So, who did the team draft? The Sabres received multiple draft picks in those deals and selected 11 players over the two days. Although Jack Eichel was not traded, the team has a stronger prospect pool moving forward. It appears general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams prioritized skill and speed with his picks. Many draft experts were impressed with their selections in all seven rounds.
Let’s meet the Sabres draft class of 2021.
The safest pick in the draft, as he was the projected first-overall pick for the entire season. It was reported that the Sabres were very high on William Eklund, but they valued Power more as a player. The defender from Mississauga had an outstanding season with the University of Michigan, putting up 16 points in 26 games. He also played for Team Canada at the World Championships, having three assists in 10 games.
Adams and Power will be communicating to see if he returns to Michigan next season or makes the jump to the NHL. Many believe that he isn’t ready to play yet and that he should return to the NCAA. It would mark the first time that a first-overall pick didn’t play in the NHL the following season since Erik Johnson in 2006-07. Jerry Forton, director of amateur scouting for the team, is not concerned about Power taking either avenue.
“It’s never hurt a player to go back for a second year in college,” Forton said. “I understand he’s the first overall pick and what the expectations are for those type of players, so that won’t be my decision. But if you just look at recent history with Cale Makar and (Zach) Werenski and Charlie McAvoy and Quinn Hughes, all these players went back for their second year, dominated in college, and it made their transition to the NHL very seamless. (from, ‘Sabres pleased with their draft haul, from Owen Power to a run on Russians: ‘I think we took a big step’’ The Athletic, 07/25/21)
Power always dreamt of becoming a Sabre one day. Before the draft, he was asked by TSN about the possibility of playing for the team. He responded by saying, “it would be an honor to play for them and to get drafted by them. I would love to be a part of it.” He is now officially a part of the blueprint moving forward and can play for the team he grew up supporting.
A future defense structured around Rasmus Dahlin and Power will soon be among the NHL’s best. As long as they don’t screw it up.
This 14th-overall pick was a little off the board, as he was projected to be selected at 21st overall in the THW Mock Draft. However, he is an exciting prospect that is dynamic at creating scoring chances.
The left-winger from Stockholm spent time in various leagues in 2020-21, with most of his time spent with Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). In 22 games with Leksands, he only produced one assist playing against grown men. His production is not a cause for concern, as when played against in peers in the Sweden U20 league, he dominated. In 12 games, he scored seven goals and five assists, and he played well during international competitions. His lethal shot was on display many times, including this one-timer on the power play.
Rosén is currently playing games for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase. This is in preparation for the 2022 World Junior Championship in December, which Rosén is expected to be a primary contributor in. He will be an intriguing prospect to watch develop, as the 161-pound winger needs to add some size.
The 33rd-overall pick was a great selection by the team, as he is very talented in various areas. Brian Lawton of the NHL Network said on the broadcast, “I was surprised he didn’t go yesterday; he has first-round ability.”
Poltapov was the first Russian-born player drafted by the Sabres since Vasili Glotov in the 2016 NHL Draft. He was a standout in the Russian Junior Hockey League (MHL), putting up 25 goals and 51 points in 61 games for Krasnaya Armiya Moskva. The right-winger from St. Petersburg is a power forward that can drive to the middle of the ice and score in the perimeter. Another skilled undersized forward is added to the system.
Poltapov also played for Russia at the U18 World Junior Championships (WJC-18) and produced seven points in the tournament. He is looking to crack Russia’s lineup at the U20 Worlds this upcoming season.
Selected with the 53rd pick, Kisakov is another skilled undersized forward that could have a high ceiling as an NHL player. A fun fact about him is that he scored the most goals out of all players in this draft class.
In various mock drafts, he ranked anywhere between 21st to 104th overall, which is quite fascinating. He also played in the MHL in 2020-21, where he scored 36 goals and 73 points in 71 games for MHK Dynamo Moskva. He was also electric in the postseason, putting up five goals and 10 points in 14 games. He will likely jump into the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and play a few games against grown men.
Stiven Sardaryan was selected at 88th overall, marking the first time the team took three Russian-born players in a single draft since 2003. He was an off-the-board selection, as he was unranked on many mock drafts and was listed at No. 73 on the NHL’s Central Scouting (EU Skaters) list.
Sardarian played with Poltapov in the MHL last season, even playing on the same power-play unit. In 50 games for Krasnaya Armiya Moskva, he produced nine goals and 30 points for the team. The undersized forward will need to add some size before making the jump to professional hockey. He is committed to playing for the University of New Hampshire starting in the 2022-23 season.
Joshua Bloom was selected with the 93rd pick and was the first Canadian-born player selected by the team in this draft. The left-winger from Oakville hasn’t played an organized hockey game since he was 16 years old. This was due to the cancellation of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season. In 2019-20, he only averaged 10 minutes of ice time per game for the Saginaw Spirit. He will be higher up in the lineup when the league returns to action this fall.
When describing the interview process with the team, Bloom mentioned, “with the Sabres, I felt they were looking for somebody with good character. They want to build community and a locker room that everyone wants to be a part of. You could tell that in the first conversations with them.”
The Sabres selected Oliver Nadeau with the 97th pick, a right-winger from Lac-Etchemin. He was ranked 24th overall by Patrick Bacon’s NHL equivalency model, as he has a 32 percent chance of becoming an NHL player. Bacon’s model takes into account point production from various leagues and uses comparable seasons from past players. Nadeau’s production in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) ranks him as the 24th-best prospect in the draft compared to previous junior players. This is just a certain perspective, but it makes the pick more intriguing to watch.
Nadeau played for Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL, scoring 13 goals and 45 points in 34 games. The 6-foot-2 winger has a big frame and will be an exciting prospect to watch develop. This appears to be an underrated selection by the team.
With the final pick of the fifth round, the Sabres selected Viljami Marjala from Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. The left-winger from Finland had a respectable rookie season, putting up five goals and 27 points in 30 games for the Remparts last season. He is known as a power-play specialist, that plays a quick passing game rather than overhandling the puck.
By this point in the draft, the players selected are usually five to six years away from establishing themselves as NHL regulars. Marjala is a skilled two-way winger that will take some time to develop.
William Von Barnekow
The Sabres opened the sixth round by selecting William Von Barnekow with the 161st pick. The center from Sweden spent time in two different leagues, playing for the Malmo Jr of the Sweden J20 SuperElit, and the Malmo Redhawks of the SHL. Most of his time was spent in the SuperElit, where he put up seven goals and 21 points in 18 games.
He also suited up for two games with the Redhawks and will look to take a bigger step forward next season. This appears to be another player that could have been selected higher, as he was ranked 96th on the FC Hockey draft board.
With their second sixth-round pick, the Sabres selected Nikita Novikov at No. 188 overall. The Russian left-handed defender played for MHK Dynamo Moskva of the MHL, putting up 14 points in 52 games. He also played for Russia at the WJC-18 and put up five assists in seven games.
Novikov was the fourth Russian-born player drafted by the team in this draft. He is 6-foot-4 and uses his big size to disrupt odd-man rushes. He needs to work on his speed if he wants to play at the professional level.
The Sabres selected Tyson Kozak with their final pick in the draft. He is an undersized center who played for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In 18 games for the team, he put up 11 points in a middle-six role. The league will be returning to a regular schedule next season, so Kozak will get the chance to play more games.
Kozak projects to play in an energetic, defensive-minded support role, according to Kris Baker.
Overall, the Sabres drafted many skilled players that could develop into NHL players. I liked the Nadeau pick the most because of how low he went, and I am very excited to see Power and Rosén develop into core team members. Fans should be excited that the management went in this direction, and it’s a positive sign for an organization that drafted terribly in the past decade.
Jordan Jacklin is a freelance writer who covers the Buffalo Sabres here at The Hockey Writers. Jordan is a student at Ryerson’s Sport Media program and uses analytics and video scouting to evaluate your favourite players in the game.