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Top 75 NHL Draft Big Board

Photo: Melissa Burgess

This post was written by T. McGee!

DBTBers – 

Hello, my fellow DBTB’ers!  The World Juniors spells the midpoint of the Draft season.  Once we move past the World Juniors, we’re into the Top Prospects games, then the European playoffs and down the stretch we’ll go.  So let’s take a minute here to see where we stand in regards to the talent on the Board come draft time.  

This isn’t a bad draft, per se.  It’s very up and down.  There are good players at the top – Macklin Celebrini has put up some really eye-popping numbers at the NCAA level – but at this stage, to me, he’s in the same vein as, say, a Nico Hischier.  Very good at just about everything on both ends.  But I’m not sure he’s elite at any one thing.  But after him…you start to scratch your head a little bit.  There are some very good players in that mix, and a few that continue to rise into that group.  Cayden Lindstrom is maybe being a smidge over-hyped at this point despite his sharp climb since the beginning of the year – I’m not sure he’s the runaway #2 overall, as some amateur draftniks are claiming.  He’s not a great playmaker and doesn’t have great vision, but he’s got just about everything else in his bag.  Berkley Catton is a high-speed, high-end offensive creator.  But he’s not the biggest, and is he a natural center at the next level, or a wing?  I don’t know.  Shane Eiserman is an absolute goal-scoring machine.  And there’s a lot of value in that.  But is the rest of his game good enough to give him a pass?  His skating, passing and defense all have been inconsistent at best thus far.  And if you want to add him in, Ivan Demidov – despite his injury – has shown some real playmaking wizardry in his limited availability this year.  That said, he’s kind of small, and some of his puck skills will be negated simply by the bigger, faster guys in the NHL.  Can he simplify his game to be an Artemi Panarin sort of pro?  

On the other side, the defensemen – once thought to occupy most of the Top 10 – are undergoing a bit of an upheaval themselves.  Several are very good, but the decided lack of explosive, elite talent on the back-end is reminiscent of Aaron Ekblad’s draft year:  lots of positives, but nothing that’s going to wow you.  Sam Dickinson’s production has risen from last season, but he hasn’t really shown much dynamism on either end.  Also in the OHL, Zayne Parekh is a free-wheeling gunslinger in the offensive end and super-productive, but he might struggle to locate the defensive zone on a map, which is troublesome for someone who plays DEFENSE-man.  Carter Yakumchuk has all the tools – size, skating, snarl, offensive upside – but does he have the head for it?  Anton Silyayev has the size and mobility that gets a scout drooling, but his early jump in production has slowed considerably since the start of the year.  Will the rest of his game start to follow suit?  And Arytom Levshunov has been incredibly productive as a freshman in the NCAA, but his effort away from the puck has been…suboptimal at times…is that disinterest without the puck a hint of a larger issue down the road?  Simply put, there are more questions than answers with this class, at least at this stage.    

Several of these players are seeing the bright lights of the World Juniors.  Among the ones Sabres’ fans should be keeping a lookout for:  the aforementioned Celebrini, on Team Canada’s top line, which says something about both him and Canada’s center depth; surprisingly, the Finns will be running out 3 draft-eligibles in Konsta Helenius (#5), Emil Hemming (#35) and Veeti Vaisanen (#65); the Czechs will match them with a pair of defenders, Adam Jiricek (#41) and Tomas Galvas (#70); the Swiss, here largely due to the absence of the Russians, have Jamiro Reber (#62), Leon Muggli (#64), and Danil Ustinkov (#54); and the Norwegians (!) who have Michael Braddsegg-Nygard (#19) and Stian Solberg (#31).  So a lot of young players to watch for you hockey heads!  

As for our beloved Sabres, their prospect pool is bursting with players who are playing pivotal roles in the WJC, including Matt Savoie (CAN), Jiri Kulich (CZE), Noah Ostlund (SWE), and Anton Wahlberg (SWE).  On the backend, there’s Max Strbak (SVK) and Norwin Panocha (GER) with  Scottie Ratzlaff (CAN) in net.  And IF Russia were playing, I’m pretty confident we’d be seeing Vsevolod Komarov (RUS) as part of their top pair on defense.  Lots to watch from a Sabres’ prospects perspective as well.  

Enjoy the holiday hockey, and let’s go Sabres!      


#1: Macklin Celebrini, 5’11 C, NCAA 

#2: Berkly Catton, 5’11 C/LW, WHL 

#3: Cayden Lindstrom, 6’5 C, WHL 

#4: Cole Eiserman, 6’0 RW, US NTDP 

#5: Konsta Helenius, 5’11 RW, FIN 

#6: Carter Yakemchuk, 6’2 RHD, WHL 

#7: Zeev Buium, 6’1 LHD, NCAA 

#8: Ivan Demidov, 5’11 RW, RUS  

#9: Artyom Levshunov, 6’2 RHD, NCAA

#10: Anton Silyayev, 6’7 LHD, RUS 

#11: Sam Dickinson, 6’3 LHD, OHL 

#12: Sasha Boisvert, 6’2 C, USHL 

#13: Igor Chernyshov, 6’2 LW, RUS 

#14: Tij Iginla, 6’0 LW, WHL 

#15: Matvei Grindin, 6’1 C, USHL 

#16: Aron Kiviharju, 5’10 LHD, FIN 

#17: Leo Sahlin-Wallenius, 6’0 LHD, SWE  

#18: Michael Braddsegg-Nygard, 6’1 RW, SWE 

#19: Beckett Sennecke, 6’3 RW, OHL 

#20: Liam Greentree, 6’2 RW, OHL 

#21: Matvei Shuravin, 6’3 LHD, RUS

#22: Maxim Masse, 6’1 LW, QMJHL 

#23: Charlie Elick, 6’4 RHD, WHL  

#24: Michael Hage, 6’1 C, USHL

#25: Terik Paraschak, 5’11 RW, WHL

#26: Lukas Fischer, 6’4 LHD, OHL

#27: Cole Hutson, 5’9 LHD, US NTDP 

#28: Simon Zether, 6’3 C, SWE 

#29: Andrew Basha, 6’0 LW, WHL 

#30: Nikita Artamonov, 5’11 RW, RUS 

#31: Stian Solberg, 6’2 LHD, NWY 

#32: Yegor Surin, 5’11 C/W, RUS 

#33: Karl Sterner, 6’3 RW, SWE

#34: Christian Humphreys, 5’10 C, US NTDP 

#35: Adam Jecho, 6’3 RW, FIN 

#36: Alfons Freji, 6’1 LHD, SWE

#37: Dominik Badinka, 6’2 RHD, FIN

#38: Ryder Ritchie, 6’0 LW, WHL

#39: Emil Hemming, 6’2 LW, FIN 

#40: Zayne Parekh, 6’0 RHD, OHL

#41: Adam Jiricek, 6’1 RHD, CZE 

#42: Will Skahan, 6’4 LHD, US NTDP 

#43: Tanner Howe, 5’10 RW, WHL 

#44: Noel Fransen, 6’1 LHD, SWE

#45: Ondrej Kos, 6’1 LW, FIN 

#46: Melvin Fernstrom, 6’1 C/RW, SWE 

#47: Felix Lacerte, 5’10 C, QMJHL

#48: Henry Mews, 6’0 RHD, OHL 

#49: Jakub Fibigr, 6’1 LHD, OHL 

#50: Kamil Bednarek, 6’0 C, US NTDP 

#51: David Svozil, 6’1 LHD, FIN 

#51: EJ Emery, 6’5 LHD, US NTDP 

#52: Tuomas Suoniemi, 5’10 C, FIN 

#53: Miguel Marques, 6’0 W, WHL 

#54: Danill Ustinkov, 6’1 LHD, SWISS 

#55: Cole Beaudoin, 6’2 C, OHL

#56: Dean Letourneau, 6’6 C, OJHL

#57: Lucas Pettersson, 5’11 C, SWE 

#58: Luke Misa, 5’10 C, OHL 

#59: Carson Wetsch, 6’3 RW, WHL 

#60: Tomas Galvas, 5’10 LHD, CZE 

#61: Tomas Lavoie, 6’3 RHD, QMJHL 

#62: Jamiro Reber, 5’10 C, SWISS

#63: Justin Poirier, 5’8 RW, QMJHL 

#64: Leon Muggli, 6’0 LHD, SWISS 

#65: Veeti Vasainien, 6’0 LHD, FIN 

#66: Hagen Burrows, 6’2 W, US HS 

#67: Tory Pitner, 6’1 RHD, USHL 

#68: Sebastian Sioni, 6’1 LHD, FIN 

#69: Aiden Park, 6’0 C/W, US HS 

#70: Erik Burger, 5’11 LHD, SWE

#71: Oskar Vuollet, 5’10 C/W, SWE 

#72: Ryerson Leenders, 6’2 G, OHL 

#73: Max Curran, 6’3 C, WHL 

#74: Will Felicio, 5’11 LHD, USHL 

#75: Jack Berglund, 6’2 RW, SWE 

BFLO’s Potential Haul: 

1#6:  Zeev Buium, 6’1 LHD, NCAA:  The younger brother of Red Wings’ prospect Shai Buium, this kid has been a real revelation in his first year at Denver University.  Growing 3-4 inches (depending on who you believe) since the end of last season, Buium has flat-out dominated the NCAA ranks as a blueliner in a way few have done before at so young an age.  Thus far, he has the highest PPG average of any NCAA defenseman EVER (19P in 15 games), comfortably ahead of guys like Quinn Hughes and Owen Power.  This incredible success has translated into a spot on the US World Junior team (so you’ll be able to catch his act after Christmas).  Let’s start with the most important feature of a defenseman in the modern NHL: his skating.  Buium is a shifty, sly skater with excellent feet and fantastic lateral movement.  He’s not blazing fast, but his feet are always moving and he’s got an otherworldly knack of creating space for himself with subtle changes of direction and using a variety of fakes that keep opponents on their heels.  And once they’re on their heels, he pounces.  Not only does this slick skating help him dodge forecheckers and lug the puck out of the D-zone, but it’s also invaluable in walking the blue line on the power play or in the O-zone, where he constantly seems to be getting inside the opposition and putting pucks on net from the top of the slot.  He’s not flashy with his skating, but his feet are so good he can keep tight gaps on his check, tangle up a defender’s feet and leave them in the dust as he comes through the NZ, or slip checks in the O-zone and create down low.  Extremely efficient in his stride and skating motion as well.  Buium is also extraordinarily mature in how he plays the game.  Despite being a freshman, he seems to always be the one they rely on to settle the team down when things are starting to spiral.  Poised with the puck, he rarely panics, has a smoothness to his game that allows him to find space and already know where he’s going to go to clear the puck out of trouble.  Sees patterns and notices gaps in coverages and moves to close off high-danger areas immediately in his own end, exploiting those in the offensive end.  Manages the puck wisely.  But while he sometimes seems like he’s playing at half-speed, Buium just bides his time until an opportunity arises and he rarely misses it when the opportunity comes along.  He’s a strong passer of the puck.  Accurate, with his head always up, he puts a clean puck on the tape of his teammates nearly every time regardless of the distance or how many defenders he has to navigate.  While his shot isn’t a bomb, it’s remarkably accurate and he seems to find the net when he does elect to shoot it.  Can be dangerous in tight on either fore- or backhand, and while he won’t normally dangle you, it is in his arsenal and he’ll pull it out once in a while to keep opponents honest.  Buium doesn’t play an especially heavy game – not to say he won’t dish out some face washes after the play if an opponent deserves it – but he’s not blowing guys up on the wall or in open ice.  And given his sudden growth, he’s very thin at this point and needs to get stronger and heavier to perform those tasks that are required of D-Men: winning puck battles down low, keeping the opposition to the outside, controlling the front of the net.  There are some Adam Fox comparables with him, although I would argue Buium is the better skater and has size on the Rangers’ Norris winner.  This would be an incredible addition to the Sabres’ Defense pool…an ensure they don’t have to go outside the organization for years to come if they don’t want to, not with Ryan Johnson, Novikov, Strbak, and McCarthy joining this kid in the pipeline.     

2#6: Dominik Badinka, 6’3 RHD, FIN: A player I expected to have climbed into the Top 20 by now, Badinka has underperformed a bit thus far, and could be a nice get for the Sabres in the 2nd round.  Another smart, poised, confident defender, Badinka plays a little more traditional game than does Buium.  He’s jumped around a bit, always looking for better competition.  Started in his homeland of Czechia, but last year moved to Finland to play in their U-20 league; this year, he’s moved over to Sweden and although he started in their U-20 league, he’s since played a dozen or so games in the SHL which shows his capabilities.  Not to mention playing for Czechia’s Hlinka squad this past Spring, where he was their #2 defenseman scorer.  Badinka has a lot of the qualities I’m looking for when I think of adding to the Sabres’ blueline: size, skating, smarts, and maturity.  He’s not flashy and won’t dazzle you with his stickhandling nor wow you with a monster hit.  But he’s fundamentally sound in all three zones.  He’s an excellent four-way skater and is capable of joining the rush or even leading the rush when the mood and the opportunity strikes.  Spatial awareness is a hallmark of his game.  He innately sees the right angles to take when closing out an opposing forward, has the wheels to get there, and when he does, he uses his body and stick to great effect to disrupt or even kill the play.  Very accomplished and heavy on his stick.  He’s got a knack of lifting sticks at the right time and uses that skill smartly in puck battles on the walls or down low in the corners.  In fact, he comes out of those puck battles the winner far more often than not.  Knows how to use his big frame to shut off routes to the net front.  Always seems to have inside position around his net.  Excellent footwork allows him to front an opponent, then pivot and get them on his hip or his back when the puck goes down low, staying between the goal and the puck.  However, his desire to lean on his check sometimes gets him preoccupied, and he gets lost in the D-zone chasing his man rather than being aware of the puck.  Calm when the puck gets behind him, he can skate himself out of trouble when collecting dump-ins and routinely makes the correct outlet to keep the puck out of trouble.  Offensively, he’s normally going to make the safe play when playing in a Men’s League.  Whether this is how his game will turn out, or he’s simply doing it to ensure ice time at that level, I don’t know.  But at the U-20 level, where he’s more of an offensive risk taker, he’s got good wheels coming up ice and seems to recognize lanes and how to get open in transition.  Doesn’t have a big shot, and to be honest he doesn’t shoot the puck nearly as much as he could.  He’s more of a puck transporter than a playmaker, and his simple offensive game shows that, although once in a while he flashes a ridiculous move or a pinpoint shot placement that makes you think ‘maybe there’s something more in there.’  Had 12P in 15 games in the Swedish U-20 (3rd in the league for draft-eligible defenders) before he got called up to the SHL, where he’s gone pointless in 11 games.  I think he could be a very useful 4/5 defender if he continues to develop.    

3#6:  Max Curran, 6’3 C, WHL:  Another native Czech playing in a different country, Curran is a power center plying his trade in the Tri Cities of the WHL, where he’s made a huge impact.  A very late birthday (he only misses the cut-off for next year’s draft by a couple weeks), he’s already 6’3 195# and still, plays the game with an element of finesse most prospects of this type don’t display at such a young age.  While he’s not consistent from game to game yet, his upside is considerable and there’s actually some flashes of a young Dylan Cozens in there.  While his game is largely a work in progress, his skating and his stickhandling have improved by leaps and bounds since his strong performance this past Spring at the Hlinka, where the silver-medal winning Czech team saw Curran notch 3P in 5 games.  If that can continue, and there’s no reason to think it can’t, he could be one of those late blooming big forwards who rises as the season wears on.  First off, Curran uses his size to his advantage.  He’s a heady possession player that keeps his lanky frame between his check and the puck.  Primarily a passer at this stage of his career, Curran is a clever puck mover who excels in transition.  Shields the puck from defenders with his long reach while moving at speed.  Hands to handle bouncing pucks, Curran has the spatial awareness and the smarts to find teammates in open areas and has the skill to get them the puck.  Especially dangerous distributing pucks on odd-man rushes, where he always seems to make the right decision.  Great sense of timing, knows how and when to deliver the puck.  Needs to add some heat to his shot; it’s accurate, and his hands help him get the puck up in tight, but he’s not much of a threat from anywhere above the dot.  Defensively he’s still figuring it out.  While he does possess that one simple element – get in the way – he’ll struggle to defend in space, and can get out-leveraged around the net by smaller forwards.  That’s something he’ll need to improve upon to play center at the next level.  Despite it being his first year in North America, and being relatively unheralded (a 2nd round selection in the Imports Draft), Curran has dazzled with 27P in 30 games (24 of those are helpers).  And he’s been on a heater of late: 10P in 10 games and Rookie of the Week in the WHL a couple of weeks back.  There’s a lot of potential here, and the Sabres can afford to be patient with him.  

Talking Points