The Buffalo Sabres came out of the 2018 NHL draft as one of the event’s biggest winners just by drafting generational defenseman Rasmus Dahlin alone.
Dahlin, just the second Swede to be taken first overall behind Mats Sundin in 1989, is expected to become one of the elite rearguards in the league should he live up to expectations. But he wasn’t the only European player the Sabres acquired during the weekend.
Mattias Samuelsson, the team’s second round pick (32nd oversll), is the son of former NHL defenseman Kjell Samuelsson and was ranked as the 21st-best prospect in the draft by NHL Central Scouting. The 6’4” defenseman participated with the U.S. National Team Development Program and is headed to Western Michigan in the fall.
A left-handed shot, Samuelsson is a stay-at-home defenseman – like his father before him – but also has untapped potential offensively. Strong in both his own end and in the neutral zone, he’s only beginning to scratch the surface of what he can do when he joins the rush.
With their first pick of the fourth round, the Sabres selected Czech left winger Matej Pekar from Muskegon of the USHL. The reigning USHL rookie of the year, Pekar showed some playmaking chops by putting up 14 goals and 40 assists in 56 games with the Lumberjacks, and is committed to playing for Miami (OH) University next season.
Their second pick of the fourth round – acquired from Minnesota last season along with Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella – was the third Swede taken by Buffalo, defensemen Linus Lindstrand Kronholm. According to eliteprospects.com, he is a “stay-at-home defenseman with good hockey sense. Will not put up any significant numbers on the board, but plays a solid and simple game in his own end. Good size and will rarely get beaten with good reach and fine way of reading the game.”
Buffalo then capped off the draft by taking Finnish defenseman Miska Kukkonen in the fifth round and Swedish defenseman William Worge Kreu in the seventh. Kreu, a 6’6” blueliner, is described by eliteprospects.com as a “defensive defenseman that is strong in shorthanded situations and plays a simple game with few mistakes.”