The Buffalo Sabres finished bottom of the 2020 NHL standings and will have the highest chance of winning the overall number 1 pick in the Draft Lottery.
One thing is for certain, Buffalo will have five of the first 96 picks in the upcoming draft.
This is a huge opportunity for the team to build for the future. The franchise hasn’t had much success with their picks outside of the first round over the past 10 years and if they’re to become relevant over the coming decade then it may have to start this off-season.
The Sabres continue to head into each season among the longest odds to win the Stanley Cup, according to TVG Illinois. Even winning the division next season is beyond them already. And a TVG Illinois review shows those odds are reliable.
Here’s what the team should be looking for in the 2021 NHL Draft:
1. Take What’s Available
If we end up with 10 defenseman in the draft, so be it. Of course, that won’t become a reality. But the point is simple: take the best player available when we’re on the clock. Position preferences only matter when picking between players in the same tier. Yes, the current squad does have a handful of really talented prospects but there’s no guarantee they will go on to become elite players. And with four lines there’s no harm in taking players in those positions if they’re the best available at the time.
2. Trade Down, Not Up
You usually end up sacrificing too much by trading up, which means there’s value in trading away. At this moment in time the Sabres need to get as much talent on board as possible rather than one individual as we simply don’t have a great deal at the moment, hence the low finishes season after season.
3. Look for offensive players in the first round
Chances are we will get one of the top overall picks again this year. That should be used on an offensive player. That can be a defenseman if he has offensive ability, but generally rounds 2-7 are where you should be taking your defensive defenseman and not with your first selection.
4. Draft for skill
With the salary cap the way it is the draft should be used to find some golden nuggets. Whether that’s top six forward or a high-performing player. Getting them in the draft also helps with controlling salaries. Don’t waste your picks on a backup goaltender, a penalty killing defenseman or a fourth line player – all of these can be picked up in free agency.
5. Avoid a goaltender high up
Firstly, it will be interesting to see what we do with Linus Ullmark this off-season. Either he will be re-signed or move on. Even if he leaves, there’s no need to use one of our first five picks on a goalie. They are bit of an enigma when it comes to the draft. A reliable one can be picked up in free agency.