Although the Buffalo Sabres finished in last place for the third time in five seasons, there is a more positive outlook following this year’s NHL Draft Lottery. Unlike in 2014 and 2015 when the Sabres selected second overall, the third time was a charm as they look to draft a player crucial to the future of their organization.
Although it’s not official until GM Jason Botterill announces the selection, Swedish defensman Rasmus Dahlin is easily the No. 1 draft prospect and projected to be picked by Buffalo in every prominent mock draft.
With his blazing speed and dazzling ability to handle the puck, Dahlin earned 20 points in 41 games played in the SHL last season.
Read an article that calls Rasmus Dahlin a hybrid of Nick Lidstrom, Erik Karlsson, Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin. I smiled then read the article three more times. pic.twitter.com/oaawKO6mcd
— SabresBuzz (@SabresBuzz) May 3, 2018
Back in 1970, the Sabres had their first-ever draft pick in Gilbert Perreault. He went first overall and played for the Sabres throughout his entire career.
With the team drafting Rick Martin in 1971 and trading for Rene Robert later that season, “The French Connection” was formed and was one of the most successful pairings in league history.
Perreault won the Calder in recognition for a rookie season in which he scored 38 goals and earned 72 points in 78 games played. Despite being retired for three decades, he still holds the franchise record for games played, goals (512) and points (1,326) with the Sabres and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.
The Sabres would not pick first for another 17 years, when the team drafted Pierre Turgeon. Although his tenure in Buffalo was short (just over four years), he still made an impact on the franchise.
While he earned 42 points as a rookie, his production significantly increased, earning 88, 106 and 79 points during his final three full seasons in Buffalo.
Shortly after the 1991-92 season began, he was traded to the New York Islanders, a transaction which brought Pat LaFontaine to the Sabres. LaFontaine is considered one of the greatest players in franchise history, playing in Buffalo from 1991 to 1997. He earned 385 points in 268 games for Buffalo and had his #16 retired in 2006.
Just as Sabres fans hope that Dahlin’s impact mirrors that of Perreault and Turgeon, having a career path similar to recent No.1 picks would be welcomed by the team and the fans.
Nate MacKinnon, drafted in 2013 by Colorado, won the Calder Trophy after scoring 24 goals and earning 63 points. This past season, he scored 39 goals for a total of 97 points and is currently a Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsey Award finalist after leading his team to the postseason.
Aaron Ekblad was drafted the next year by Florida, and was able to earn the Calder in 2015 following his rookie campaign. During this past season, he became the 15th defenseman to reach double-digit goal totals in his first four seasons.
Connor McDavid was drafted in 2015 by Edmonton, and after an injury-riddled season as a rookie, came back in his second season with 30 goals and 100 points to win the Hart Trophy last year as well as the Ted Lindsey Award. After a second consecutive 100-point campaign, he is currently a finalist for the Ted Lindsey Award.
Drafted two years ago by Toronto, Auston Matthews has led his team to the playoffs in his first two seasons. After scoring 40 goals as a rookie, he won the Calder and has become a part of their young core going forward.
With the recent success of top draft picks in the NHL, the Sabres look to draft a young phenom in Dahlin that they can integrate in the lineup to make an immediate impact.