Welcome to Draft week! The first round of the draft will take place in Vancouver, Friday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
With the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft, the Buffalo Sabres will have plenty of elite level talent to pick from. Below are five prospects that the Sabres could be looking at with their first pick.
THE “IDEAL” PICK:
Alex Turcotte C (USNTDP)
Projected to go as high as 3rd overall, Turcotte will most likely be off the board by the time the Sabres are on the clock. However, if he were to fall to 7, it would be a home-run pick for Buffalo.
An injury limited Turcotte to just 37 games for the USDP. He still managed to put up 27 goals and 35 assists for 62 points.
This was a huge improvement over last year’s season of 16 points in 19 games for the U18 team. He made similar improvements throughout his earlier development as well. At 5’11” and 185lbs, he has decent size and will likely continue to grow.
Described as a complete two-way center, his playmaking and passing abilities are in the elite category. He also has good edge work which makes him strong on the puck.
Committed to the University of Wisconsin, Turcotte is at least a year away from a full NHL season. However, he could be an impact player shortly thereafter.
The Alex Turcotte assist from earlier is even filthier from this angle. pic.twitter.com/nTTpVsyYSv
— Sam (@DraftLook) January 9, 2019
THE “FAN FAVORITE” PICK:
Cole Caufield RW (USNTDP)
At just 5’7” and 170 lbs, Cole Caufield’s size has driven him outside the top 10 in many mock drafts. However, he is one of the best goal scorers to enter the draft in many years. At pick number 7, Caufield could be the steal of the draft.
In 64 games with the USDP, Caufield hit the 100 point mark. 72 of those points were goals. Yes, he scored 72 goals in one season. With Caufield being undersized, it allows him to find even the smallest goal scoring areas on the ice. Often times, unnoticed by the defenders.
With such a low center of gravity, Caufield is super agile and tough to knock off the puck. He also possesses some silky mitts that paired with his elite shooting ability, lead to lots of highlight goals.
When bringing up this kind of goal scoring paired with the smaller stature, a recent comparable could be Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat. At just about the same size, DeBrincat found the net 41 times in his sophomore season, showing size is not necessarily a negative thing when it comes to offensive production.
Joining Turcotte at the University of Wisconsin next year, Caufield should see a similar developmental route with at least one year of college hockey.
6:39 remaining in the third period and it's still tied, 2-2.
Take a look at @colecaufield's record-breaking goal that tied the game at one.#U18Worlds 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/H7fSnhr7Pz
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) April 27, 2019
THE “ODDBALL” PICK:
Kirby Dach C (WHL)
Described as an oddball pick because of Jason Botterill’s draft preferences of European or collegiate players, Dach would break the cycle being from the WHL.
At 6’4” and 198lbs, Dach possesses a big frame for a center. Although his speed has been described as average, his playmaking abilities are very good. Using his frame, he is able to protect the puck better than most coming out of this draft.
With 73 points in 62 games this year, the offensive instincts are clearly present in Dach’s game. With just 25 goals, there is still room for improvement when it comes to finding the back of the net.
Coming from Juniors, it would be hard to imagine Dach seeing time in the NHL next season. Even though he has NHL size, his game could benefit from at least one more season in Juniors.
Kirby Dach makes it 1-0. He’s good. pic.twitter.com/QvQFokkfgk
— Pat McKay (@PatMckayCTV) April 8, 2019
THE “MOST LIKELY” PICK:
Trevor Zegras C (USNTDP)
After having met with Zegras on more than one occasion during the NHL Draft Combine, it is clear that there is interest from the Buffalo Sabres in regards to Trevor Zegras.
In 60 games with the USDP, Zegras notched 87 points with 26 goals. With the diversity to play any forward position, it would be easy to find an opening on any NHL roster within a couple of years.
Watching tape on Zegras shows a little bit of everything. His passing abilities have a hint of Dahlin while his skating and agility are pro-ready. At 6’0” and 173lbs, Zegras has a bit more muscle to add to his frame, but he welcomes physicality when necessary.
Committed to Boston University, Zegras makes perfect sense for Botterill to pick at 7. Couple that with comparisons to Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson, and the excitement is evident from Buffalo’s point of view.
Trevor Zegras likely has the best passing and vision in the draft ahead of Jack Hughes. Zegras has become famous for his no-look spinoramma passes.
Here’s highlight reel of some of those shocking no lookers.
Trevor Zegras is my #5 for the #2019NHLDraft. pic.twitter.com/4bckrCQfgc
— TPEHockey (@TPEHockey) May 30, 2019
THE “YOU NEVER KNOW” PICK:
Bowen Byram D (WHL)
Another player from Juniors, Bowen Byram would be a bit of a surprise pick from Jason Botterill. Pair that with last year’s first pick in defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, another high-pick defenseman might leave some fans confused.
Adding another top defensive prospect would certainly give the impression that Botterill wants to build this team from the back-end. This wouldn’t be the worst idea as Byram would turn into a difference-making top 4 defenseman for any team that drafts him.
At 6’o and 195lbs, his size doesn’t leap off the page but he is serviceable already. His strengths include elite skating along with the ability to play at a fast-paced speed effectively. He is able to control the game with the puck on his stick and his offensive creativity helps drive the play.
Byram notched 71 points in 67 games last year in the WHL. This was a 44-point improvement from the year prior. If Botterill were to trade Rasmus Ristolainen for a top 6 forward, Byram would be a nice way of filling the gap on the back-end.
Here's a nice display of how Bowen Byram can take over a game, whoever drafts him in June is getting a tremendous talent pic.twitter.com/olMsu10DUu
— One Fans View (@OneFanView) April 10, 2019
With so many elite prospects in this year’s draft, Botterill can’t go wrong with any of the above players along with a few others. Whoever Buffalo drafts, they will almost certainly be a big-time piece for the Sabres moving forward.