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Dahlin, Svechnikov lead draft pack

Sabres can finally turn corner with one of these young studs

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At this point in the season, Buffalo Sabres fans are very used to looking forward to the NHL Draft. This year is no different. As we embrace the “tank” or just really bad hockey, it is time to start looking at the 2018 NHL Draft and who Buffalo could potentially pick.

As of now, it appears that Buffalo will be picking somewhere in the top 6 at the very least barring a late season hot streak and a classic cheesing from the NHL Draft Lottery. So here are the top 6 prospects that could land in Buffalo:

1. Rasmus Dahlin: LHD 6’0″/181 lbs 

By now, anyone who pays attention to hockey has heard of this guy. Dahlin is the Connor McDavid of this draft. Alright, that might be a little bit much, but Dahlin is a fantastic hockey player. Watching highlights of this kid remind me of watching Casey Mittelstadt in the World Juniors this year. An absolute game-breaker already, Dahlin has the ability to make something happen every time he is out on the ice.

“He is a franchise-defining defenceman with an unprecedented ability to control the game in all areas. The last blueliner I saw with that capability at this age was Victor Hedman.” – Craig Button (TSN)

If Buffalo finally gets revenge on the Draft Lottery this year, there will be no doubt that Dahlin will be in Blue and Gold for years to come.

How would he fit?

With Buffalo’s defensive core starting to take shape, it appears that only a true #1 d-man is needed. Dahlin will certainly be that for whichever team drafts him. Ideally, Dahlin would probably start on the 3rd or 2nd pairing next year and take over the reigns on the top pair either at the end of the season (hopefully playoffs) or the following year. Dahlin fits Phil Housley’s d-mold perfectly. He is a fast, puck-moving defenseman who can carry the puck better than most NHL players already. Oh ya, he can also sit opposing forwards down if they try to enter the zone with their head down. With Dahlin on the back-end, and Jack Eichel up front, this team could very well become the winning dynasty Buffalo fans crave.

2. Andrei Svechnikov: RW 6’2″/185 lbs

Having an unreal season this year in the OHL with the Barrie Colts, Svechnikov has nothing left to prove in Juniors (35 goals, 26 assists, 61 points in 39 games). This kid is obviously a natural high-end goal scorer and that should translate easily into the NHL. With good speed, slick mitts, and an elite shot, Svechnikov’s abilities are in line with the new age NHL. It looks like he has elite potential as a top-line winger.

Cam Robinson from Dobber Prospects had this to say about Svechnikov:

“A ridiculous near goal-per-game output in the OHL is just the tip of the iceberg for the dynamic winger. Was somewhat underutilized at the WJHC but found a way to make a difference most nights. A legitimate 40-plus goal threat not too far down the line.”

How would he fit?

After a dominant season this year, Svechnikov has eclipsed the skill level of juniors and should be in the NHL next year. With lots of young guns coming up through the ranks, it will be a competition out of camp to see where they all shake out. With his speed and finishing ability, it would come as no surprise to see him lining up next to Eichel on the top line. However, it is more likely to see him starting the season on the 3rd line in an attempt to spread out the scoring. He could also bring a much needed boost to the 2nd power play unit. Svechnikov’s scoring presence would be a welcoming sign for Buffalo fans as their team has been in the basement of the league in scoring for several years now.

3. Filip Zadina: LW 6’0″/198 lbs

After turning heads at the World Juniors this year (7 goals in 7 games), Zadina has risen up many draft boards. Also having a great year in juniors (40 goals, 35 assists, 75 points in 53 games) with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL, Zadina has shown what he is. He is a fast, smart playmaker who has a rifle of a shot. He is tireless in the offensive zone and is always making things happen. He does seem a little raw still, which means his upside could be extremely high. His defensive game will need work when transitioning to the NHL.

“Has transitioned well to the North American game with an intense will to get into the home-plate area. There are no deficiencies in his game and he’s loaded with character. Zadina may not exactly be Nico Hischier, but he’s not too far behind.” Sam Cosentino – Sportsnet

How would he fit?

Much like Svechnikov, Zadina very well could come into the league next year. With Jason Botterill at the helm however, there is at least a chance he stays in Juniors for another year. On the other hand, Buffalo is now deprived of scoring left wingers and Zadina could fill that role immediately. He would instantly become the focus of the 2nd power play unit while adding 20+ goals from a top 9 role in his first year. Remember this kid’s name come draft day as he will be a prize to anyone drafting him.

4. Brady Tkachuk: C/LW 6’2″ / 195 lbs

This kid is the prize jewel for many Buffalo fans. After watching him and Casey Mittelstadt at the World Juniors in Buffalo, fans fell in love with the American duo. Tkachuk’s game is much different that Svechnikov’s or Zadina’s in the sense that Tkachuk is not nearly as skilled, but might be the hardest to play against. Much like his brother Matthew Tkachuk, Brady is a physical presence out on the ice. His game is reminiscent to an engaged Evander Kane. He has the ability to make the difficult plays.

“Tkachuk is a throwback; he has the skill set, hands, shot and net-front play to be a real high-end goal scorer in the NHL,” said USNTDP U-18 coach Seth Appert. “Some players hit because they know it’s part of the game and the coach wants them to go hit to create a turnover. Tkachuk absolutely craves physical contact.” Mike Morreale – NHL.com

How would he fit?

With 28 points in 36 games at Boston University this season, Tkachuk has played well, but still has room to grow. He should be back at BU next year to continue his development. Down the road, it is impossible to imagine Mittelstadt and Tkachuk separated in the Sabres lineup. Their chemistry was undeniable at the World Juniors in Buffalo and whoever would fill the third spot on that line would enjoy feeding off of that. Drafting Tkachuk could bring about the next big pairing in Buffalo behind Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

5. Quinton Hughes: LHD 5’9″ / 168 lbs

Although small in stature, Hughes’ play on the ice is gigantic. In what very well could be the best skater in the draft (even above Dahlin), Quinton Hughes is a stud to be on the back end. His speed, puck moving abilities, passing, and ability to read the play are all at elite levels. With 28 points in 34 games for Michigan this year, it is obvious that Hughes knows how to put points up for his team. Were it not for his size, Hughes would be challenging Dahlin at the top of the draft.

“Hughes is a strong playmaker with excellent vision, capable of threading the needle with either hard or saucered cross-ice passes. Additionally, he has a heavy shot with a quick release, and goaltenders have to work hard to control rebounds of his shots. Hughes makes plays on his backhand look effortless, and he’s adept at receiving and settling down pucks while traveling at a high rate of speed.” Steve Kournianos – The Draft Analyst

How would he fit?

Again, it is easier to believe that Hughes would be back at Michigan next year than to see him in Blue and Gold. Botterill stresses proper development and there is no need to rush Hughes. His upside is kind of impossible to pinpoint but he should at the very least be a very solid top 4 defenceman in the NHL.

6. Adam Boqvist: RHD 5’11” / 170 lbs

After watching some tape on this kid, it became evident of what the scouts have been saying about him. WOW… Only a month away from being eligible in the 2019 NHL Draft, Adam Boqvist is a young STUD. It is very hard to imagine this kid being a bust of any kind. His stick handling, skating, passing, and shot are right up there with Rasmus Dahlin. Although a bit smaller, he can still fill out his frame before breaking into the NHL.

“Boqvist’s resemblance to Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson is marked. The high skill, brilliant creativity and daring that allow Karlsson to command a game and capture the attention of his audience are present in Boqvist’s game.” Craig Button – TSN

How would he fit? 

Still a few years away mostly due to his size, Boqvist would likely stay in Sweden next year and then go to the Rochester Americans the following year. What could be the longest project from the top of this draft, may be one of the safest and most rewarding. This kid is a #1 defenseman in the making. Although still a few years out, Boqvist could be the true #1 defenceman that Buffalo has craved for many years. In all likeliness, if Buffalo wants this kid, he should be available when Buffalo is on the board.

Honorable mentions:

Joseph Veleno: C 6’0″ / 181 lbs

Evan Bouchard: RHD 6’2″ / 181 lbs

Noah Dobson: RHD 6’3″ / 176 lbs

Conclusions:

With such high-end talent at the top of the draft this year, Buffalo can’t really go wrong with anyone in top 6. With Dahlin as the unanimous #1 pick, there is a drop off from 1 to 2, 3 to 4, and then 6 to 7. However, Sabres fans should not worry about whoever Buffalo drafts as they will likely be a difference maker for this franchise for years to come. Until the NHL Entry Draft in June, hang in there Sabres fans, the future looks bright!

A life-long Buffalo Sabres fan who is extremely passionate about his team and could talk Sabres hockey all the time. I am a Graduate from Messiah College who studied Sport Management as a major and Leadership as a minor.

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