The Buffalo Sabres have had no luck when it comes to winning the NHL Draft Lottery, missing out on Ekblad and McDavid in the past but this weekend Sabres fans are hoping that the past won’t repeat itself.
The Sabres finished 31st in the NHL this year, securing them the best odds at landing Rasmus Dahlin, the Swedish wonderkid that everyone covets. Their last place finish has secured them an 18.5% chance at landing the first overall selection, and a 49.4% chance at picking in the top 3 at the upcoming NHL Draft.
The full odds can be found here:
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) April 23, 2018
Buffalo has a lot of work to do, and landing the first overall selection and the ability to select Dahlin would go a long way to helping the franchise re-write the horrendous ship they find themselves on, but as the past indicates it’s more than likely the Sabres won’t be selecting Dahlin.
While Dahlin is the goal, fans shouldn’t have a Dahlin or bust mentality heading into this lottery. The fact of the matter is that anyone picked in the top 4 is going to be a stud of an NHL player, this draft is loaded with top end talent and as Botterill has been saying, the team is going to get a heck of a plyer in the upcoming draft.
With that in mind, here is a breakdown of where the Sabres could be picking and who I think they should target at each selection:
1st overall – 18.5% – Rasmus Dahlin
This one can’t get anymore obvious, as stated above Dahlin is the jewel of this draft and the term “generational talent” has been used to describe him more than once. Whoever drafts this kid shouldn’t be on the clock for more than 10 seconds once the draft begins. Dahlin has been compred to Swedish legend Nick Lidstrom, Erik Karlsson said he thinks Dahlin could be better than him, and some of Dahlin’s coaches believe he is a lot like Victor Hedman.
All of the names listed above are legends of the game, and for the 18-year-old Dahlin to be mentioned in the same sentence as them has him on high ground. If Buffalo gets lucky and earns the right to select Dahlin the Sabres will have something they have severely lacked over the years, a legitimate number one defenceman who could blossom into one of the league’s elite.
Adding Dahlin into the mix would go a long way to helping fix the Sabres blueline. It would give them the ability to finally use Ristolainen correctly, Scandella would have a huge weight lifted off his shoulders, and Guhle would be able to slot in next year without any pressure as the Sabres defensive savior.
18.5% isn’t a lot, but man if things fall the right way, the Sabres could finally have a piece to go along with Eichel that could help propel the Sabres from the basement.
2nd Overall – 16.5% – Andrei Svechnikov
At the World Juniors it looked entirely possible that Filip Zadina or even Brady Tkachuk could have played themselves into the conversation at 2. Svechnikov had been hurt for the OHL’s Barrie Colts, and his role was severely limited at the WJC, and I was wondering how at one point he was considered to be in consideration for #1.
Well, he shut me up with his second half of the season. He went on a tear finishing with 40 goals in 44 games played, along with 72 points. There is no doubt that Svechnikov should be the clear cut favourite at 2nd overall no matter who is drafting in that spot. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a 6-3 kid who can skate, shoot and play a physical game like Svechnikov can. He reminds me a lot of Ilya Kovalchuk in his prime, and if the Sabres end up picking 2nd fans could be looking at the best goal scoring winger in Buffalo since Vanek.
Svechnikov gives the Sabres something they’ve been chasing since drafting Eichel, a top line winger who has the skill and speed to actually play alongside a franchise centerman. Eichel and Svechnikov could be a deadly duo in the NHL, Eichel’s passing ability and creativity paired with a shot like Svechnikov’s should have fans salivating. So remember as great as Dahlin is, it wouldn’t be bad at all to end up with Scvechnikov.
3rd Overall – 14.4% – Adam Boqvist
This one was honestly a toss up for me, Hughes, Zadina and yes even Tkachuk could all slot in at 3rd overall but after seeing Boqvist play at the WU18s and after talking to some scouts who have seen him play I have decided to go with him as the target for the Sabres at three.
The Sabres need everything, skilled wingers who can play with the likes of Mittelstadt and Eichel but they also desperately need defenders that can fit Housley’s system and Boqvist has Housley written all over him (as does Hughes). Boqvist has a high offensive upside that he is just scratching the surface of, and is further along defensively than I thought. He looks like a solid prospect, the only downside is he is a year away from being close to NHL ready, but the upside is that he could turn into the best offensive defenceman in the draft.
4th Overall – 50.6% – Take your pick
At fourth overall, I can’t really pick one single target because if the Sabres end up picking fourth and end up with one of Hughes, Zadina, Tkachuk or Boqvist everyone should be ecstatic.
Quinn Hughes has Phil Housley and Botterill written all over him. He is a great skater (probably the best in the draft), his offensive instincts are amazing he would fit Housley’s ideal system perfectly. He is also a Michigan man, Botterill is a former Michigan Wolverine and loves the NCAA pathway for development so no one should be surprised if Hughes is in play at 4 or even possibly 3. It’s taken me a lot longer than I’d like to admit to warm up to Hughes, but he has the potential to be lethal from the blueline.
Filip Zadina starred at Halifax and at the World Juniors this year, he put the world on notice that he is a pure goal scoring talent who will shoot and score from anywhere. He finished with 44 goals in 57 games at Halifax and scored seven times in seven games at the WJC. His skating isn’t quite as good as Svechnikov’s but a kid with ability to shoot and score from anywhere paired up with Eichel for years to come is a thought that should excite every Sabres fan.
Brady Tkachuk might be the most hotly debated top tier prospect I can remember, some fans love him and other fans seem to think that he isn’t worthy of a high draft pick, but the thing is… he is going to go high in the draft and he is going to be a legitimate top-6 NHL winger for years to come. If Sabres fans loved Evander Kane, they’re going to love Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk is a legit power forward with better skill than people give him credit for and he will be a thorn in the side of the NHL (look at his older brother Matthew) for years to come.
Dark Horse Candidate for 4th – Oliver Wahlstrom
While I don’t think he will actually be in the conversation at four, Wahlstrom deserves a lot more hype than he’s been getting. He has exploded offensively in the second half of his season (granted Jack Hughes has been his Center for that period of time) but Wahlstrom has all of the qualities that an elite goal scorer has. He has a rocket of a shot that he can get off anywhere on the ice with pinpoint accuracy, he has a big frame at 6-1, 205 and the skill that he posseses is uncanny (just look at his shootout goal at TD Garden in 2009).