The 2019 NHL Draft is now less than a month away and unlike last year, there is a lot of intrigue for the Buffalo Sabres going into round one of the draft. Last year it was a guarantee that Rasmus Dahlin would be the selection with the first overall pick, and now that the Sabres are slotted in to select at 7 and 31, there are plenty of options for Jason Botterill and the scouting staff to choose from.
Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko are the consensus top two in the draft this year. Kappo Kakko has had an incredible draft year and has completely closed the gap between him and Jack Hughes as they are now neck and neck as the top prospect in the draft class. The New Jersey Devils will have a very difficult decision on their hands with that first overall pick but they really can’t go wrong with either prospect.
The draft really begins at three this year with the Chicago Blackhawks. And from the third pick to probably the twelfth pick, it is extremely close between all of the prospects in that area of the draft. So the Sabres sit in a very good spot with the seventh overall pick, as they will have a lot of good players to choose from.
Now here’s a look at the likely options that the Sabres will be choosing from for the seventh overall pick.
C Alex Turcotte (3)
The likelihood that Alex Turcotte is available with the seventh overall pick is extremely low as he will probably go to either the Chicago Blackhawks at three or the Colorado Avalanche at four, but you just never know. Look at last year with Filip Zadina and Quinn Hughes sliding to the Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks at six and seven, sometimes players slide down the board a little bit and it could happen with Turcotte considering how close everyone is in the 3-12 range of the draft.
The Sabres have been rumored to be extremely interested in drafting the American center and that they would have even selected him if they had the third overall pick. So if Turcotte is there at seven, expect that the Sabres will pick him.
Turcotte has dealt with some injuries this season but when healthy, he was a top player for the U.S. development team, putting up 62 points in just 37 games. He was also a big contributor for team USA in the World U18s.
The Sabres are obviously going to draft who they believe is the best player available and if Turcotte is there at seven, I believe that he’d be just that. But he also fills a huge need for them as they are in dire need of a two-way center after they traded Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues last summer. Turcotte can play a very solid two-way game and he has the ability to produce as well. Turcotte also offers speed and skill to the lineup as well.
So to whoever is sick and tired of hearing about the Ryan O’Reilly trade, hope that Alex Turcotte slides to Buffalo at seven, because he projects to be a better (and faster) version of Ryan O’Reilly. Plus Jack Eichel, Alex Turcotte, and Casey Mittelstadt down the middle for this team for the next decade doesn’t exactly sound like a bad idea.
RW Cole Caufield (5)
Sabres fans have fallen in love with Cole Caufield over the last few months, and for good reason. Caufield has been a goal scoring machine for the last two seasons with the U.S. development team, and he even had over 70 goals throughout his draft year. Yes, that’s not a typo, over 70 goals.
Caufied is the best goal scorer in the 2019 draft and the only real knock on him is his size. If Caufield wasn’t 5’7″, I believe that he would be in contention for third or even second overall. Caufield also tied Alex Ovechkin’s record for goals in the IIHF World U18’s with 14 goals in 7 games.
The sky’s the limit for Cole Caufield, his skill, speed, compete level, and scoring make him a very attractive option for the Sabres with the 7th overall pick. Buffalo has had trouble scoring goals for the last decade and adding a pure goal scorer like Caufield to the pipeline would be a huge addition.
C Trevor Zegras (6)
Trevor Zegras is the prospect who I believe the Sabres will select with the 7th overall pick. There is a very good chance that he will be available at seven as well, and the Sabres reportedly met with Zegras twice at the NHL Combine.
Jason Botterill has said on multiple occasions since the season ended that they need to add more speed, skill, and goal scoring into their lineup, and Zegras would no doubt help the Sabres in those departments. Zegras is one of the best playmakers in the draft class and it would be a huge win for the Sabres if they could add an offensive weapon like Zegras into their pipeline.
Zegras can also play on the wing, adding a versatile player is only an added bonus for the Sabres. Like I said earlier for Alex Turcotte, if Zegras ends up playing center in the NHL, Eichel, Mittelstadt, and Zegras down the middle should have Sabres fans drooling.
C Dylan Cozens (7)
Dylan Cozens has been a player that I have been really high on throughout the year. He was arguably the best player at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and had a very productive season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes this season. The only real knock that I have seen in Cozens’ game has been hockey sense but other than that I believe that he is the complete package who can be a great option for Buffalo if he’s still there at seven.
Cozens has size, speed, skill, and the ability to put the puck in the back of the net. And he can play center as well, all of those attributes are a dire need for the Buffalo Sabres. Cozens has a chance to step right into the NHL next season simply because of his great skating ability coupled with his NHL ready size. He may not be able to play the entire season but maybe he will get a nine game look with whatever team selects him.
RW Vasili Podkolzin (10)
Podkolzin has been a polarizing prospect over the last few months. Entering the season, he was thought to be the consensus third best player in the draft but his stock has been plummeting as of late. There’s a lot to like about Podkolzin’s game, he works extremely hard and has speed and skill and he can also be a difference maker on the ice every night. But his production in Russia is concerning to me and that’s why he falls at 10 and not in the top five where he’s been most of the season.
The Russian factor will always be a concern for these Russian prospects and it’ll be no different for Podkolzin. I think there is a good chance that he will be available to be selected when the Sabres are on the clock at seven, but will they opt to take someone who may stay in Russia for two or three more seasons? I doubt that’ll happen.
LW Matthew Boldy (8)
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.
It’s more likely than not that Boldy will be available for the Sabres to select him with the seventh overall pick. But looking at players like Caufield, Zegras, Turcotte, and Cozens, those are guys who aren’t exactly a sure bet to even be available for the Sabres to select him. So Boldy is a realistic option at seven for sure.
C Kirby Dach (9)
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 has shown that he can even be a human highlight reel.
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.
C Peyton Krebs (11)
Peyton Krebs just recently suffered an Achilles injury so now there’s a chance that he could slide a little on draft day. But putting the injury aside, Krebs is a fantastic prospect who has kind of flown under the radar this year, mainly because he played on a horrendous team in Kootenay.
Despite playing on a team that only won 13 games, Krebs was still able to produce at over a point per game pace with practically no supporting cast. Throughout the year, I’ve described Krebs as a faster version of Sam Reinhart. Krebs possesses great hockey IQ and is one of the better playmakers in this class. With who will likely be available with the seventh pick, I don’t really see Krebs being a realistic option that the Sabres would select, but you never know, they might really like him a lot
C Alex Newhook (12)
I’ve been pretty on and off for Newhook throughout the season. There have been games that I’ve watched him play where he just wouldn’t dominate and when evaluating a high end prospect in the BCHL, you go in with the expectation that Alex Newhook is going to blow you away.
There is no doubting that Newhook is a very talented player nonetheless, and would bring a lot of speed to the lineup of whatever team drafts him. He was one of the better players at the World U18s as well when he was playing against better competition than he would be facing in the BCHL. Newhook is easily a top 15 pick for me and depending on how the draft falls, it really wouldn’t be the end of the world if the Sabres select him at seven.
The Sabres are also slotted in at pick 31 in the draft. Needless to say, the Sabres will have plenty of options at 31. In a perfect world, it would be great if Buffalo can walk out of the draft with a right handed defenseman with that 31st pick but at this point it looks like it’s more likely that they’ll be going with a forward with both of those picks.
Here’s a look at some potential options who could be available at 31…
D Moritz Seider (15)
Looking to become the third German to be drafted in the first round, Seider possesses a European, shutdown defenseman skillset. His skating is above average, especially being 6’4″. He’s a fluid skater who pivots well and is go with his lateral movement. While his stats might not pop of the screen, Seider showed he could move the puck effectively with crisp breakout passes and in the offensive zone to go along with his skating to open up those passing lanes. His slap shot is one of the better ones in the draft, he’s able to control his shots looking for tips.
Seider will use his body to throw big hits, but that also comes with a price to pay when you’re looking to play the body. Seider can get caught out of position and there are lapses in his defensive coverage at times. This will happen with a young player in a professional league overseas. Positional play, transitioning to North American hockey and adding strength will be the biggest obstacles he faces, but if develop correctly, can turn into a very solid top-4 defenseman with puck moving abilities.
C Philip Tomasino (16)
Tomasino can turn on the jets. Not only does he have top end acceleration, but he’s able to maintain that speed beating defenders out wide. He’s does his damage on the fast break with quick cuts matched with fast hands while possessing an accurate wrist shot. He’s hard on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and using his vision to find open teammates. Tomasino is someone who creates offensive opportunities with his legs both shooting and finding his teammates.
He’ll need time to develop his strength where he’ll have an issue with the bigger bodies in the NHL especially when applying pressure through cycling. He’ll make bad reads or over commit at times, but letting him develop good defensive habits will ease the worries of anyone who chooses him in the first round.
D Ville Heinola (19)
Heinola steadily progressed up the rankings, Heinola reminds me a bit of a Ramsus Dahlin Lite. He’s not the most explosive skater, his acceleration and speed aren’t great by any means, but the edgework, posie and vision give Heinola the ability to be a quarterback on the backend. He’s creative and his passing ability creates offense for his teammates. He has the sense to find the open areas in the offensive zone to use his very good wrist and slap shot.
His hockey sense follows him into the defensive zone where he cause turnovers by reading the play develop and being in the right position to cutoff passing lanes. His gap control is solid and can force opponents outside, but he’s only 5’11” 180lbs, so he’ll need to bulk up a bit to increase his effectiveness when battling men in the NHL. He faired well in Liiga against men, he’ll be one of, if not the top defensive prospect for any team that drafts him.
LW Arthur Kaliyev (21)
Kaliyev puts pucks in nets plan and simple. 51 goals in 67 games for Hamilton in the OHL proves as much. He’s the most pure sniper in the draft. His offensive abilities are fantastic. He has a cannon of a shot in all aspects: wrist, snap and slap. He buries his one timers both on the opposite circle on the powerplay and finding soft spots in the defense to receive passes from his teammates. He’s drives to the net hard and he’s solid at finding teammates and cycling with them.
So what’s the issue. It’s the combination of work ethic and defensive awareness. He’ll get caught out of position watching the play instead of reacting. There is a clear concern with his effort, but with his offensive production and skillset, some GM will take him in the first round.
LW Jakob Pelletier (20)
Pelletier posses outstanding speed and an above average playmaking ability. Despite his size, he’ll win puck battles by using his speed to track down the puck an protect it. He’s very shifty and uses his teammates well in the cycle. While his shot isn’t blazing by any means, it’s serviceable, but his soft hands and willingness to get dirty makes him effective around the net. He gets under the opponents skin and doesn’t shy away from mixing things up.
His lack of size will cause issues on the defensive end and he needs work. He’ll need to add strength to keep up with players at the next level. His speed can cause turnovers, but relying on his speed only defensively will cause problems.
C Connor McMichael (24)
McMichael has great speed and is dangerous off the rush. He has a good shot, an excellent hockey IQ which helps him with playmaking and getting to open areas without the puck. He has a good one-timer which can be a weapon on the powerplay.
McMichael is one of the best defensive forwards in the draft. He has a great sense for the defensive end and is almost always in the right position. He helps down low so the defensemen are able to get the puck up to wingers. He’s not a huge hitter, but does what he can to use his body.
G Spencer Knight (26)
I’ll start with the biggest knock against Knight, which is his focus. Because he played on such dominant teams, there would be times he didn’t face much action and would let up a goal he maybe shouldn’t have. Some goalies just work better with more action and he’ll certainly see more goaltending for Boston College next year.
What Knight does well is about everything else. He has strong, quick legs that direct shots to low danger areas. His agility in net is sound. His technique and attention to detail is great and his rebound control is very mature for his age. An attribute that can look remonisent of Carey Price is his calmness. He never looks overwhelmed, he’s quick, clean and precise with his movements. The composure he shows in net is an underrated value as it gives his team confidence to play more aggressive. He’s not a flopper and he’ll cut down angles to challenge shooters, letting his defensemen take the pass. Overall, Knight is the clear cut #1 goalie prospect this year.
RW Bobby Brink (27)
Brink attacks the offensive zone with speed and agility getting himself into dual threat positions. While he posses good passing abilities on the rush, his shot is his bread and butter. He’s a pure sniper that lets shots go quickly and with great zip behind it, accurately hitting his target. He could have the best wrist shot in the draft, depending on who you ask. While his skating can be improved speed wise, he’s explosive with his acceleration, getting him up and out of the zone and on the rush quickly. He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas and use his soft hands in close to finish.
Defensively, Brink works hard to backcheck and get into position to help out his center and defensemen. He cuts off lanes and creates turnovers, using his explosive first steps to get some separating, causing opposing defensemen to back off instead of pinching.
LW Nick Robertson (28)
Robertson is an undersized wrecking ball with a great motor. He’ll hound defenders on the forecheck, cause turnovers and has a nice skillset that lets setup teammates or get a quick wrister off. While his playmaking and shooting aren’t top notch, it’s enough to be a great compliment to his dog-on-raw-meat mentality.
Defensively, Roberston shows the same effort, but that effort can actually get him in trouble. At times he can get caught puck chasing and out of position. As with almost all prospects, he’ll need to round out his defensive positioning. Also, bigger bodies can bump him off pucks and shield him from
LW Nils Hoglander (25)
Speed, agility and creativity. Those three attributes best describe the Swedish winger. His acceleration, top end speed and agility are all right up there with some of the best in the draft. His vision and ability combine with his quick release makes him a threat all over the ice in the offensive end.
Defensively, Hoglander is committed. He works his tail off and does his best to cut off passing lanes, create a turnover and use his speed to get down the ice. Due to his size, he’ll have issues in board battles and containing cycles, but he’ll keep his feet moving to stay with his man. He’ll need to work on his positioning to help with his size, but the effort on the defensive end is there.
LW Brayden Tracey (29)
Tracey is more quick than fast on the ice. He uses his hockey sense to dart into open areas of the ice and has a knack for getting shots off. He’s a goal scorer with playmaking ability by finding teammates in adventagous positions, but his speed won’t create a lot of odd man rushes. His edgework and stickhandling brings him into the top 30, but there are some concerns on the defensive end.
Tracey shys away from contact, which can turn him into a bit of a perimeter player and will have him lose puck battles. He’ll go for a steal when separating the man from the puck is what is needed. He’ll need to gain strength and the defensive awareness necessary to make the next step, but his all around offensive game will get him looks in the first round.
C John Beecher (31)
Beecher is a big bodied center that may not be the best skater, but does well to keep up and has great balance. Beecher knows he’s a power forward and plays as such. He gets to the dirty areas, gets his stick on shots for tips and cycles the puck very well. He’s a good playmaker, finding open teammates then getting to the net for the rebound. He’ll throw his weight around and cause turnovers by separating the man from the puck.
Beecher is strong defensively, especially down low helping his defensemen and throwing his weight around along the boards. He’s sound positionally and takes breakout passes and gets to his wingers proficiently.
RW Brett Leason (35)
Leason is an overager for the draft, born in 1999. Leason made great strides with his skating ability. His shot is solid, but posses an above average backhand. His soft hands and hockey IQ help him in close and making quick movements to open up the chance to bury a backhand. He cycles the puck well and has the vision to find open teammates or control the puck more and wait for his teammates to get open.
Defensively, his hockey sense comes into play again. He’s responsible and anticipates the play well, getting into lanes and using his body to block shots. He does many things well, highlighted by his sense of the game.
D Matthew Robertson (39)
Robertson (no relation to Nick Robertson) is a steady, minutes eating defenseman that provides a two-way presence. He uses his big frame to close gaps, play physical and with decent skating abilites, rush the puck from his own end. He’s good one on one with his reach and physicality. He’s a good passer starting the rush and will pinch to open areas to receive a pass, but his shot leaves something to be desired.
He’s very intelligent, which makes him reliable and good in all situations. Robertson will need time to round out his game, but has the frame and mental makeup of an NHLer.
LW Samuel Poulin (40)
Much like a lot of the bigger guys destined for the late first round, early second round, Poulin is a power player that has a great shot and quality playmaking abilities. His speed is decent, but his acceleration needs work. Soft hands help in close and his ability to protect the puck, so if his skating can continue to improve, he’ll be well on his way to being a very good prospect.
He’s shown the ability to be effective on the defensive end, cutting off lanes, separating players from the puck and positioning himself to prevent high risk chances. He’ll play gritty and again, if he works on his skating, he’ll be even more effective in the defensive end.
D Alex Vlasic (34)
Vlasic is a huge defenseman, At 6’6″, it’s probably not a shock his skating can use some work. It’s not bad by any means, it’s improving, but with that size comes a lack of foot speed that will need ton continue to improve.
He has all the tools that a big defenseman possesses a fantastic reach, physicality (keep your head up coming across the middle) and a hard shot. He’s sound positionally and won’t chase for big hits. His first pass getting out of the zone is crisp and tape-to-tape, but he won’t be carrying the puck on the rush much. He’s definitely a project, but with his frame and hockey sense, a lot of GM’s will give him a look.
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