Sabres 2020 NHL Draft Recap

The 2020 Draft was completely virtual and saw Kevyn Adams make his first NHL Entry Draft selections as GM of the Buffalo Sabres.

Entering the draft with only 6 picks total and 3 in the top 100, Adams didn’t have much capital to work with. He did show the aggressiveness of a seasoned GM to go get his guy, making a trade up from 38 to take German forward JJ Peterka at the cost of his lone 4th (100) round pick.

When the dust settled, Adams added 4 forwards and 1 defenseman to the Sabres’ prospect pool. While it will take a few years to truly know how successful this new staff was, we can make an assessment of how these selections look today.

Draft Year NHLe

Quinn stands out above the others by a wide margin, even beating Dylan Cozens’ DY score (23). I expect a big jump in Peterka’s NHLe this upcoming year, especially if he plays in the OHL.

As a means to help predict future NHL success with this model, the general philosophy is take the player with the highest score. Applying this logic, the Sabres left some players on the board who project significantly better with every single pick.

I will do a follow up article outlining this in more detail as well as my preferred pick at each draft spot.

  1. Quinn – 28
  2. Lyckåsen – 7* (DY+1)
  3. Peterka – 6
  4. Konecny – 6
  5. Costantini -6

Note: NHLe data from @mannyelk. Per Hockey Prospecting (@ByronmBader) model these numbers for Quinn and Cozens are 35 and 30 respectively.

1st Round (8th Overall) – Jack Quinn
RW | Ottawa 67s (OHL)
62 GP | 52 G | 37 A | 89 PTS

The goal scoring winger of the Ottawa 67s was projected to go somewhere between 10 and 20 so it was surprising to see Adams go with Quinn. This was even more stunning given the fact that two high end centers in Rossi and Perfetti both fell to the Sabres lap. I won’t belabor the point but I had Rossi as 3rd best player in this class and disagree with the thought process that had Adams go Quinn here.

Regardless, Sabres fans should be ecstatic to have Jack Quinn on this roster. One reason to be excited about Quinn is that he’s a goal scorer who can create opportunities on his own. Quinn is not one to be reliant on a play making center to generate chances. Quinn has excellent agility that helps him maintain posession of the puck when pressured.

The bread and butter of Quinn’s game is his shot though which is arguably one of the best in this class. Quinn can score from anywhere and projects as a top 6 forward. I think the most important part about Quinn’s game is the fact that he’s not a one dimensional player that can only contribute offensively. Quinn plays a complete 2-way game with positive impact in his own end.

Grade: B

2nd Round (34 Overall) – John-Jason Peterka
LW | EHC München (DEL)
42 GP | 7 G | 4 A | 11 PTS

Taken by London in the CHL import draft, it would be exciting and good for his development to come to North America. The OHL season is still working out issues for their return to play format. As of late, talks of non contact in the league seem to be the only way an OHL season happens.

In the meantime, Peterka is playing in the Austrian league ICEHL. Peterka is an exciting prospect who played in the top German league DEL last year. The intensity and speed with which Peterka plays makes him fun to watch. Combine those traits with his natural offensive abilities, Peterka looks like a player who has not scratched the surface of his potential.

Provided Peterka is able to work on his strength this season, he could easily be pushing for a roster spot in Buffalo next year. I love what Peterka brings to the table as far as his positioning on the ice and ability to put himself in scoring positions. He was an excellent choice in round 2 for the Sabres.

Grade: A-

5th Round (131st Overall) – Matteo Costantini
C | Buffalo Jr. Sabres (OJHL)
50 GP | 36 G | 32 A | 68 PTS

Costantini was a relatively unknown prospect among draft pundits, though certainly a familiar face locally. It is fair to wonder if his ties to the region influenced this pick but the young center is very quick and talented.

It’s going to take a long time to see what Costantini has as his next venture takes him to western Canada to play in the BCHL for Penticton. From there he is committed to playing in the NCAA for power house program North Dakota.

As the 2019-20 OJHL Rookie of the Year, Costantini proved that he can elevate his game when raising the level of difficulty. 36 goals in 50 games are an indication that there’s a lot of offensive skill Costantini brings. Pat Kaleta had positive things to say about Costantini, most notably the great work ethic that he possesses.

As this organization has predominantly drafted defensemen in years past, it is exciting to see some more forwards added to the mix and track their progress. It should be noted that Costantini is very young for this class and wasn’t far from being eligible in 2021 which gives some optimism that he can take a big leap in his DY+1.

Grade: C-

7th Round (193 Overall) – Albert Lyckåsen
RD | Linköping (SuperElit)
43 GP | 14 G | 22 A | 36 PTS

Lyckåsen is an overager but was also one of the younger 2019 eligibles with his July birthday. He tore up SuperElit this past season (albeit as an older prospect) and is an excellent skater in general.

Vision and understanding of how to get the puck to the net are huge parts of Lyckåsen’s game and combined with his excellent skating, he is a dynamic modern day defenseman.

I would have preferred to have gone for Xavier Simoneau with this pick but the skill set Lyckåsen possesses along with him being a right shot defenseman make him an intriguing dart throw.

Lyckåsen is an agile and smooth skater who projects to need 2-3 years but boasts a skill set that is basically non existent in the organization on the right side defense.

Grade: B

7th Round (215th Overall) – Jakub Konecny
F | Sparta Praha (Czech U20)
32 GP | 11 G | 14 A | 25 PTS

Taking another forward with the next to last pick in the draft, Konecny is another relatively young player in this class with a late June birthday.

The Czech native is very quick and can make plays at high speed with the puck on his stick. There’s an offensive ability to his game that make him a worthy selection with the 2nd to last pick in the draft. Similar to Constantini, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him take a big leap in his development next year.

Grade: C

2020 Draft Verdict: B-

This draft class could very well end up being one of the best since 2003 so the lack of draft capital was frustrating. Passing on Marco Rossi for Jack Quinn is a decision that will unfairly get tied to the latter and represents the first questionable draft decision by Adams.

Overall I feel like not much changed as far as draft philosophy goes from the last regime. 19 straight non CHL picks post round 1 is a trend that needs to get bucked going forward. This is especially true for an organization who has struggled to get any use from their picks past the 1st round.

My ideal draft would have gone like this below, based on who was on the board at those spots. This is a list I have started tracking since last years’ draft as an experiment to see how I fare against the Sabres staff over time. Note that I chose not to trade up from 38 and assume Peterka isn’t available.

1st (8) – Marco Rossi
2nd (38) – Jan Mysak
4th (100) – Tyler Tullio
5th (131) – Yevgeni Oksentyuk
7th (193) – Alexander Pashin
7th (216) – Xavier Simoneau

Quinn and Peterka have vaulted to number 2 and 3 in the organization prospect ranks which is part a testament to how good those players are, and how weak this prospect pool is in Buffalo. Fortunately, these players have great skill sets and the potential to be impact play drivers in the NHL.

As far as the other 3 picks go, I wouldn’t classify them as safe and look forward to tracking the development of these new prospects. Of the three, Lyckåsen interests me the most because of his style of play and the fact that he’s 1 year further developed than the others.

At the end of the day, I had hoped that the promise to rely more on data and analytics would have yielded a group of prospects reminiscent of what Carolina and LA selected. For this reason, I have my reservations about where Kevin Adams and his staff are headed but realize that this one class isn’t enough to make any proclamations.

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