The NHL Draft is just over a month away, meaning that draft boards are being finalized as teams get set for the upcoming NHL Scouting Combine.
For the Buffalo Sabres, the former last place team is picking eighth overall after picking second the last two years. Because of this, Buffalo isn’t likely to get a player that can suit up in the NHL right away. However, that doesn’t mean the team won’t end up with a really good player.
The team is in a position to draft based on overall talent rather than team need, which opens things up to more options when the time comes to make a selection. From talented scoring forwards to potential top pair blue liners, who will the Sabres look at when they are on the clock?
Here are four names fans should keep an eye on.
Team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Rundown: Many fans believe that the Sabres need to address defense with the eighth pick in the draft, and Chychrun the best one that could be available here. His ability to dictate play in both the offensive and defensive zones makes him a potential top-pair blue liner. He won’t have to join the main roster right away, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a chance this year while becoming a permanent player in 2017.
Team: Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
Rundown: Dubois’ stock has continued to rise as we get closer to the draft, which likely means he won’t be there for Buffalo at eight. However, should he actually fall to them, the Sabres shouldn’t hesitate to grab the talented forward. He can play both on the wing and in the middle, and has top-six potential.
Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Rundown: Another player who has the potential to make the roster in 2016 but wouldn’t need to, Nylander is a skilled winger that should be a top six forward in the league within the next few years. He possesses a skill level that rivals any player in the draft aside from Auston Matthews. Nylander has all the potential to be a top-line guy in the NHL, and could be part of a future line alongside Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
Team: London Knights (OHL)
Rundown: Of the four players, Juolevi is the one most likely to be available at eight for the Sabres. He’s an offensively gifted defenseman that produced 42 points in 57 games in 2015-16. I wouldn’t expect him to produce at the level of an Erik Karlsson or Kris Letang, but he should be able to produce at a Brian Campbell-like rate for Buffalo. The one drawback of Juolevi is the fact that his stock has fallen a bit since the start of the season. It’s nothing to be too concerned with, just something to dig deeper on or think about. Still, if he’s there and the above players are all gone, there should be no hesitation in taking him.
The 2016 NHL Draft takes place June 24, 25 from the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. The Hockey Writers will have full coverage live from Buffalo starting with the NHL Draft combine early next month.
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.