 20 assists in 49 games in the OHL. I didn’t track him as DY-1 but he was on my list of very interesting players from the OHL. I’d take a shot in the late rounds on him.
Wildcard Scenario: Avery Hayes, C/RW, Slovakia2
5’10, 165 lbs
14gp, 3g, 9pts
An older player in this year’s draft; Hayes went over Slovakia to continue to play during the pandemic where he exhibited a fast paced game combined with very good, deceptive mobility with very good puckhandling as well. He’s not going to play center in the NHL as his defensive game was severely lacking, but as a late round dart throw, Hayes would provide an offensive upside that could shine next year in the OHL.
Round 6, Pick #188 (RTTP: Liam Gilmartin)
Dream Scenario #1: Pavel Tyutnev*, C, MHL
5’10, 185 lbs
25gp, 8g, 19pts
Last year when I was picking for the Sabres in my article I seriously debated with that last pick between taking Tyutnev or Mancini, ultimately going with Mancini because up until that point I had only taken forwards. While I don’t regret the decision for the last pick in the 7th round; Tyutnev has continued to just wow me this year in his DY+1. His skill is popping with more ice time, he’s moved up to play at higher levels in Russian hockey and looks to be doing well, and I’d be shocked if he went another year without getting drafted.
Dream Scenario #2: Elias Stenman, C, HockeyEttan
5’10, 165 lbs
12gp, 5g, 12pts
To quote Scouch: if you like Koivunen then Stenman is just the Swedish version. Will Scouch put Stenman on my radar and he hit it right on the head. He’s a play-driving centerman who facilitates transition and moves pucks to dangerous areas of the ice. Just a smart, smart center in HockeyEttan who will be a positive player in the bottom nine if he’s able to maximize his potential.
Realistic Scenario #1: Quinn Hutson*, F, USHL
5’10, 161 lbs
45gp, 16g, 42pts
Hutson played with Costantini at the beginning of the year and was the engine of the best line in the BCHL. He continued to dominate when moved to the USHL where he used his excellent transition ability and his high hockey IQ to constantly move himself into the dangerous areas of the ice to make plays. He was unknown last year as he played AAA hockey and not in any junior league, but since his arrival into the BCHL/USHL has looked like a prospect worth a pick. Heading to Boston University next year it’ll give him plenty of time to develop in a high end program.
Realistic Scenario #2: Luke Levandowski, F, USHS-MN
6’0, 161 lbs
21gp, 22g, 41pts
Played a few games with the NTDP and the Chicago Steel this year; Levandowski excels in the neutral zone in transition. He’s got good hands, finds teammates well, and his shot is passable at the moment. He’s a big-time project, a player that is going to have to find a way to make his way to increasing his production, but I am a firm believer that the NHL game is won/lost in the neutral zone and Levandowski is very, very good there. He doesn’t go to Wisconsin until 2022, but getting to develop under Granato’s brother could be a selling point for the Sabres.
Wildcard Scenario: Florian Elias*, C/W, DEL
5’8, 170 lbs
34gp, 3g, 8pts
When Lukas Reichel couldn’t compete in the u20s this year: it gave Elias the perfect time to shine. Playing with Stutzle and Peterka in all situations gave Elias one of the most gaudy point totals in the tournament. While he played passenger to the line: he does an excellent job finding space and is a creative puck mover who has a knack for putting the puck in the back of the net. With another year in the DEL he could see his production hit a level worth a free agent signing if he doesn’t get drafted, and this late in the draft I’d like to roll the dice on the diminutive over-ager to see what he will become.
Round 7, Pick #193
Dream Scenario #1: Marcus Almquist, C/RW, J20 Nationell
5’7, 168 lbs
19gp, 10g, 28pts
The youngest player in my rankings, Almquist plays with amazing speed, puck skill, vision, and transition ability. His size is going to have him at the backend of the draft. He’s super small, he plays wing, and he’s playing in a European league. However, Almquist can wheel and if he can continue to produce in the upper divisions in Sweden he’ll be worth the late round swing.
Dream Scenario #2: Charles-Alexis Legault, RHD, USHL
6’3, 190 lbs
23gp, 3g, 5pts
Legault was an eraser for Penticton’s top line in the BCHL as he used his size and great cycle-breaking skills to never let the Costantini line ever get settled in. He is a bit of an awkward skater, but as the season went on I thought his skating improved. He is raw, but there’s a lot to work with including some puck skill and pretty good passing ability. A long term project, but the Boston University commit is one of the youngest players in this draft and will have a few years to really settle into refining his game.
Realistic Scenario #1: Simon Motew, RHD, USPHL Premier
5’11, 172 lbs
21gp, 16, 45pts
Motew destroyed the USPHL this year as the OHL was cancelled, and then looked very good in the OHL showcase tournament just a few weeks ago. He’s best with the puck on his stick as he showed great creativity in the offensive zone and moving forward in transition. EP Rinkside notes that puck retrieval is still a glaring weakness for Motew, so as he moves forward in development that will be something to closely monitor. However, for a potential seventh round pick there is a lot to work with and develop with the offensive leaning Motew.
Realistic Scenario #2: Owen Murray, RHD, USHL
5’10, 181 lbs
35gp, 3g, 16pts
Murray was the last player I cut from my rankings (Levandowski being the other I just barely cut) and it was mighty hard to do so. I first got a look at him watching Costantini in the BCHL this year and I thought that Murray, while just behind in the offensive acumen, was the better defensive player when looking at him and Jack Bar. I think he’s super quick in small areas, moves the puck very well around the ice, and has a lot of puck skill when he transitions the puck and when he activates from the blue line. He’s going to UMass alongside Scott Morrow next year, and the two of them are going to give NCAA opponents fits in the offensive end in the years to come.
Wildcard Scenario: Lukas Gustafsson, LHD, USHL
5’10, 181 lbs
14gp, 1g, 4pts
This one is for Will Scouch. I watched countless Chicago Steel games and never made notes about Gustafsson until Scouch started hyping him up, and Scouch’s tracking data of Gustafsson backed up the hype. Silky smooth defender with a lot of offensive potential; Gustafsson will most likely take over the backend of the Steel next year when the logjam clears out. Going to Boston College afterwards; Gustafsson is a long term project but with a lot of upside. Kudos to Scouch for promoting Gustafsson, because he could be one of the most surprising (in a good way) players to come out of this year’s draft.
Brassmaster’s Guide of What I (realistically) Want:
Pick #1: Matthew Beniers/William Eklund
Pick #32: Logan Stankoven/Mackie Samoskevich/Simon Robertsson/Scott Morrow
Pick #53: Dylan Duke/Ville Koivunen/Ayrton Martino
Pick #88: Brent Johnson/Jack Peart/Sean Tschigerl
Pick #95: Aleksi Heimosalmi/Tristan Broz/Jake Martin/Kalle Ervasti
Pick #97: Lorenzo Canonica/Dmitri Katelevsky/Liam Dower Nilsson/Ethan Cardwell*
Pick #159: Jackson Blake/Dmitri Kuzmin/Liam Gilmartin/Pavel Tyutnev*
Pick #161: Kirill Gerasimyuk/Aku Koskenvuo
Pick #188: Marcus Almquist/Cam Berg*/Elias Stenman
Pick #193: Noah Meier/Quinn Hutson*/Lukas Gustafsson
Ideally I’d like to walk out of the first two rounds with Beniers/Stankoven(Samoskevich)/Morrow; Johnson/Tschigerl in the third; Martin in the fourth; Canonica in the fifth; Gerasimyuk in the early sixth and Stenman in the later sixth; and either go conservative with a LHD in Noah Meier in the seventh or swing for the fences on LHD with Lukas Gustafsson.
That way I walk away with a dynamic, top six center in Beniers, add depth and talent to two areas of the prospect pool that are weak (RHD/RW), a defensive minded center in Canonica, a long term goalie bet, the Swedish version of Koivunen in Stenman, and a LHD for depth behind Ryan Johnson/Samuelsson/Bryson and others in the prospect pool.