The Buffalo Sabres made five selections at the 2020 NHL Draft, and those players have had an entire season to develop since then. There should be more players in this conversation, though. For a team that missed the playoffs, not having a third, fourth, or sixth-round pick in this draft should be seen as a disappointment. The Sabres have improved on that feat in 2021, owning ten choices through seven rounds.
There was a lot of changeover during this timeframe. Months earlier, after firing former general manager Jason Botterill, the team fired 22 members of the organization. Their scouting department was reduced from 21 to only 7 members. Considering it was just three months before the draft, this was quite notable. The team would rely on video scouting, and each member that remained would be crucial for making these selections.
Nonetheless, it is time to review the ups and downs of this draft for the Sabres and how it looks a year out.
Jack Quinn Selected With the 8th Overall Pick
As the Jack Quinn pick ages, only time will tell if the Sabres made the wrong decision. Many fans believed that Marco Rossi, Anton Lundell, and Cole Perfetti were better options in that spot. Quinn and Rossi played with the Ottawa 67’s in 2019-20, and it was evident that Rossi was more skilled. He scored 120 points in 56 games that season and outscored the Sabres prospect by 31 points. Although there may have been other options, that doesn’t mean Quinn isn’t on track to be an NHL regular.
This past season provided a unique opportunity for Ontario Hockey League (OHL) players drafted into the NHL. They were allowed to play in the American Hockey League (AHL) when they wouldn’t have been in years past. Quinn took advantage of the opportunity and scored at impressive rates with the Rochester Americans. He scored two goals and nine points in 15 games as a 19-year-old. Don’t be surprised if he makes the team out of training camp next season.
He has recovered from the hernia surgery in the offseason and is ready for training camp. Let’s see if he can prove the doubters wrong.
John-Jason Peterka Selected With the 34th Overall Pick
John-Jason (JJ) Peterka had a fantastic season in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) and World Junior Championships. He was viewed as a good pick, but his elevated play earned him an entry-level contract with the Sabres. Peterka scored 9 goals and 20 points in 30 games with EHC München and is set to return next season. His chemistry with Tim Stutzle with Germany cannot be overstated, as he produced 4 goals and 10 points in just 5 games.
His two-way game is underrated, as he is constantly attacking the puck in all three zones. He can gain inside positioning to strip the puck off the opposing forward or using his body to make an effective hit along the boards. When he creates a turnover, he can regain possession for his team and produce high-danger scoring chances.
It should also be noted that the Sabres traded up to select him in the second round. They acquired the 34th pick in exchange for picks No. 38 and 100. He is a player that the team valued at the time and continues to now. If he keeps developing at this pace, I expect him to see NHL action in 2022, or at the latest, 2023.
Matteo Costantini Selected WIth the 131st Overall Pick
Drafted out of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), Costantini is an intriguing center in the organization. He is now playing in the United States Hockey League (USHL), suiting up with the Sioux City Musketeers. He produced 7 goals and 22 points in 37 games with the team. He’s an excellent net-front presence and can score goals from all areas of the ice. He’s also quick and is effective at moving the puck in all three zones. These are attributes that are needed in centermen at the NHL level.
Next season, Constantini is committed to playing at the University of North Dakota. The Sabres are playing the long game with him, and by the time he’s finished his education, he’ll hopefully suit up for Rochester.
Albert Lyckasen Selected With the 193rd Overall Pick
Being the first defenseman the Sabres took in this draft, Albert Lyckasen played with Mora IK of the Allsvenskan league. He also had a stint with Kinköping HC of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), playing nine games. He may not be a flashy defenseman, but he displays poise with the puck to find shooting lanes to score or set up a deflection. He is looking to earn a full-time spot with Kinköping next season.
He also played on the power play at times with Mora and looked comfortable in that position. He seems to be a versatile player moving forward, and the right-handed defensemen have showcased NHL potential in flashes. I like him the most out of the later picks from this draft class.
Jakub Konecny Selected With the 216th Overall Pick
The last pick of the Sabres 2021 draft class is Jakub Konecny, a center that plays for HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic. He has been in their system for years and spent time on their U20 team, scoring 13 points in 11 games this past season. He is looking to break out to play in the top Czech league and will likely get into a few games this upcoming season. Also, expect him to play more at the World Juniors in December, after only suiting up in two contests last year.
He is on the smaller side, standing at 5-foot-10. He likely will become a winger at the NHL level if he can ever find a path to getting there. The likelihood of a seventh-round pick making it is slim but not impossible. Victor Olofsson was a seventh-round pick in 2014, and he has turned into a middle-six winger for the Sabres. These next few years will be huge for Konecny as he tries to earn an ELC.
Overall, besides the Quinn pick, this draft looks pretty good so far. Peterka could be a contributor in a few seasons, and Lyckasen has showcased NHL potential with his play in Sweden. Let’s follow up on this class next year to see how these prospects are developing.