Five Swedish Sabres draft picks that got away

Out of 22 Swedish draft picks - Sabres have had there fair share of good and bad. Here are five of the worst ones.

Last summer the Buffalo Sabres drafted three players from Sweden, including a certain Rasmus Dahlin, in a draft where they had six picks when it was over and done. Three draft picks from Sweden in a draft from the same team may not be that big of an abnormality, the very same Sabres did it in 2016 too.

In total there have been 22 Swedish players picked in the NHL Entry Draft by Buffalo and there have been some hits and lots of misses. Rasmus Dahlin looks like the franchise defenseman we all wanted and we all remember Jhonas Enroth and Henrik Tallinder, three picks who turned out to be good or even better for the Sabres and the jury is still out on a handful of names. But what about the Swedish picks that did not turn out?

Anders Vikberg, forward

Drafted: 4th round, 83rd overall, 1981

Sabres stats: 0 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P

Montreal had just picked Kjell Dahlin and Buffalo hoped on the Swede Train and picked forward Anders Vikberg, from my youth team Timrå IK. The offensive forward already had two full seasons in the second tier with 16 points in 24 games in both of the years along with two bronze medals from the U18 European Junior Championships and were promoted to the SHL with Timrå before he were drafted. Did play in two World Junior Championships for Sweden and were a reliable point producer in both the highest and second tier in Sweden but did not convince the Sabres to fly him over to the NHL.

After four seasons with Modo, where he scored a league record four goals in the first period against Skellefteå in 1986, and Örebro he returned home for three seasons in a team created after a fusion between rivals Timrå and Sundsvall before he decided to retire in 1993.

Jens Johansson, defenseman

Drafted: 2nd round, 30th overall, 1982

Sabres stats: 0 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P

Jens Johansson were only 16 when he became a regular part of the Piteå IF roster in what was the second tier in Swedish ice hockey, after he had made his debut with two assists in two games the season before where he also was named best defenseman in the TV-pucken. The defenseman won both bronze and gold at the U18 EJC’s, played in two WJC’s and did play six seasons in the SHL, but did not make the jump to North America. Rounded off his career in Denmark in 2000

Johansson were one out of three players picked in the second round of that draft that not play a game in the league. One of the other two, forward Mike Anderson, were also selected by the Sabres.

Carl Åslund, forward

Drafted: 8th round, 234th overall, 2001

Sabres stats: 0 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P

It may be a stretch to call a 8th round pick a bust so we’ll avoid that term here. Åslund did however had promising future after being named best defenseman in the TV-pucken, like Johansson, and a regular in the national teams from U16 to U19. The physical Åslund were selected in the second round in the CHL Import Draft in 2001 and later by the Sabres in NHL Entry Draft that year. He did move to London the following season but did only play one game in the OHL before returning home to Huddinge in the second tier.

Two years later he had another taste of North American hockey when he signed and played a season for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees in the CHL during the 2004-05 season before returning home to Huddinge again. Retired in 2012 with a total of 385 penalty minutes in 149 games in Allsvenskan, 240 PIM in 75 games in the third tier and a whopping 186 in 57 games in the fourth tier.

Dennis Persson, defenseman

Drafted: 1st round, 24th overall, 2006

Sabres stats: 0 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P

Perhaps the biggest bust out of the Swedish picks, Persson were selected in the first round after a season where he were not a regular part of the Västerås roster in Allsvenskan, only 19 games and two points, but scored 26 points in 28 games and were a mainstay in the U18 national team where he produced six points in as many games in the U18 World Championships for the team that lost in the quarterfinals. The strong-skating defenseman had a hard time reaching his potential and ended his career after the 15-16 season due to reoccurring injuries and struggled to make an real impact in the SHL. The 2011-12 season which was his last in North America where he did play three seasons for the Portland Pirates and Rochester Americans but did not get a single game in the NHL with the Sabres, although he did were called upon a couple times but was not able to get in to a lineup.

The pick right after Persson? Patrik Berglund.

Gustav Possler, forward

Drafted: 5th round, 130th overall, 2013

Sabres stats: 0 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P

As a junior, Possler scored points for fun. The offensively gifted winger amassed 169 points in 144 regular season games in the U18 and U20 and added 15 more in post season together with 42 caps for the Swedish U17, U18, U19 and U20 national teams. After getting drafted in the summer of 2013 Possler had a really promising start of his career at the highest level with 8 goals and 7 assist in only 22 games in the SHL during the 13-14 season with Modo in a season which was cut short due to injury. He has yet to reach the .68 points per game pace he had that year and the last three seasons have been a rollercoaster where he played 21, 46 and 26 games for Djurgården, again struggling with injures.

Gifted with a quick release and good skating, Possler have not came closer to the Sabres than a couple of development camps. Only 24 years old, he’s looking to get the injury problems behind him and getting back to the high scoring levels around his draft year.