With the first round of the 2016 NHL draft in the books, let’s take a look at some of the best remaining prospects that could be available when the Sabres pick 38th overall.
Nathan Bastien: At 6’3” and weighing in around 200 lbs, Bastien not only plays a daunting physical game, but displays a great deal of playmaking ability. He spent most of last season on the same line as Sabres’ first round pick Alexander Nylander in Mississauga. Bastien’s most impressive attribute is his ability to play in his own end. He projects as an ideal third line center and has drawn comparisons to former Sabre, Paul Gaustad. He posted 19 goals and 40 assists for the Steelheads last season.
Alex DeBrincat: This speedy sniper played primarily at left wing for the Erie Otters last season. In 2014, DeBrincat played on the same line as Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome in juniors. His excellent offensive awareness and goal scoring ability make him an exciting prospect. Despite having a small stature at 5’7” and 165 lbs, DeBrincat does not hesitate to battle for the puck, though he can be knocked off rather easily by larger defenders. He will need time to physically mature before he makes the jump to the NHL, but with 101 points in 60 games last year for the Otters, that may be closer than we think.
Tyler Benson: Benson was projected as a mid-first round pick early on in the season though his stock dropped slightly as the campaign progressed. This can be attributed to a groin injury that forced him to miss over half the season. His strength lies in his two-way play and an extremely high compete level. Benson plays a physical game and is a jack-of-all-trades type winger. Pundits have struggled to determine where he projects at the NHL level. It will depend on how he improves his offensive skill set throughout his development. Benson spent last season in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants where he registered 28 points in 30 games before being injured.
Carl Grundstrom: This Swedish winger is a grinder by trade. He likes to post up in front of the net and collect “ugly goals” in traffic. Gundstrom plays with physicality and aggression. At 6’0” and 190 lbs, his large frame and defensive play style slate him in a bottom six, penalty killer type of role at the NHL level. He currently plays for Modo of the SHL (Swedish Hockey League), which should benefit his development as he competes against professional players. In his second season of SHL action for Modo, Grundstrom posted 16 points in 49 games.
Markus Niemelainen: This Finnish defender is a tower at 6’6”. Though his frame is rather slim at 190 lbs, he plays a strong possession game, making Niemelainen difficult to knock off the puck. By many accounts, he has a very high hockey IQ to go along with undeniable physical ability. He is rough around the edges, but after a few seasons of development, Niemelainen should develop into a very talented two-way defender at the NHL level. He is expected to return to the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL where he earned 27 points in 65 games last season.
Libor Hajek: As a member of the Saskatoon Blades, Hajek displayed high level skating and impressive puck moving ability. Last season was his first playing on American ice but his quick transition impressed many scouts. Hajek was projected as a late first round selection, so he may just be Murray’s best player available if he is indeed there when the Sabres pick. Like many players available at this point in the draft, He is rough around the edges, but the raw talent is there. Hajek will likely return to Saskatoon where his offensive upside began to blossom last season with 26 points in 69 games.
Ryan Lindgren: Last night there were 12 Americans drafted in the first round, an NHL record. Hailing from Minneapolis, Lindgren is arguably the best American prospect available in round two, and many had him projected as a late first round talent. He lacks elite size at 5’11” and 190 lbs, but his skating ability and gritty play style make up for it. Lindgren also boasts a powerful point shot that scouts wanted to see him use more often. He posted 12 points in 25 games for the U.S. National Under-18 Team last year.
Filip Gustavsson: While it may seem as though the organization is stocked with young goaltenders, Tim Murray did say last night that he intends to draft BPA (best player available). If Gustavsson is indeed available when the Sabres pick 38th, Murray may surprise everyone and pull the trigger on the consensus best goalie in the draft class. At 6’2”, the Swedish netminder is a shade on the small side but his talent is undeniable. He posted a .920 save percentage at the under-18 tournament en route to a silver medal for team Sweden. He intends to play in the SHL next year.