The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is fast approaching which means that teams are getting to the point where draft boards are being finalized and top players are being set apart from everyone else.
For the Buffalo Sabres, it’s obvious who the team has locked into the spot for the second-overall pick, and that’s Boston University’s Jack Eichel. But what about the team’s other first round pick as well as their two second round picks? There are plenty of talented prospects eligible for this year’s draft, but who are the best targets for the Sabres as they look to build into a future Stanley Cup contender?
The 20th-ranked North American skater in this year’s NHL Draft, Sprong is a player that has all the tools to become a successful top six winger in the NHL. He has strong skating abilities, and is a shifty player with the puck. Despite his short size (6’0″), Sprong isn’t one to be knocked off the puck to easily. He has one of the best shots out of any late first-, early second-round prospect, and could become even more deadly with development in the right system.
His biggest question marks involves his defense zone play. Sprong is as offensively gifted as they come, but his one-dimensional playing style may not work well for some teams at the next level. Still, his vision on the ice, in addition to his natural play-making abilities, could lead to teams like the Sabres overlooking his defensive flaws.
Standing 6′ 5″, Vladar is the second-largest goaltender available in this year’s draft. He’s a goaltender that, like Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, knows how to use it to his advantage in the crease. His rebound control is top notch, and he has quick lateral movements. He’d be almost a sure-fire round one pick if his techniques were more sound in the net.
Vladar’s not one for square positioning in the crease, but his quick reflexes make up for the times he’s been caught out of position. That being said, for him to succeed at the NHL level in the future, positioning is the one point of his game that he needs the most work. Then again, if Arturs Irbe returns as Sabres goaltending coach, Vladar in blue and gold could be a perfect situation.
Trenin isn’t someone that many view as a potential top six forward, but that doesn’t make him a good prospect to target in the second round. He has nice size at 6’2″, 182 pounds, and will only get bigger as he gets older. He’s a very strong forward who is nearly impossible to take off the puck.
He’s not the fastest guy on the ice, but he does play a complete, 200-foot game, an attribute that will make any coach looking for a strong bottom nine forward happy. He’s also not afraid to park himself right in front of the net, and look for the garbage goal opportunities.
The Sabres defensive pipeline is well stocked, but it can never hurt to add more to the inventory. Carlsson is a large Swedish defenseman (6’3″) with a powerful shot, and an uncanny ability to read how a play is developing. His breakout passing game is strong as well as his ability to not make the big mistake. His skating needs improvement in order to help with his acceleration and gap control, but that should come over the next few seasons.
If Sabres fans were to make a comparison of how Carlsson plays, look no further than 2013 first-round pick Rasmus Ristolainen. Carlsson has all the potential in the world to turn into the type of player that Ristolainen is turning into.
Samsonov is the top-rated International goaltender available this year. He’s another big-bodied goaltender that knows how to use his size to challenge shooters. A goalie who seemingly stays calm under all circumstances, Samsonov is confident in his abilities between the pipes, and that shows in the way of his efforts in the crease.
His stick handling and rebound control need some work, but those are minor hiccups on an otherwise stellar profile. He’s one of the few goaltenders in this class that could easily become a franchise player, that’s how talented he is. The only thing that keeps him out of the first round is the fact that he is under contract to KHL Metallurg Magnitigorsk which could scare off some teams.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.