Another April has arrived marking another great time of the year to talk about the NHL Draft. As much as we’d love to be writing about the Sabres as part of the current Stanley Cup race in the NHL, we need to fill you in on some of the players who could help Buffalo get back to that spotlight. In the midst of the 2019 IIHF u18 tournament that’s seen Team USA light the world on fire, four of the States’ finest find their names on this Sabres watch list.
RW Cole Caufield (NTDP)
Stats: 60GP 67G 26A 93PTS
Cole Caufield could possibly be one of the biggest wildcards in this draft class. He stands at a mere 5’7″ and weighs in at 163 lbs, so there will be some teams out there who will have him in the mid to late first round solely based on his size. But if you look back at some recent years, there are some undersized players who slide in the draft and become dynamic players at the NHL level. Take a look at Caufield’s biggest comparable in Chicago Blackhawks winger, Alex DeBrincat. DeBrincat is also 5’7″ but fell to Chicago in the second round in the 2016 draft. He spent one more year in the OHL with Erie and then he became a contributor to the Hawks the year after. DeBrincat has scored 69 goals in his two seasons with Chicago. There’s no doubt that just about every team in the league regrets passing on DeBrincat in 2016.
Caufield is the the best goal scorer in this draft and it’s not close. The Sabres have lacked goal scoring on the wing for nearly a decade and Caufield would be a perfect fit to potentially solve that problem. Caufield had a monster of a season for the U.S. development team, scoring nearly 70 goals. This season Caufield became the all time leading goal scorer for the NTDP, with 106 goals in two seasons. For what it’s worth, here are some names who are also very high on that list.
Phil Kessel 104 goals
Patrick Kane 84 goals
Auston Matthews 79 goals
Clayton Keller 71 goals
Jack Eichel 67 goals
Caufield is in some pretty good company here. Caufield seems to be skyrocketing up the rankings as of late and his performance at the IIHF World U18’s could get him drafted inside of the top 10. Through three games at the U18’s, Caufield has already scored nine goals. That’s good enough to tie Phil Kessel’s record for goals in a single tournament for team USA. Caufield is only five goals shy of Alex Ovechkin’s record of 14 goals at the U18’s that he set in 2002.
The Sabres should give Caufield some serious consideration to be selected with the seventh overall pick.
April Rank: 11
NHL Arrival: 2021-2022
C Alex Turcotte (NTDP)
Stats: 33GP 26G 35A 61PTS
If you polled everyone on Sabres Twitter, well over 50% of them would tell you that they want the Sabres to select Alex Turcotte with the seventh overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Turcotte has had a problem with injuries over the course of the season, but since returning to the lineup for the NTDP, he’s been arguably their best player not named Jack Hughes.
Turcotte would be the ideal selection for the Sabres with the seventh overall pick in the draft. He plays a solid two-way game but he also plays with some offensive flare, which are two areas that the Sabres are in desperate need of. I’m not taking anything away from Casey Mittelstadt by saying this but when the Sabres traded Ryan O’Reilly in the offseason, the organization was left with nobody who could be a top six contributor at the center position that plays a great two-way game. Yes, I do think Casey Mittelstadt will be a really good top six forward for many years to come despite not having a great rookie year. But if they could have a situation where they have Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt, and Alex Turcotte down the middle, that could easily be one of the best center groups in the NHL a few years down the road.
Alex Turcotte is a player who would fill a position of need and would most likely also be the best player available with the seventh overall selection. Will he be available for the Sabres when they’re on the clock? There’s a pretty good chance that he’s off the board, but you just never know. Nonetheless, Turcotte would be a great selection by the Sabres.
April Rank: 4
NHL Arrival: 2020-2021
C Trevor Zegras (NTDP)
Stats: 56GP 26G 53A 79PTS
With center being a position of need, the Sabres have many more options outside of Alex Turcotte. One option who will likely be available is Turcotte’s teammate, Trevor Zegras. The NTDP was blessed with three elite centermen this season in Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, and Trevor Zegras. Having those three players down the middle was a huge reason why they were so successful this season. At times, Zegras has also played the wing on a line with Jack Hughes and he succeeded there, but he also played very well centering his own line.
While Turcotte was sidelined with an injury this season, Zegras took on a bigger role and catapulted himself into the conversation to be a top 10 pick. Turcotte plays a much more well rounded game in comparison to Zegras, but Zegras is just as gifted offensively as Turcotte. Zegras is a dynamic offensive presence and is a great playmaker. Zegras projects to be a dynamic playmaking center at the NHL level who can play in the top six.
Zegras would be a fantastic addition to Buffalo’s pipeline. After a year at Boston University, he should be able to step right into the NHL, whether that’s at center or the wing.
April Rank: 6
NHL Arrival: 2020-2021
C Kirby Dach (Saskatoon)
Stats: 62GP 25G 48A 73PTS
Kirby Dach has been somewhat of a polarizing prospect in this year’s draft. For a big man he can skate really well, but he doesn’t necessarily have blazing straight line speed. Dach has a great set of hands and at times can be a human highlight reel as shown in the clip video below.
Dach more of a pass first player who is an incredible passer. I think he also has a really underappreciated shot but he doesn’t use it to his advantage that often. He has a ton of raw talent and if he can put it all together I can see him being a star player in the NHL. He’s probably the most NHL ready prospect after Hughes and Kakko, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if he can step into the NHL next season and play a nine game tryout similarly to what Sam Reinhart did in 2014-2015. For more on Kirby Dach, click the link below and check out Austin Broad’s prospect profile.
April Rank: 10
NHL Arrival: 2020-2021
LW Matthew Boldy (NTDP)
Stats: 60GP 32G 46A 78PTS
Matt Boldy is yet another stud prospect that could be an option for the Sabres who plays for the U.S. development team. Boldy has been underappreciated throughout the year and it seems like he’s finally starting to get more attention from the scouting community and fans. Boldy has an elite shot and can really pass the puck well.
By all accounts, Boldy is also a leader in the room and is a good character guy who will do whatever it takes to win. He strikes me as the kind of player that the Sabres would have a ton of interest in come draft day. Like the other high end American prospects from the NTDP, expect that Boldy will be a one and done at Boston College.
April Rank: 8
NHL Arrival: 2020-2021
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