The NHL Entry Draft is almost upon us and while the Buffalo Sabres will likely select generational defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall on Friday night, by no means is their job done.
The first round is usually the easiest one to select a future stud in the four major sports. The top amateur talent is showcased all year round during many tournaments and observations of those prospects typically leads to near-certainty about who’s going to go where at the top of the order. But NHL scouts really make their bones when it comes to their selections in the later rounds.
Despite some pundits claiming the act of drafting a player between rounds two and seven is akin to throwing a dart and hoping it lands on a bullseye, it’s not that simple. All year long, those amateur scouts travel the world searching for a diamond in the rough and hope that no one else is seeing what they’re seeing. Sometimes that prospect turns out to be forgettable, sometimes it ends up becoming a future Hall of Famer – think Dominik Hasek or Pavel Datsyuk – but regardless, a lot of work goes into identifying future NHL talent.
It’s especially important for Jason Botterill and his staff to nail their later picks this year. Given that they have the top selection in every round except the third (as a result of the Marco Scandela and Jason Pominville acquisitions from Minnesota last June), it’s extremely crucial for Botterill and company to find some gems in order to build organizational depth.
With that in mind, here are four players the Sabres could target when drafting on Saturday:
Jonatan Berggren – RW – Skelleftea (SuperElit)
The Sabres need scoring depth at wing in the worst way, and maybe Berggren slips out of the first round into the second. If so, Botterill should snap him up. According to Draftin Europe 2018, Berggren “uses agile feet and outstanding puck control to keep it out of reach of opponents, looking for seams to deliver one of his timely passes.”
Jack Drury – C – Harvard
The nephew of former Sabres captain Chris Dury, Jack Drury plays a responsible two-way game, is an effective distributor of the puck and is very good on faceoffs. Possessing a strong work ethic, Drury will attend Harvard in the fall.
Oliver Rodrigue – G – Drummondville (QMJHL)
NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked goaltender, Rodrigue would fit in well within the Sabres’ system, given their lack of a clear-cut starting goaltender of the future. According to NHL.com, Rodrigue “can read the play well, offers controlled movements and his positional play is exceptional… Though not a huge goalie, he plays bigger than his size and has great instincts.”
Kody Clark – RW – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Ranked 34th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Clark plays a game similar to that of his father, former Toronto Maple Leaf Wendel Clark. Clark recorded 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 56 games, has above-average skating ability and possesses good puck skills. He doesn’t quite have the shot or grittiness his father had, but he doesn’t back down from driving to the net and is solid in the cycle game.